It always strikes me as odd that we seldom take advantage of the wonders of the world right in our neighborhood. Okay, in my case, the state of Oregon, but unless we have company coming, there always seems to be reasons not to get out and check out some pretty awesome stuff nearby.
Mt. Angel, an hour south of Portland, is home to the World Famous Oktoberfest. They might not have invented it, but it is easily one of the largest in the United States. The town has 3,500 permanent residents, and most own lederhosen or dirndls.. Every September, the city roars to life and 350,000 people descend on the tiny town. The town may be small, but it boasts more giant beer halls than you can imagine. Huge, permanent structures, they each have bands, dance floors, and rows and rows of tables. All of which, of course, can hold gallons of beer.
We attended years ago, when we had six small kids. My memories are of corn on the cob, dipped in butter, and trying not to lose the children. People packed shoulder to shoulder is a great place to misplace short family members, and that’s all I can recall. This time, we came as two old farts, looking for a good time. And found it!
My Bucket List of Life is eclectic. I know most people want to visit Machu Picchu, but ever since I found out that the Mt. Angel Abbey houses the World’s Largest Hairball Ever Spit Up by a Pig, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage to see this baby. And now…….here we were!
There was a Volkswalking event at Mt Angel, so off we went. Me? Excited! George? Not so much, but he is definitely the faithful husband. Despite the fact it was raining.
George is a giant sucker for a fund-raiser breakfast, because they always have pancakes. This was no exception. I had to run to use the Porta-Potty and when I came back, he was waving breakfast tickets at me. No self-respecting German breakfast can’t have sausage. George was in heaven. When I mentioned to the lady tossing meat on our plates that I was vegetarian, she stopped cold. In a low, compassionate voice, she said “I’m so sorry. Are you able to eat eggs?” Her voice held the same sympathetic note as if I told her I had terminal cancer. I assured her that eggs were fine and she visibly brightened. This really is a German town, I received much the same response in Berlin.
They bagged my meat for George to take home (wouldn’t want to waste good sausage) and everyone was happy.
Our volkswalking map in hand, we headed on our route through town and then up the hill to the Mt. Angel Abbey. A Benedictine monastery, it was founded by a group of monks from Switzerland in 1882. The town had just named itself Roy, but within two years it was changed to Mt. Angel, which was the English translation of the Swiss monastery. The abbey sits on the hill above town, and with the views from the top – you really think it is closer to Heaven.
It is a pleasant hike (on a sunny day) up the hill to the abbey, and kudos to George for doing it. There was a tempting festival shuttle bus running groups up the hill, but he refused and said he would walk. By the we reached the top, he was ready to ditch viewing the abbey and take the bus back. I finally convinced him that he would regret not seeing the largest hairball ever, and it would be a defining bonding moment for the two of us. Resignedly, he plodded onward with me.
There are several beautiful buildings, including a chapel with a giant pipe organ. Their library houses gorgeous handcrafted bibles from the Middle Ages. Sadly, the library was closed while we were there, so no pictures. But the museum was open – and the hairball awaited!
There were young, helpful monks running around, and we stopped to ask for directions to the hairball. One young man expressed surprise that I knew about it, and not the fact that they are now brewing their own beer. Geesh, is that boy out of touch! Must be the monastic life, of course I was there to see the hairball!
This is one of the best curio type museums I have ever seen. You just have to check this place out! It is all of the gifts given to the abbey since 1882. There isn’t any order to the exhibits, except perhaps for most of the taxidermy. Somebody had a serious collection of dead, stuffed stuff. Not only do they have a room filled with stuff like a full-sized buffalo (with a distinct smile on his face), deer, cougars, birds, etc., but there is enough left over to have a stuffed racoon hanging near the 1840’s porcelain commode set.
In one memorable case there is a 19th century French naval hat, like the one worn by Napoleon, alongside an elderly stuffed great blue heron – who could really use a few new feathers.
The best case, of course, held the my object d’art – the World’s Largest Hairball Ever Spit Up By a Pig. No idea if this is in the Guinness Book of Records, but are you going to call a bunch of monks liars? Here it is:
Apparently, a pig can digest just about anything (even bones); but they can’t digest hair. It turns into a ball, eventually being coated with a waxy-type surface. Periodically, just like their barnyard feline friends, they cough it up. I don’t want to know what this pig ate to get this much hair. Some things are better left to the imagination.
They also had a couple of stuffed calves that had been conjoined twins, where the second twin didn’t develop. If you want to see a calf with two hind ends and the front legs coming out of the back, this is the place for you.
George took one look at the hairball and decided he wanted to take the shuttle back to town right away. I had to chase him down to find out he was on his way to the shuttle. Guess it was a bit too much for him. I waved goodbye and finished the museum. The monks have a gift/coffee shop called The Press, where they formerly did printing. I had a great cup of coffee and admired all the different rosaries for sale. I bought a great souvenir coffee mug and bought an incredible looking pretzel roll to be savored later. Packing them carefully, I walked back down the hill.
Fall is definitely in the air and the flora and fauna are waning. There were still a few beauties to be found:
Back in town, I found George enjoying a snack. We watched the Glockenspiel showing, enjoyed a roasted ear of corn (sans butter) along with a dog who loved even more than me.
We walked the town, enjoying the sights and sounds. An Oompah Band played in the city gazebo, while a man led a group of kids dancing to the music. Adults and kids of all ages wore their Bavarian costumes like they were daily wear. It was absolutely terrific. I had a veggie burrito that ended up being a tortilla stuffed with shredded lettuce. Oh well, it was all veggie.
A special day deserves a special treat and I wanted a big old fresh made pretzel. As we were leaving, I spied a fresh made pretzel sign at Mt. Angel Sausage Company. I jumped in line and waited for my pretzel. To my horror, they took this beautifully baked pretzel and dumped it in the deep fat fryer. Don’t add any calories to this treat…..! Yes, I should have tossed it, but I didn’t. One bite won’t hurt…..oh….my…..god……this was the best pretzel I have ever eaten. Deep fried bread with salt. What’s not to love. No matter that it had to be 7,000 WW points.
At one point, I handed George my pretzel to hold for a couple of seconds. I glanced away and then back. He was guiltily chewing a bite of my pretzel. I snatched it back and yelled “If I am going to eat a 7,000 point treat, I am going to enjoy every flipping bite – go buy your own!” There are just some things a person doesn’t share.
It was an incredible day. Except for George eating my pretzel, it was perfect. Okay, some sunshine would have also been nice. We drove back home, wondering how it would be to live in a little bit of pretend Bavarian heaven in Oregon.
The next day, I needed my wallet – and discovered it was missing. I had lost it during the Oktoberfest day. After a fruitless day of calling the Mt. Angel police, city hall, Chamber of Commerce, Mt. Angel Sausage Company and every vendor whose name I could recall – no wallet. It takes two seconds to lose a wallet and all day to unsuccessfully find it. At 4:45 pm, I got a call from my bank – somebody had turned it into a branch of my bank! It was too late to pick it up, and I worried all night that parts of it would be gone. I drove to the bank the next morning, and there it was – all intact. Nothing missing. Am I lucky, or what?
Truly, it was a special day. Air Canada had found a bag that we left on the plane from our last trip, and mailed it to me. How many people get their wallet back, their airline bag returned AND see the World’s Largest Hairball Ever Spit Up By a Pig? I am one lucky grandma!