I’m often “home” in Heidelberg to visit friends who are in the city to work for the university or one of the many institutes in town. An important component for any visit to Heidelberg is Untere Strasse in the Altstadt (Lower Street in the Old Town). The narrow cobblestone street includes cafes, pubs, and shops with a neighbourhood feel attracting not only university students for “pub crawls” but also city residents for their favourite hangout spots.
Short sensory list
• Sights of the Weihnachtsmarkt: bright lights; Christmas pyramid; red and yellow stars; unveiling of the Backwaren (backed goods) made especially for the holiday season.
• Sounds of the Christmas market: the klang of full mugs distributed and empty ones collected, shouts of laughter from conversations scattered throughout the area.
• Smells and tastes of the Christmas market: candied almonds, cashews, and peanuts; roasted chestnuts; balls of fried dough with powdered sugar; mugs of hot mulled wine, available in several fruit flavours; grilled bratwurst; fried potato pancakes with apple sauce.
When the Christmas season brings out special baked goods, it’s time to pay attention. In Heidelberg, my favourite café in the university town doesn’t hold back as photos of the “Backwaren” (baked goods) show. There’s something for everybody at Café Gundel.
And on it goes: small lifetimes can be spent, seeing, smelling, and sampling the entire collection.
“This is like being in Istanbul,” my friend says, in between bites of his sandwich.
Ömer, his fiancée, and I are sitting on the south bank of the river Main in Frankfurt, Germany. We’re soaking the late-summer sun. The grassy meadows are full of people: some in animated conversation; some surrounded by a big spread of food, beer, and wine; others kicking the soccer ball back and forth with their children.
There’s a whole lot of happiness here, but there’s a long line of people, waiting to purchase food and drink at the boat parked by the riverbank.
We just left that very same line after waiting for an hour. What we’re eating now made the wait worthwhile.
Over the ten-plus years I’ve known Ömer, he’s never been wrong about food in Germany.
We each have a fried-fish sandwich: lightly fried fish in thin crispy batter, crunchy lettuce, slices of juicy tomato, stuffed in fresh soft Turkish bread. There’s a choice of Sardellen (anchovies), Makrelen (mackerel), or Doradenfilet (gilthead seabream). Ominade, freshly-squeezed lemonade according to Oma’s (Grandmother’s) recipe, is the right amount of sweet-tart, providing cool refreshment for our afternoon snack.
“The guy, the family who runs that boat, they’ve got this right, and I’ve gotta admit this feels like we’re on the Bosporus.”
High praise from Ömer: born in Istanbul, raised in Köln, and who’s gone back to know Istanbul very well in adulthood.
We’re silent over the next few minutes, chewing slowly and contemplating Istanbul. I’m realizing the obvious. If the food is any indication, I’m missing out; I’ve not yet visited Istanbul.
But right now, I’m eyeing that long line: I want another fried-fish sandwich and lemonade. But I don’t want to move; this is summer-like weather on an early-autumn afternoon on the bank of the river Main.
If you’re visiting Frankfurt am Main, make your way to the Main river to the boat called Meral’s Imbissboot (Meral’s Snack Boat). Naturally, they serve Döner, but their fried fish is too good not to try. Subject to weather conditions, the boat is open for service every day from noon to 11pm, between March and October.
Public transport: nearest U-Bahn station Willy-Brandt-Platz or Schweizer Platz.
I made the photos above on 3 October (German Reunification Day) 2011. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-4n5.
In 2001, I moved across the big Atlantic pond from Canada to Germany. Knowing only “bitte” (please) and “danke” (thank you), I flew sight unseen to Frankfurt am Main, followed by a shuttle-bus to the German university town of Heidelberg. I would live and work in Heidelberg for two years, and I couldn’t have known the experience would change my life.
Heidelberg is a favourite “hometown” which includes many memories of firsts.
Above/featured: Foreground: Vienna-style veal schnitzel with fries, lemon slices, capers, sardines. Background: Flammkuche with feta, green chiles, olives, onion. RheinZeit in Köln (2011).
“Leckeres Essen in Deutschland”
I began this 2011, and the collection of photos has grown to something more. I think food throughout Germany can be colourful and delicious, and can offer variety outside of the traditional “meat and starch” fare.
The photos you are about to see may cause drooling.