While in London last week, I was lucky enough to get an invite to my first ever blogger event at Herman ze German, courtesy of the German Tourist Board. It was all part of their fab new 2015 campaign, #JoinGermanTradition, which aims to promote German heritage and culture to potential tourists.
Germany may not be the first place you think of when talking about culture and traditions, but in actual fact it has a rich heritage, a fascinating art scene, and – most important of all – delicious cuisine. It’s been on my radar for a while, and after last week I’m more excited than ever to start planning a trip to the land of bier, bratwurst, the Bechers (photographers), the Black Forest, and presumably hundreds more traditions all starting with B. Or other letters.
Throughout the evening, members of the team shared stories and facts relating to their own favourite traditions, and there’s plenty more information at germany.travel. From Denise we learnt about Green Sauce, a herby Frankfurt delicacy served with hard boiled eggs that looks disgusting (sorry Denise) but is apparently delicious, while Victoria talked about her first ever introduction to the German beer culture – seemingly far more friendly and civilised than the one we have here in England – at the Munich Oktoberfest. It was a great evening full of interesting facts and lovely company, and one which left me really interested in Germany’s traditions. Here’s a few of the ones which appeal most to me.
“Our wurst is ze best”. That’s how London-based German restaurant chain Herman ze German advertise, and they might be right! Serving up tons of traditional treats, including bratwurst, schnitzel, and German soda brand Fritz-Kola, this cosy London restaurant was the perfect place to meet and talk about German tradition. Which we did over lots of food, of course!
I ordered a bratwurst served in a roll and slathered in curry sauce. Traditional currywurst is served chopped in hot curry-tomato sauce, so this is a sort of hybrid version, but whatever it was – it was delicious. All Herman ze German’s sausages come from the Black Forest in Germany, and are reportedly all made by a man called Fritz who “has been making sausages since we were children”. The currywurst roll was epic, and has left me more keen than ever to go to Berlin – birthplace of currywurst, which was invented by Herta Heuwer after British soldiers gave her ketchup and curry powder. As we learnt from Klaus at the event, 800 million currywurst are eaten in Germany every year, so this is a seriously huge part of the culture!
Well, obviously! I’m a sweets fiend, so of course the traditional German lebkuchen hearts appeal to me. Similar to gingerbread, these cute iced hearts are made from honey, cloves and cinnamon, among other spices, and are always to be seen at German Christmas markets, Oktoberfest and other fairs.
Contemporary Art Scene
I mentioned it briefly already, but Germany is home to one of my favourite photographic movements, founded by Bernt and Hiller Becher and named after the Dusseldorf school of photography, where they taught. Among those influenced by the movement are Andreas Gursky and Candida Hofer, two of my favourites. It’s a scientifically deadpan and repetitive approach to photography which I love – I even tried to mimic it when photographing the trains at the Uyuni train cemetery in Bolivia last year – and it all comes from Dusseldorf. I did a photography degree (though you can’t really tell from my own work) and the theory and history of the art still continues to fascinate me.
Germany has a rich contemporary art culture, from incredible street art by the likes of Alias in Berlin, to amazing architecture in Frankfurt, to fascinating new projects and galleries like Asisi’s The Wall Panorama (which I read about on thetraveloguer.com today), so when I do visit – which will hopefully be after TBEX this year – that’s what I’ll be most excited to focus on.
I may not have heard of gemütlichkeit before, but it was no surprise to me that Germany loves to celebrate. There’s a reason why we love to recreate their Christmas traditions in England rather than our own, and why Oktoberfest is (almost) as big a deal here as it is there. Gemütlichkeit is one of those wonderful, impossible-to-translate German terms, which more or less describes a state of warmth and friendliness – a way to talk about good, warm, happy times. It’s a beautiful saying and it applies really well to a culture that’s all about good food, good drinks, and good friends. From it’s incredible festivals to it’s surprisingly strong wine industry (who knew Germany had 13 vineyards), this is a country that knows how to have a good time. And I want in!
Have you been to Germany? I want to hear all about it – so please leave a comment.
PS – Huge thanks to the German Tourist Board for hosting the event and for inviting me. It was a wonderful evening!