We visited Heidelberg and Munich while in Germany for four days.
Heidelberg is a small town on the Nektar River, which branches off of the Rhine River. It’s so cute and quaint, since it’s one of the few towns that was never bombed during WWII, and has retained it’s original character. For our first German meal here, we found a restaurant “Sum Guldnen Schaf,” picked for its very German signage and closeness to our hotel. I ordered sausages with sauerkraut and potato hash. Randy got a braised pork knuckle and a potato dumpling. The braised pork knuckle was delicious, and an enormous piece of meat!
For dinner, we had done a little research and knew that we wanted to go to the Schnitzel Bank. This bar used to make wine barrels for a Riesling distributor, and then realized that they could make more money actually selling the wine! They had full glasses of deliciously crisp Riesling on tap for 5 euro each. The seating is family style around large irregular tables, with lots of old barrel making tools decorating the walls. The vibe inside was so friendly and warm, which was great, since it was absolutely freezing outside (well, freezing to this California girl anyways!). We split a pork schnitzel with a garlic sauce, a really good salad and a delicious spicy tomato soup. I saw that my neighbor had a plate of spaetzel and well, I just had to have some. So we ended up ordering a second plate to split. I’m so glad we did! The spaetzel was so unbeliveable delicious! It’s basically a German macaroni and cheese, but with specially made dough and I think raclette cheese. I recently tried to recreate this with Gruyere, and while it was still good, it was nothing like the original. We proceeded to drink a lot of Riesling on tap and chat with a few neighbors from the States before the brisk walk back to our hotel.
We stayed at a great hotel in Heidelberg: Gasthaus Backmulde. The provided us with a complimentary breakfast that was the best we ate on our trip, and left gummy bears on our pillow!
We grabbed some pretzels to go, and took the train from Heidelberg to Munich, and straight into Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a lot like the Del Mar Fair when you walk in, except that it’s FREE and instead of expo halls and animals, there are giant beer tents. We walked around for a little bit, shared a bratwurst and ventured into one of the beer halls. I must say we did not know what to expect! I thought that we could go in and find a place to sit down, or a least grab a drink at the bar and walk around. Not the case! It was like being the only sober one at a party full of drunks. The tables were all packed or reserved, and there wasn’t anywhere to sit. The waiters walked through the hallways with 12 liters of beer at a time, or giant trays of food, blowing whistles to get you out of their way. There is a small unreserved section in each tent where you can try to wait for a space, and you can’t order a beer without having a seat. We took one lap around, got overwhelmed, and decided we’d have our first beer at one of the outdoor beer gardens while we formulated a game plan. Fortified with a bit of liquid courage, we ventured into another beer tent and decided to hang around the exit of the unreserved section, or the “mosh pit” as we came to call it. We got pretty lucky and about four people left pretty quickly, and we were able to swoop in and ask to take their spots at the table. We ended up at a table of all English speakers – most from California actually! It was great fun. We enjoyed two more liters of beer and sang along to lots of 80’s rock music. We missed a real dinner, but did split a pretzel bigger than my face!
The next day we went in search of a hearty breakfast, but to no luck. We found one breakfast restaurant that had more than coffee and pastries, but it wasn’t all that great. After breakfast, we purchased some official Oktoberfest attire, and headed back to the Oktoberfest festival. This time we arrived earlier, and were able to get a table and order a late lunch. We ordered a radish salad, braised pork knuckle, crispy duck, potato dumplings, and an apple cabbage slaw. Everything was so good! The radishes were so refreshing and the meats were all melt in your mouth delicious. We both really liked the apple cabbage slaw, and thought it complimented the braised pork really well. We explored a few more of the beer tents and had another fun night.
The next day we did a bike tour of Munich, and had lunch at a really cool beer garden in the middle of the English Gardens in the city. We got more of the same kind of food we’d been eating in Germany: pretzels, beer, pork knuckle, and spaetzle – with one new thing recommended by our tour guide: Obatzda. This is a mixture of cheeses and spices, paired with pickled vegetables and delicious spread on our pretzels.
In Germany we did find a beer garden cookbook in English, so look for some attempted recreations of these delicious foods coming from our kitchen. Until next time!