Category Archives: Germany

Germany – The Romantic Road

The Romantic Road in Germany is a marketing construct really – loosely based on an old Roman trade route through the southern provinces, but resurrected in the 1950s to promote tourism in post war Germany.

It stretches approximately 350kms from Warzburg in northern Bavaria, through to Fussen down near the Austrian Alps. It links some of Germany’s most beautiful medieval towns and cities, and each day it attracts busloads of tourists from around the world.

Romantic Road.3At the southern end the road includes the fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein, said to be what Walt Disney based his Fantasyland Castle on –

Fussen Castle2

Fantasy Land2

In November I drove a couple of hundred kilometers along the Romantic Road. I ticked off some of the major towns, including Warzburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbuhl and Augsburg. I hope to go back in the next year or so and complete the journey.

I started at the northern top of the road – Warzburg – at the central markets which are nestled in beside the town’s dramatic cathedral. In the true Bavarian tradition my first meal was a Bratwurst sausage hotdog with locally made mustard, all for €2.

Warzburg cathedral

hot Dog Stand int

Menu board

Hot Dogs

I’ve had hotdogs in Harlem in New York, at Pinks on La Brea in Los Angeles, I’ve had a cab driver take me around the scariest parts of southside Chicago looking for the definitive American hotdog, and I’ve driven through Krakow in Poland looking for the definitive Polish hotdog (never found – they don’t eat hotdogs in Poland!) and yet this Warzburg hotdog has to be the best I’ve had. Probably because the Warzburg sausage was so damn good.

Suitably nourished for my trip south, having eaten my three favourite food groups – bread, mustard, and hotdog – I headed down to my next stop, Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Trees

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the kind of town you see on biscuit tin lids. Its perfect in every way. The old town lies within ancient walls, and is largely free of traffic. The buildings have been beautifully restored, and the town probably contains more Americans per square meter than Dodger Stadium.

Rothenburg door

Rothenburg is famous for its Schneeballes, or snowballs, which are rolled biscuits containing plum schnaps, deep-fried and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. They have a long shelf-life and are sold all over the town, often as souvenirs.

Snowball Snowballs

Suitably nourished from my Rothenburg snowballs, containing three of my favourite food groups – sugar, flour, and deep-fry – I then headed further south to Dinkelsbuhl.

Dinkelsbuhl is so romantic it’s the kind of place where you just want your buhls dinkelled.

bottles

Dinner in Dinkelsbuhl consisted of duck with grapes and croutons and sticks of roasted potatoes, followed by strudel, all washed down with Weissbeir.

Duck

Strudel

Weissbeir

Suitably nourished by my three favourite food groups – duck, strudel and weissbeir – I then headed further south to my last stop on the Romantic Road – Augsburg.

Augsburg was established by the Romans in 15BC because it was on a trade route through to Italy, but it’s perhaps most notable Wikipedia entry is that it was the home of the Messerschmitt aircraft factory, supplying German fighter planes during World War 2.

I didn’t see much of Augsburg because I headed straight to Dichtl’s.

Dichtl ext

Dichtl is a pastry joint I could live in. I would be prepared to take up German residency to live in Dichtl’s. I would hide in the bathrooms during the day and come out at night, like a rat. I would forage, and be prepared to forgo my other favourite food groups to embrace my new three favourite food groups – cake, cake, and cake.

white cake green cake

Red Cake.2

Red cake int.

Dichtl’s is also a fabulous chocolate shop – all hand made of course. And in November, they had all their Christmas stuff out…

Goldenengel Chocolate Christmas trees

Chocolate santas

I had to leave the Romantic Road. I was getting fat. Too many damn favourite food groups.

I’ll go back and complete the journey. I want to get to the Fantasyland castle. See if I can find Tinkerbell… there’s things we need to discuss. Like did she invent fairy floss?

Tinkerbell 2

Bavaria – Worms Roadhouse…

I believe a roadhouse defines a country.

In America for instance, the roadhouses serve apple pie and donuts and breakfasts of waffles and maple syrup that come in at 2,000 calories. You can have eggs any which way, hash browns, and bacon that looks like it’s been struck by lightning.

breakfast7 breakfast 6 breakfast 4breakfast 8

You are served by waitresses that are straight out of all the American movies you’ve ever seen. Think Five Easy Pieces and Jack Nicholson. The waitresses work hard for their tip. But let’s not mention that they pour completely undrinkable American coffee.

Five Easy Pieces sc

Then in France there’s the L’Arches, which literally arch over the motorways that crisscross the country.

L'Arche.1

You can have a gourmet meal in one of these very strange architectural feats. Cassoulets or duck confit with freshly fried pommes frites, hams and charcuteries and of course cheeses of a standard you’d find on sale in Fauchon on the Champs-Elysees .

Oh yes, and the bathrooms have bidets. Of course they do.

It Italy the roadhouses have bathrooms that should be nuked.

Italio cow

But they also have amazing pastas and pizzas, which compensate somewhat. In an Italian roadhouse you can buy rosaries from Lourdes and pornographic postcards from Russia. While imbibing the most exquisite coffee you’ll find in any roadhouse anywhere in the world, you have to keep an eye out for your car in the parking lot in case someone tries to bust in and steal all your belongings.

That’s Italy.

Then there’s Germany.

Precise, ordered, efficient, meticulous, rigorous, Germany.

Germany, that makes Mercedes Benz cars and Leica cameras and Zeiss optics. Germany, that has an economy that keeps most of the rest of Europe functioning. Germany, where you can set your watch to the trains because they always run on time, down to the second. Germany, where you can fit out your bathroom with a shower that will give you water temperature down to half a degree Celcius.

Germany, where the roadhouses are completely and utterly weird.

Worms is a town that I had to visit. How could you not visit a town called Worms? You would regret it always if you drove past Worms and didn’t pop in.

Worms was an important stop on an ancient trade route across Europe. It vies for being the oldest city in Germany. And on it’s outskirts it has a roadhouse, catering to modern day travelers on their way across Europe.

Ext Worms Roadhouse

I judge roadhouses on the number of trucks outside. The Worms Roadhouse had about forty big mothers parked in the lot out front. I figure if forty German truckdrivers choose the Worms Roadhouse to stop, then it’s got to be worth a look –

Segafredo

The first thing I notice as I walk in is a very impressive coffee bar – an Italian coffee bar. Segafredo. This is a good start, because German coffee sits only marginally above American coffee in drinkability rankings.

Germans don’t do coffee – they do beer.

NordSee

Then I notice a big NordSee section, where you can buy North Sea stuff, like cod and smoked salmon and other marine life pulled from those freezing waters. NordSee is the McDonalds of fish & chips in Germany.

Roadhouse sitting area

Roadhouse sweets

I then notice that the place is immaculate. There’s a capacious sitting section where you can just – sit. And racks of sweet goodies that are perfectly in order. Nothing out of place. So too the pre-made rolls and sandwiches. Everything has been carefully and precisely put out on display.

Rolls

You suspect that salmonella doesn’t abide here.

It wouldn’t dare.

But then again, there’s probably no flavor in the food either. Flavor after all is arbitrary. Subjective. And so by definition, imprecise. In this roadside temple of exactitude, imprecision is verboten!

Sausages in roadhouse Roadhouse Schnitzel

The food they’re cooking though looks yummy. Bavarian sausages, pork roasts, schnitzel, roasted potatoes. Good solid German fare for forty German truckdrivers, all at reasonable prices. I look around for the forty German truckdrivers but can’t see them.

Perhaps they’ve all gone to the restroom.

The restrooms are downstairs.

This in itself makes me suspicious.

I’ve never been to a roadhouse where the toilets are downstairs. Usually they’re out the back, or behind the office, or in a separate block or shed where you need a key, supplied spitefully by the person who just swiped your card for $85 for fuel, as if resenting that at the end of his or her shift, he or she will have to clean the putrid mess that you made.

Here the toilets were downstairs.

Why?

I walk down, the stairs immaculate. I consider dirtying them. Dropping some rubbish perhaps, or better still, cleaning out my nasal passages with a sharp snort which would have the contents sling-shoting onto a shiny wall where it would cling there tenaciously in all its disgusting glory.

But then I think my desecration would be probably be caught on a security camera and I would be imprisoned for lacking precision.

I walk down to the toilets, aware now that my need is more than just one of curiosity. I did actually want to avail myself of the urinals. But then I realize that … I have to pay.

Toileet entryentry machine

PAY?

PAY TO USE THE BATHROOMS AT A ROADHOUSE?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I can’t believe it. This is the first roadhouse I’ve ever been, anywhere in the world, where I have to pay to use the toilets. And it’s not cheap either. €0.70. That’s about US$1.

It’s not the amount of money that bugs me – I can afford it. It’s the principle. Why should I have to pay to use the toilets in a roadhouse? I notice that they offer a deal – if you pay the €0.70 to use the toilet, then you get a €0.50 discount on a €3 cup of coffee upstairs at the Segafredo coffee bar.

That’s cool. So it only costs €0.20 to use the bathrooms.

If I buy a €3 cup of coffee.

But I don’t want a cup of coffee. €3 or otherwise. Because if I had the cup of coffee, I’d want to use the toilets again. So I would then have to pay another €0.70. And then to justify the outlandish cost, I’d then go back upstairs again to have ANOTHER cup of coffee. For €3. And then I’d have to go to the toilet again. And pay another €0.70.

I could imagine myself being there all night. Going up and down those immaculate stairs, between the toilets and the Segafredo coffee bar.

I paid the €0.70 and went inside.

It was like I’d walked onto a set in a Stanley Kubrick movie. Think A Clockwork Orange.

Urinals WS

The urinals were… precise. Cold and precise. And of course they were spotlessly clean. No cigarette butts in these beauties. No wads of chewing gum. No little yellow puddles in the toilet bowls that hadn’t as yet been dispatched to the North Sea.

Nope – if you pay €0.70 you get hygiene with a capital H.

Urimat

This is thanks to a contraption attached to each urinal, called a Urimat. Urimat is made by Sanifair. Sanifair as a name just makes you want to smile, doesn’t it.

Smiling, I wonder what a Urimat does. I consider that it might automatically make me urinate, but when nothing happens I dismiss that possibility. I’m momentarily disappointed that precise German engineering hasn’t yet delved that far into helping us all live full productive lives, our bladders automatically emptied.

Presumably a Urimat, made by Sanifair, sanitizes your urine – fairly – before it disappears into the North Sea. I must admit I could suddenly start to see value in my €0.70. I was using a Urimat. It looked expensive. The product of precise German engineering. All this to clean my urine.

I feel good about this, and immediately I feel ashamed for thinking that the roadhouse had ripped me off €0.07.

Toilet screens

I notice as well there are large black screens separating each urinal. This presumably so that the truckdrivers don’t peak at other truckdrivers penises. I wonder if this is something particularly German. I make a note that I should look into this further.

I use the urinal, thankful for the screen – although I was alone.

I wonder where the forty truckdrivers are.

As I walk out I notice something on the wall. A vending machine. I wander over, curious to see if it dispenses hair combs, or dental floss, or antiseptic.

Vending machine

No – it dispenses penis rings.

This is probably where  the truckdrivers are – in the cubicles trying on their penis rings.

Vibrat PR

I notice that some of the penis rings actually have inbuilt vibrators. My goodness the Germans are inventive! I would calmly state here that I’ve lived a full and colorful life, but I’ve never heard of a penis ring with a vibrator.

Perhaps I should get out more.

The dispenser can also provide a German truckdriver with a travel vibrator. I wonder why a dispensing machine in a men’s toilet would have a travel vibrator. Is this to make the long kilometers on the autobahns more enjoyable for the truckdrivers? Where would they place it? Or insert it? And does it need batteries? Are the batteries included?

I wonder if you buy a penis ring or a travel vibrator, do you get a discount voucher for coffee?

I walk upstairs. I hear a loud crash, and see that the magazine rack has crashed down and spilled magazines everywhere, all across the floor.

The roadhouse manager rushes over, his face pale. He looks at the chaos, distraught. This was not how his life was meant to go.

As I walk out to my car, I smile. Not because of the Urimat, but because I viciously drop an icecream wrapper on the ground as I get into my rental. I revel in my celebration of chaos.

Coke and glasses