This is the first in a series of blog posts about our recent epic trip to Germany and the Czech Republic in search of food, castles, and of course beer. My travel companions included my wife Sarajo (Sj for short), as well as Jim and Lori Stroner. Jim is a seasoned beer geek (and part owner of Tin Whisker’s Brewing in St. Paul) as well as a great photographer. He did most of the organizational work for the trip, so he gets extra kudos! Our hero’s journey begins now with this day one taster…
I’m going to gloss over the months of planning that went into this trip (thanks Jim!) and focus on the actual travel component. Just let it be said that lots of work went into getting flights, hotels, tours, and more organized for this trip. Jim and Lori are much better light packers than we are–we brought way too many clothes for this trip and much larger suitcases to haul around!
I’m not sure why, but I decided to work a full day prior to our evening flight…so starting off tired and ready for a nap prior to a 8 hour flight? Not my smartest move ever. Arriving early at MSP airport, we had a snack and a last IPA (Unmapped Freq Drive) at the Stone Arch before our flight. Now we were prepared for 2 weeks of only lagers!
The flight was long. Not “flying-nonstop-to-China” long, but long enough! We did get fed at strange times and noted free beer and liqour on the trip–I had a Sweetwater Pale Ale. How about some Minnesota beers Delta? As usual I was unable to sleep a wink on the plane. I might have some flying anxiety.
We arrived without difficulty in Amsterdam and killed time in the Schiphol airport while awaiting our shorter flight to Nuremberg. Just not quite enough time in between to explore the city. Someday we’ll have longer to check out the city and its wonders!
Our shorter connecting flight to Nuremberg went off without a hitch. We rented a small (for the USA) SUV and were barely able to jam all of our overpacked luggage into it. Jim drove us a short distance to the town center and we disembarked for a quick walk around the town square. Breaking out our cameras, we gleefully roamed the area snapping pics of the amazing architecture all around us. With light fading quickly, we decided to go out in search of the fabled Nuremberg style bratwurst for dinner.
Our first attempt was a resturant I will not name, near the square. The place was crowded but we figured we could check it out and see if they had a wait. We checked outside the patio for a host stand…nope. We checked inside…nope. We waited around in the way for a bit hoping to spot a server or host. Eventually a group got up from an outside table, leaving a potential spot to sit. And look, here comes a server to ask! Sj politely asked if we could sit at the table and we promptly got our first taste of German service hospitality. The server spat out an empatic “No! Reserved!” Scowled impressively at us and shoved Sj aside physically to get past her. Impressed that a very tired and hungry Sj hadn’t She-Hulked out on the lady, we quickly vacated this place. No brats for you!
At our next stop just a few streets over at the Goldenes Posthorn, we had much better luck! our server was polite and helpful, though overworked with having to cover the entire large patio area and I think the inside of the restaurant as well. Here we had our first German beer (Tucher) which was pretty tasty. And those Nurenberg bratwurst? Strangely small by American bratwurst standards, but they came in sets of 6 or more and and were amazingly complex with a smoky and delicate flavor. I was sad we would not find these elsewhere on our travels. About half way though our dinner we noted the sun glazing the nearby church of St. Sebald and Jim and I scrambled out of our seats to get into shooting position.
Now sated on sausage and beer, we drove off into the dark German countryside to our secluded hotel in the sleepy town of Adelsdorf. Our first three nights we stayed here, at the Zum Lowenbrau hotel and brewery. Checking in late at night, we were the only people up, but the friendly owner managed to get us each a beer as a perfect nightcap for a very, very long day. I’ll talk much more about the hotel and the beers in a future day.
For this series I’ll be adding a Cultural Observation section just to keep things interesting, as well as a running tally of interesting things and breweries visited.
Cultural Observation 1: Service is not like this in America!
As mentioned in today’s post, we had a shall we say, not so great experience with service at one restaurant. Now this could just be a single spot in time, but actually became a frequent occurance in Germany for our trip. Many of the servers at restaurants, breweries, and bier kellers were gruff at best, downright obnoxious at worst. There was overall very little tolerance for our English speaking ways, and usually not much attempt at helping us decipher menus and beer lists. Some of this may come from lower reliance on tips, leading to less attempts to impress clientelle. Some of it may be from understaffing. Many of the large biergartens and kellers had one server to handle about 20 large tables and often needing to service the restaurant’s inside seating as well. One thing we quickly learned–order your beer right away or you will be waiting up to 30 minutes or more before servers return! Then they at least have to come back with the beers so you can order food! This being said, many of the younger servers we had in the country had more English and seemed friendlier. After a while we stopped letting things get to us…just the way it is over there.
Breweries visited: 1
Sausages Eaten: Just kidding, there is no way I could have kept track of that over 2 weeks in Germany and the Czech Republic!
Cities visited: 3