I’m sitting here in my PJs on a somewhat overcast Sunday morning, slowly trying to wake up and recover from jet lag. My dogs are snoring (loudly) in the living room and I’ve been staring at the computer screen for five minutes willing words to appear. So that’s one reason why today I want to share some of my favorite photo highlights and moments from the trip that created the aforementioned jet lag; a week in Germany. Over the years I’ve traveled to Germany on many different occasions visiting everywhere from quirky cities in the north to tiny Bavarian villages tucked away in the woods. My most recent trip though had a strong focus on the culinary aspect of traveling in Germany, visiting four cities to learn more about their history and culture, but also their food and regional specialties. I have a lot to say about the trip, but these moments best encapsulate my journey.
Skyline view from the Lindner Hotel
One of my goals in Frankfurt my goal was to reacquaint myself with the city and I think I succeeded. I joined a free walking tour that took us to some slightly unusual neighborhoods in the city, as well as the classic historic core. I also did a lot of exploration on my own, heading to the top of the Main Tower, cooling off on a river cruise, enjoying some great food at a festival in town, and ending the day with this sunset view from my hotel – all in all a wonderful way to experience the best of Frankfurt.
Frankfurt doesn’t usually get the attention it deserves, but this bustling city has a lot to offer from a lengthy history to some tasty bites. A local food pro showed me around the city, taking me to his favorite spots and introducing me to some Frankfurt classics like the city’s famous apple wine, a yummy green sauce that tastes like sour cream and of course those classic sausages. (Frankfurter anyone?) In the process I learned a lot about the city, its history and its culture, all aspects to visiting Frankfurt that I think many people miss.
On my second day in Stuttgart, I did something a little different – I spent the day learning all about the city’s wine culture. They’re been growing wine grapes here for as long as there’s been a city and wine making has played an incredibly important role in the history of Stuttgart. Maybe that’s why it’s just one of a few major European city’s where you can still find vineyards in the city itself. The one thing I most remember from my last visit here were the hills surrounding the city on all sides and many of those hills are covered in a variety of different wine grapes. It’s so important to the identity of Stuttgart that the city owns its own vineyards, and it’s the folks who run them that I met with in Stuttgart. It was a fascinating look at the wide variety of wines produced, as well as an opportunity to enjoy the best views in the city. Wine may not be what you first think of when you think of Stuttgart, but it absolutely should play a major role in any visit to the city.
I arrived into Stuttgart on the last day of the city’s summer festival, well-timed given the warmer than normal weather this year. It’s always fun to find festivals when traveling, for me at least it’s a somewhat rare opportunity to feel like I’m part of the community. That was definitely the case here in Stuttgart thanks not only to the well-attended festival, but to its spot on the palace square. The Schlossplatz is very much the vibrant heart of the city and always has been really. This is where the first counts and dukes once lived, the grand palace a reminder to those times. Today the square is bordered by museums and fountains, a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the weather, especially when it’s the height of summer.
By pure chance I found myself in Augsburg, Germany for their annual peace festival. It’s a public holiday in the city and commemorates the peace that was established in 1648 guaranteeing rights to both Protestants and Catholics. First celebrated in 1650, today it includes a day off from work, church services and a special lunch in front of town hall that’s free for anyone. It’s always fun to be a part of these community celebrations, to feel less like a tourist and more like a local, if even just for a little while. It’s just one of many reasons why I really enjoyed my time here in Augsburg. It’s a fun and colorful city that I think is massively underrated and certainly deserves more than just the short couple of days I spent there. Since it’s so close to Munich though, I’m positive that it won’t be my last time in this amazing destination.
Surfing in the park
Munich is popular for many reasons from its amazing food (SO many pretzels!) and the gorgeous architecture found in places like the old cathedral and of course the Rathaus. But surfing doesn’t usually rank on that list, at least it didn’t for me until I found this prime surfing spot in the middle of the city. In the middle of Munich’s massive English Garden (one of the largest urban parks in the world) is the Eisbach, a small channel of the Isar River where every day hundreds of surfers come to try their stuff. This definitely isn’t a kiddie pool though because, unlike ocean surfing, there’s no paddling or prep time, as soon as you get in you have to be ready to go. While I certainly don’t have the skills to even attempt this, it was a lot of fun to watch and looks like the perfect way to cool down on a hot summer’s day.
Going beyond the pretzel
Although I enjoyed many schnitzels, pretzels and helpings of spaetzle, my goal was also to go beyond the traditional and see how these cities are changing, especially in the food culture. Like many other cities around the world, Munich too is enjoying a foodie shift with new chefs and entrepreneurs experimenting with new ways to look at classic ingredients. That’s certainly the case at the Garden Restaurant in the luxury hotel the Bayerische Hof. Long considered to be the city’s best hotel, they have several restaurants onsite including the Michelin star Atelier and this more casual cousin, the Garden. There I discovered a creative menu that does indeed honor traditional Bavarian ingredients and dishes, but with creative flair. Using seasonal ingredients is of course at the heart of that ethos, perhaps best seen in this appetizer with freshly made tagliatelle and equally fresh mushrooms. The mushrooms are currently in season and a local favorite and the resulting dish was delicious as well as creative – the perfect introduction to what fine dining in Munich is all about.