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Archive for the ‘Germany / Austria’ Category

Let us be clear: German gastronomy is more than just bier and sausages. If you are in Germany for a few days and decide to eat out, you might end up feeling completely lost while reading the menu. So, here is a short explanation of the main German courses. And who knows, you might want to learn how to cook “German” afterwards!

The most well-known dishes

Sausages (Würste). There are over 1,500 different kinds of wurst in Germany. Among them, the “Rindswurst″  (with beef meat), the « Leberwurst » (liver or blood sausager), the « Weißwurst » (boiled veal sausage), the « Bratwurst » (pork and veal sausages), and the sausages  from different German cities and areas such as Nuremberg, Frankfurt or from the Free State of Thuringia.

The Currywurst (a sausage with curry).The fast-food dish from Berlin consists of hot pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup. It can be served with French fries or bread.

Pretzels. A type of baked food made from dough in savory flavors in a unique knot-like shape, covered with coarse salt.

Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by various  lactic acid bacteria. It should not be mistaken for dressed sauerkraut, that is to say sauerkraut with sausages and potatoes, and which is from Alsace (if you want to try this dish in Germany, order a garniertes Sauerkraut).

What is to know about German Beer?

Beer is a major part of German culture. Many events and places are dedicated  to beer, like Biergärten, where German enjoy having a drink when spring is coming, and beer festivals, the Oktoberfest being the most famous of them. Brewing exists since Middle-Age.

Dark, stout, or lager: there is a beer for every taste. And indeed, there are 5,000 types of beers. They are classified by density and by their types of fermentation: low fermentation (Bock, Dunkel, Lager) and high fermentation (Berliner Weisse, Weissbier). The pils (also Pils or pilsener), which is a type of pale lager, is very popular and accounts for 70% of the beer market.

Imbisses

They are small food stands, and small street food shops. This is where anyone can eat fast, cheap and meet some friends. Imbisses serve everything from the standard currywurst, pizza, or  döner kebab to the more exotic food. There are thousands of them around Berlin and they are to be found everywhere in Germany. Each neighborhood has its own Imbiss.

German and Austrian specialties

Knödels. This Austrian specialty can be found in South Germany. They are large round poached or boiled potato or bread dumplings and can be stuffed with bacon or cheese. They can be served as a dessert, when filled with plums, for example.

Schnitzels. Tradional Austrian dish made with boneless meat thinned with a mallet. In Germany, they are called Schnitzel Wiener Art or Wiener Schnitzel.  It originally comes from Milan, Italy.

Spätzle. A type of boiled egg noodle of soft texture.

Schweinebraten. “Pig roast” is a traditional dish from the Bavarian Kitchen, which is served with a dark beer sauce. When served hot, it can be prepared with red cabbage, sauerkraut or cabbage salad and bread. 

German desserts and cakes

The Black Forest cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte). A chocolate cake with several layers, with cherries and whipped cream. It is sprinkled with chocolate savings.

Lebkuchen.  The texture is very similar to gingerbread. It’s a traditional biscuit. Many Lebkuchen hearts are sold in Germany. They can be given to a loved one or hanged in the house.

Berliner. They are big doughnuts stuffed with jam.

The Stollen, or Christstollen. It’s a loaf-shaped cake containing dried fruit, stuffed with marzipan, and covered with sugar, powdered sugar or icing sugar. It is a tradition during the Advent. It is a Christmas cake. The tradition first appeared in the 14th century.

The Apfelstrudel.  A Austrian layered pastry with an apple and raisin filling. It is generally served hot, with some cinnamon and some cream.. You can also savour it in Alsace, in the North of Italy and in Central Europe.

The different meals of the day

As a whole, breakfast is made of cooked pork meats and cheese.

In general, lunch is quite substantial. The Germans like to eat meat of sausages with potatoes or vegetables and prefer to take a dessert around 3 PM.

The evening supper is rather light. It’s a cold meal made of bread, cooked pork meats and cheese.  It is thus similar to breakfast. The Germans dine early: around 6 PM.

German places in Paris:

  • The Stube

A German Imbiss restaurant where you can German specialties (savoury and cakes).

Price range: a Currywurst is 4.90€ and a Sauerkraut 9.50€.

31, rue de Richelieu 75001 Paris

http://www.lestube.fr/

  • Der Tante Emma-Laden

It’s the only German grocer’s shop in Paris. Here you can find a wide range of German and Austrian products and specialties, as well as books, and decoration accessories. You can also order online.

Marché de la Porte Saint Martin – 31/33 rue du Château d’eau – 75010 Paris

http://www.tante-emma-laden.fr/

  • The Café Titon

In this café, you can have a drink and choose among many cocktails. You can also eat a snack. The currywurst with French fries is 5.50€ and a Bionade (an organic Lemonade) 3.90€. Parisians who love Germany will have the opportunity to come to some Germany related events.

34, rue titon
75011 PARIS

http://www.cafetiton.com/2008/11/concept.html

Links :

Learn more about beer in Germany (English)

Learn how to cook German recipes (English)

The German gastronomy (a French website on Germany)

Learn about the regional specialties in Germany (English)

Sarah, 24, comes from Lippstadt, between Cologne and Hanover, in Germany. We met last year in Paris. Now she studies in Preston in England. Despite all those trips, she never forgets the German traditions for Christmas and she explained them to me.

  • How do you prepare Christmas in Germany?

Every Sunday before Christmas (4 Sundays), we light a candle of the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath is a tradition in Germany. The Advent wreaths are often home-made.

We also have the Advent calendar. It starts on 1st December. Each day, a new window is opened and you can find something inside to wait until Christmas. There thousands of different calendars, and there are often home-made too. Some are filled with little gifts, other with more expensive gifts. But the traditional one used to be filled with chocolates. You can find Advent calendar from September in the shops.

  • Is there typically German tradition for Christmas?

We buy the Christmas tree only few days before Christmas. In general, all the family decorates it but you can pick one person in charge of the decoration.

On 24th December, the day starts with a breakfast with all the family, and then everybody helps for the cooking of the Christmas dinner and for the afternoon tea.

Before dinner, you can sing, go to the Midnight Mass or go for a walk.

Children have to leave the room before having their gifts. When everything is ready, someone rings a bell and the children can come in. Candles and Christmas songs create a Christmas atmosphere.

  • What are the typical German decorations for Christmas?

You can have fairy lights, Christmas baubles, the Advent wreath, a Christmas tree and other Christmas ornaments.

  • What do you eat for Christmas?

It depends on where you come from Germany. For example, you can have turkey with red cabbage, potatoes knödel or pear, or typical German sausages with potatoes or carp fish.

We also eat Christmas cookies, gingerbread (Lebkuchen) or macaroons.

  • Do you also celebrate Santa Claus in Germany? What is it? What do you do? Is more important than Christmas?

On 5th December, we put a boot in front of our door. During the night, Santa Claus comes and lets sweets and little gifts in the boot. But it is not more important than Christmas.

  • What would you like to add something about Christmas?

Today, traditions are not so strict. For example, the Christmas meal does not have to be very elaborated, you can cook something different if your want.

I would like to thank Sarah for this interview.

In the entire world, New Year’s Eve as well as New Year’s Day are the occasion for magnificent fireworks and grand parties. Each country, each city, has its own traditions. One of the key events for all the music lovers of the world takes place in Vienna: the New Year’s Concert, Neujahrskonzert in German. This concert is performed by the Vienna Philharmonic in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, which is adorned with thousands of flowers from Sanremo.

The origins of the New Year’s Concert

Strangely enough, the first New Year’s Concert took place on New Year’s Eve 1939, one year and a half after the Anschluss and barely a few month after the beginning of World War II. An “extraordinary concert” was performed for the Red Cross project Kriegswinterhilfswerk, inaugurated by Adolphe Hitler in order to help wounded soldiers. During the rest of the war, a concert was performed each year on January 1st under the conduction of Clemens Krauss, who was later suspended by the Allies due to investigations. In 1947, he took back the helm of the Vienna Philharmonic. He remained conductor of the New Year’s Concert until his death in 1954. The New Year’s Concert was then completely cut off from its war origins and was led by fifteen different conductors, among which Willi Boskovsky, who conducted it for 25 years, and Lorin Maazel, who was the first American to lead the New Year’s Concert and who conducted it eleven times.

Which compositions are played during the New Year’s Concert ?

Although the programme changes every year, the musical works of the Strauss family (Johann I, Johann II, Eduard and Josef) always have the pride of place during the New Year’s Concert. However, the compositions of some musicians, mainly Austrians, have also been heard on January 1st within the walls of the Golden Hall.

It should be noted that two works – two encores – traditionally bring the concert to a close. The Blue Danube, certainly one of the most famous waltz, is always interrupted by a round of applause from the audience as soon as the first notes are played, allowing the conductor and his orchestra to wish the members of the audience a happy new year before resuming playing. In the end comes the characteristic drum roll heralding the last encore. Radetzky March, named after the Marshall Josef Radetzky, a war hero who enabled Franz Joseph I to ascend the throne, has a particular importance in the heart of the audience. Indeed, it is possible for the members of audience to take part in the execution of the musical work by clapping their hands in rhythm. The conductor leads then both the orchestra and the audience in a harmony and synchrony which you would swear they have been rehearsed for a long time, and yet…

The New Year’s Concert 2012

This year, the New Year’s Concert will, as usual, take place on December 30th, December 31st and January 1st. The Vienna Philharmonic will be conducted by Mariss Jansons. The Latvian conductor had already successfully taken on this prestigious role in 2006. New Year’s Concert 2012 will be broadcast in 72 countries on the five continents with about fifty million people watching. As a result, Austria will have an international exposure, legacy of the Habsburg empire’s greatness. Furthermore, the New Year’s Concert is so popular that people had to register in January 2011 in order to attend it.

In a few days, you will be able to register for one the three concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic: the Preview Performance, New Year’s Eve Concert and New Year’s Concert 2013. Please, note that this is only a registration and not a booking. The officials, in the interest of equity, have indeed decided to implement a drawing to designate the future members of the audience. Therefore, unless you know high-ranking people, you can only count on your lucky star to satisfy your love for music.

Links:

Official website of the New Year’s Concert

Register for the drawing

For more information on the Vienna Philharmonic

New Year’s Eve in Vienna

In January 2012, Biergartens will celebrate their 200th anniversary. But what exactly is a Biergarten?

Biergarten, © Dieter Schütz / PIXELIO

In Germany, as the weather gets warmer, it is pretty common to see people sitting around wooden tables, enjoying a beer under huge chestnut trees, some of them having even brought something to eat while drinking. These places where everyone can stop to relax and order a fresh beer are called Biergartens, literally “beer gardens”. Their story goes back a few centuries in Bavaria.

It all started in 1539 when a Bavarian law banned beer brewing between St. George’s day on 23rd April and St. Michael’s day on 29th September. The boiling process used in brewing was indeed frequently the cause for fires. Brewers thus started to try to find a way to store the beer so as to have supplies all year long. They began making a beer with a higher alcohol rate, which allowed it to be stored longer: the Marzen (March beer). This beer would later be served during the Oktoberfest in Munich. In order to keep the beer at cool temperatures, cellars were dug underground. Barrels were stored in it with blocks of ice. However, the presence of a high water table prevented cellars to be built very deep. As a result, in summer, the beer was impacted by the heat from the sunbeams beating on the ground. So, to protect the cellars from the sun, trees were planted above them. With their great height, large leaves and thick roots, chestnut trees quickly appeared as the perfect trees for this purpose.

To buy their beer, Bavarians would come to a booth set up not far from the cellars with a big stein that brewers would fill up, before heading back home. Eventually, people took up the habit to drink their beer just after buying it. As centuries went by, brewers came up with the idea of allowing their customers to have a beer on the spot. In a decree issued on 4th January 1812, King Ludwig I of Bavaria – himself a beer lover – allowed brewers to create building facilities on top of cellars. Tables and benches were gathered under the chestnut trees where people could settle and enjoy a beer as well as something to eat. The traditional Biergarten was born! Yet, not everyone was happy with its appearance. Innkeepers and restaurant owners feared the competition and complained about it to Ludwig I. To prevent rebellion, the king made a compromise: Biergarten could keep serving beer but were no longer allowed to sell food. Patrons now had to bring their own food.

 

Very popular among Germans, the Biergarten lived on, anchoring itself into tradition, and went far beyond Bavaria’s borders. Biergarten can now be found in Cologne, Stuttgart or Berlin. And many drinking establishments around the world like to call themselves “Biergarten”. But a few tables on a terrace under a sign on which is written “Biergarten” or its English equivalent “beer garden” don’t make a proper Biergarten. An authentic Biergarten should indeed match some key criteria. First of all, beer must be served in one-liter steins (except for Weissbier, served in half-liters). Biergarten cannot go without wooden tables.  Furthermore, patrons should help themselves with beer – even though some places also provide the possibility to be served by a waiter. On top of that, while the ban on food offering was lifted, prompting many Biergarten to provide traditional specialties like Obaztda cheese spread, Knödels (potato or bread dumplings) and pretzels, it is still better for people to bring their own picnic baskets. Last but not least, a Biergarten would not be a Biergarten without the chestnut trees. Those now provide shadow to the customers.

 

If Germans like Biergarten so much, it is above all because of their conviviality and accessibility. Young and old people, locals and tourists, people of all nationalities, of all social backgrounds, families, friends, lone persons: everyone gather around the wooden tables to clink glasses with the person next seat, whoever it is. It is even common to end up having a long discussion with a perfect stranger! The Bavarian Biergarten Decree even praises the social function of Biergartens, which help reducing isolation and have contributed to the unity of Germans as a people. Biergarten also appear as pleasant green areas in strongly urbanized places.

 

With over 100 Biergartens and seating for 180 000 people, Munich and the neighboring area remain the best place to enjoy a beer in the shade of chestnut trees. It does not matter whether you chose to go to the Hirschgarten or to the Chinese Tower, the two most famous Biergartens, or whether you prefer a simpler one: if you happen to go to Munich between late April and late September, don’t forget to try the Biergarten experience!

Viktualienmarkt, © Jürgen Heimerl / PIXELIO

 

Links: 

Article 1 about Biergartens

Article 2 about Biergartens

German website about Biergartens

Bavarian Biergarten Decree (German)

Pictures: PIXELIO

In many countries, you just cannot miss the signs of upcoming Yuletide season: strings of the most fairy lights start crowning the streets, shop windows get covered with snowflakes, stuffed with gift-wraps and special offers (“50% off on your second item!”). In Germany, at the offset of the Advent period, you also notice the sudden appearance of tiny floodlit villages: Christmas markets, Weihnachtsmärkte in German, have finally arrived.

A 800-year-old tradition

Christmas markets have first been heard of in so far as the 13th century. Originally German, they were initially set up in order to offer village inhabitants the goods they might need during the cold winter season. One of the oldest Christmas markets, and one of the world’s most famous ones today, is the Nuremberg Christmas market: in the Middle Ages, it was located in front of churches in order to attract worshippers after the mass. For craftsmen, it was a great opportunity to secure the loyalty of new buyers. It is not till the 19th century that Christmas markets really became part of cities’ life and turned into what we know today, with an offer much clearlier related to Yuletide celebrations.

That being said, the features of Christmas markets have not changed too much along the centuries. They still are a place where craftsmen offer local products, from scented candles to wooden figurines and knit beanies, and let’s not forget an extended choice of toys and Christmas decoration.

Lebkuchen (Photo 5CIT ISIT)

 

Paris: a Christmas market or just a plain market?

Christmas markets are not uncommon in France, though; I recently got the opportunity to wander through the Christmas market at La Défense, located in Paris’ business district and the biggest in the Parisian region. The West Indian stand was rubbing elbows with the one selling sausages from Toulouse; a few steps away, some stands were offering make-up products stunningly well represented by their saleswomen; another stand was displaying Oriental products, from home design items to hookahs; farther away, a saleswoman was ranting passers-by in a loud voice, praising the qualities of a revolutionary gril pan (“nothing sticks in!”). The atmosphere was significantly more cosmopolitan and between the smells of faux-leather bags, beauty products and exotic dishes, I started feeling something of a headache. So basically, you do not feel as much in a fairyland in Paris as on the Universitätsplatz, in Heidelberg. Abroad, Christmas markets spread later on (around the 18th century), but on a much more commercial basis. The Christmas market in Strasbourg, though, remains a reference, even for Germans, and is the most well-known in France.

On the very famous Marienplatz, in Munich, the smells of grilled sausages, of chocolate pancakes and of irresistible Kartoffelpuffer (see below) mix up in the air. Among the stands, a cup of mulled wine in the hand, you realize that the whole thing is not so much about attracting tourists and visitors by any mean in freezing temperatures: Weihnachtsmärkte are much more a chance to share everyday a warmth and a conviviality that only belong to the most beautiful Yuletide celebrations. 

As a bonus, here is a brief lexicon regarding the “must-dos” on Christmas markets:

  • Glühwein: mulled wine prepared from red wine, lemon, cinnamon and cloves. Kids are not to be forgotten since mulled wine stands always offer Kinderglühwein, an alcohol-free version of mulled wine which is more like a fruity tea. Weißer Glühwein is made with white wine.  You also have to know that every cup of mulled wine goes with a unique customized cup, (see picture) designed for the town you are in and for the current year.
  • Kartoffelpuffer: a potato pancake fried in a pan and to be enjoyed with some applesauce. You will be surprised by how tasty this unexpected mix is.  In Bayern, these pancakes are also called Raibadatschi!
  • Bratwürstchen: the Christmas-market-special hot dog: it is a grilled sausage little sandwich, which you can fill according to your preferences with a Currywurst (curry sausage), a Bratwurst (pork or veal), a Bockwurst/Weisswurst (seasoned pork and veal), a Knackwurst (pork and beef)…
  • Lebkuchen: gingerbread decorated with sweet sentences that will undoubtedly make someone happy.
  • Flammkueche: delicious Alsatian dish made with crème fraiche, thinly sliced bacon and onions.
  • Feuerzangenbowle: “fire punch” prepared with fruit juice and rhum.

 

Christmas - Photo 5CIT ISIT

 

Links:

An overview of Christmas markets in Germany (in English)

A little dictionay of German Christmas terms (in German)

Christmas markets in the UK

How to make mulled wine, by Jamie Oliver

 

In France, folk costumes seem a little old-fashioned, or even completely out-of-date. It is hard to imagine a woman in Strasbourg wearing the famous Alsatian bow. However, it is not the same in German-speaking countries which has a strong attachment to its traditions. Therefore, in some areas, you can notice some women in Dirndl.

Dirndl (photo from Florian Schott)

The Dirndl is a traditional costume worn by women in Bavaria, in Tyrol, in the basin of Salzburg and in Liechtenstein.  The top of the Dirndl traditionally consists of a white, generally low-cut, blouse with puffed sleeves covered by a bodice while the bottom consists of a long gathered cotton skirt and an apron. The entire costume is made of hand-printed colourful fabrics. It should be noted that the placement of the knot is an indicator of the woman’s marital status, like the Tahitian Gardenia in Polynesia.

Dirndl is a word from the Austrian and Bavarian dialect, equivalent to the German word Dirn, referring to both a young woman and a servant in the countryside. The costume she wore was called the Dirndlgewand (literally the “gown of the maid”) which was later reduced to Dirndl. Nowadays this form is more used to refer to the alpine costume than to the woman wearing it.

Contrary to what you may think, the Dirndl was not originally worn in rural areas but in urban ones by burghers. In the upper classes, the Dirndl became more and more popular during the second half of the 19th century. At the time, it was considered as country garments and, as a result, upper-class women wore it during their stay out of the cities.

In the interwar years, during the economic crisis, the Dirndl was a great success mainly because of its attractive price, especially since other female garments were particularly expensive at the time. According to the tradition, the Dirndl should be worn on Sundays or during the celebrations in honour of the parish or the patron of the town. However, this costume has only been present in since the 1990’s. Therefore, during the Oktoberfest in Munich, a lot of women are seen wearing a Dirndl.

Nowadays, it is frequent to notice Austrian or Bavarian women wearing a Dirndl in their everyday life, regardless of their ages. It is only natural that the Dirndl should evolve with fashion. Consequently, it is now possible to find Dirndl in various lengths, different shades and different materials. However, since the 2000s, Dirndl have been even “part” of fashion for the great designers have put them in their collections, like Karl Lagerfeld and Oscar de la Renta in 2010 for instance.

Dirndl

 
Links:
 

To apply by the rules is extremely important in Germany. If you are to spend some time there, you would be well-advised to follow some ground rules:

Be punctual!

 The Swiss are famous for being punctual. So are the Germans, and the Austrians, (although to a lesser extent than the Germans). If you are observant, you’ll probably notice the many clocks in the German cities.

It’s no coincidence: the Germans tend to be punctual in their everyday life, with their friends and loved ones. Even though some Germans consider that punctuality is old fashion, many of them regard it as an inborn quality. Some studies have revealed that they do their best to be punctual as a whole.

But the concept of “academic quarter” (“akademisches Viertel”) has been growing on. At first, it was specific to German universities. A class which is said to begin à 10:00 c.t. (which stands for cum tempore) actually starts at 10:15. It is something that every foreign student in Germany must know before attending to any class. Nowadays, people resort to the academic quarter in their everyday life. A German doesn’t consider himself late as long as he does not exceed the academic quarter.

In Germany, punctuality is also very important in the workplace. Whether you’re expected at a job interview, a meeting or simply when you’re going to work every day, don’t be late. It’s frowned upon.

This particular attitude to time can be explained by the fact that Germany is a monochromic culture. Time is compartmentalized, which mean people do one thing at a time. If a task does not start on time, the next ones are delayed.

Don’t forget that being punctual is being polite. Because after all, isn’t punctuality the hallmark of a gentleman?

Wait for the pedestrian light to go green!

In Germany, respecting the Highway Code as a car driver and as a pedestrian is very important. Here is an example of how disciplined the Germans can be.

Indeed, if you try to take a pedestrian crossing in Germany, you will probably be surprised to see that people usually wait patiently for the pedestrian light to turn green, even if there are no cars in sight.

Thus, it is not recommended to cross a road like the French usually do: when the pedestrian light is red and when there is no imminent danger. Even if you’re in a hurry, it’s better to wait. If you break the rules, you can get a fine, just like in France. In any case, there is a good chance you’ll be told off or get a reproving look from the mothers or the older persons.

Aurélie, 23, has spent six months in Munich. She tells us about her own experience: “I was walking in the streets in a small city in Germany. When I arrived at a pedestrian crossing. I chose to cross the road, since there was absolutely no car coming. A woman that was standing next to me pulled me back violently, looking scared and shouting this was incredibly dangerous”.

But more precisely, the adults must set an example to children, which are taught early to act correctly, according to the Highway Code.

Lien

The concept of academic quarter in Germany 
A question about punctuality and how some Germans answered
The notion of time in France and Germany 
The opinion of a German woman  about the French and German ways to cross a road
The opinion of a French woman about the German discipline at the pedestrian crossing
Savoir vivre in Germany (French website)

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