Friday, May 21, 2010

Cool things about Deutschland

I've finally emerged a bit from my jet lag and flu - enough to finish up my trip journal and ponder all the cool things we experienced on our trip. Here are a few of my favorite things:

1. "Spargel" season. It was asparagus season in full force while we were there, and every menu featured a section dedicated to the hallowed white asparagus of the region.

2. "Spargeltoast". If you have not had this decadent creation, then you have not fully lived. I could feel my arteries crying out as the plate got put in front of me. Buttered, browned bread topped with a row of white asparagus, a slice of ham or pork chop, and a cheesy, melty mixture with Hollandaise sauce poured all over the top. A side of pommes frites and a glass of Badischer wine, and you are good to go for dinner (and your first heart attack).

3. Community gardens. I hadn't quite realized that Germans were so into their fresh produce. Every big city and small village had green space dedicated to community gardens. Each family had a shed and a pretty large plot of land - some even had "winter gardens", or little green-houses on their plots.

4. An unparalleled, separated cycling infrastructure. Both Germany and northern Switzerland have this. Full signed routes (with separate road or mountain bike signage at every intersection). Every fast road - those with 35 mph or higher speeds had a completely separated side path in the greenbelt that was paved. Other routes took us on very small roads with very little traffic. A detailed map is needed to navigate the routes, however, since the villages mentioned on the signs are generally quite small. In the big cities, there was a completely separated cycling infrastructure, as well, with cycling given first-class citizenship, often at the expense of motor vehicle space. Cycling paths were also distinct from walking paths. The routes through cities were not fast for cycling, but very safe and efficient. Of course, German drivers were somewhat less laid-back then their French counterparts - quick to point out a side path if you'd happened to miss it - as they herded you through a roundabout. :)

5. All roads built for speed. Note the thing above about German drivers. They LOVE their speed. This means all the steep mountain roads are perfectly paved, banked, and s-curved. This also means that and adventurous cyclist could easily go well over 50 mph if so desired (I did not, due to the bouncing load of luggage behind my seat), but I had to sit on my brakes HARD to keep it under 40.

6. Red Reisling - who knew it was a red grape? Very tasty.

7. Dunkel weizen - Rick introduced me to this tasty beer variant - by the .5 liter glass, of course.

8. "Real" sauerkraut - who knew that pickled cabbage could be so tasty?!

9. "Real" Schninken (Black Forest Ham) - like a very smoky version of prosciutto. Not at all like what they call "Black Forest Ham" at the supermarket here.

10. The Schwarzwald - what a lovely place! Renamed to "Sarah's Schwarzwald World" for the duration of the trip.

11. Pommes frites - they're just better in Euroland. "Freedom fries" are mostly crap. Or, for some additional fun, try the German-style "croquettes" very tasty fried potato goodness.

12. The "B" that is pronounced as a double-"ss". So weird.

13. Thermalbads (hot springs) - so needed in the cold weather.

14. Apfel struesel (and other tasty bakery creations!)

15. A winter-wonderland in May - inconvenient, but lovely.

16. The cute, gingerbread houses everywhere.

17. Seeing storks and swans in the wild and hearing the "cuku" coming from the forest.

18. Inexpensive, Turkish "pizza and doner (schwarma) places where you can get a hearty lunch.

19. Strong coffee served with real cream.

20. Cheese, lots and lots of cheese - I don't know all the varieties I had, but they were all good.

21. Pork with mushroom gravy and pork topped with cherries. The Germans really know how to do up their pork in 100 different and interesting ways.


Anonymous said...

I love this post!

Denise said...

What a great adventure!

NadiaMac said...

Great report! Did you happen to make it to Basel, and if so, any comments on cycling near there?

CyclistRick said...

Interesting how many of the items have to do with food and beverage items ;-) You forgot to mention how you thought you were in heaven when passing the smokehouse at the top of that one pass.

@NadiaMac - yes, we went through Basel ... twice. Once on bike, once on train. By bike, I think it is fine as far as big cities. Ms. Chatterbox has a thing against cycling through cities, and tends to get a bit anxious. If you accept it is a big city and just deal with it accordingly, it should be great since there are all the nice paths in all three countries. Outside of the city, it is great, esp if you stay a bit away from the river. The river path is often unpaved, and parts of it on the German side north of Basel are torn up for a road project. The German alternative has some steep climbs, but the French side paths look great. If you are going we have some good cycling map recommendations; the Swiss ones are pricey, but there a good set of German 'Elsas' (Alsace) cycling maps that were great to have.

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

I'm going to Saarbrucken in July :-).
Sounds like you had a good trip...with lots of good food, and some good riding. I am not bringing my bike, but hopefully I"ll get out to enjoy the region anyway.

Angela said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip!!

Groover said...

You just made me very homesick. :-)

Cheryl said...

When I was in my twenties, I lived in the area for six months (Freiburg im Breisgau); visited Basel more than once, and Colmar, France -- you hit the highlights really well. Lucky you.

chatterbox said...

Thanks, all! Glad you enjoyed the synopsis. I'll be getting together some more of the daily journal posted as I have time over the next weeks.

Groover - I was wondering if you'd see this! It's a great place to be homesick for.

Nadiamac and Dr. Kim - have a great time on your trips, too!

Cheryl - what a fun place to spend some time in your 20's!