Food is an essential part of immersing yourself in another culture. Food not only encapsulates the history and traditions of the country you’re visiting, but provides the perfect atmosphere to socialise and build great friendships over new dishes.
One of the first planned events during my summer course in Bayreuth was a group meal out at a local Biergarten, Herzogkeller. This was the first time I had been to German, and the first sampling of German food I’d had, and it did not disappoint. The menu was entirely in German so I ordered something with typical foods listed that I recognised, and afterwards wurst and sauerkraut were firmly at the top of my list of favourite foods. Another food I tried for the first time were dumplings when we ate out at Oskar, a restaurant in Bayreuth known for its Franconian cuisine and style. My meal was made up of pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings, a typical Franconian dish. I was unsure about the dumplings as they have quite a strange consistency, but the meat and sauerkraut were amazing.
From left to right: Food at Herzogkeller, Bayreuth, Bamberg Rauchbier at Spezial-Keller, Bamberg, Food at Oskar, Bayreuth. ©Emily Gibbons
Beer is another central component to German cuisine, and Bayreuth is the home to the Maisel Bros. Brewery, which makes Maisel’s Weisse wheat beers. I’m not a fan of beer by any means and never drank it in the UK because I disliked the taste, but being in Germany I thought it important to at least try one of the local beers. I picked one at random from the range that Herzogkeller offered and I was pleasantly surprised at the taste as it was much less bitter than the many real ales I’d tried at home. I’m not a beer convert, but I liked it enough to order it again at Oskar.
We visited another beer garden on one of the city trips, this one to Bamberg. This was another famous beer town according to our guide, and the website boasts ‘Eleven breweries in town and another 60 in Bamberg County produce more than 400 different beers, all of which are just waiting to be tasted.’ Our guide also described to us how Bamberg has the traditional custom that you can bring your own food with you to the Biergarten and order your beer to go with it. We visited Spezial-Keller which had a great view across the town. I wasn’t as fond of the special Bamberg Rauchbier, but each one was served in a big ceramic tankard which provided a bit of novelty.
Italian food in Weimar ©Emily Gibbons
Something we realised during the month in Bayreuth and as we took trips around nearby towns and cities was the amount of Italian eateries. Particularly in Weimar, it wasn’t unusual to see several Italian restaurants clustered around each other on every street. Therefore it was inevitable that we would be eating Italian food at some point. Despite eating food that’s also widely available in England, the atmosphere and surroundings made up for it, as we sat outside the restaurant on a quiet street near the town centre. In many German cities, horse and carts are there for tourists to buy rides around the town, and one of these trotted past us as we ate.
From left to right: Food at the University of Bayreuth ©Emily Gibbons, Inflatable pretzel at a tourist shop in Nuremberg ©Cathy Yang
Of course the summer course wasn’t all trips across the country, and we had five days of language learning a week. These days for me were characterised by the food on offer in the café and the Mensa (canteen). The Mensa was the main canteen at the university and the food they served was often a little suspect. It definitely felt like a lucky dip every day to find something you liked. The café was where we’d all come during the break to get a fix of caffeine, along with a plain pretzel or one with cheese. Back in England I really miss the pretzels from Germany.
From left to right: Apfelsaftschorle in Bayreuth, Apfelstrudel and Apfelsaftschorle in Nuremberg ©Emily Gibbons
Apfelsaftschorle is a popular drink in Germany. It’s essentially sparking apple juice, as it’s made from mixing apple juice and sparkling water. It’s my drink of choice if I have to buy a bottle when I’m out, as I dislike plain sparkling water and it’s unusual to find still water. It is available pretty much everywhere you go and absolutely delicious, and it was really refreshing to have at a Biergarten after a hike through the forests surrounding Bayreuth. For lunch we also had ‘wurstsalat’, a kind of salad with long thin strips of sausage and some vegetables. It wasn’t a dish I’d like to eat again, but perhaps that was just that particular venue that didn’t do the recipe justice.
On our trip to Nuremberg, I spotted a sign advertising ‘Apfelstrudel’. As a huge fan of apples and pastry I was pretty determined to have it, so after our tour finished we went on a hunt for another café selling the dessert. It didn’t disappoint, and I drank a large glass of Apfelsaftschorle alongside it to get my apple fix.
From left to right: Sundae at Buonissimo, Bayreuth ©Emily Gibbons, outside Opera Eiscafé ©Ziying Gong
Another common sight across Bayreuth and neighbouring towns are Eiscafés. These are ice cream parlours and are dotted all along the high street in Bayreuth. We visited one, Buonissimo, which had a whole recipe book of ice-cream sundaes, waffles, and pancakes on offer. It was like being at Sprinkles, but with an even more extensive menu. However, the favourite ice cream parlour of all of the students was Opera, a small shop slightly off the high street with a range of flavours. The Kinder Bueno flavour was definitely the best, but the fruit sorbets were also incredible.
I thoroughly enjoyed my summer course in Germany and all the great food I tried along the way!
Written by Emily Gibbons – University of Bayreuth, Germany – Bayreuth Summer University for Intercultural German Studies