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CUISINE

Though traditional dishes like dumplings, wurst (sausages), pastries, and beer may make Germany seem the worst possible place to eat healthily, in reality more and more restaurants are offering foreign foods and neue Küche (cuisine moderne). Young people are increasingly health conscious and wary of more old-fashioned, richer fare. Chefs trained in Switzerland, France, or Italy return to Germany to open Continental restaurants, and Italians and Turks, many of whom originally came to Germany as "guest workers," have stayed to open up restaurants featuring their own culinary traditions.

Regional Specialties

Bavaria & Franconia: In southern Germany, you can feast on such hearty fare as Leberkäs (a chilled mold of minced pork, beef, and liver), Knödel (dumplings or soaked bread), Haxen (pork or veal trotters, most often consumed with sauerkraut), Rostbratwürste (small finger sausages), and Leberknödel (large liver dumplings in a clear broth). Schweinwürstl mit Kraut (pork sausages with sauerkraut) is another unforgettable local dish. With your Germany cell phone rental you can easily find a restaurant that makes this delicious local dish.

Lower Saxony & Schleswig-Holstein: Here in northwest Germany, with its maritime tradition, a typical local dish is Aalsuppe -- sweet-and-sour eel soup flavored with bacon, vegetables, and sometimes even pears and prunes (or perhaps other fruits). The sailor's favorite is Labskaus, a ground-together medley of pork, salt herring, and beef, along with potatoes and beets. The traditional topping is a fried egg and a side dish of cucumbers. Bruntes Huhn is salt beef on a bed of diced vegetables, a robust winter favorite. Rollmops, pickled herring rolled in sour cream, is another local specialty, as is Finkenwerder Scholle (plaice) and oysters, raw or baked with cheese.

Berlin: During those cold nights in old Prussia, Berliners took comfort in their soups, notably Kohlsuppe (cabbage soup) and Erbensuppe (pea soup), along with dark bread, especially Westphalia pumpernickel. Hase im Topf is a delicious rabbit pâté. Other favorites are Bratwurst, a pork sausage; and Regensburger, a spicy pork sausage. For dessert, Berliners like Kugelhupf, a marvelous coffeecake, and Käsekuchen, or cheesecake. But probably the most typical Berlin delicacy is Eisbein, pigs' knuckles.

Hassen & Westphalia: Famed for its hams, this region of Germany eats food guaranteed to put hair on your chest. To go totally native, sample their Sulperknochen, made from the pigs' trotters (feet), ears, and tail, and served traditionally with peas pudding and pickled cabbage. Or try Tüttchen, a ragout of herb-flavored calves' head and calves' brains. Not into any of the above? Settle for Pickert, sweet potato cakes flavored with raisins.

Baden-Württemberg: Here in the southern region around Stuttgart, you can begin with such dishes as Schneckensuppe (snail soup), Spätzle (egg-based pasta), or perhaps Maultaschen (ravioli stuffed with ground meat, spinach, and calves' brains). A dish beloved in the area and widely consumed is Geschnetzeltes (slices of veal in a cream sauce). The favorite local dish in Stuttgart itself is Gaisburger Marsch, a beef stew. Another commonly served dish is Rostbraten, braised beef, invariably accompanied by Sauerkraut, or Linsen mit Saiten, lentil stew cooked with sausages.

Saxony & Thuringia: In eastern Germany, you can feast on everything from Linsensuppe mit Thüringer Rotwurst (lentil soup with Thuringian sausages) to Rinderzunge in Rosinen-Sauce (calves' tongue in grape sauce). Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup) remains a favorite of the district, as does a baked appetizer, Quarkkeulchen, made from curd, boiled potatoes, flour, sugar, and raisins, topped with cinnamon, and served with applesauce. Each city in the district also has its own popular local dishes. Leipzig, for example, has its Leipziger Allerlei, a blend of carrots, peas, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, crayfish, ox tails, bits of veal, and dumplings. Use your international cell phone rental to find a restaurant that serves these dishes.

Rhineland: The food of the Rhineland features the kinds of dishes that have made Germans the subject of good-natured ridicule, especially in neighboring France. For example, there's Saumagen, stuffed pork belly with pickled cabbage. Also beloved is Schweinepfeffer, a highly seasoned and spicy pork ragout that's thickened with pig blood. After that feast, it's on to Hämchen, pork trotters with pickled cabbage and potatoes, or else Sauerbraten, beef marinated in wine vinegar and spices. Postwar Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was a Rhinelander, and one of his favorite foods was Reibekukchen, small potato pancakes with a blueberry or applesauce. Taverns along the Rhine fill up when Federweisser, partially fermented new wine, comes in. They drink it while devouring onion tarts.

The Best of the Wurst

The German love affair with wurst (sausage) dates from the dawn of history. Every region of Germany has its own specialty, but the overall favorite seems to be bratwurst from Nürnberg, made of seasoned and spiced pork. Germans often take their wurst with a bun and a dab of mustard. White sausage (Weisswurst) is a medley of veal, calves' brains, and spleen. Bauernwurst (farmer's sausage) and Knockwurst are variations of the frankfurter, which originated (naturally) in Frankfurt. (Oddly enough, small frankfurters, which are called wieners or Vienna sausages in the United States, and Wienerwurst in Germany, are known as frankfurters in Austria.) Leberwurst (made from liver) is a specialty of Hesse. Rinderwurst and Blutwurst (beef sausage and blood sausage) are Westphalian specialties and are often eaten with Steinhager (corn brandy).

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