Normally, my passable handling of conversant German gets me far enough in a snack-joint (Imbiss) for a Döner or the gut-busting Dönerteller. On the infrequent occasion I’m inside a restaurant, it’ll be local German fare, much of which I’ve become accustomed while travelling within Germany since 2002.
The town or city hall in every city, town, or village is often accompanied by its own “Ratskeller” (Cellar) serving wine, beer, and food in an underground tavern. At the Speyer Ratskeller, a cold and wet Friday night is in full swing, the place packed with city residents filling all available tables and seats. My host apologizes for the wait, and I reply that it’s no problem. She suggests wine while I wait: definitely not a problem.
I squeeze into a table with eight other people, as large tables in places like these are communal. I greet the people in German, but I don’t say much more, because I feel like I’m butting in what clearly is a family outing. But I’m feeling good after having downed a glass of house red. I’m primed for a second glass of red, and I’m ready to eat.
I order something typically German and familiar: pork steak in pepper mushroom cream sauce, served with noodles and vegetables. Before I finish my main, the people at my table get up and leave; I bid them all a good evening and happy weekend in German. A meat, carb, and red wine combo requires something sweet to end the meal. I ask for fried apples with ice cream, and some hot green tea to help cleanse the palate.
I’m satisfied with my dinner experience, because
• of the atmosphere that’s German and familiar,
• of the food that’s German and familiar, and
• of my warm full belly which relaxes me completely despite the noise.
Back outside after 10pm, it’s quiet on the streets in this city of 50-thousand. The rain-slicked cobblestones glisten under the lamps, and in the distance the medieval Romanesque cathedral is bathed in golden light, providing the last visual of the day.