Posted on

A Foodie’s Guide to Hungary

Feast Through Hungary

Hungary has a growing and bustling restaurant scene, and thanks to a few Michelin stars won by local restaurateurs, it is finally starting to get some attention. Described by the Daily News Hungry as the “perfect blend of Germanic, Italian, with a little touch of Slavic cooking traditions” Hungary is a hidden gem for any lover of food.

Food Rich in History

Situated in Central Europe between Romania and Austria, the country has a tumultuous past, with much of its history shrouded in raids and invasions. Because of the ongoing battles, the country became somewhat of a melting pot of the neighboring fare. Present day food will showcase a heavy influence of German and Italian food as well as a number of Jewish dishes.
With over 3 million residents, the Budapest metropolitan area accounts for more than a third of Hungary’s population, making it a central location for some of the country’s best food. The capital city was once two separate cities separated by the Danube river. Buda resided on the hillside, while pest was down below. The two cities have since merged, but they still retain their own unique vibes. Buda is known for being a quieter location, home to palaces and Ottoman spas, whereas in Pest, you will find a more lively scene featuring museums, art, and the Jewish District, a spot for amazing food.

Hearty Favorites

Gulyás

Hungary’s cuisine is rich with soups. It’s most well-known dish is arguably goulash, or as the locals call it, gulyás. The dish, a stew consisting of beef and vegetables is a staple in Hungary. It is given a savory, sweet taste thanks to the generous infusion of paprika. This history of gulyás goes back to the Magyars, the earliest settlers of Hungary, who would travel with dried chunks of meat and vegetables with them. They would later combine all the ingredients with water in a heavy cast iron pot and eat the stew throughout their journey.

Põrkõlt

Põrkõlt is another favorite in Hungary. The stew is made of large pieces of meat (usually beef, mutton, chicken, veal, goose, carp, or game), onions, bacon, garlic, tomatoes, and green peppers. And of course, you can’t forget the paprika. The stew is simmered down until barely a broth remains.
Although a staple, soups are not the only fare you will find in Hungary. Take a walk around Budapest, and you’ll surely stumble across somebody devouring langos. This popular street food consists of deep-fried dough topped with sour cream, topped with cheese, topped with practically anything you want. Consider it the Hungarian version of pizza. Meats, cheeses, and vegetables are popular toppings, but langos can also be topped with sweets like Nutella.

Paprika chicken

Paprika chicken (Csirke paprikás) is a bold showcase of the country’s favorite spice, you guessed it, paprika. The chicken is marinated in a creamy sauce and most often served with nokedli (dumplings). While traveling through the country, you will find paprika to be a common ingredient in the local cuisine. Paprika was introduced to Hungary during the 150-year rule of the Turks. It was initially used as an alternative to traditional pepper as the price of pepper began to rise. However, it slowly became a staple of the Hungarian kitchen and replaced pepper altogether.

Pork

Pork is the chosen meat in Hungary. The reason for this is rooted in history. During the period following the Ottoman era, the Turks took away domestic except pigs, as the Turks did not eat pigs due to their Muslim faith. You will find pork showcased in many of the local markets, where you can treat yourself to a diverse supply of local sausages and cured meats.

Sweet Tastes

While the culinary scene does not get its fair share of attention, the confections of Hungary are known worldwide. If sweets are your weakness, be sure to try a Kurtoskalaces, aptly known as a chimney cake. This treat is a towering funnel of sweet dough, topped with butter, sugar, and often cinnamon, nuts, and candies. Not sure where to find one? Like with Lángos, a walk around town is sure to introduce you to someone enjoying this dessert. The Dobos torta is another treat not to be missed. This dessert is a vanilla cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel.
When enjoying dessert, don’t forget to try some local wine. Though Hungary is not usually a name that is tossed around in the wine realm, it’s moderate climate makes it a great place to grow a variety of wine grapes. The Tokaji aszú comes from the Tokaji region of Hungary. The wine is made from hand-picked berries that have been affected by noble rot. This type of berry lends to a very sweet wine that is a favorite in Hungary.

Can’t-Miss Local Spots

The Great Hall Market, expansive, and supported by towering wrought iron, is a foodie hub in Budapest. The traditional fare of fruits and vegetables are ever present, but this market has so much more to offer. Meats and cheeses abound, but you will also find a large supply of preserved foods, such as jams and pickles. Pickled foods are a large part of the Hungarian diet and will typically have an entire section devoted to them at the markets.
Café Ruszworm is one of oldest cafes in Budapest and one of the best places to try a Dobos torta. Another delicious choice is the Ruszworm Cream Cake, which consists of a sweet vanilla cream between two delicate layers of pastry.
Gelarto Rosa delights with picture worthy servings of ice cream. The smooth, frozen dessert is beautifully formed to resemble a rose. The shop features only the best local and organic ingredients. Alongside their traditional offerings, they also provide vegan, lactose intolerant, and diabetic friendly options.
Looking for the best pancakes? Gundel is the place to visit. Here, the pancakes are stuffed with grounds walnuts, raisins, rum, and cream. They are topped with a decadent chocolate-rum sauce and a sprinkling of orange zest.
Pest-Buda is a great place to find traditional homestyle cooking. The restaurant and hotel are located within an 18th-century building in the Buda Castle Quarter.
As with every location, be sure to keep an eye on where the natives frequent. You will often discover hidden treasures that will delight your inner foodie.

Posted on

Germany Destination Guide—Tips and Highlights

With medieval castles, baroque churches, and picturesque villages, Germany boasts a vibrant historical legacy. Germany exemplifies natural beauty, culture, history and art. Here’s a destination guide for your trip to Germany.

Top Highlights of Germany

With over 2 millennia of history, Germany is one of the world’s most dominant economic powers, whose cultural influence has shaped the European landscape. One of the top attractions of Germany is the Bavarian countryside, home to the 19th-century fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle. The Bavarian region also houses Germany’s most popular auto touring route, the Romantic Road, weaving through spa towns like Baden-Baden, and well-preserved medieval towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Two of Germany’s most outstanding cathedrals are located roughly an hour away from each other. One of Europe’s largest cathedrals, the Cologne Cathedral is a stunning example of High Gothic architecture. It is also Germany’s most visited landmark. Built by Emperor Charlemagne, the Aachen cathedral served as the seat of coronation for 31 German kings and 12 queens. It is known for its exquisite mosaics decorated with gold leaf and precious stones.
Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is easily one of Germany’s top destinations. Located in Berlin, it is home to some of Germany’s oldest museums such as the Pergamon and the Neues Museum. Visitors can admire unique treasures including the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, as well as the world’s largest collection of Etruscan art.

Geographical Landscape

Being Europe’s seventh largest country, Germany’s geography is extremely variegated and diverse. Towards the north lies the North European Plain, characterized by flat, low lying areas filled with bogs, rivers and streams. It is now used predominantly for agriculture.
The coastline along the North Sea is full of marshes, wetlands, mudflats and islands. But Germany’s largest island Rugen is found off the Baltic Sea coastline. The area is a lot hillier than the North Sea coastline and has many steep and jagged cliffs.
During the last Ice Age, the glaciers retreated extensively, leaving behind dry and sandy terrain and a great number of small lakes. Lying south of Berlin, this topography rises to form giant landforms such as the volcanic Harz Mountains, the forested Rothaargebirge Mountains, and the Rhine River Valley.
The Rhine River is Germany’s longest river. At the southwestern border of the Rhine River with France lies the Black Forest. The river Danube rises in the Black Forest, travels across central Europe, and ends in the Black Sea.
Along the southern border with Austria, the highest mountains of Germany are found, the Bavarian Alps. Germany’s highest point, Zugspitze, is also found here.

Things To Know Before Visiting Germany

Best Time to Visit

While May through September is peak tourist season, the best time to visit Germany for those seeking the outdoors and less crowds is April and October. Winter is also popular for its beautiful Christmas markets and alpine skiing adventures.

Weather

Germany has a temperate seasonal climate characterized by warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, more prominently in the summers.

Languages Spoken

The official language of Germany is German, but most locals study English as their foreign language of choice. French is also a common second foreign language.

Currency

Germany’s official currency is the euro. Germany is one of the most cash-intensive countries in the world. From parking and gas stations to museums and restaurants, cash is the preferred and sometimes the only mode of payment.

Electricity

The electrical sockets in Germany are of type F. The standard voltage is 230 V, while the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If traveling from the US, visitors will need a combined power plug adapter and a voltage converter.

Traveling around

Germany is known for its extensive and efficient public transportation. The high-speed trains can cost a bit, and it is recommended to book in advance or opt for the slower, intercity trains. Visitors have to both pay and validate their tickets. There is €60 fine for not doing so. Note that while there is no security personnel or gate at train station entrances, there are ticket checkers in plain clothes.
The widespread train network means that visitors can explore the other wonders of Germany. While big cities like Berlin and Munich attract the most crowds, Germany is a country of many treasures. With a valid EU driver’s license or International Driving License, visitors can also choose to rent a car and hit the beautiful countryside and historic towns.

Visitor Facilities

Like many countries in Europe, toilets in Germany are pay-to-use. Pay toilets average around 0.50 to 1 euros. It is also not uncommon to find attendants of the opposite gender in the toilets.

Opening Hours

Germany has some of the strictest laws in Europe regarding opening hours. While eateries like cafes and restaurants are open throughout the week, other places like stores, supermarkets and pharmacies are closed on Sunday. This concept of making ‘taking a day off’ a legal requirement is dear to the Germans, who call it ‘Ruhetag’ (resting day).

Respect the Rules

Germans are known for following the rules. Behavior which is common in other countries (example: jaywalking, cutting in line, arriving late, etc.) will earn tourists disapproving looks and nods.

Food

Germany is the ideal destination to try unique cuisines. German dishes are traditionally heavy in meats, sugar and breads. Local favorites include schnitzel (breaded and fried veal), weisswurst (white sausage), apfelstrudel (apple strudel), currywurst (grilled sausage), spargel (white asparagus), and Schwarzwälder kirschtorte (Black Forest cake).

Oktoberfest

Held every year in Munich, Oktoberfest is the world’s most popular beer festival. The huge beer halls, most famous of which is the Hofbräuhaus, attract tourists from all over the world. Men and women are dressed in Bavarian Lederhosen and Dirndl, and there is live music, parades, and traditional German cuisine.

Christmas Markets

Dating back to the Late Middle Ages, Christmas markets radiate the festive spirit of the holiday season. The beautifully decorated stalls are lined with local handicrafts and woodwork such as the famous nutcracker. Visitors can also savor German beer, as well as the delicious aromas of baked goods like stollen (fruit bread) and lebkuchen (gingerbread). There are more than 150 markets in Germany alone, but the Christkindlesmarkt of Nuremberg and the Striezelmarkt in Dresden are the most popular.
Germany is a country whose roots travel far beyond the Middle Ages. The landscape is steeped in history, as reflected in its many museums, monuments, and squares. It is also a country of natural beauty as can be witnessed in the green valleys of the Rhine River and the majestic snowy caps of the Alps. It is also a country of wonderful cultural traditions, as can be savored in locally brewed beer, delicious cuisine, and handcrafted woodwork, textiles, and pottery. All of this together makes Germany one of the top destinations in the world.

Posted on

Top Romantic Getaways in Germany

Romantic Germany Getaways

Whether you’re visiting for Valentine’s Day, your honeymoon, or just looking to get away with that special someone, here are some locations worth checking out.

Lindau

To begin your romantic getaway you must travel to Lindau. Situated at the foot of Alps, Lindau possesses a charming small town atmosphere and a sensational natural setting. It sits on Lake Constance, the third largest lake in Europe, and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. The region actually consists of several islands, offering visitors access to medieval villages, wineries, butterfly sanctuaries, and beautiful beaches, among other things perfect for a romantic vacation. Restaurants in the area serve traditional German cuisine, and many specialize in preparing the fish that’s caught right there at Lake Constance. Tourists can go skating and skiing in the winter, and biking and swimming in the summer.
One of the mainstays of Lindau is its famous harbor. Guarded by a 19th-century lighthouse and a Bavarian lion sandstone statue, visitors can hop on any of the ferries that travel between the cities bordering the lake. If you prefer tours over sight seeing, the town also offers themed cruises with live entertainment. Don’t forget your camera!

Rügen Island

The islands along the Baltic Sea are a popular destination for romantic getaways. Germany’s Rügan Island is a particular favorite. Regarded by many as a naturally beautiful place, it boasts almost forty miles of sandy beach dotted with spa hotels and resort towns. The island also contains plenty of architectural and historical wonders to explore, as well as natural parks and a UNESCO rated biosphere.
Besides the romantic aspect, Rügan also provides plenty of biking trails, sailing tours, fishing villages, and even a century-old railway to carry patrons between seaside resorts. Perhaps the island’s most famous structures are the white chalk cliffs, made popular in a painting by Caspar David Friedrich. From late June through early September, Rügan also hosts the Störtebeker Theatre Festival, which pulls in more than 100,000 spectators annually.

Island of Sylt

Sitting at Germany’s northernmost tip, Sylt is famous worldwide for its pristine beaches, a striking dune landscape, and thatched-roof houses. The nude beaches, first officially opened in 1920, are also popular here. The North Sea borders Sylt to the west, while the Wadden Sea sits along its east side. Visitors can see Denmark from here on a clear day.
One of the most recognizable landmarks on the island can be found near the town of Keitum. An old brick lighthouse sits hidden among the dunes, having long since been retired. A newer one was built in 1855 between Wenningstedt and Kampen.
The island is also fascinating for its history. One of just many stories involves the village of Eidum, which was destroyed by storm surge in November of 1436. The survivors founded the town of Westerland nearby, and it eventually grew into the health resort that it has become today.

Neuschwanstein

Another place you can go for a romantic getaway is Neuschwanstein castle, nestled above the city of Füssen in the Bavarian Alps. It is perhaps most famous as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Compared to most other structures in Germany, it is not very old and was never built for defense. It was constructed in 1869 by King Ludwig II to serve as a summer retreat. He never got to enjoy it, though, because he drowned in a nearby lake before it was finished.
An interesting aspect of this castle is its design. It appears medieval, yet it was constructed using then-modern technologies that even included a central heating system, running water (both hot and cold), and flushing toilets. The interior clearly shows Ludwig’s admiration for the German composer Richard Wagner, with many of his scenes depicted on the castle walls.
But what truly sparks the imagination is the building’s elegant spires that jut out against Germany’s spectacular mountainous and forested background. Thanks in large part to Walt Disney, the location has come to represent the classic model for the romantic castle.

Castle Hotels

On that note, visitors can experience royal accommodation at any of the country’s many castle hotels. With more than 20,000 medieval palaces and castles, some lie in ruins, but several have been converted for the tourism industry. The best part? It doesn’t cost a fortune to stay at one. Depending on what strikes your fancy, there’s a castle hotel to cater to everyone.
One of the oldest castles in Germany is the Castle Colmberg, a 13th-century structure that borders both the Castle Road and the Romantic Road. Patrons can experience ancient stone towers, large royal stables, fortified walls, an elegant on-site restaurant, and even a deer reserve. The location also offers booking for weddings and other special events.
If you’re looking for a romantic getaway on a budget, Stahleck Castle is a youth hostel with a high satisfaction rating and a friendly atmosphere. Towering over the Rhine Valley and the romantic town of Bacharach, this 12th-century castle has been modernized to cater to all types of travelers young and old alike. While it lacks some of its original medieval charm, it still offers breathtaking views of the nearby river and vineyards.

Romantic Road

Rather than being a single location, Germany’s Romantic Road is a scenic drive that treks through Bavaria and leads from the wine country of Franconia to the lower hills of the German Alps. All along this 261-mile thoroughfare, drivers will find unspoiled scenes of nature, half-timbered houses, romantic hotels, medieval castles, and picturesque towns.
During the middle ages, the Romantic Road was a major Roman trading route. After World War II, Germany was desperate to rebuild their tourism industry and so marketed the route in 1950 as a way of encouraging tourists to explore the countryside. The first visitors were American soldiers and their families stationed at the military bases in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Despite its modern roots, the road has become popular for its preservation of the country’s history.
Germany has no shortage of locations for the perfect romantic getaway, with several hidden gems to discover. So talk to the locals and explore the country a bit. You might be surprised at what you find!

Posted on

An Insider’s Guide to Festivals in Germany

You haven’t truly experienced Germany until you’ve taken part in its festivals. While generally known as a reserved culture, its citizens come together annually to celebrate anything from Christmas to midsummer.
Almost every city, town, and county has its own festivals to take part in. Still, over the years, a few of them have won national and international renown. Today, millions of locals listen to classical or rock music, enjoy breathtaking fireworks, or take in the next great movie.
From books to beer, this country knows how to both party and celebrate the arts. Consider this your insider’s guide to festivals in Germany.

1) The Free-Flowing Excess of Oktoberfest

You know Oktoberfest because of its beer, beer tents, and pretzels. And yes, that’s undoubtedly what drives more than 6 million visitors to this festival every year. But what you might not know is that it’s more than just a giant beer celebration.
Germany’s largest Volksfest also boasts parades, open air concerts, and even amusement park rides. Think of it as the world’s largest county fair – with some beer sprinkled in. It’s an unforgettable experience, whether you visit for just a day or make a whole week out of it.

2) The Festive Cheer of Christmas Markets

In a way, the second most famous festivals in Germany are the polar opposite of the first. Where Oktoberfest is a constant party, Christmas markets are solemn, reflective, and calm. Of course, that doesn’t make them any less fun or exciting.
During the holiday season, every town and city has one. Here, you can find countless arts and craft booths, along with good food that represents local specialties. But don’t worry: you will always find booths with the trademark Glühwein, hot mulled wine that keeps you warm.
The first Christmas market was held in 1384. Today, some of Germany’s most famous markets, like the one surrounding the Cologne Cathedral, have thousands of booths and attract millions of visitors each year. If you’re in Germany through the holidays, visiting one near you is an essential tradition.

3) The Astounding Beauty of Rhine in Flames

The Rhine, Europe’s second largest and perhaps its most famous river, is magical enough in its own right. Now, imagine a giant light show that takes place during specific days each summer and just happens to be in its most famous and most picturesque stretch. That’s the Rhine in Flames, a combination between firework displays, Bengal lights, and illuminated steamboats.
Describing it in words is difficult. Even pictures don’t do it justice. Once you see the first fireworks over one of the countless castles along the romantic Rhine, either from a lit boat or the shore, time almost seems to stand still. Don’t make the mistake of trying to capture it with your phone. Instead, soak it in, knowing that you might not ever see this spectacle of a light show again.

4) The Sheer Power of Rock am Ring

As much as Germany is known for its traditions, music festivals also occupy a central place in its cultural playbook. Wacken is the world’s largest metal festival. Flash is among the biggest hip-hop festivals. And yet, none of them are quite as famous or memorable than Rock am Ring.
Held at the famous Nurburgring race track, this music extravaganza combines with the nearby Rock im Park to attract more than 150,000 spectators and music fans from around the world each year. Since U2 and Joe Cocker inaugurated the festival in 1985, headliners have included most of the worlds’ most famous rock bands. Come for the music, stay for the unforgettable atmosphere.

5) The Curious Celebration of Karneval

Yes, Germany has a carnival. No, it’s nothing like the one in Brazil you’re probably think of. Instead, think about the largest 4th of July parades in the U.S., combined with the dress up play and less-than-serious attitude of Halloween. Sprinkle in a bit of Mardi Gras. Then, magnify the result by ten.
By all measures, Karneval (celebrated in the Western cities of Germany) is over the top. That doesn’t make it any less fun. The alcohol flows freely, the jokes are unabashedly political, and the humor gets cruder as the nights go on. Above all, it’s a giant party where the so stereotypical German studiousness sheds for a day and it’s more fun-loving aspects come out.

6) The Memorable Films of the Berlinale

You’ve heard about Cannes. The International Berlin Film Festival might not quite be able to hold up to its most famous counterpart, but it certainly comes close. Every year in February, some of the world’s most famous actors and directors meet to screen, watch, and discuss new films from around the world.
It’s the perfect festival for movie lovers. Tickets to individual films or some of the festival’s most popular events are available for the general public, but sell out quickly. In return, you get to see anything from arthouse films to future blockbusters.

7) The Classic Embrace of the Bayreuther Festspiele

Bayreuth is just the city where it takes place. You might know this event under its more popular (though technically inaccurate) name: the Wagner Festival. Richard Wagner is one of Germany’s most famous classical composers, responsible for operas like the Nibelungenlied and Tristan and Isolde.
Every year, the city of Bayreuth celebrates its most famous son. Wagner himself began to hold his operas as part of a larger event in the 19th century, and residents have carried on that tradition. During a presentation of his music, you begin to realize just how closely Germany is connected with its classical music history.

8) The Countless Pages of the Frankfurt Book Fair

We’re talking about nothing less than the largest book fair in the world. And, like many of the other festivals on this list, its origins reach back far. The first fair occurred in Frankfurt, Main in 1454, in the immediate aftermath of local blacksmith Johannes Gutenberg inventing the printing press.
Today, more than 7,000 exhibitors from more than 100 countries showcase more than 400,000 books, reviewed and (hopefully) purchased by more than 300,000 visitors. Prizes like best book of the year and oddest title of the year predict bestsellers and turn unknown authors into a household name.

Make a Festival Attendance Part of your Next Germany Trip

German culture is as complex as it is profound. You cannot explain the mindset of a German or what it means to be German in one sentence. And yet, through these and many other festivals, you begin to understand their origins, priorities, and passions.
Yes, that means free-flowing beer and parties. But it also means an understanding of history and a thirst for arts and culture. Making a festival attendance part of your next Germany trip means dipping into this deep, complex, and sometimes even contradictory culture. Whether you see fireworks above ancient castles or just want to rock out at a race track, you will find an event that matches your interests and passion as well.
worldvia-email-subscribe-festivals700

Posted on

Jason’s Next Journey: Luxembourg, Germany, and Italy

Gearing up for our next big adventure in-country as they say.
We have some exciting insider looks coming your way while we’re filming our upcoming travel episode shorts and we’re getting really excited to share it with you. On this go round we’ll be visiting the duchy of Luxembourg, experiencing a river cruise on the Moselle and Main rivers through Germany, and capping it off with a visit to Italy where we’ll see Florence, Sienna in the heart of Tuscany, and the wonders of Rome.
Stay tuned, it’ll be a fast and furious good time.
For LIVE photos, video and updates, follow me on Instagram.

 

Posted on

A Foodies’ Guide to Street Food in Germany

What better way to discover a country than through its food? Let’s be honest: if trying out the most authentic food possibilities for your next destination is not on your radar, your taste buds are missing out. Eating new cuisines your trip might just be the best part. If you love food as much as we do, and you’re planning a trip to the old country, you should know about the types of food you can get that truly reflect your experience. Consider this your foodie’s guide to street food in Germany.

The Basics: Pommes, Rot Weiß

As is the case for most of the western world, french fries form the basic street food of Germany. Here, they’re known as Pommes, a short version of the French pommes frites. For anywhere between 2 and 3 Euros, you can get them on almost any street corner, often without any addition.
Germans use a special seasoned salt for their french fries, giving them a bit more spice than you might be used to. Ketchup is the most common condiment, but don’t sleep on the Mayonnaise, which comes in as a close second. In fact, the most common way to order fries in Germany is Pommes Rot Weiß, or red-white french fries—hinting at the delicacy of combining both condiments on a single plate.

The Many Faces of Currywurst

You can easily get Currywurst on any street corner, and it’s so famous that no less than three regions of the country are fighting for the right to call themselves its origin point. The essence of Currywurst is simple. As the name suggests, we’re talking about a typical Bratwurst, with a ketchup-based curry sauce and yellow curry sprinkled on top. The dish is typically served with french fries or Pommes, which also happen to taste great dipped into the sauce.
Beyond that, the details vary based on your region. In the North and Hamburg specifically, the Currywurst is a type of brat reminiscent of the Polish Kielbasa. In Berlin, it’s your typical German sausage. That’s the case in the Western-German Ruhrgebiet as well, but here pepper and onion dices are mixed into the sauce.
Which of the three areas first came up with the general concept is the subject of much dispute. Berlin has perhaps the best case, with a Currywurst Museum to show for it. Regardless of its origin, Germans enjoy no less than 800 million individual Currywurst dishes every single year.

Get Your Döner in a Fladenbrot

Foodies might have heard of Döner Kebab, the Turkish street food that has rapidly spread around the world since its invention in the early 70s. Americans know a similar but different version of it under the name of Gyros, but there’s nothing quite like the original, and that happens to be found in Germany.
There’s a reason for that: The Döner was actually invented by Turkish immigrant in Berlin. It’s kebab meat, typically veal or chicken put in a freshly baked Turkish flatbread. Add a salad and some vegetables like tomato and onion, along with either a yogurt or spicy red sauce, and your Döner is ready to eat. Alternatives include the Dürüm Döner, which substitutes the flatbread for a wrap for easier eating on the road.
A pro tip here: don’t fall for the wrap. Döner is best consumed in the flatbread, which absorbs the sauce just enough to become immensely flavorful in its own right. It might seem like your average New York City street food but if you leave Germany without having tried at least one original Döner, you’ll likely regret it.

The Southern Charme of Leberkäs

Döner, Currywurst, and Pommes Rot Weiß are popular across the country. Once you get to the south, though, you almost cannot leave without trying a local specialty: Leberkäs. Literally translated as liver cheese, it is much more flavorful than its name suggests.
Despite its name, this local delicacy contains neither liver or cheese. Instead, it’s ground-up pork, bacon, and corned beef, baked in an oven until its crust is crispy brown. You can get it in many restaurants, but it’s typically served with or on a fresh German roll on the street.
Leberkäs summarizes the beauty and delicacy of Germany’s south. It tastes a bit like Bologna, but richer. Try it with either mustard or pickles (or both) while exploring the streets of Germany.

Looking for a Laugenbretzn?

Think you know German soft pretzels? You don’t, at least not until you’ve had a freshly baked version of this delicious snack from a southern German street vendor. The standard seasoning is salt and is typically served without the dipping sauce you might be used to from the United States.
You won’t miss the dipping soft when eating a German soft pretzel since a Laugenbretzel has plenty of flavor and texture of its own. The inside is delightfully light and soft, while the crust is crispy. The dough, of course, is the same as a pretzel in the United States, but this German street food is still worth a try.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth With Schmalzgebäck

At any fair, major outdoor areas, or any type of large intersection, you will find a vendor for Schmalzgebäck. And once you try it, you’ll be hooked. You might even come back to Germany for another taste!
In its essence, Schmaltzgebäck is fried dough. It’s similar to Italian Zeppoli, but covered in powdered sugar for that extra little bit of sweetness. The result is an incredibly sweet, soft, and rich baked good that becomes especially popular around Christmas. You will eat it out of a bag with a type of toothpick, but you’ll likely use your fingers to get to the food more quickly.
Regular tourists go to Germany for its history, landscape, and people. However, a true German experience is not complete without its local cuisine. The above, of course, are only a few examples of the countless types of street food you will experience while in the country. Some options, like the Northern German pickled herring Fischbrötchen, only fit refined pallets. Others, like the basic Bratwurst, will leave a familiar taste in your mouth.
All of them add to the rich culture of this beautiful country. And when you pair the various types of Pilsner and Hefeweizen beers with the food, your trip will be one that your taste buds won’t soon forget.
worldvia-email-subscribe-food700

Posted on

A Thrillseeker’s Guide to Germany

Adventure Travel Germany

Think about the Autobahn. Legendary across the world for its lack of speed limits, it’s an essential way for Germans to get from one city to the next. The fast speeds? Sure, they get your adrenaline pumping, but they become part of the environment for anyone spending considerable time in Germany.
The same is true across the country. Almost around every corner, new opportunities to find an adventure pop up for your enjoyment. Whether you enjoy galloping across white beaches or paragliding above mountain ranges, consider this your Thrillseeker’s Guide to Germany.

Experience the Alps from Above

The biggest mountain range in Europe is also, in many ways, it’s most exciting. Sure, you can hike long trails and get lost in beautiful villages. But if you’re truly looking for an adventure, consider going even higher in your quest for a good thrill and a lasting memory.
Tandem parasailing is a perfect way to get started. For a relatively low fee as little as $100 depending on location, you can take flight with an experienced professional who guides a trip between 15 and 30 minutes down a mountain range.
Once you get into the alps, almost any valley offers parasailing possibilities from a nearby mountain. Our favorite just might be Paraworth in Hohenschwangau, which guides you not just over beautiful vistas but past Neuschwanstein—one of the world’s most famous castles.

Hike in Germany’s Millenia-Old Mountain Ranges

Hiking opportunities exist throughout Germany. From the Alps in the south to the Siebengebirge in the East, you can enjoy fairytale forests with nature surrounding you as you make your trek. However, nothing quite compares to the Harz.
It’s not a particularly large mountain range, with its highest elevation coming in under 3,800 feet, but these mountains are steeped in legend. The Harz Witches Trail, for instance, is a 60-mile route through the mountain range that you’ll never forget.

Cycle the Ochsenweg to Old Viking Cities

We couldn’t talk about Germany without at least mentioning one of the many bicycling opportunities. No matter where you go, you will find residents using their bikes to get to work, visit friends, and simply enjoy time outside. Opportunities for adventures on two wheels are everywhere.
Consider the historic Ochsenweg (Ox Way), which leads from a suburb of Hamburg all the way to a Danish island. Since medieval times, this was the way that farmers brought their livestock to the market of the German trade capital, given the trail its name. Its origins are thought to date back more than 3,000 years, to the Bronze Age.
Today, it’s a perfect adventure trail. Enjoy old northern German towns, but make sure to park your bike in Schleswig. This northern German town is home to Hedeby (Haitabu in German), a museum at the spot of one of the few true Viking cities to ever exist. To this day, you can enter reconstructed houses, marvel at longboats, and more.

Race Across the Nürburgring

Without a doubt, one of the first things you’ll hear non-natives ask about Germany is the Autobahn. Famous for its lack of speed limits, it’s a system of interstate roads that connect all major cities and areas of the country. Simply driving a car on the wide lanes between Hamburg and Berlin will be enough to get your adrenaline pumping.
But why stop there? Germany happens to be home to the Nürburgring, one of the oldest and most famous race tracks in the world. It remains a regular spot on the Formula 1 circuit, perhaps the globe’s most popular race.
And it can be yours to enjoy. At the ring, you can book a ride with a professional race car driver, or learn how to drift around its 73 corners and turns. The fun may be over in a few hours, but it’s perhaps the best opportunity you will get to understand what it’s like to be behind the engine of one of the world’s most powerful cars.

Ride Along the Coastline

Adventure, of course, does not just mean speed. You might be looking for a closer connection to nature; in that case, consider a new way to explore the Baltic Sea beaches of northeastern Germany.
Germany’s eastern coastline stretches in an L-shaped curve between Flensburg and Ahlsbeck, offering miles upon miles of beaches just waiting to be explored. Some are heavy with tourists, while others are entirely abandoned. Along the beaches, you can find farms that offer riding lessons and accompanied horseback trips.
Few things compare with the feeling of a wild gallop across an almost-abandoned beach. It’s here that you feel close to nature, enjoying the wind around your ears as water splashes up around your ankles. Whether you plan a simple hourlong ride or a longer trip, this is the space to test your riding meddle.

Conquer the Rivers of the South

Where the north of the country is known for its beautiful coastline, the south offers its own watery adventure. Locals here maintain that you haven’t truly lived unless you’ve conquered its many rivers and streams.
The opportunities here are nearly endless. Canoeing in the Allgäu offers the unique mix of serenity and jumping off waterfalls. Log rafting on Munich’s Isar river, on the other hand, brings a feeling of community and calm as your guide steers your vessel. And of course, white water rafting opportunities are plentiful in Bavaria’s network of mountain streams and growing rivers.

A Country Made for Adventure

You know Germany for its castles, rich history, and food. And sure enough, as you first enter the country, all of those will be waiting for you. As you enjoy a Currywurst or explore the Berlin Wall, don’t underestimate Germany’s ability to wow you with thrill-seeking opportunities. It remains one of the best destinations in the world to truly offer adventure for everyone, pushing your adrenaline while quenching your thirst for exploration.
worldvia-email-subscribe-adventure700

Posted on

Living Like the Locals in Germany

German Town

Where to Stay

The ideal way to get the local experience is to stay with a family. If you know people where you’re going, ask if that’s possible. There’s a good chance they’d be thrilled to have you as a guest and show you around.
If not, at least avoid the big hotel chains. A smaller hotel will get you a more distinctive experience. A “Pension” (that’s German for “bed and breakfast”) can be best of all. Keep in mind that it may not have 24-hour access. Be sure to know the hours you can get in, and get the phone number for being let in late.

The Language

You won’t have trouble finding people who speak English in any major German city. Until you get really good with the language, they’ll likely switch to English quickly when talking with you. Still, making a slight attempt at the language will earn you a lot of points. Here are a few expressions you need to know.
Guten Tag. “Gooten Tahk.” Good day. Use it in formal situations.
Guten Abend. “Gooten Ah-bent.” Good evening.
Hallo. “Ha-lo.” Hello. You can use this in most situations.
Auf Wiedersehen. “Owf veedersayn.” Goodbye. You can use it in formal or informal situations.
Tschüss. “Chewss.” This one’s tricky to pronounce right. It’s a less formal goodbye.
Danke. “Dahnk-uh.” Thank you.
Vielen Dank or Danke sehr. “Feelen dahnk,” “Dahnk-uh sayr.” Thank you very much.
Entschuldigung. “Ent-shool-dig-oong.” Pardon me.
Tut mir leid. “Toot mere light.” I’m sorry.
It’s OK if your accent is terrible; you’re just showing the willingness to try. But there are lots of free YouTube videos where you can learn German pronunciation and if you don’t know any German at all, spend some time with them so you can pronounce those expressions a little better.

Money

The best way to get money from day to day is with a “Bankautomat” (ATM). You can go to a bank and exchange currency, but you won’t get as good an exchange rate. Keep an eye on the euro exchange rate in any case, so you know how far your dollars go.
If you still have an old-style bank card with just a magnetic stripe, you’re likely to have a hard time finding a Bankautomat that will accept it. See if your bank will upgrade it to one with a chip before you go on your trip.
Not all stores take Visa and MasterCard. Find out before trying to check out a big purchase. Acceptance by hotels is much higher, but verify what they accept in advance, especially if you’re staying at a Pension. Smartphone payments like Apple Pay are still looking for acceptance, so skip them during your trip.

Where to Go

The tourist attractions are certainly worth seeing, but there’s much more to Germany. Many towns have open-air markets once a week or more. You can find great food and interesting stuff to buy.
Speaking of food, you can go beyond Hasenpfeffer and Schnitzel while saving a bit of money. Every city has stands selling all kinds of sausage. Currywurst has become a national favorite, and you should definitely give it a try. It isn’t super-hot; German tastes don’t run that way. Also, try one of the many Döner Kebab shops. That’s Turkish food, similar to gyros. Check the quality of the place first, though; some are more greasy than great.
There’s lots of other ethnic food, so you can branch out in many directions. The national meat for pizza is salami rather than pepperoni, and other ethnic foods likewise have a distinctive German style.
Coffee shops are another fine way to get out and spend time with friends or colleagues. Remember that refills aren’t free. Tipping tends to be lighter than in the US since the employees are better compensated, but it’s still very much appreciated.
You can also go shopping for your own groceries if you prefer. Just remember to bring your own bag, or you can buy a reusable bag at the register.

Getting Around

German cities have excellent transit systems. The systems include buses, Strassenbahn (streetcars), U-Bahn (subway), and S-Bahn (light rail). It’s the best way to get around quickly. The important thing is to understand the prepaid card system.
You can buy a card for one day or several at a dispensing machine, located at the stations or the main railroad station (Hauptbahnhof). It’s an honor system, but employees will randomly ask riders to show their cards. Someone caught without a valid card is called a Schwarzfahrer (literally “black rider,” but it has nothing to do with Lord of the Rings) and has to pay a fine on the spot. Try not to let it happen to you. If it does, explain apologetically in English that you’re a visitor to the country and didn’t understand. That may get you off.
The important thing with a day or multi-day card is to stamp it in a machine the first time you use it. That shows when your period of usage begins. You don’t have to stamp it every time you board a bus or train unless you get a per-ride ticket. Those are a bit cheaper, but they’re more confusing if you aren’t used to them.
Germany is a very bicycle-friendly country. Think about renting a bike as an alternative to crowded public transit. City sidewalks include marked bike lanes, but be careful about them when you’re on foot; if you wander into one, a rider may yell at you.
Renting a car is certainly a possibility, but try it only if you know enough German to read the road signs without reaching for a dictionary. The German reputation for being speed demons on the Autobahn is well deserved. They’re good drivers, but they come up behind you much faster than you’d think. Stay in the right lane if you don’t have the nerve to keep up with the faster ones.
Finally, there’s always just getting out and walking. That’s really the best way to discover new things in a strange city. Just make sure you can find your way back. Most places are safe, but it’s always good to think ahead and have a plan for getting back to where you’re staying.
For getting between cities, check out Bahn.de. Click on “Deutsch” near the top of the page and you’ll get the English-language version. The cheapest way to get tickets is to buy them in advance on the website. Trains run on time, except during strikes, and they’re clean and fast. Make sure you get on the right train, though! Signs in the station indicate where along the track the train stops. Some trains split along the way and go to two different destinations, so pay attention to which end you should be on.

Have Fun!

If you take a few chances, you can discover a lot more of Germany than if you stick to the guided tours and big attractions. Just do your homework in advance and keep your locally-enabled phone at hand if anything goes wrong. Viel spass! (Have lots of fun!)

Posted on

Don’t Leave Germany Without Doing These 3 Things

Without a doubt, Germany is a great place to visit. The country has something to offer for every age and every type of traveler. Germany, in fact, remains one of the most popular international destinations for U.S. travelers. Many Americans have ancestors who were from Germany, and many others served or know someone who served in a U.S. Army Base in the south. In countless families, the stories of Lederhosen and Bratwurst are legendary. So why not experience these traditions firsthand?
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Time is limited, and the country simply offers too many much to see everything there is to see. The white cliffs of Ruegen and Schloss Neuschwanstein sound nice, but also happen to be almost 1,000 miles away from each other. This is why planning your itinerary should be your first step. History buffs will look for very different destinations than hikers or beach lovers. Regardless of where you fall on the traveler scale, do not leave Germany without doing these three things.

Have a Drink at the Hofbräuhaus

What’s the first thing you think of when you consider Germany? Beer tends to be a common answer. The drink is so embedded in German culture that it’s difficult to disconnect one from the other. In most countries, beer is an alcoholic beverage used to get a buzz. In Germany, it’s almost a food, designed to be enjoyed the way a nice steak or Schnitzel would be. It’s difficult to leave Germany without having partaken in this experience at least once. And if you really want the full German experience, you have to visit the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich.
By now, branch restaurants of the same brand have sprung up all over the world. But while they’re surprisingly authentic, they have nothing against the original. Still owned by the Bavarian State, it opened in 1589 as the private brewery of the Bavarian Royalty. Its beer was and still is brewed according to the German purity law.
The food is authentic, the beer is great, but it’s the experience that makes this a must-stop during your Germany vacation. Live traditional Volksmusik plays every night, and despite its worldwide fame, the place still exudes authentic charm. That might be because, in spite of the countless annual tourists, an at least equal number of locals still enjoy their beer, food, and company as they have for hundreds of years.

Travel the Fairy Tale Route

You probably know most German fairy tales, from Hansel and Gretel to Rumpelstiltskin. They serve as the inspiration for countless Disney stories and have become as famous in the United States as in their country of origin. But did you know that you can still visit the locations that became their inspiration?
The 400-mile-long Fairy Tale Route is more than a single destination. It’s an attraction you might want to plan for in advance and devote a significant chunk of your itinerary to. Still, it’s perfect for any visitor who wants to explore the mythical tales of German folklore. Along the way, you’ll learn about the country, its varied landscapes, and more.
Destinations along this route vary widely. Families with children might enjoy the Red Riding Hood House, while history buffs will recognize Sleeping Beauty’s castle as a historical beauty from the early 14th century. Ancient forests and mountaintops will convince even those who’ve never heard of Grimm’s Tales that this route is a must-visit during your Germany trip. As for the educational component, a Snow White Museum in Bad Wildungen and a German Fairy Tale Museum in Bad Oeynhausen are perfect to understand the historical and cultural backgrounds behind some of your most favorite childhood stories.

Enjoy a Watt Wanderung

As you travel down the Fairy Tale Route, you might begin to realize that Germany offers some of the world’s most unique natural wonders. Perhaps chief among them is the Wadden Sea, an area in the North Sea where the water retreats so far during low tide that miles of sea ground become walkable.
Naturally, this phenomenon—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is great to visit for anyone who isn’t used to it. It’s the perfect highlight of a trip to the North Sea, where you can enjoy white beaches with mild waves on islands like Foehr or Sylt. During high tide, you get your typical beach experience. At low light, the unforgettable part of this stop begins.
Countless spots across the North Sea offer guided tours, known locally as Wattwanderung. Here, a trained expert takes visitors to help them explore the intricacies of the Wadden Sea. That means digging out watt worms and crabs for the children and exploring the sea ground in other ways for the adults. In fact, some of the largest and most well-known Wattwanderungen don’t just go out for a bit, but actually allow you to hike through the sea ground from one North Sea island to another. The water, when timing it just right, never gets above your knees. During high tide, it will once again become deep enough for large ships to drive through. It’s an experience, unlike anything you can get anywhere in the world.

Making the Most out of Your German Vacation

Of course, these are just a few of the many destinations available for and popular among tourists in Germany. In reality, you will be able to easily find an attraction you will love, no matter where you visit.
Chances are you’ve heard about attractions like Neuschwanstein, the Berlin Wall, and the Brandenburg Gate. You might even be aware of some of the most beautiful cities to visit, from Mainz to Hamburg. But without a doubt, the best way to visit Germany is to truly experience it.
The country is old but proud. Traditions in Southern Germany very much differ from the North. This means you can customize your vacation to fit exactly what you’re looking for, including adding these 3 stops to your itinerary. Drinking a beer at the Hofbräuhaus, traveling the Fairy Tale Route, and taking part in a Wattwanderung, will allow you to begin to understand the German people better than a day trip to a typical tourist attraction ever could.
Traveling to Germany has the potential to make memories that last a lifetime. Especially if you know what destinations to visit, you can plan a vacation that you will never forget, and always long to repeat.