The citizens of Bremen say: "Een beten veel un een beten good." This is a typical saying which means: "Eat a lot and eat well".
The diversity of landscape of Lower Saxony is one of its strengths: a lake stone cast from the beautiful Weserbergland Mountain lies in the dark forests of the Harz Mountain.
The Federal Republic of Germany is the main industrial country situated in Central Europe that represents a union of 16 federal states. It is the 7th country in Europe by size, occupying an area of 356 970 km2 and having a population of approx. 82 million.
Its landscape varies from the northern low, flat shores of the North and Baltic Seas, over the central part with picturesque hills and river valleys, to the snow-covered Alps in the south.
Different factors have played a role in determining local specialties of a particular region or state, such as the fruits of the soil and the level of prosperity. The influences of cuisines of the neighboring countries are also recognizable: Czech and Austrian cuisines have influenced the Bavarian cuisine, while the influence of the Scandinavian countries and Great Britain is noticeable in the north of the country.
The main ingredients found in all German states, from the shores of the North and Baltic Seas to the bottom of the Alps in the south, are basically the same, so that the differences rest on details. In that way, each federal state has its own historical, cultural and culinary identity.
Distinctive features of federal states
Niedersachsen (Donja Saska)
There’s a good reason why Thuringen is not only known as the region of boiled dumplings, cakes and sautéed sausages, but also as the green heart of Germany. In the Thuringen basin, on a land rich in limestone, people grow wheat, turnip and sugar beet, while the highly praised barley used for the production of beer is grown at the feet of the mountains. Vegetables are grown around the regional center, Erfurt, and also on the western edge of the Thuringen basin. Cauliflower, cabbage, broad beans, onions and cucumbers are grown in east Thuringen.
Many important people have stayed here and left their marks in the development of this area. Martin Luther translated the New Testament on the Wartburg Mountain near Eisenach. Hegel, Fichte and Schelling founded the University of Jena. Bach composed his music in Weimar, a city that became the centre of German classicism in the 18th century, in the time of Goethe and Schiller. Weimar has also had a great influence on the culinary habits. It is said that Napoleon’s troops took with them the recipe for the Weimar Pie, a pie made from onions that has later transformed into the widely known Quiche Lorraine.
Leipzig, the old city of fairs, universities and the publishing activity, is the business center of Saxony, however the most representative city of this state is definitely Dresden. Gradually the main city of the region, completely destroyed in bombings during the 2nd World War, has transformed into a city described as Baroque Florence on the Elbe River. The Zwinger (baroque complex of pavilions) and the Semperoper (opera house) were rebuilt, and the Frauenkirche was restored. At the beginning of the 18th century, August Silni turned the city into a European art and cultural center. J. S. Bach worked in Leipzig as choir director. The Concert Hall Orchestra was founded in 1743.
The customs and cuisine are marked by the tradition of the Luzice Serbs, whereas the influence of the Czech cuisine in the area of the Zittlau Mountains in Lower Silesia is unquestionable. As far as food is concerned, Saxony is a synonym for Dresden Stollen (type of cake), Leipziger Allerlei (mixed vegetables), coffee and an abundance of sweet cakes and pastry. To get rid of the sugar these sweet delicacies are so rich in, there is the "Leipzig pepper grinder", a lively cabaret, a good old tradition of Leipzig that spices up the political scene.
A young political region with rich historical heritage and legends. Kings, artists and thinkers have shaped the entire nation. In 919 the Saxon ruler Heinrich was crowned King of Germany in Quedlingburg. Later in the 10th century, under the reign of Otto I, Magdeburg grew into one of the largest Christian cities in the world, while the great theological reformer, Martin Luther, shocked the entire world with his 95 theses which he nailed onto the Wittenberg Church door. Saxony-Anhalt was also the host to numerous writers and musicians known outside Germany, such as Goethe, Heine, Fontane, Telemann, Bach, Händel and Schutz. Regardless of the differences between the inhabitants, the best way to wake up the feeling of belonging is to satisfy the palate.
The people of Saxony-Anhalt are united by their pride and fruits of the soil: sugar and grains from the fertile fields surrounding Magdeburg, Bord, onions from Calba, asparagus and milk from Altmark, apricots, wine and Champaign from the Saale-Unstrut region or cheeses from the Harz Mountains. To restore the value of the regional food, creative kitchen chefs are doing their best to restore old recipes as the foundation for making nutritious and healthy dishes.
With its glorious avenues, historical buildings and large park spaces, Berlin is a beautiful city, and also the capital of Germany. What the visitors will soon note about the citizens of Berlin is that they enjoy small snacks between meals because, as Kurt Tucholsky nicely put it, the people of Berlin have no time. Berlin cuisine is simple and healthy: a solid, meager feast that reveals the influences of various cuisines that have been brought throughout centuries by various groups of immigrants. Berlin has been a sanctuary for victims of religious prosecution for centuries: 50 Jew families came from Vienna in 1671 and 1 000 French Huguenots after 1685. Their salads, diverse vegetables, sausages and fricasee recipes have forever enriched the urban cuisine.
When the German Empire was founded in 1871, the capital of Prussia became the capital of Germany. The speed at which the urban industry was developing at the time attracted people from various parts of the country, especially from Pomerania and Silesia. Urban cultural life bloomed in 1920s. Berlin developed in an avant-guard mecca, a legendary gathering place of artists and intellectuals. This period ended with the 2nd World War, after which the city was divided by the Berlin Wall, closing off the east and the west parts of Berlin. With the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the unification of West and East Germany, a new chapter in history began.
Numerous pine forests and large lakes, roads surrounded by trees and villages with traditional houses are the predominant landscape scenes of this flat, rarely inhabited region. Although the official statistics say that there are 86 people per 1 km2, Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg, has a population of only 137 000. Brandenburg used to be the centre of Prussia. Potsdam was its most important military city. Its distinctive cultural feature is the Sanssouci Palace, built by Friedrich II. Other important sights include the gardens near Cottbus, designed by Count Puckler-Muskau, and the idyllic city of Rheinsberg.
The boundaries of Brandenburg have changed throughout history: in 1815 Altmark went to Saxony, and after the 2nd World War most of the east territory of Brandenburg near the Odra and Nisa Rivers went to Poland. In spite of this fact, the people of Brandenburg have preserved their identity. They would not be annexed to Berlin in 1996 at any cost. Nevertheless, the cuisines of Berlin and Brandenburg have lot in common. The regions surrounding Berlin supply the city with fish, game, fruit and vegetables. Quark, cottage cheese with flax oil and potatoes is one of the authentic specialties of the region, while the turnip from Teltow, pickled cucumbers form Spreewald and asparagus from Beelitz are well-known outside their regional boundaries.
Even today, many centuries and two political systems after, the landscape of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern reflects a feeling of natural peace and serenity. Its lakes and rivers, the Baltic coast, sea coves and the Haff freshwater lagoons on the border with Poland, make 10% of the entire territory of this region. The fertile land is cultivated by 4000 farmers. Grains, potatoes, rooty vegetables and cattle feed are grown on 1.5 million hectares of fertile land. Mecklenburg, with its thousand-year-old history, became a large county in 1815. On the other hand, Vorpommern had been part of the Prussian territory before it was annexed to Germany.
For centuries these two regions have been known for their contrasts. The Baltic coast with the Rugen and Hiddensee Islands attracted poets and painters; the citizens of Wismar, Rostock, Stralsund, Greifswald, Demmin and Anklam developed trade relations with the Scandinavian countries. For a long period of time, parts of the region were under the Swedish rule that historically influenced the region’s cuisine as well. A distinct feature of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern cuisine are sweet-sour tastes. Generally speaking, the cuisine of the region could simply be characterized as nutritious and practical.
This state, that lies between two seas, was politically unified as recently as in 1946. Before that time, the history of the region had been confusing, characterized by wars, voluntary divisions and foreign domination. The region was under the Danish rule for a long period of time. It was later inherited by the Prussians, even Austria and the city of Hamburg. Many cities, such as Lubeck and Flensburg, profited from these political conflicts, leaving the country however poor, with agriculture and fishing as the main activities ensuring sustenance.
This, of course, had an influence on the region’s cuisine as well. The ingredients served on the table were mostly local. The meals were rich and served in large quantities - goulash, ham, large dumplings and all kinds of fish. In ancient times, people needed a lot of energy because of the harsh climate and hard labor in open air. Although todays cuisine also depends on the land, just like it does in other areas, the intake of fat has been reduced, and the dishes have become lighter.
Despite the fact that it is a port, Hamburg is not situated by the sea. The Elbe River, on which the city lies, runs along a stretch of more than 100 km before forming a delta. The city has more than 1.6 million inhabitants and is one of the historical trade cities. It has a small lake in the centre, enclosed internal watercourses, Alster Lakes and more channels than Venice. Historically speaking, its connections with the Baltic and the North Sea are of great importance for ensuring a dynamic communication with the world. Hamburg’s merchants established significant contacts with London, the leading world trade centre, so that, in the early days of colonization, Hamburg was in the position, more than any other German city, to enjoy the world’s food resources. The sailing ships of the East India Company used to bring spices, tea, coffee and tobacco, as well as information about distant countries and recipes. The people of Hamburg like to enjoy the taste of food, so that, when food and drink are in question, money is no object. "In Hamburg one can eat in the English, French or German style."
The citizens of Bremen say: "Een beten veel un een beten good." This is a typical saying which means: "Eat a lot and eat well" - which shows just how the quantity of food and drink is important to them. This is a kind of paradox though, since the people of Bremen are known as quite economical people. One way or the other, the tables are always rich, whether for a special occasion like the Schaffermahl, a family celebration or a simple meal regardless of the time of day. Bremen is a city of sailors and merchants, open to the world and its long history: it has been the centre of the diocese since 787. In 1947 Bremen and Bremerhaven formed the German state.
The closeness of the sea has resulted in the love for fish, and the close connection with the surrounding nature has developed an affinity towards a rustic feast. Trading activities ensured contacts with the wide world and readiness to try new, excellent and exotic food. As opposed to their lavishness as far as food was concerned, the councilors and merchants of Bremen were stingy when it came to art. This was a place where barrels with oil were more praised than oils on canvas, and banknotes were worth more than music scores. In spite of that, the citizens of Bremen are pleasant and hospitable, enriching with their manners their rich tables. They still celebrate a good deal with a bottle or two of wine in the restaurant beneath the Rathaus called "Ratskeller". They do not celebrate abundantly - God does not allow that - but enjoying quietly ... in the Bremen style.
Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony)
The diversity of landscape of Lower Saxony is one of its strengths: a lake stone cast from the beautiful Weserbergland Mountain lies in the dark forests of the Harz Mountain. The lovers of nature will enjoy the Luneberg Heath even when it is not covered by late-summer flowers. Finally, the North Sea and its islands, the destinations of people craving peace and refreshment for over 200 years, have a special, simple charm. The most amazing are the houses with wooden frames filled with brick, not only those found in Einbeck, the city of beer, and Celle. Many villages still have a special charm about them with their picturesque straw roofs. Churches and houses built by more wealthy people were often real works of art made of dark-red bricks.
Traditional specialties of the region between the Ems and Elbe Rivers are simple and rich: kale with Pinkel sausage, Harzer cheese and sausages from the Brunswich region. Specialties like these match with their regional authenticity the character of the local national anthem in which people of this country sing of themselves as of "the turbulently fast and solid roots bound to the earth". The newcomers to the region, in which people still use the Lower German dialect and are not very sociable, often complain about the stubborn nature of the locals. On the other hand, they must admit that, once the trust of the locals is earned, it is permanent and does not rest solely on drinking brandy, a drink enjoyed throughout Saxony, together.
Nordrhein-Westfalen is a region created on the basis of a decision of the occupation forces, but there are, however, close historical connections between these two regions. The landscapes are the same, although the Westfallen region has higher mountains. Sauerland is situated in the south of the region. Small towns with their own characters are lined up along the Weser River with the beautiful Munsterland Castle. Still, the main regional attraction is the architecture of its urban areas, created in the time of the Romans and represented by the architectonic glory of the Cologne Cathedral and a church with a monastery in Aachen. The lively Rurh region is the most important part of Nordrhein-Westfalen.
The customs related to food are also the subject of inter-regional distrust since the regions are generally very similar, however not so when it comes to food. The inhabitants of the Nordrhein region often put down the inhabitants of the Westfalen region because of the rich nature of their feasts, whereas the people of Westfalen criticize the people of Nordrhein because of their accent on sweet&sour combinations. Maybe there is some truth in their prejudices. The top-quality fermented Rhein beer is very popular, a proof of simple life. The Westfalen farmers stress that their cuisine is natural because it rests on the locally-grown domestic animals and grains, while the citizens of Nordrhein let themselves fall under external influences.
The people of northern Hessen are, historically speaking, used to poorly fertile soil and poverty, and have not very much in common with the people of southern Hessen, spoiled by the sun and the rich Rhein valley. This difference is, of course, reflected in the cuisines of these regions as well. While the northerners tried to make the best of their potatoes, the southerners followed the trends brought by the merchants passing through the region. Therefore, one needs not be surprised to find out that the two specialties that Hessen put on its culinary map are the green sauce and Frankfurt sausages. The cuisine was largely influenced by Frankfurt, a rich metropolis, and by Wiesbaden, a city where the Roman thermal baths used to be and that became the capital of Hessen. Its influence is continuously spreading towards the south. The northerners are not very talkative; the stereotype of "garrulous citizens of Hessen" refers to the southerners. Rich in forests, Hessen is surrounded by fertile vineyards in the west, and fascinating moors in the east. This is a country that offers a feast for the eyes, as well as a feast for the palate.
Metaphorically speaking, two hundred years of good-living are reflected in the wine glasses and cooking pots of the region of central Rhein River and its confluences. The region has been under the invasions of numerous war troops from the time of Caesar onward, and almost all occupation forces have left the traces of their countries of origin behind them, including numerous culinary specialties. The most important mark left by the Romans is the vine-growing tradition on the shores of Rosel. In the Middle Ages, other cities and towns such as Speyer, Worms and Kaiserslautern grew, were becoming historically significant places, while the Rheinland region between Bingen and Koblenz, with its castles and churches, reached a status of a cultural center.
In the 19th century famine occurred, and those that did not emigrate lived on bread and potatoes. However, necessity is the mother of innovation, so that many potato recipes originate from that period. During the decades when locals had very little food to live on, the Rheinland region became a summer destination for English and Prussian tourists, attracted by the romantic tradition of the Rhein region. In the 20th century, however, the historical connections and common folk customs of the state’s geographical regions, namely Westerwald, Eifel, Hunsruck, Rhinhessen and Palatinate, were joined to form a cultural and culinary identity.
Strings of cultivated fields and industrial plants characterize the hilly landscape of Saarland on the border with France, where the coal mines and metallurgy were very significant during the 19th century. Whether living in coal mine environments or agricultural settlements, the workers grew their own fruit and vegetables. Potato was the main foodstuff on the daily menu and is still a very important element of present-day cuisine of the Saarland region. There is one more product that is equally simple and known far outside its regional borders: the Lyon sausage. The natural beauties such as, for example, the Saar Oxbow River near Mettlach, and a large number of industrial monuments belong to the region’s cultural heritage, just like the churches, castles and palaces. One of such castles is theAlte Volklinger Hutte, an old foundry proclaimed by UNESCO a part of the world’s cultural heritage in 1994 and as visited as the Late Baroque church in Saarbruchen, the capital of Saarland. Saarland is the youngest of all the federal states, established in 1959, and the regional relations with the neighboring France have influenced its cuisine in that it has acquired the lightness and freshness of French cuisine.
"The food is sweet and there are plenty good things there,", said Goethe in his work called Reineke Fuchs. "Plenty of good things " really do mark this region surrounded by the Rhein, Neckar, Danube and Lech Rivers. These rivers characterize both Wurtemberg and Baden, as well as the food these regions produce: fruit and vegetables from the area surrounding Lake Constance, domestic animals from the rich valley of the Hohenlohe region, cabbage from the fields near Stuttgart, juicy asparagus from Schwertzingen situated in the north of Baden, as well as the ham and cherry brandy from Schwarzwald.
Solid, complete meals dominate the cuisines of both regions of Baden-Wurtemberg, although Baden is known for greater sophistication and finesse, which is probably a result of the influence of their French neighbors. They have a lot in common, and not only in the domain of food and drink. For centuries, the history of Baden-Wurtemberg was problematic and painful. Only a small number of people profited from the rich land secured by the Kingdom of Wurtemberg and the Duke of Baden. The poor could not live from the beauty of the landscape in the idyllic valley of the Neckar River or the Markgrafler Land called by Johann Peter Hebbel a "small garden of eden". In spite of these historical events, the citizens of Baden are people who enjoy life. One way or the other, all of them can work hard and, above all, practically. As a result of that, together they have built something that no one could have predicted: the German model of a federal state, being not only the first among the states in terms of industrial export, but also in the number of star-classified restaurants.
The well-known "Hofbräuhaus" (a beerhouse), Munich Oktoberfest, Lederhosen, 1l beer mugs, romantic, fairytale castles, Baroque glitter in the background of the impressive Alps create a typical image of Bavaria. In fact, this image has become a synonym for international popularity of Germany as a whole. Of course, there is some truth in this image: enjoyment of a pleasant life, deeply rooted feeling of tradition and simple piety are what characterizes the people of Bavaria, the pride of all inhabitants of Germany. This ideal image is far from reality, however, especially in the geographical sense.
The largest state in the Federal Republic of Germany includes Lower and Upper Bavaria, as well as Lower, Central and Upper Franken and Schwaben. "Munich is a shining light", wrote Thomas Mann, but it is not the only star in the starry Bavarian sky. The state is also proud to have Passau, Augsburg, Regensburg, Nurnberg, Wurzburg and Wagner’s city, Bayreuth, to name only a few centers that have a history and culture behind them. Bavarian cuisine is rich as is its landscape and its world-famous beer. Bavarian specialties include: roast pork, roughly-cut meat loaf known as the Leberkäse (literally "liver cheese") and Weisswurst, "white sausage" made from veal.
- From over 1 200 breweries found across Germany (from the North Sea to the Alps) about 5 000 various types of beer are made.
- The diversity is not found only in German beer however, but in the ingredients as well, from fresh fish from traditional Hamburg fish stores to potatoes - fruits (apples) of the soil - served since the 18th century as salted boiled potatoes, in stews or as a round flat cake.
- For breakfast or brunch people eat one of the 300 types of healthy bread. Already in ancient times, German bakers were famous for their small and tasty bread products.
- Between meals people like to drink natural mineral water, pumped from 550 sources across the country.
- However, before the drop of wine touches the palate, the eye catches the sight of a tastefully and esthetically decorated table. Namely, a tastefully selected set of eating utensils is an important element of Germany cuisine. Germany is proud of its ceramics producers, glass manufacturers, mints… the master works of which used to decorate the tables of houses of kings and emperors.