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Last updated : Nov 2009
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Food and Drink

The main meal of the day in Germany tends to be lunch with a light snack eaten at about seven in the evening. Breakfast served in homes and hotels usually consists of a boiled egg, bread rolls with honey, jam, cold cuts and cheese slices. Available from snack bars, butcher shops, bakers and cafes are grilled, fried or boiled sausages (Wurst) with a crusty bread roll or potato salad. There are also bread rolls filled with all kinds of sausage slices, hot meat filling (such as Leberkäse), pickled herring, gherkins and onion rings or cheese. In bakeries, Strudel with the traditional apple filling, a variety of fruits and fromage frais is available. There is also an astonishingly wide variety of breads.

A set menu meal in a simple Gasthof or cafe usually includes 3 courses: soup is the very popular starter. The main meal consists of vegetables or a salad, potatoes, meat and gravy. For pudding, there is often a sweet such as a blancmange, fruit or ice cream. Restaurants often serve either beer or wine.

Cakes and pastries are normally reserved for the afternoon with Kaffee und Kuchen taken at home or in a cafe. Cafes serving Kaffee und Kuchen are not only to be found in cities, towns and villages but also at popular excursion and tourist spots.

International speciality restaurants, such as Chinese, Greek, Turkish and others, can be found everywhere in the western part of the country. Waiter or waitress service is normal although self-service restaurants are available.

Local regional specialities cover an enormous range:

Frankfurt and Hesse: Rippchen mit Sauerkraut (spare ribs) and course Frankfurter sausages, Ochsenbrust with green sauce, Zwiebelkuchen (onion flan), and Frankfurter Kranz cream cake.

Westphalia and Northern Rhineland: Rheinischer Sauerbraten (beef marinaded in onions, sultanas, pimento, etc), Reibekuchen (potato fritters), Pfeffer-Potthast (spiced beef with bay leaves) and Moselhecht (Moselle pike with creamy cheese sauce). Westphalia is famous also for its smoked ham, sausages and bread.

Stuttgart and Baden: Schlachtplatte (sauerkraut, liver sausage and boiled pork). A variety of pastas are served such as Maultaschen (a type of ravioli) and Spätzle (noodles), as well as Eingemachtes Kalbfleisch (veal stew with white sauce and capers) and Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest gateau).

Munich and Bavaria: Leberkäs (pork and beef loaf), as well as a variety of dumplings, Spanferkel (suckling pig), the famous Weisswurst (white sausages), Strudel, Leberknödelsuppe (liver dumplings soup), Nürnberger Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and from the same town grilled Rostbratwurst sausages.

Hamburg and Northern Germany: Hamburger Aalsuppe (eel/lobster/crayfish soup), Labskaus (hotpot with fried eggs), Rote Grütze mit Sahne oder Vanillesosse (fruit compote served with cream or custard), smoked eel, Rumtopf (fruit marinated in rum), Lübeck marzipan, Heidschnuckenbraten (Lüneburg Heath mutton), fish with green sauce, Bauernfrühstück (omelette with fried potatoes, tomatoes and onions) and bread rolls filled with fish or prawns as a snack.

Bremen: Kohl und Pinkel (kale and sausages), Matjes Hering (white herring), eel soup and Hannoversches Blindhuhn (hotpot with bacon, potatoes, vegetables and fruit).

Berlin: Eisbein mit Sauerkraut (pork) and mashed potatoes, Bouletten (hamburgers), Kartoffelpuffer (potato fritters), Eierpfannkuchen (pancakes), Berliner Pfannkuchen (doughnut), and Berliner Weisse mit Schuss (beer with a dash of raspberry syrup).

March of Brandenburg
: Teltower Rübchen (swedes), Mohnprielen and Mohnstriezel (pastries with poppy seeds), Morchelgerichte (mushroom dishes), Oder crabs, Eberswalder Spritzkuchen (doughnuts), Schwarzsauer mit Backpflaumen und Klößen (black pudding with prunes and dumplings).

Saxony: Leipziger Allerlei (vegetables in white sauce), Dresdner Stollen (German christmas cake) and Speckkuchen (bacon flan).

Saxony-Anhalt: Lehm und Stroh (sauerkraut with mushy peas), Köhlersuppe (croutons, suet, onions and mushrooms), Speckkuchen mit Eiern und Kümmel (bacon flan with eggs and caraway seeds), Zerbster Brägenwurst (sausage) with Bitterbier, and Baumkuchen (literally tree cake, the thin layers of pastry are like the rings of trees).

Thuringia: Thüringer Rostbratwürste (grilled sausages), Hefeplinsen (pancakes with raisins) with sugar and jam. Apple, plum, poppy seed, fromage frais or onion crumbles. There are numerous mushroom dishes, which are called Schwämm.

Mecklenburg-West Pomerania: Plum’n un Klüt (plums and dumplings), Spickbost (smoked goose breast).

Bars

Bars either have table service and/or counter service, although customers will often find that the drinks bought are simply marked down on a beer mat to be paid for on departing. The legal age for drinking alcohol in a bar or cafe is 18. Minors are allowed to go into a bar if accompanied by an adult but they will not be served alcohol.

Opening hours depend on the proprietor but generally bars in major towns and resorts are open all day and close around midnight or later. Exceptions are Berlin and Hamburg where every pub can open for 24 hours. The national drink is beer in its many forms. Regional flavours vary from light pilsner-type lagers to heavy stouts. Three of particular note are Bayrisches G’frornes (frozen beer) and Weizenbier from Bavaria, and Mumme (bittersweet beer without hops) to be found in Hannover.

German wines are among the finest in the world. Some of the most famous are grown in the Rhine and the Moselle Valley but also in the Ahr region, Nahe, Franconia and Baden area. Worth trying are Äppelwoi (cider) in Frankfurt/M, Cannstatter (white wine) in Stuttgart, Kirschwasser (cherry schnapps) in Baden, and Würzburger (dry white wine) in Würzburg.

Nightlife

In all larger towns and cities in western Germany and also in the major eastern cities visitors will have the choice between opera (Deutsche Oper Berlin, theatre, opera, nightclubs, bars with live music and discos catering for all tastes.

Berlin, is famous for its large selection of after-hours venues. Traditional folk music is found mostly in rural areas. There are Bierkellers in the south and wine is drunk in small wine cellars in the Rhineland Palatinate, Franconia and Baden region.

Shopping

Special purchases include precision optical equipment such as binoculars and cameras, porcelain, handmade crystal, steelware, silver, Solingen knives, leatherwear, sports equipment, toys from Nuremberg and Bavarian Loden cloth. In eastern Germany special purchases include musical instruments, wooden carved toys from the Erzgebirge Mountains, and Meissen china (the workshops in Meissen are open to the public).

Opening hours: Shops can regulate their own opening hours within these times Monday-Friday 0600-2000 hrs, Saturday 0600-1600 hrs. Smaller shops may close 1300-1500 hrs for lunch. All shops, except a few bakeries, are closed on Sunday.

Special Events

Hundreds of annual festivals and special events are celebrated throughout the country and full details can be obtained from the Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus e.V (German National Tourist Board).

The following is a selection of special events occurring in Germany in 2005:

Feb 3rd - 9th
Carnival, Rhineland
Mar 19th - Apr 18th
Jul 23rd - Aug 22nd
Nov 5th - Dec 5th

Hamburger DOM Festival
Apr 28th 30 European Grand Prix, the Nürburgring, Eifel
Jul 23rd-25th German Grand Prix, Hockenheim Ring
Jul 25th - Aug 28th Richard Wagner Festival, Bayreuth
Aug 16th - 21st 20th World Youth Day, Cologne
Sep 18th - Oct 3rd Munich's Oktoberfest, Bavaria's National Beer Festival.
Dec Christmas
Social Conventions

Handshaking is customary in Germany. Normal courtesies should be observed and it is common to be offered food and refreshments when visiting someone’s home. Before eating, it is normal to say Guten Appetit to the other people at the table to which the correct reply is Ebenfalls. It is customary to present the hostess with unwrapped flowers (according to tradition, one should always give an uneven number and it is worth noting that red roses are exclusively a lover’s gift).

Courtesy dictates that when entering a shop, restaurant or similar venue, visitors should utter a greeting such as Guten Tag (or Grüss Gott in Bavaria) before saying what it is that they want, to leave without saying Auf Wiedersehen can also cause offence. Similarly, when making a telephone call, asking for the person you want to speak to without stating first who you are is considered rude.

Casual wear is widely acceptable, but more formal dress is required for some restaurants, the opera, theatre, casinos and important social functions. Evening wear is worn when requested. Smoking is prohibited where notified and on public transport and in some public buildings.

Visitors should be prepared for an early start to the day with businesses, schools, etc opening at 0800 hrs or earlier. It is very common practice to take a mid-afternoon stroll on Sunday, town and city centres at this time are often very animated places, in stark comparison with Saturday afternoons when, owing to the early closing of shops, town centres can seem almost deserted.

Tipping

It is customary to tip taxi drivers, hairdressers, cloakroom attendants, bar and restaurant staff, a 10 per cent tip is standard.
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