The last weekend in January we made an unexpected visit to the city of Bitburg.

I say unexpected because we originally were supposed to go to Verdun, France for 2 days.

I just need to mention that I was not the one who made the arrangements for this trip and then I’ll shut up about that.

Anyway, the night before we were to leave for Verdun, I did some reading about some of the highlights of the area.

As it turns out, most of the things we wanted to see were closed for the month of January.  Some were even closed until mid-Feburary.  Who would ever close down tourist attractions for a month, you ask?  France. That’s who.

So, we had to go to Plan B which ended up being Bitburg.

The first stop on our tour was the Bitburger Brewery.

The brewery was founded in 1817 and Bitburger beer is Germany’s third biggest-selling beer. (The first and second biggest sellers are Oettinger and Krombacher, respectively.)

Bitburger is what Sean usually drinks when he’s having beer at home, so he’s wanted to visit the brewery for a while and that was the main purpose of our visit.

Bitburger is referred to as Bit for short, and you can see their slogan on this sign.

The slogan is “Bitte ein Bit”, which means “A Bit, please”.  Pretty catchy, huh?

During the tour, which was given in German, one of the many little film clips we were shown mentioned another slogan, “Abends Bit, Morgens fit.”  Everyone on the tour knew we were English speakers and were surprised when we chuckled at that.  We were like yeah, of course we know what the beer slogans are in German!  That slogan basically means if you drink Bitburger in the evening, you won’t be hungover in the morning. 

By the way, everyone else in our tour group except for two people were students in the 18-year old range.  You can legally drink beer at age 16 in Germany.  Their teacher was with them and she spoke English, so every so often she would fill us in on what the guide was saying.  There was also a brewery employee with the student group (someone other than the tour guide) and he spoke English as well and also helped us out.  We appreciated that from both of them, although we really didn’t mind taking the tour in German.  We’ve been to other breweries and figured between that and knowing some basic German, we could figure out what was going on.

After the tour is over they bring you into this huge bar area and you get two beers.

There’s Sean enjoying his beer.

You also got a pretzel with your two beers.

The beer was of course very fresh and cold and delicious. They had various kinds of beer and some of the students were even sampling the non-alcoholic beer.

The bartender asked me if I wanted to try a Colabier, which is just what it sounds like.  Beer mixed with cola.  I’m afraid I wasn’t very gracious when I declined his offer because really.  Ew.  I’m a beer purist and I don’t want anything mixed in with it including fruit or soda.

In addition to the two beers they give you at the brewery, the entry ticket has 3 coupons on it.  There are 7 restaurants or pubs in town where you can take these coupons and get free drinks.  We didn’t use these because Sean was driving but we kept the coupons, which have no expiration date, in the event we find ourselves in Bitburg again. 

To tour the brewery was 8 Euro each at the time of our visit, but that’s not too bad considering you get a total of 5 free beers with the entry price.  They’re small beers, but they’re free.

Sean made a stop in the brewery gift shop after the tour.

He wanted to get a coaster holder, which he did, and he was thrilled when they threw in two free packs of coasters.  He also bought a bottle opener and they gave him another one for free.  The “Bitte ein Bit” stickers you see were also free.  I think Sean thought the woman in the gift shop was better than Santa Claus. 

Here’s a nice door handle on the outside of the brewery.

And here is the best fountain ever.

That, my friends, is a Beer Fountain.  Yes, on special occasions the fountain flows with beer.  The teacher with the tour group told us the next time that will happen is in 2017 for the 200th birthday of the brewery.  Put in on your calendar now.

The Bitburg Tourist Information (TI) office is conveniently right next door to the brewery, so I stopped in to get whatever walking tour information they had, which turned out to be not much.  We did see a few things around town though.

This is the Liebfrauenkirche or Church of Our Lady.

There used to be a Roman settlement in Bitburg and the TI actually gave us an “Archeological Tour” map in addition to the other walking tour map. 

There were several Roman artifacts both outside and inside the church.  This one outside is a statue of a Roman god. 

This Angry Bird stained glass panel was inside the church.

Here you see the Glockenspielturm.

You can see that it is basically a clock with bells on top.  We were not there at the correct time so hear them chime though. 

Some of you may know that I’m fascinated by manhole covers.  We’ve seen some pretty elaborate and decorative covers in various places.  Bitburg had something I’d never seen before, though.

Their manhole covers were all sponsored by different busineses.  I guess that’s one way to generate revenue!

Even though Christmas was over a month ago, we saw Santa hanging out on an outside window ledge.

I thought it was pretty cool that nobody had stolen him but for all I know he’s bolted to the windowsill. 

These sculptures are actually a fountain, not running at the time of our visit, that depicts a rather bizarre story.

During the Thirty Years’ War in the 1600s, Swedish forces surrounded the town walls of what is now called Bitburg.  Their intent was to starve the inhabitants.  Although they were in fact starving, those tricky Bitburgers did what anyone would do in their situation.  They dressed their children up in goat skins, threw them up on top of the wall and told them to prance around like goats.  The Swedes concluded that despite their best efforts, the Bitburgers obviously still had plenty of food in the form of goat meat.  They didn’t feel like waiting around any longer and so they left and Bitburg was saved.

This photo shows a closeup of one the fountain’s statues.

A bit creepy, no?  The fountain is called the Gäßestrepper-Brunnen or the Goatskinwearers Fountain.

I don’t think we passed any bar or restaurant in town that didn’t have some kind of sign advertising Bitburger beer.

This one basically says it’s never too late to Bitburger and to simply say “Bitte ein Bit” – which, as you remember from earlier, means you’re asking for a Bitburger beer, please.

These words etched into the side of a building state that for four generations there was a family-owned brewery on the site.

They also say that the building was destroyed by bombs in 1944 during World War II.

On Christmas Eve in that year, 85% of Bitburg was destroyed during an air raid.  American forces remained in Bitburg until about 20 years ago.

This monument commemorates the fallen from the first World War.

And this statue shows a couple of horses, one of which has a Treverian rider.

The Treverians were apparently a tribe that existed in the Bitburg area in pre-Roman times.

I’m always interested in the etymology of words.

To call someone a putz in America is an insult.  If you read my Four Festivals blog,

you’ll see that it’s the same thing for the word schmuck, which means jewelry in German but is an insult in America. 

I had a bit of a harder time finding out how putz became an insult.  I knew that putzen in German means “to clean” and that a putzfrau is a cleaning woman.  It seems that the word  putz in Yiddish, which is a Germanic language, is a vulgar word for penis.  When you call someone a putz in America, it basically means they’re a jerk or obnoxious.  I can’t really decipher how that came to be, but it still makes me chuckle to see the word putz in Germany.  The sign in the photo above is for a travel agency (Reisebüro) so it just amused me.

Shown here is another war monument.

This one commemorates the Franco-Prussian War.  Sadly all the big wars seem to be covered in Bitburg.

This sculpture is called the Pferdemarkt or horse market.

Horse and cattle markets used to be common in Bitburg. 

We drove to our last stop before leaving Bitburg, and that was the Ehrenfriedhof Kolmeshöhe.

Some of you may remember the controversy surrounding U.S. President Reagan’s visit to this cemetery back in 1985.  The purpose of the visit was to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of V-E Day, the end of World War II in Europe.  If you are a Ramones fan, you might be familiar with the song “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg” that they wrote about the event.

The controversy was due to the fact that 49 members of the Waffen-SS, an armed branch of the Nazi party, are buried in this cemetery.  President Reagan caused further controversy by stating that those 49 men were victims of Nazism just as those in the concentration camps were. 

We did see several of the grave markers for those 49 men.

As you can see, Karl Maier was born in July 1926 and died in September 1944, so he had turned 18 years old just 2 months before he was killed.

I would never go so far as to say that Karl Maier was a victim in the same way that someone who died in Auschwitz was a victim, but I do think it’s a sad occasion when any 18-year old is killed regardless of what his or her beliefs may have been.  I know people will disagree with me but that’s okay.

After leaving the cemetery we stopped at the Spangdahlem Air Base, a U.S. Air Force Base, just for the heck of it.  It’s only about 20 minutes away from Bitburg. Sean was wondering aloud whether they had any facilities there such as an exchange or a commissary and then he laughed and said “It’s the Air Force – of course they do!  They probably built a golf course before they built a runway!” 

Well, guess what the first thing we saw was as we were approaching the gate to the base?  Yup, the Eifel Mountain Golf Course

Belonging to the U.S. Air Force.  Sean just shook his head.

Have you ever visited a town just because you wanted to check out their brewery?

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