German food usually sticks to its roots and a typical dish will consist of meat with some form of potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. Modern German cuisine has been influenced by other European countries such as Italy and France to become lighter. Dishes show a great local diversity which is interesting to discover. Most German Gaststätte and restaurants tend to be children and dog friendly, although both are expected to behave and not be too boisterous.
Putting places to eat into 7 categories gives you a hint about the budget and taste. Starting from the lower end, these are:
Schnellimbiss means ‘quick snack’, and is what you will see on the sign of German stalls and small shops that sell primarily sausage (Wurst) and fries (Pommes Frites). Sausages will include Bratwurst, which is fried and usually a boiled pork sausage. A very German variant is Currywurst: sausage chopped up and covered in spiced ketchup, dusted with curry powder. Beer and often even spirits are available in most Schnellimbisse.
Döner Kebab is a Turkish dish of veal, chicken or sometimes lamb stuffed into bread, similar to Greek Gyros and Arab Schawarma. Despite being considered Turkish, it’s actually a specialty that originated in Germany. According to legend, it was invented by Turkish immigrants in West Berlin during the 1970s. In fact, the Döner is Germany’s most loved fast food. The sales numbers of Döner shops exceed those of McDonald’s and Burger King products by far.
Nevertheless, fast food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut can be found in most cities. Nordsee is a German seafood chain, which offers ‘Rollmops’ (pickled herrings) and many other fish and seafood snacks. However, many independent seafood snack-bars (most common along the German coasts) offer slightly better and slightly cheaper seafood. You can also find independent shops selling pizza by the slice.
In addition to being able to grab a sweet snack at a bakery, during the summer, it seems like ice cream shops are on every block. Try Spaghettieis for a popular sundae that is hard to find elsewhere. They press vanilla ice cream through a potato ricer to form the “noodles”. This is topped with strawberry sauce to mimic the “spaghetti sauce” and usually either white chocolate shavings or ground almond nuts for “Parmesan cheese”.
Bakeries and butchers:
Germans do not have a tradition of sandwich shops, but you will find that bakeries and butchers sell quite good take-away food and are serious competition for the fast food chains. Even the smallest bakeries will sell many sorts of bread or rolls, most of them darker (for example, using wholemeal or rye flour) than the white bread popular around the world and definitely worth a try. Even if they don’t already have it prepared, almost all butchers will prepare a sandwich for you if you ask. Some butchers even prepare meals for you.
This butcher ‘imbiss’ is mainly popular in southern Germany, and the quality and freshness of food is usually high. Butcher shops that sell a lot of meals will often have a narrow, stand-up counter along one edge, so that you have a place to put your food while you stand up and eat it. Other bakeries and butcher shops even have tables and chairs and serve you more or less like a Café, as they also sell coffee and other hot beverages.
Canteens and cafeterias:
Although rarely a tourist attraction in themselves, if you are wanting to sit down to eat but have little time or a limited budget, canteens and cafeterias are a good alternative to fast food restaurants. Many companies allow non-employees to eat at their canteens although most of these require some local knowledge about location and access, as do the university and college cafeterias. Another option popular with pensioners and office workers are self-service restaurants in the larger furniture stores such as XXXL.
In a beer garden, you can get the obvious drink. In traditional beer gardens in Bavaria, it is possible to bring your own food if you buy their drinks. Most places will offer simple meals. Some Biergärten are also known as Bierkeller (literally beer cellar), especially in Franconia. Historically, Bierkeller originate from the need to store beer in a cool place prior to artificial refrigeration. Thus underground structures were dug and soon beer would be sold directly out of storage in the summer months, giving rise to the Bierkeller tradition as we know it today. Many are set in quite beautiful natural surroundings, but probably the best known ensemble of Bierkeller can be found in Erlangen where they gave rise to the Bergkirchweih, one of the biggest beer festivals in the area. They were dug through a mountain just out of town and gave the city an edge in beer storage and consequently higher production capabilities, which led to beer from Erlangen becoming a household name once the railway connection enabled export. The invention of artificial cooling ended that advantage, however. The cellars still exist and besides their role in Bergkirchweih one of them operates as a normal Keller (as it is often shortened to) year round.
As the name implies, a beer garden is in a garden. It may be entirely outdoors, or you may be able to choose between an indoor (almost always non-smoking) area and an outdoor area. They range in size from small, cozy corners to some of the largest eating establishments in the world, capable of seating thousands. Munich’s Oktoberfest, which happens at the end of September each year, creates some of the most famous temporary beer gardens in the world.
Smaller breweries sell their products straight to the customer and sometimes you will find food there as well. Haxe or Schweinshaxe (the ham hock, or the lower part of the pig’s leg) will usually be among the offerings. It is a distinctively German specialty and probably the best dish in almost every establishment of that sort.
Probably 50% of all eating places fall into this group. They are mainly family-run businesses that have been owned for generations, comparable to pubs in the UK. You can go there simply for a drink, or to try German food (often with a local flavour). Food quality differs significantly from place to place but the staff will usually give you an indication of the standard; regulations require restaurant owners to indicate certain possibly harmful ingredients (e.g. glutamates/MSG) in footnotes – a menu containing lots of such footnotes usually indicates low quality; if a cheap “Gasthaus” / restaurant is overcrowded with Germans or Asians, this indicates at least sufficient quality (unless the crowd is thanks to an organized coach excursion).
Germany has a wide range of flavors (e.g. German, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Polish, Indian, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Vietnamese) and almost all styles of the world are represented.
Turkish cuisine in Germany ranges from simple “Döner” shops to mostly family-run restaurants offering a wide variation of usually very cheap (in relation to German price levels) Turkish home cooking.
You will rarely find restaurants catering for special needs within Germany (e.g. kosher restaurants are common only in cities with a notable Jewish population like Berlin), although most restaurants will prepare special meals or variants for you if they are neither relying on convenience foods only nor too fancy. Most restaurants have at least some vegetarian meals. Muslims may want to stick to Turkish or Arabic restaurants. At some Turkish or Arab food stalls vegetarians might find falafel and baba ganoush to suit their tastes. For not-so-strict Jews the halal (sometimes spelled helal for the Turkish word for it) Turkish food stalls are also the best option for meat dishes.
In most restaurants in Germany you can choose your own table. You can make reservations (recommended for larger groups and haute cuisine on Saturday nights) and these are marked by reservation cards (“Reserviert”). In expensive restaurants in larger cities you will be expected to make reservations and will be seated by the staff (who will not allow you to choose your table).
Restaurants in commercial areas often offer weekday lunch specials. These are cheap (starting at €5, sometimes including a beverage) options and a good way to sample local food. Specials tend to rotate on a daily or weekly basis, especially when fresh ingredients like fish are involved.
Some restaurants offer all-you-can-eat-buffets where you pay around 10 euros and can eat as much as you want. Drinks are not included in this price.
“XXL-Restaurants” are rising in popularity. These offer mostly standard meat dishes like Schnitzel or Bratwurst in big to inhumane sizes. There is often a dish that is virtually impossible to eat alone (usually bordering 2 kg!) but if you manage to eat everything (and keep it inside), the meal will be free and you’ll get a reward. Unlike in other restaurants it is common and encouraged to take leftover food home.
Rinderroulade mit Rotkraut und Knödeln: this dish is quite unique to Germany. Very thin sliced beef rolled around a piece of bacon and pickled cucumber until it looks like a mini barrel (5 cm diameter) flavoured with tiny pieces of onion, German mustard, ground black pepper and salt. The meat is quick-fried and is then left to cook slowly for an hour, meanwhile red cabbage and potato dumplings are prepared and then the meat is removed from the frying pan and gravy is prepared in the frying pan. Knödel, Rotkraut and Rouladen are served together with the gravy in one dish.
Schnitzel mit Pommes Frites: there are probably as many different variations of Schnitzel as there are restaurants in Germany, most of them have in common a thin slice of pork that is usually breaded, and fried for a short period of time and it is often served with fries (usually called Pommes Frites or often just Pommes). Variations of this are usually served with different types of gravy: such as Zigeunerschnitzel, Zwiebelschnitzel, Holzfäller Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel (as the name suggests, an Austrian dish – the genuine article must be veal instead of pork, which is why most restaurants offer a Schnitzel Wiener Art, or Viennese-style schnitzel which is allowed to be pork). In the south you can often get Spätzle (pasta that Swabia is famous for) instead of fries with it. Spätzle are egg noodles typical of south Germany – most restaurants make them fresh. Due to the ease of its preparation ordering it might be perceived as an insult to any business with a decent reputation (with the exception of Wiener Schnitzel perhaps), admittedly it is almost unavoidable to spot it on the menu of any sleazy German drinking hole (and there are many…), if nothing else therefore it might even be the most common dish in German restaurants (yes, at least German government officials do call their taverns as well as the common fast food stalls restaurants!).
Rehrücken mit Spätzle: Germany has maintained huge forests such as the famous Black Forest, Bayrischer Wald and Odenwald. In and around these areas you can enjoy the best game in Germany. Rehrücken means venison tenderloin and it is often served with freshly made noodles such as Spätzle and a very nice gravy based on a dry red wine.
Wurst “sausage”: there is no country in the world with a greater variety of sausages than Germany and it would take a while to mention them all. “Bratwurst” is fried, other varieties such as the Bavarian “Weißwurst” are boiled. Here is the shortlist version: “Rote” beef sausage, “Frankfurter Wurst” boiled pork sausage made in the Frankfurt style, “Pfälzer Bratwurst” sausage made in Palatine style, “Nürnberger Bratwurst” Nuremberg sausage – the smallest of all of them, but a serious contender for the best tasting German sausage, “grobe Bratwurst”, Landjäger, Thüringer Bratwurst, Currywurst, Weißwurst … this could go on till tomorrow. If you spot a sausage on a menu this is often a good (and sometimes the only) choice. Often served with mashed potato, fries or potato salad. The most popular type of sausage probably is the Currywurst (Bratwurst cut into slices and served with ketchup and curry powder) and can be bought almost everywhere.
Königsberger Klopse: Literally “meatballs from Königsberg”, this is a typical dish in and around Berlin. The meatballs are made out of minced pork and anchovies and are cooked and served in a white sauce with capers and rice or potatoes.
Matjesbrötchen: Soussed herring or “roll mops” in a bread roll, typical street snack.
Starting from the north of Germany going south you will find a tremendous variety of food and each region sticks to its origins. The coastal regions are fond of seafood and famous dishes include “Finkenwerder Scholle”.
In the region of Cologne you will find Sauerbraten, which is a roast marinated in vinegar. Traditionally made from the tough meat of the horses who worked their lives pulling river barges up the Rhine, these days the dish is usually made from beef.
Labskaus (although strictly speaking not a German invention) is a dish from the north and the opinions about this dish are divided, some love it, others hate it. It is a mash of potato, beetroot juice and cured meat decorated with rollmops and/or young herring and/or a fried egg and/or sour cucumber and/or beetroot slices on top. The north is also famous for its lamb dishes, the best type of lamb probably being “Rudenlamm” (lamb from Ruden, a small island in the Baltic Sea; only a few restaurants in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania serve this), the second best type being “Salzwiesenlamm” (salt meadow lamb). The Lueneburger Heide (Lueneburg Heath) is famous not only for its heath but also for its Heidschnucken, a special breed of sheep. Be aware that a lot of restaurants import their lamb from New Zealand though because it is cheaper. Crabs and mussels are also quite common along the German coasts, especially in North Frisia.
A specialty of Hamburg is “Aalsuppe” which – despite the name (in this case “Aal” means “everything”, not “eel”) – originally contained almost everything – except eel (today many restaurants include eel within this soup, because the name confused tourists). At the coast there’s a variety of fish dishes. Beware: if a restaurant offers “Edelfischplatte” or any dish of similar name, the fish may not be fresh and even (this is quite ironic) of poor quality. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that, for eating fish, you visit specialised (or quality) restaurants only. A fast-food style restaurant chain serving standardized quality fish and other seafood at low prices all over Germany is “Nordsee”, though you will rarely find authentic specialties there.
Pfälzer Saumagen: Long a well-known dish in Palatinate, but difficult to find outside of this area. Literally this is pig stomach filled with a mash of potato and meat, cooked for 2–3 hours and then cut into thick slices. It is often served with sauerkraut. It gained some notoriety as Helmut Kohl was fond of serving it to official state guests such as Gorbachev and Reagan when he was Chancellor.
Swabia is famous for Spätzle (a kind of noodle, often served with cheese as Kässpätzle) and “Maultaschen” (noodles stuffed with spinach and mince meat, but lots of variations, even veggie ones, exist).
In Bavaria this may be Schweinshaxe mit Knödeln (pork’s leg with knödel, a form of potato dumplings), “Leberkäs/Fleischkäse mit Kartoffelsalat” (a type of meat pie and potato salad), “Nürnberger Bratwurst” (probably the smallest sausage in Germany), Weißwurst (white sausages) and “Obatzda” (a spicy mix of several milk products).
The south is also famous for its nice tarts such as the “Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte” (tart with lots of cream and spirits made from cherries).
A delicacy in Saxony is Eierschecke, a cake made of eggs and cream similar to cheese cake.
A specialty of the East is “Soljanka” (originally from Ukraine, but probably the most common dish in the GDR), a sour soup containing vegetables and usually some kind of meat or sausages.
White asparagus (Spargel) floods the restaurants from April to June all over Germany, especially in and around Baden-Baden and the small town of Schwetzingen (“The Asparagus Capital”), near Heidelberg, in an area north and north-east of Hannover (“Lower Saxony’s Asparagus Route”), as well as in the area southwest of Berlin, especially in the town of Beelitz and along the Lower Rhine (“Walbecker Spargel”). Franconia, particularly the Knoblauchsland around Nuremberg also produces quite good asparagus. Many vegetables can be found all year round and are often imported from far away, whereas asparagus can be found for only 2 months and is best enjoyed fresh after harvest, it stays nice for a couple of hours or until the next day. The asparagus is treated very carefully and it is harvested before it is ever exposed to daylight, so that it remains white. When exposed to daylight it changes its colour to green and might taste bitter. Therefore, white asparagus is considered to be better by most Germans. Especially in areas with a Spargel growing tradition the devotion to this white vegetable can seem near-religious and even rural mom and pop restaurants will have a page or more of Spargel recipes in addition to their normal menu.
The standard asparagus meal is the asparagus stalks, hollandaise sauce, boiled potatoes, and some form of meat. The most common meat is ham, preferably smoked; however, you will also find it teamed with schnitzel (fried breaded pork), turkey, beef, or whatever is available in the kitchen.
White asparagus soup is one of the hundreds of different recipes that can be found with white asparagus. Often it is made with cream and contains some of the thinner asparagus pieces.
Another example of a seasonal specialty is kale (Grünkohl). You can find that mainly in Lower Saxony, particularly the southern and south-western parts such as the “Emsland” or around the “Wiehengebirge” and the “Teutoburger Wald”, but also everywhere else there and in the eastern parts of North-Rhine-Westphalia. It is usually served with a boiled rough sort of sausage (called “Pinkel”) and roasted potatoes. If you are travelling in Lower-Saxony in fall, you should get it in every “Gasthaus”.
Lebkuchen are some of Germany’s many nice Christmas biscuits and gingerbread. The best known are produced in and around Nuremberg.
Stollen is a kind of cake eaten during the Advent season and yuletide. Original Stollen is produced only in Dresden, Saxony; however, you can buy Stollen everywhere in Germany (although Dresdner Stollen is reputed to be the best and comparatively cheap).
Around St. Martin’s day and Christmas, roasted geese (“Martinsgans” / “Weihnachtsgans”) are quite common in German restaurants, accompanied by “Rotkraut” (red cabbage, in southern Germany it is often called Blaukraut) and “Knödeln” (potato dumplings), preferably served as set menu, with the liver, accompanied by some kind of salad, as starter, goose soup, and a dessert.
Germans are very fond of their bread (Brot), which they make in many variations. This is the food that Germans tend to miss most when away from home. Most people like their bread relatively dark and dense and scorn the soft loaves sold in other countries. Bakeries will rarely provide less than twenty different sorts of bread and it’s worth trying a few of them. In fact, many Germans buy their lunch or small snacks in bakeries instead of takeaways or the like. Prices for a loaf of bread will range from €0.50 to €4, depending on the size (real specialties might cost more).
Because German bread tends to be excellent, sandwiches (belegtes Brot) are also usually to a high standard, including in train stations and airports. However, if you want to save money do as most locals and make the sandwich yourself as belegtes Brot can be quite expensive when bought ready made.
Outside of big cities like Berlin, there aren’t many places which are particularly aimed at vegetarian or vegan customers. Most restaurants have one or two vegetarian dishes. If the menu doesn’t contain vegetarian dishes, don’t hesitate to ask.
Be careful when ordering to ask whether the dish is suitable for vegetarians, as chicken stock and bacon cubes are a commonly “undeclared” ingredient on German menus.
However, there are usually organic food shops (“Bioladen”, “Naturkostladen” or “Reformhaus”) in every city, providing veg(etari)an bread, spreads, cheese, ice cream, vegan milk substitutes, tofu and seitan. The diversity and quality of the products is great and you will find shop assistants that can answer special nutritional questions in great depth.
Veganism and vegetarianism is on the rise in Germany so that many supermarkets (such as Edeka and Rewe) have a small selection of vegan products as well in their “Feinkost”-section such as seitan-sausages, tofu or soy milk at a reasonable price.
For centuries, beer-making in Bavaria has been governed by the Reinheitsgebot (purity law) that was made national policy with the unification of Germany in 1871, which states that German beer may be made only from hops, malt and water (yeast was still not known back then). The Reinheitsgebot has been watered down with imports due to European integration, but German breweries still have to stick to it since for them, national law applies. The national law has however also been watered down and now states that a variety of additives and auxiliary substances may be used during the production process, as long as they aren’t found in the end product.
The domestic beer market is not dominated by one or only a few big breweries. Even though there are some big players, the regional diversity is enormous, and there are over 1,200 breweries with most of them serving only local markets. Usually bars and restaurants serve the local varieties that differ from town to town. However the North has less variety than the south and especially in localities that aren’t specialized in beer you are more likely to get mass-produced watered down Pils from the big breweries than not. If you truly want to experience German beer, try sticking with smaller brands, as they don’t have to appeal to a mass market and are thus more “individual” in taste. When sitting in a German Kneipe, a local beer is always an option, and often the only option.
Specialties include Weizenbier (or Weißbier in Bavaria), a refreshing top-fermented beer which is popular in the south, Alt, a kind of dark ale that is especially popular in and around Düsseldorf, and Kölsch, a special beer brewed in Cologne. “Pils”, the German name for pilsner, is a light-gold beer that is extremely popular in Germany. There are also seasonal beers, which are made only at particular times of the year (such as Bockbier in winter and Maibock in May, both containing a greater quantity of alcohol, sometimes double that of a normal Vollbier).
Beer is usually served in 200 or 300mL glasses (in the northern part) or 500mL in the South. In Biergartens in Bavaria, 500mL is a small beer (“Halbe”) and a litre is normal (“Maß” pronounced “Mahss”). Except in “Irish pubs”, pints or pitchers are uncommon.
For Germans, a lot of foam is both a sign of freshness and quality; thus, beer is always served with a lot of head. (All glasses have volume marks for the critical souls.)
Additionally, Germans are not afraid to mix beer with other drinks (though the older generation may disagree). Beer is commonly mixed with carbonated lemonade (usually at 1:1 ratio) and called a “Radler” (or cyclist so named because it is commonly associated with a refreshing drink a cyclist might enjoy in spring or summer during a cycling excursion) (or “Alsterwasser”/”Alster” (after the river in Hamburg) in the north); “Cocktails” of Pilsener/Altbier and soft drinks like Fanta, a “Krefelder”/”Colaweizen” cola and dark wheat beer is another combination that can be found. Pils mixed with Cola is very popular especially among younger Germans and goes by different names – depending on your area – such as “Diesel”, “Schmutziges” (dirty) or “Schweinebier” (pigs beer). Another famous local delicacy is “Berliner Weiße”, a cloudy, sour wheat beer of around 3% abv. that is mixed with syrups (traditionally raspberry) and is very refreshing in summer. These beer-based mixed drinks are widespread and popular and can be bought as pre-mixed bottles (typically in six packs) wherever regular beer is sold.
Pubs are open in Germany until 02:00 or later. Food is generally available until midnight. Germans typically go out after 20:00 (popular places are already full by 18:00).
Undisputed capital of “Apfelwein” (or Äbblwoi as it is locally called) cider in Germany is Frankfurt. Frankfurters love their cider. There are even special bars (“Apfelweinkneipe”) that will serve only Apfelwein and some gastronomic specialities. Cider is often served in a special jug called “Bembel”. The taste is slightly different from ciders in other countries and tends to be quite refreshing. In autumn when apples are turned into cider you might find “Frischer Most” or “Süßer” signposted at some places. That is the first product in the chain of “Apfelwein” production; one glass of it is nice, but after two or three glasses you will have a problem unless you enjoy spending lots of time on the toilet. In the Saarland and surrounding regions “Apfelwein” is called “Viez”. It varies here from “Suesser Viez” (sweet), to “Viez Fein-Herb” (medium sweet) to “Alter Saerkower” (sour). The Viez capital of that region is Merzig. During winter it is also quite common to drink hot cider (along with some cloves and sugar). It is considered an efficient measure against an oncoming cold.
Germans drink lots of coffee. The port of Hamburg is the world’s busiest place for coffee trading. Coffee is always freshly made from ground coffee or beans – no instant. However, persons coming from countries with a great coffee tradition (like Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Greece or Austria) might find the coffee that is served in normal restaurants a bit boring. A German specialty, originating from North Frisia but nowadays also common in East Frisia, is “Pharisäer”, a mixture of coffee and a spirit, usually rum, with a thick cream top. A variation of this is “Tote Tante” (dead aunt, with coffee replaced by hot chocolate).
Over the past few years, American coffee house chain Starbucks or clones have expanded into Germany, but mostly you will encounter “Cafés” which usually offer a large selection of cakes to go along with the coffee.
Visiting Germany in December? Then go and see one of the famous Christmas Markets (the most famous taking place in Nuremberg, Dresden, Leipzig, Münster, Bremen, Augsburg and Aachen) and this is the place where you find Glühwein (mulled wine), a spiced wine served very hot to comfort you in the cold of winter.
A generic word for spirits made from fruit is Obstler, and each area has its specialities.
Bavarians like their beer as well their Enzian, a spirit high in alcohol that is best as a digestive after a hefty meal.
Kirschwasser literally means cherry water; it certainly tastes of cherry but on the other hand it is not regular drinking water. There is a long lasting tradition in making spirits in Baden, and “Kirschwasser” is probably the flagship product and it might encourage you to taste other specialties such as Himbeergeist (from raspberry), Schlehenfeuer (flavored with sloe berries), Williamchrist (pear) and Apfelkorn (apple juice and Korn).
Korn, made of grain, is probably the most common spirit in Germany. Korn is more popular in the North, where it exceeds beer in popularity. In the South the situation is reversed. Its main production center (Berentzen) lies in Haselünne, where tours and tastings can be arranged in the distilleries. The town is near the river Ems in northwest Germany; for rail service to Haselünne (very sparse) see Eisenbahnfreunde Hasetal. A common mixture is Korn with apple juice (“Apfelkorn”) which usually works out to about 20% abv. and is usually consumed by younger people. Another town famous for its Doppelkorn (with over five hundred years of tradition to boot) is Nordhausen in Thuringia, where tours and tastings are also easily arranged.
In Lower Saxony, especially in areas surrounding the Lüneburg Heath, different specialised liquors and schnaps are prominent. Ratzeputz holds 58% alcohol and contains extracts and distillates of root ginger. Heidegeist is a herbal liquer that contains 31 heather ingredients with an alcohol content of 50%. It is clear in colour and has a strong, minty taste.
In North Frisia, Köm (caraway spirit), either pure or mixed with tea (“Teepunsch”, tea punch), is very popular.
Eiergrog is a hot mixture of egg liquor and rum.
Tea, Tee, is also very popular, and a large choice is readily available. The region of East Frisia in particular has a long tea tradition, and is probably the only place in Germany where tea is more popular than coffee. The East Frisian tea ceremony consists of black tea served in a flat porcelain cup with special rock sugar (Kluntje) that is put in the cup before pouring the tea. Cream is added afterwards, but is not stirred into the tea. The East-Frisian fondness for tea was made fun of in a rather infamous commercial for a certain sweet that supposedly goes well with coffee, only for the claim to be interrupted by a noisy East-Frisian who would say “Und was is mit Tee?” (And what about tea?) in a stereotypical Northern German accent. Most Germans still know this sentence, if not necessarily its origin.
Especially in winter, Germans love their hot chocolate (heiße Schokolade), which is widely available. Hot chocolate in Germany tends to be more or less Zartbitter — that is, bittersweet — and in the more gourmet establishments, it can be quite dark and bitter and only a little sweet. It is commonly served with Schlag (fresh whipped cream, also called Schlagsahne). Although usually served pre-prepared some cafes will serve a block of chocolate that you mix and melt into the hot milk yourself. Milk chocolate is called Kinderschokolade (“children’s chocolate”) in Germany and not taken seriously at all, so don’t expect to be able to order hot milk chocolate if you are an adult.
Some Germans are just as passionate about their wines (Wein) as others are about their beer. The similarities don’t stop here; both products are often produced by small companies, and the best wines are consumed locally. The production of wine has a 2,000-year-old history in Germany as may be learned from the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Trier but, of course, this was a Roman settlement at that time. Sunshine is the limiting factor for the production of wines in Germany and, therefore, wine production is limited to the south. White wine plays a main role in the wine production, but some areas produce red wines (Ahr, Baden Württemberg). White wines are produced from Riesling, Kerner and Müller-Thurgau grapes (there are many more), and produce generally fresh and fruity wines. German wines can be rich in acid and are quite refreshing. It is generally accepted that Riesling grapes produce the best German wines, but they demand a lot of sunshine and they grow best in very exposed areas such as the Mosel, Rheingau, Bergstraße, Kaiserstuhl and Pfalz.
The best way to learn about wines is go to the place where they are grown and taste them on the spot. This is called “Weinprobe” and is generally free of charge – though in touristed areas you have to pay a small fee.
Good wines usually go together with good food so you might like to visit when you are hungry as well as thirsty. The so-called Straußenwirtschaft, Besenwirtschaft or Heckenwirtschaft are little “pubs” or gardens where a wine-producer sells his own wine, normally with little meals such as sandwiches or cheese and ham. Normally, they are open only in summer and autumn, and not longer than 4 months a year (due to legal regulations). As they are sometime in the vineyards or in some back streets, they are not always easy to find, so you best ask a local for the next (or best) Straußenwirtschaft he knows.
During the fall you can buy “Federweisser” in south-western Germany. This is a partially fermented white wine and contains some alcohol (depending on age), but tastes very sweet. It is also available from red grapes, being called “Roter Sauser” or “Roter Rauscher”.
Wine producing areas are:
- Ahr is the paradise of German red wines. Half of the production is dedicated to red wines and it is densely populated with “Gaststätten” and “Strausswirten”. A saying goes: Whoever visited the Ahr and remembers that he was there, hasn’t actually been there.
- Baden with c. 15,500 hectares of wine yards and a production of 1 million hectolitres, Baden is Germany’s third biggest wine growing area. It’s the most southerly German wine growing area and is Germany’s only member of the European Wine Category B together with the famous French areas Alsace, Champagne and Loire. Baden is more than 400 km long and is split into nine regional groups: Tauberfranken, Badische Bergstraße, Kraichgau, Ortenau, Breisgau, Kaiserstuhl, Tuniberg, Markgräflerland and Bodensee. The Kaiserstuhl and the Markgräflerland are the most famous areas for wine from Baden. One of the largest wine cooperatives is the Badischer Winzerkeller in Breisach.
- Franken: Franconia is in the northern part of Bavaria and you can find there very nice wines, most commonly the dry white wine. Some wines produced in Franconia are sold in a special bottle called “Bocksbeutel”.
- Hessische Bergstraße: on the slopes of the Rhine valley it is a quiet small wine producing area and wines are usually consumed within the area in and around Heppenheim.
- Mosel-Saar-Ruwer: the steepest vineyards in Germany can be seen when driving in the Mosel valley from Koblenz to Trier.
- Pfalz: biggest wine producing area in Germany. Has some excellent wines to taste and a lot of nice villages embedded in vineyards. Tasting wine in Deidesheim is a good idea and several prime producers of German wine are on the main road. Want to see the biggest wine barrel in the world? Then go to Bad Dürkheim.
- Rheingau: is the smallest wine producing area, but it produces the highest -rated Riesling wines in Germany. Visit Wiesbaden and make a trip on the Rhine to Eltville and Rüdesheim.
- Rheinhessen too is especially famous for its Riesling. Visit Mainz and make a trip on the Rhine to Worms, Oppenheim, Ingelheim or Bingen.
- Saale-Unstrut: in the state of Saxonia-Anhalt on the banks of the rivers Saale and Unstrut is the most northern wine producing area in Europe.
- Sachsen: One of the smallest wine regions in Germany, nestled along the Elbe River near Dresden and Meissen.
- Württemberg: As was mentioned before, here the rule that the best wine is consumed by locals, strictly applies; wine consumption per head is twice as high as in the rest of Germany, regardless of whether it’s red or the white wine. The speciality of the region is the red wine called Trollinger and it can be quite nice by German standards.