Posts Tagged ‘Germany

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.


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

  • 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

  • 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

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)

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



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



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.



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