The most important tip I can give you on Germany  local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Germany, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.

What to Eat in Germany

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.

German Foods photo

Photo by punctuated

Since most bigger employers have a canteen for their employees, you will find relatively few sandwich shops and takeaways, and eating-out culture in Germany is dominated by the Gasthaus/Gasthof and restaurants. Putting places to eat into 6 categories gives you a hint about the budget/taste.

Starting from the lower end, these are: Imbiss ‘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. Even though considered Turkish, it’s actually a speciality which 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’ 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 towns. 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. Bakeries and butchers Germans have no tradition of sandwich shops but you will find that bakeries / 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. Biergärten Here you will get the obvious drink. In traditional beergardens in Bavaria, it is possible to bring your own food if you buy drinks. Most places will offer simple meals.

German Foods photo

Photo by rhodes

A very good place for beer and Bavarian food is the Biergarten of “Kloster Andechs” close to the Ammersee (round 40km southwest of Munich (take the Autobahn to the west (A96) or the S-Bahn). Brauhaus Smaller breweries sell their products straight to the customer and sometimes you will find food there as well, among it usually “Haxe” or “Schweinshaxe” (pig’s leg), a distinctively German specialty and probably the best dish in almost every establishment of that sort. In Frankonia, this is replaced by “Schäuferla” in different spellings Gasthof/Gasthaus 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 is usually down-to-earth and may range from very basic dishes to local specialities. Except from very simple places that try to feed people off with reheated convenience products, the quality of the food can be very good. If you spot a place that appears popular with the locals, it’s usually worth giving it a try. Especially in more rural areas, a traditional Gasthof may not cater for all dietary requirements (e.g. vegetarian/vegan). In that case, check the menu before entering. Restaurants Germany has a wide range of flavors (e.g. German, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Polish, Indian, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Turkish) and almost all styles of the world are represented.

Most cities will also have specialty restaurants that cater for various dietary requirements. Berlin in particular offers a lot of vegan and vegetarian options. Outside of the bigger cities, the situation may be more difficult but most restaurants will try to accommodate you and list at least some vegetarian options. Food at Turkish and Arab eateries will usually be halal, and most of the time they will also have vegetarian options. Kosher restaurants are rare and will only be found in cities with a notable Jewish population, like Berlin 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 some more expensive restaurants in larger cities you should have reservation and will be seated by the staff – in simpler restaurants you’ll just pick a table and sit down. 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. Many restaurants offers 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 standardized meat dishes like Schnitzel or Bratwurst in big to inhumane sizes.

German Foods photo

Photo by ohallmann

Unlike as in other restaurants it is common and encouraged to take leftover food home. Table manners At very formal events and in high-end restaurants, a few deviations of German customs from western standards should be noted: It is considered bad manners to eat with your elbows resting on the table. Keep only your wrists on the table.

Note that most Germans will keep up this manner in everyday life since this is one of the most basic rules parents will teach their children. If you go to a restaurant with your German friends, you may want to pay attention to do so, too. When moving the fork to your mouth, the curved end should point upwards (not downwards as in Great Britain) When eating soup or other food from your spoon, hold it with the tip towards your mouth (not parallel to your lips as in, again, Great Britain).

Spoons used to stir beverages, e.g. coffee, should not be put in the mouth at all. If you have to leave the table, it is fine to put your napkin (which should have rested, folded once along the centre, on your lap until then) on the table, to the left of your plate, in an elegant little pile — unless it looks really dirty, in which case you might want to leave it on your chair.

 

Typical dishes Hearty Bavarian food on a fancy plate. Left to right: Schnitzel, pork belly (Schweinebauch) with red cabbage (Rotkohl or “Blaukraut”), Weißwurst with mashed potatoes (Kartoffelpüree), Bratwurst on sauerkraut 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 (5cm 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.

They have in common a thin slice of pork often covered in egg and bread crumbs that is fried for a short period of time and it is often served with fries (that’s the Pommes frites part). 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 easiness 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 German sleazy joint (and there were – and still are – so many that even Churchill’s bombs couldn’t hit ’em all…), 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!).

German Foods photo

Photo by codepo8

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) and can be bought almost everywhere. Schweinebraten: Roast pork, tradidtional the closer you get to (or into) Munich. Try the crust, which should be crispy. There sould be little visible (but tastible) fat.

If you pass through Nuremberg, try Schäufele, the local variant of pork shoulder in a restaurant that has it on the daily (not the regular) menu. Both are usually served with Klöße, made from raw (or cooked) mashed potatoes and lots of gravy (feel free to order more). 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. Local specialities Starting from the north of Germany going south you will find a tremendous variety of food and each region sticks to it origins.

The coastal regions are fond of seafood and famous dishes include “Finkenwerder Scholle”, going south to the region of Cologne you will find Sauerbraten (a roast marinated in vinegar), if made really traditionally it’s from horse meat. 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 speciality 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 led tourists into confusion).

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 be not fresh and even (this is quite ironical) 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: known for a long time in Palatinate, but difficult to find outside of this area.

The dish became well known to the general public in Germany as then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s favourite dish, especially when this was enjoyed by him and the Russian president Mikhail Gorbatchev on a State visit in Germany in Deidesheim. Pictures of the feast are shown in the restaurant “ Deidesheimer Hof” in Deidesheim. Literally this is pig stomach filled with a mash of potato and meat, cooked for 2-3 hours and then cut in thick slices often served with sauerkraut. Swabia is famous for Spätzle (a kind of noodle), “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” (kind of meat pie and potato salad), “Nürnberger Bratwurst” (probably 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 spirit 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” (originating from Ukraine, but probably the most common dish in the GDR), a sour soup containing vegetables and usually some kind of meat or sausages. Seasonal specialities White “Spargel” (asparagus) 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”).

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 next day. The asparagus is treated very carefully and it is harvested before it is ever exposed to daylight, therefore 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.

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 speciality is “Grünkohl” (kale).

You can find that mainly in Lower Saxony, particularly around Oldenburg and the “Ammerland”, Bremen, as well as 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” around Oldenburg) 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 – due to the lower salaries in Eastern Germany – comparatively cheap)).

Around St. Martin’s day and Christmas, roasted geese (“Martinsgans” / “Weihnachtsgans”) are quite common in German restaurants, accompanied by “Rotkraut” (red cabbage) 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. Miscellaneous Germans are very fond of their bread, 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).

Vegetarian Most restaurants have one or two vegetarian dishes, but there aren’t many places which are particularly aimed at vegetarian or vegan customers, except a few places in big cities like Berlin. If the menu does not contain vegetarian dishes, do not hesitate to ask. Vegetarian restaurant guides can be found at [47] (german) or [48] (VEBU restaurant list, the restaurants are not necessarily vegetarian in general). Be aware 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.

German Foods photo

Photo by Kai Hendry

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. Allergy & Celiac Sufferers When shopping for foods, the package labeling in Germany is generally reliable.

All food products must be properly labeled including additives and preservatives. Be on the look out for “Weizen” (wheat), “Mehl” (flour) or “Malz” (malt) and “Stärke” (starch). Be extra cautious for foods with “Geschmacksverstärker” (i.e. flavour enhancers) that may have gluten as ingredients.

Reformhaus [49] – a 3.000 strong network of health food stores in Germany and Austria that has dedicated gluten-free sections stocked with pasta, breads and treats. Reformhaus stores are usually found in the lower level of shopping centres (i.e. PotsdamerArkaden, etc.) DM Stores [50] – the CWS/Shopper’s Drug Mart equivalent in Germany has dedicated wheat and gluten free sections Alnatura [51] – natural foods store with a large dedicated gluten-free section Smoking The German federal-states started banning smoking in public places and areas in early 2007, however the laws vary from state to state. Smoking is generally banned in all restaurants and cafes. Some places may provide separate smoking areas but it is best to enquire when booking. Smokers should be prepared to step outside if they want to light up. Smoking is banned on all forms of public transport including on railway platforms (except in designated smoking areas, which are clearly marked with the word “Raucherbereich” [smoking area]). The laws are strictly enforced.

What to Drink in Germany

Legal drinking age is 18 for spirits (drinks containing distilled alcohol) and 16 for everything else (e.g. beer and wine). Drinking in public is generally legal and accepted as long as you still know how to behave. A few cities tried to restrict drinking in public places/at certain times but the legal status of those laws is disputed and they were sometimes abolished some time later. Consuming alcoholic drinks might be prohibited in some (local) public transports. In case of an offence you might be expelled and fined (typically a sum around 40€).

Sometimes the restriction only mentions “excessive” drinking. Violations are allways considered a civil and not criminal matter. Beer 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, yeast and water. The Reinheitsgebot has come down with the European integration, but German breweries still have to stick to it since for them, national law applies.

The domestic beer market is not dominated by one or a only a few big breweries. Even though there are some big players, the regional diversity is enormous, and there are over 1200 breweries with most of them serving only local markets. Usually bars and restaurants serve the local varieties that differ from town to town.

When sitting in a German Kneipe, a local beer is always an option, and often the only option. Specialities 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 coloured beer that is extremely popular in Germany.

There are also seasonal beers, which are made only at different 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). If you simply order a beer, it will typically be a Pilsener. 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 liter is normal (“Maß” pronounced “Mahss”). Except for 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 witch Cola is very popular especially amongst younger Germans and goes different names – depending on your area – such as “Diesel”, “Schmutziges” (dirty) or “Schweinebier” (pigs beer) to name a few. 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 popular and can be bought as pre-mixed bottles (typically in six packs) wherever regular beer is sold.

Pubs are open in Germany until 2 in the morning or later. Food is generally available until midnight. Germans typically go out after 8PM (popular places already fill up at 6PM). Cider Undisputed capital of “Apfelwein” cider in Germany is Frankfurt. Locals love their cider and it is very popular around there. 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) as a prophylactic measure against an upcoming cold. Apfelschorle The real national drink of Germany is not beer. Good beer is also made in many other countries (ask the Czechs, the Brits, the Belgians, the Dutch, etc…).

The true national drink is “Apfelschorle” – a fact that even some Germans may only realize as soon as they leave their country and just can’t find their everyday drink abroad. You get it everywhere in Germany (plus Austria and Switzerland) but nowhere else. Apfelschorle is a 50-50 mix of apple juice and carbonated water. It is popular in particular on hot summer days and kind of replaces soft drinks and sometimes even a beer! You will get it at almost any restaurant and bottled ready-mixed at every supermarket including the “discounters” and also from Cola vending machines. Even McDonald’s put it on its German menu and The CocaCola Company launched “Lift”, its own Apfelschorle brand – although you can’t get the really good natural unfiltered-murky stuff from them. And yes: it is Alcohol-free and (also) very popular among kids.

In Bavaria and Austria you may have to ask for Gespritzter Apfelsaft to get the same kind of drink. When buying a bottled Schorle, read the fine print to make sure there is nothing but Apple juice and carbonated water in your drink. (Versions with 10% lemon juice may be acceptable though this is not part of the “pure” recipe.) In Summer be careful opening unrefrigerated plastic Schorle bottles. Schorle was not invented by industrial food designers that would have added de-foaming agents, so wetting yourself may be the price you have to pay for a sip of (violent) nature. Enjoy! Coffee Germans drink lots of coffee.

Currently, 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 has expanded into Germany, but mostly you will encounter “Cafés” which usually offer a large selection of cakes to go along with the coffee. Glühwein Visiting Germany in December? Then go and see one of the famous Christmas markets (the most famous taking place in Nuremberg, Dresden, Passau, 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. Spirits “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 specialities such as Himbeergeist (from raspberry), Schlehenfeuer (flavored with sloe berries), Williamchrist (pear) and Apfelkorn (apple). “Enzian” Bavarians like their beer as well their Enzian. A spirit high in alcohol that is best as a digestive after a hefty meal. “Korn”, made of grain, is probably the most common spirit in Germany. Its main production centre (Berentzen [53]) lies in Haselünne, where tours and tastings can be arranged in the distilleries. The town is located near the river Ems in northwest Germany; for rail service to Haselünne (very sparse) see Eisenbahnfreunde Hasetal [54]. 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. “Jägermeister” is a famous German bitter liquor brewed with herbs and spices. Produced only in Wolfenbüttel, Lower Saxony, but exported to many countries. Tea Tea 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. Wine Germans are just as passionate about their wines as they are about their beer. The similarities don’t stop here, both products are often produced by small companies if not by families or individuals, and the best wines are consumed locally and only the remaining ones are exported.

German tea photo

Photo by epSos.de

The production of wine has a 2000 year old history in Germany as learned from the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, but of course this was a roman settlement at this time. Sunshine is the limiting factor for the production of wines in Germany and therefore the 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 a lot more, but to name them all would be too much), 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 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 touristic areas you have to pay a small fee. Good wines usually go together with good food and therefore it is well worth it to visit some of those places. Another nice opportunity to get a taste of local wine is the so-called Straußenwirtschaft, Besenwirtschaft or Heckenwirtschaft.

These 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 sometimes located in the vineyards or in some backstreets, 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”. Wine producing areas are: Ahr 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: Who visited the Ahr and remembers that he was there, hasn’t actually been there. Baden [55] With approx. 15,500 hectare of wine yards and a production of 1 mn hectolitre Baden is Germany’s third biggest wine growing area. It’s the most southern 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 [56] in Breisach (English site). Franken: Franconia is in the northern part of Bavaria and you can find there very nice wines. Some wines produced in Franconia are sold in a special bottle called “Bocksbeutel”. Hessische Bergstrasse: located 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 producer of German wine are all located 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 Rüdesheim. Rheinhessen too is especially famous for its Riesling. Sachsen: One of the smallest wine regions in Germany, nestled along the Elbe River near Dresden and Meissen. Württemberg As it was mentioned before, here the rule, that the wine production is consumed by the locals, strictly applies. The wine consumption is twice as high as in the rest of Germany, regardless of whether it’s red or the white wine.

The specialty of the region is the red wine called Trollinger and it can be quite nice by German standards. Saale-Unstrut: located in the state Saxonia-Anhalt at the banks of the rivers Saale and Unstrut it is most northern wine area in Europe.

Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.