Lost in translation @ Augsburg

Ok, Augsburg did defy our expectation. We were vaguely imagining the place to be crammed with medieval buildings, cobbled streets, gothic churches and so on. Instead, we found the city kind of modern and rather ordinary.

Sure, we shouldn’t have expected every town and city on Romantic Road to be “picture on a biscuit box” perfect, all pretty and picturesque. However, our first impression of the city was…, grey!

A distance between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Augsburg, was about 186km (116mls) and Google map suggested the journey would take 1 hour 44 minutes. Don’t you agree that satnav always underestimates journey time? In fact, the route using A7 and A8 and then to the city centre using R2 took us almost 4 hours!

When we arrived at our hotel in Augsburg, it was almost 3:30 pm. Bizarrely, I was met by no one at the reception except a workman with a paint brush gesturing me to call a number on the wall, ‘Chef! Chef!’ You mean am I to call your boss??? I picked up the phone and dialled the number. A man’s voice answered and I explained that we were hotel guests and wanted to check in. The man on the line assured me that we would be with us shortly and also show me where to park our car. Sure enough, a middle-aged man arrived after 5 minutes and introduced himself as Albert. He owned the hotel and a beer garden nearby. He explained that he was away from the reception because the beer garden needed his attention before opening that evening.

The room we were to stay over night wasn’t that great. It was clean and the bathroom seemed to be redecorated recently, however, the bed was a bit saggy and the closet was full of tired-looking wire laundry hangers (the one you get from a dry-cleaner!) and shop hangers instead of proper wooden ones you would normally expect in hotel closets. Oh dear…

‘I don’t like English breakfast!’ I thought that was what Albert said when I went to the reception the second time for a password for their Wi-Fi. I was like ‘??? You don’t like English breakfast??’ First of all, I hadn’t come across anyone ever who didn’t like English-style fry up. And why is he telling me this? Is it because I live in London?? It was Albert’s turn to be startled, ‘Oh, I like English breakfast. I used to live in Britain!’

Then, it dawned on me. ‘Do you mean “Brexit”?’ ‘Yes, Brexit!’ His English with a heavy German accent made “Brexit” sounded like “breakfast”. Hahaha.

I told him that I was as gutted as him about the UK leaving Europe. We both agreed Brexit and Donald Trump were complete disasters…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Xmas shopping in June

Apart from their immaculately restored mediaeval townscape, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is famous for Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Village. This all-year Christmas store has two shops on Harrngrasse, off Marktplaz.

‘I think I’m gonna find some gifts for my close friends at Käthe Wohlfahrt.’, mum told me as we had our German breakfast.

By the way, we loved German-style breakfast – a buffet style breakfast consisted of various breads, cheeses, cold meats, jams, cereals, juice, yoghurt, salad and fruits – very much! I also introduced mum to blue cheese during a breakfast buffet at Strasbourg as the cheese was packed with gut-friendly bacteria. At first, she was not very keen on “cheese with mould”. However, she grew to like it by the end of our road trip. Our favourite way of eating the cheese was to have it with a thinly sliced German-style rye bread. They were delish!

After breakfast, we checked out of our room at 9:30. I asked at the reception if we could continue to park our car in their car park while we were sightseeing because we couldn’t see much of the town the previous day due to our late arrival. The receptionist replied, ‘Of course! You can park all day if you want.’ How nice! We liked the town even more.

The sunshine was beating the streets already. I had got a feeling that it was going to be another sizzling day…

Rothenburg was full of gift shops!

Mum loved a linen shop which was laden with house accessories such as cushions, pillow cases, tea towels, handkerchieves, Christmas ornaments, etc. All of them were beautifully hand embroidered and some of them were heavenly scented with locally produced lavender. ‘How do I look?’ Mum picked up one of the hand embroidered t-shirts and asked my opinion. She didn’t expect the weather to be this hot, therefore, she needed a few new tops. The t-shirt was made with organic cotton and looked very flattering on her. ‘Yeah mum, it’s a definite buy!’ So she bought it.

Marktplaz was filling up with tourists…

There was a fountain which we overlooked the previous day…

Mum with a cute company car of Käthe Wohlfahrt which reminded me of a Harrod’s delivery van…

Mum with their all year around Christmas tree…

No photography was allowed beyond this point, therefore, I have no image of this Aladdin’s Cave for Christmas lovers. Describing it in one word, the store was HUGE. Every available space, such as walls and shelves and even some floors were utilised to display everything “Christmas”. Despite it was in the middle of June and nearly 28°C outside, being on the comfortably air-conditioned shop floor with never ending Christmas tune ringing in our ears, we felt like the festive season was just around the corner, not six months away!

Mum pondered for a long time what to buy for her friends. ‘No chocolate because they’re gonna melt. No tree ornament because they’re too fragile and bulky…’ Oh, she was in trouble. Then, we came to a department selling advent calendars. ‘How about them?’ I suggested mum to get those fun calendars for her friends. Since advent calendars were a part of the German Christmas traditions, they would be most appropriate and space-saving souvenirs! She agreed and we picked altogether 15 sheets, including one for herself.

When we left the shop, it was nearly eleven and the sun was high…

Before leaving the town, mum wanted to visit the shop we came across last evening…

There were many small wooden toys and ornaments in their show windows. ‘Shall we go in?’

We found a woman at the till / worktop busy assembling one of her Christmas table ornaments. She explained that all the items in her shop were made by her and her husband. Mum and I agreed that we wanted a souvenir for ourselves which was truly “Made in Germany” since Rothenburg used to be a town well-known for their craftmen and artisans. We chose a Christmas table ornament with a Santa Claus, a reindeer and a tree arranged on a small rectangular dais. ‘This will remind me about the fun we had together.’ Mum smiled.

Now, we must get back to the car and head to our next destination!

Eww, I’ve got a feeling that our car will be scorching hot by now. How am I gonna touch the steering wheel with my naked hands…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Rothenburg in dusk

One thing I totally misjudged about our road trip was the amount of time it would require if we wanted to visit every single town along Romantic Road. I thought we could get away with visiting several towns a day while we were en route from Würzburg to Füssen in four days.

After we had the fiasco between Würzburg and Rothenburg, it was decided that we would rather visit one place at a time and spend a quality time there than skim through a few places in a hurry and end up passing most of the time in a car.

Following is a list of the towns we gave up visiting: Tauberbischofsheim, Lauda, Bad Mergentheim, Creglingen, Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen, Harburg, Donauwörth, Landsberg, Schongau and Pfaffenwinkel. You see, I should have allocated a week at least if we were to explore Romantische Straße properly…

Ok, let’s get back to the moment right after we bid farewell to the Japanese gentleman at Cafe Walter Friedel.

We found Marktplaz almost emptied of tourists…

Apart from restaurants and cafes, all the shops were closed…

We decided to have gelato at one of ice cream parlour on Rödergrasse…

We sat on the steps of one of the souvenir shop and watched the passers-by who also appeared to be tourists like us while we ate our dessert…

Once we finished the gelato, we resumed our evening stroll.

What a pretty dress! Mum was delighted to see a little girl’s dress in the window…

Anyone fancy some Lederhosens for little boys and Dirndl dress for little girls?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Snowball in June

No, it was not a real snowball but a pastry named as Schneeball (snowball), which was the most famous sweet in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. And I forgot to taste it!

I blame the heat wave, which was upon us throughout our road trip, for making me to miss out on this local delicacy. It was simply too hot to have any appetite for a fist-size fat-fried donut with sugar. Instead, I craved for ice cream (and beer).

Awww, Scheebälle! I want you now…

Are they like Krispy Kreme?

The history of these pastries is very long – they have been known to exist for at least 300 years. They were meant to be served on special occasions such as weddings, however, they became famed local delicacies and started to be available throughout the year.

The main ingredients are flour, eggs, sugar, butter, cream and plum schnapps. In order to form a distinctive shape of Schneeball, the dough is first rolled out and cut into even strips with a special rake-like cutter. The dough is cut as such that the top and bottom are left intact. Then, partially cut dough is loosely assembled and placed in a “Scheeballeneisen” – metal tongs with hollowed globes on the both ends. Finally, the scheeballeneisen with the dough inside is inserted into a deep-fryer, and voila, a golden brown Schneeball is born! Obviously, it has to resemble the real thing, therefore, it is dusted with confectioner’s sugar while warm.

Nowadays, Schneeball comes in many varieties of flavour, such as dark chocolate, white chocolate, mocha, almond, marzipan, vanilla, etc.

When mum and I were peering into a show window of Cafe Walter Friedel, a man standing nearby turned and asked if we were Japanese.

‘They are Schneebälle, did you know?’ He smiled. He was a Japanese tourist and visiting the town which was a part of the package holiday. ‘We came by a tour bus. How did you two get here?’

He was very much surprised when I told him that I drove from London. His eyes twinkled with excitement. ‘Oh wow! Really? I’d love to drive on a world famous autobahn too!’, he gushed. Apparently, he loved fast cars and driving a car in general. He confided to us that a driving holiday in Europe, especially hiring a BMW in Germany and driving it on autobahn, was his lifelong dream.

Our conversation returned to the Schneebälle in the window, and we asked him if he tried them already. He replied yes and told us what he thought about them.

‘They were very sweet and rather greasy.’

Oh, I see. Mum and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing. Are they going to be as anticlimactic as Kendel Mint Cake or Grasmere Gingerbread?

Anyway, the man and we parted shortly afterward, wishing each other a safe journey home.

Next day, we did have a chance to explore the town, but we completely forgot about the pastries because our attention was all focused on the Rothenburg’s famed Christmas shops.

As I write this post, I have come across a German confectionary shop Walter Friedel, and they are happy to ship their Schneeball to anywhere in the world as long as the order is more than €18.00! I am going to ask Hubbie if he wants to try them. So watch this space…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Dinner at Reichsküchenmeister

We were very happy to see the sign of our hotel, Hotel Zum Breiterle after enduring a stressful car journey on A3. I recounted to a receptionist how hellish our journey from Würzburg was as she handed over me a key to the room. ‘Noooo, oh my god!’ She couldn’t believe our misadventure.

Our room was modest but very tidy and the bathroom looked immaculate…

There was only one desire we had in our mind…, BEER! Surely, we deserve ice cold beer after the ordeal! So we set off to find a suitable beer garden/restaurant as well as to explore this pretty medieval German town…

We walked along Rödergrasse. It was almost six o’clock and most of the shops, except a green grocer/general store, were already shut. Mum found cartons of strawberries displayed on a bench made out of crates and wanted to buy one of them as a snack for the next day.

After purchasing strawberries, we carried on walking towards Marktplaz…

Near Marktplaz, we noticed soap bubbles wafting along by the breeze. Where do they come from? We looked up and found a cute teddy bear blowing bubbles…

Marktplaz with its town hall…

Rothenburg as a place already existed since around the 11th century, and it was formally founded as a town in 1274. The town became a part of the kingdom of Bavaria in 1803 as a result of the Treaty of Pressburg, thanks to Napoleon’s victory over the Austrian at Um.

We decided to have dinner at Hotel Reichs Küchenmeister as they had encouraging reviews on Google…

The entrance to their beer garden…

One of the waiters ushered us to the side of a table in the corner and told us to wait there until the table was vacated by the guests, who, the waiter claimed, paid the bill and were ready to leave. However, the guests showed no sign of leaving the table, and it was rather awkward being left standing by them. Eventually, I told the staff that we would rather be inside of the restaurant since we were not that bothered about al fresco dining.

In our seat, waiting for our beer (and food)…

Mum with her beer. You earned it, mum. You were a brilliant map reader!

I ordered Dreierlei Fränkische Bratwürste mit Fass-Sauerkraut und Kartoffeln, what a long name…

Three different franconian sausages with Sauerkraut and potatos. I just loved German sausages and I couldn’t have enough of them before returning to the UK.

Mum opted for Flammkuchen mit Räucherlachs, Mozarella, Kirschtomaten und lauch…

Flammkuchen with smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and leek. This Flammkuchen, also known as Tarte flambée, was one of the most famous Alsatian dish and also mum’s favourite during our road trip.

After our culinary desire was fulfilled, we embarked on a post-dinner saunter in Rothenburg…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

 

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