Mini Travel Guide to Southwest Germany
Germany is back on the map!
The internet tells me that Germany has made its way back on people’s’ bucket list of exciting places to visit. Most people I’ve met who have spent some time here, are completely stunned by what they’ve experienced and seen. But why is Germany so underrated and not everyone’s first choice when it comes to traveling in Europe?
Those who know their way around Europe tend to embrace Germany and its culture passionately. This makes me very glad!
But still… ask someone about Germany and Germans and they’re never quite sure how to respond. There are way too many clichés that spring to mind preventing a neutral verdict.
You must know that Germans don’t like Germany much themselves. I suspect, this is the case because of an in-built and forever-trained stance of anti-patriotism. An attitude that is – of course – closely related to Germany’s history! We grew up sensing that being of German origin is essentially bad, cliché-ridden and forever categorised as ‘evil’. Being German was undesirable and traveling to Germany certainly frowned upon.
Different cultures fascinate Germans which is why they’ve continuously neglected their own! You could say that the result of this neglect is a culture that has been left alone. Germany evolved naturally with its own rhythm, free from the constraints of tourism and ready for the world.
Southwest Germany? Hang on… they don’t all wear Lederhosen?
Naturally, mentalities and cultural subtleties differ greatly across the country. Food – as usual – tells the entire tale.
Germany is not all beer, pretzels, potatoes and sausages. Although I must admit that sausages play a role in most Germans’ diet. In North Germany the rough East and North-Sea influence the food. A typical Northern German diet integrates fish (pickled and fresh), dense breads, potatoes – things that keep for a while.
East Germany invented the Stollen, the best one comes from a town called Dresden. It’s a protected product and tastes heavenly of spice, dried fruit and most importantly – butter! The Eastern influence is palpable in Berlin too. Here you get a Russian-style ‘Soljanka’, a soup made from leftovers. Beetroot soup and cabbages are also high on the list, as well as fresh liver and blood-sausages. But since I am from the Southwest, I will let others do the praising of their own regions and only talk about Southwestern Germany here, about its food and the must-see places to visit.
Southwest Germany is where the real excitement takes place and therefore THE place to visit when you consider a trip to Germany. A heavy French influence with a bit of Black Forest heritage and vineyard-charme, make this the most interesting region in terms of food, wine, variety, beauty, architecture and heritage. And because it is much nicer to read about a place you’ve never visited before when you know exactly where it is located and how it looks like, here’s an idea of that:
This is where Southwest-Germany is in relation to its European neighbours France to the West and Switzerland to the South – a stone’s throw. (skip this part if you think I’m being patronising – but hey, not everyone knows…!)
The following southwestern micro-regions are the most outstanding (I’m saying this tentatively, to each their own of course!)
– The Black Forest: this mountainous area is to the right of the river Rhine and is full of fir trees that make it look very black – hence the name – when you look at it from the Rhine valley. The Black Forest is a treasure trove of heritage and authenticity. It is picturesque and great for people who love hiking through forests and hills, past natural mountain springs and happy cows.
The picture shows a trout pond in a village called Freiamt. There’s a restaurant next door that serves the freshly caught trout, fried in butter with a bowl of pan-fried potatoes. Probably one of the simplest, yet best meals you can possibly get.
– The Kaiserstuhl: this is an ancient non-active volcano next to the river Rhine and France, located around the city of Breisach. This is also Germany’s most famous wine-growing region (read more about the wine in this recent article). To me, the Kaiserstuhl is the best place in Southwest Germany. The temperatures reach Mediterranean peaks in summer, there are rivers and lakes that offer turquoise liquid refreshment on hot summer days. Apart from fun pastime distractions, the Kaiserstuhl is Germany’s horn of plenty. Next to vineyards you will find hundreds of cherry, plum, apple, apricot and peach orchards, asparagus, millet fields and much more. This place is abundant with produce and famous for most of it. The region is beautiful, see here:
What to eat and where to sleep?
Try to stay in privately run guesthouses in the Kaiserstuhl region, here’s a list of private guesthouses or holiday apartments.
You will need a car to reach other places, but this way, you really get to soak up the region’s sunny and peaceful vibe.
Try to visit in summer, when the weather holds up. This is the best time of the year and you’ll be there for the fruit harvest and by that I mean a real treat!
Eating is obviously the most enjoyable experience down there as it is so special. Any Gasthaus or food establishment you enter will deliver top-notch food. I guarantee you that. Try to eat seasonal and local food, this way your culinary endeavors will be a complete success.
Seasonal, temporary restaurants, the so-called ‘Straussi’.
This intriguing gastronomical concept can only be found along the German-French-Swiss border or in other wine growing regions in the South. A Straussi or Straussenwirtschaft is a type of wine tavern that is only open during certain times of the year – they can only get a licence for operation in summer and autumn. Typically it is small, rustic and run by the winegrowers and winemakers themselves. Here, they sell their own wine directly to the public as well as some of the most local and authentic food. The dishes are simple, regional and often cold, going hand in hand with the typical German ‘Brotzeit’.
Here’s a (German) guide to Straussis in the region: http://www.straussi.net/
Visit an old Gasthaus in the Black Forest
Buried deep inside the blackness of the forest, you will find restaurants that have been open for hundreds of years. Have a meat dish, made from local game and a glass of locally brewed beer, such as Rothaus Tannenzaepfle. An outstanding, delicious Black Forest beer from the traditional Rothaus Brewery.
Travelers, give Southwest Germany a shot, you won’t be disappointed. Foodies and culinary experts, quick, book a flight and see and taste what this region has to offer, you’re in for a revelation. Get in touch for travel tips and more information on accommodation etc.