I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Bavaria over the years.
For a while there, I was a consultant to a large film fund based out of Munich. German money has supported quite a few of my previous films. I’ve also had a career retrospective at the prestigious Hof Film Festival, near the Czech Republic border.
They flew me out and put me up as their guest for about ten days. I had a great time, spoiled only by my having to sit through all my films, which was excruciating!
On this trip, Jennifer and I flew into Frankfurt and drove directly to a small town on the Rhine called Rudesheim – which I’ve noted was an important town on the German Camino. (I didn’t realise this until I saw a Camino symbol on the town’s church.)
We then spent the weekend in Heidelberg before heading on to Munich where I was to meet with a financier.
Each town and city was preparing for its Christmas Markets, which officially commence on November 28th. These markets are wooden stalls which are erected usually in the town squares, or in the areas around the central church or Cathedral.
On previous occasions I’ve been in Bavaria just before Christmas and seen these markets in action. They sell all things Christmassy – including beautiful hand-made glass blown baubles, hand carved wooden Nativity sets, glassware containing candles, the glass hand-painted with beautiful Christmas imagery – and of course Gluhwein, which can be deceptively potent.
So it was unfortunate we missed the markets by less than a week. Even so, Bavaria was in Christmas mode, and all the shops were decked out with Yuletide displays.
Driving in Germany is always challenging.
On the autobahns there’s no speed limit. Usually they are three lanes – in the far right-hand lane you have the slow trucks, in the middle lane you have the cars that are passing the trucks, and in the far left-hand lane are the rocketships.
These are the cars that whizz past at speeds well in excess of 200kms/hr. I was regularly passed while traveling at 150kms/hr – and the cars that passed me left me standing still. Some I estimated were traveling at about 250kms/hr. These were high performance Mercs and BMWs and Audis – cars that in Australia sell for more than $300,000.
When you have vehicles traveling at that speed, you have to be very careful. It requires full concentration, particularly when it’s raining hard and you have slippery roads and poor visibility, as it was on several occasions.
You’d think the rocketships would slow down in conditions like this, but no. There were times when I had to shift over into the rocketship lane to pass a slow car, and I would look in my rearview and see a dot in the distance behind me – next moment that dot is a vehicle which is tailgating me at 170kms/hr! Literally sitting on my back bumper. It freaked me out.
The food is heavy high calorie grub with thick cream-based sauces, noodles, and plenty of pork. In cold weather it’s perfect, and makes sense. The food I like best though in Bavaria is simple fare – sausages, sauerkraut, weissbeir (white beer) and pretzels.
The German sausages are unlike any you’ll find elsewhere. And washed down with a low alcohol weissbeir, it’s one of my favourite food groups!
At this time of the year you get local game on the menus too – boar, goose, wild duck. One of my better meals in Heidelberg was roasted wild guinea fowl – with pine nuts and grapes and mashed potatoes. Followed by home made strudel. Yummy.
Germany is much more expensive than either Portugal or Spain. Then again, the German economy has been supporting those other two countries for a while now. There’s a 19% tax on most things, including meals. Unlike Portugal or Spain where you can get a fabulous three course meal with wine for €15, in Germany that won’t even buy you a main meal.
The German penchant for precision and their low tolerance for the arbitrary is also completely different to the Spanish and Portuguese love of the lackadaisical. I must admit I veer towards the genial looseness of Spain and Portugal.
For such a surging developed country, they have not embraced wifi like some other European countries. Other than in a university town in a popular coffee shop, I could not find a cafe or restaurant with wifi. The hotels also were largely deficient of decent internet access. It drove me nuts, particularly when I had to work.
Our trip came to an end at Mainz, which is an ancient town about 30kms from Frankfurt airport. We overnighted there before dropping the car back at the airport the next morning, then boarding the Etihad flight back home.
My only personal expenditure was a pair of Meindl full leather boots. I’ve been lusting after these boots ever since I saw them worn by a bloke who walked over the Route Napoleon in early April, when it was closed by snow.
In Germany they are relatively inexpensive – especially when you claim back the 19% tax. I bought them for the Portuguese Camino next April.
Mainz again turned out to be a Camino town – and important link through from Frankfurt into France. So our German trip started at a Camino town, and ended at a Camino town.
I could feel my arteries clogging just looking at the photos of the meals you had, but perfect “comfort food” and looks delicious. I’m a slave to comfort food unfortunately!
Yes, I am now on a fast to discomfort myself!
Ha Ha. I’ve needed a bit of “comfort” lately, my bathroom scales aren’t my friend at the moment! Luckily my grandchildren like me “cuddly”.
Great post, again, Bill! With your writing style and superb photographs I feel like I am right there with you and Jen. I haven’t had German cuisine since I lived in St. Louis, Missouri nearly 40 years ago. You brought back fond memories of German feasts shared with my parents at a restaurant in South St. Louis called Bevo Mill. After the expenditure for your new boots you are probably lucky that the Christmas bazaars had yet to open! I hope you and Jen are resting well after your whirlwind tour. Hugs to you both! Julie
Thanks Julie –
the German food is almost the antithesis of Australian food – being very much appropriate for the colder climates – but I’m pleased the pics and the words triggered memories for you.
And yes, perhaps it was a good thing those markets weren’t open! Mind you, I’m really delighted with the Meindl boots. They were properly fitted when I bought them, and they now are starting to mould into the shape of my feet. The German do know how to make hiking gear!
I love that you captured Jennifer’s inner light….I hope you had a wonderful time despite all of the craziness in the background. Love love love the pictures. I am finishing my class this week and will get back to your Camino book. I am loving it so far….just wish the pictures were bigger for those who don’t know to come to your blog to see them. Love that it isn’t just a copy and paste from here though. Some familiar stories but still enough fresh to make it incredibly compelling. So so fun to have seen it evolve from the beginning. ~Julie
Yes the book is a page one write – completely original material. Glad you’re enjoying it!
I have not been in Germany in years but the thing I remember most, other than the autobahn, was the cleanliness. And yes, the rich nature of the food.
I traveled to Europe extensively when I was in the international oil trading business as most of my financing came from France and Switzerland. The US was way behind their European counterparts in transaction financing. Guess the Europeans had been doing trade financing for thousands of years and had it down to a science. I had many high priced and high quality meals courtesy of my European bankers in those days. They were fun and interesting, but I think I prefer the simple life I live today.
Great pictures. They really show the quaintness of the country.
Yes, I am going to post later today I hope a story on an autobahn road stop – it was so clean it was bizarre. And to go to the John cost €0.70 – or AUS$1! To use the restroom in a roadhouse!
Mind you, the toilets were amazing – and I’ve already posted a shot of the urinals.
I’ve yet to post a shot of the vending machine that has a wide selection of penis rings…
Were you able to find your size?????
I was looking for one with a camino symbol on it…
Well, that could make a statement in the communal albergues. Sign of a true pilgrim. Remove any doubt. 🙂
I hope Satan does not get hold of these. 😦
Oh my, now you have lit the “boot envy” flame.
I can imagine how they feel, like butter I am sure!
I have jetlag hence this is why I’m replying to comments at 4:45am Sunday morning!
Yes, butter is a good word. The lady at the shop where I bought them fitted me well – if I’d bought them online I would have got the wrong size. The boots fit snugly, yet I know there is also room for expansion.
And yes, because of the full soft leather inside, they do feel like butter! Best boots I’ve ever worn. And German made, of course!
I have on my LOWA boots today since it is cold and wet here. Bought them pre Camino at REI for $220, and they were and are worth every penny of it. REI did good by me on these. The company was established in 1923 in Germany, and they are now crafted in Slovakia, so I guess my experience with German footwear matches yours, and mine have about 600 miles on them, and still hardly show any wear. Mine are like slippers, or butter as you say. They never really required any break in either. Happy hiking.
Hi Steve – glad our conversation has moved away from penis rings.
Did you notice how adroitly I skipped around your question of size? I was going to reply “I was off the chart,” but decided it contained ambiguity – which end of the chart was I off? The XXL end or the XXS end? Either way, I thought it was probably tasteless – and given how I hate ambiguity, decided not to comment further.
Speaking of tasteless, they did also have condoms in different flavours. I am not kidding. Salt and Vinegar would have been my pick…. Paprika seemed like it could be a little too … spicey. And Avocado is a bit lame for the purpose intended.
Boots. They’re so damn important. I’ve not heard of the brand you mentioned, but the Germans take their hiking seriously, so they’d obviously be very good.
Shame they don’t sell them in vending machines…
I thought you said they did sell them in vending machines. 🙂
Those Germans are advanced, aren’t they.
BTW, it is inappropriate for you to have a favorite tasting condom. Gives the wrong idea. 🙂
Here we are, two old guys with all this macho, manly talk. No girly men here. 🙂 🙂
The others have to admit this is preferable than talking about Sister Clare or Satan. At least it should be.
Bill, I’m in Stuttgart. Wish I had realized sooner that you would be “in town”
That’s so funny Kathy –
I was not far from Stuttgart!
Hope you’re having a good time there.