Germany; you’re bad for my waistline!

So, somehow it’s already been more than a month since I moved back to Frankfurt…!

It’s been a busy month- full of work and adventures, paperwork and sunshine- but the one constant in this period of change has been… food.

I, as a self confessed foodie, am one of those people who eats because I love eating. Not always because i’m hungry (though I often am), but because something looks delicious, or I get a craving… or i just want to enjoy the deliciousness for its objective merit. I’ve always been this way. For as long as I can remember. There’s a VCR of me on my first birthday, tearing a fistful of icing from my birthday cake and shoving it directly into my greedy toddler face. Since that video was taken… some things have changed… but some haven’t!

I love cooking and trying new food- so moving abroad has brought so many exciting and different new culinary possibilities, I’ve been finding it hard not to over- indulge! And the supermarket is so stupidly exciting- shopping is an adventure in itself.

My boyfriend is also a food person… which means we have spent the last month *egging each other on* when it comes to consuming tasty food. We eat out together quite a lot (it’s not too expensive here, generally a bit cheaper than at home) and cook for each other very often too.

But my love of Brezeln (Pretzels, the big bready kind), Hefeweizen (Wheat beer), Kartoffeln (potatoes), Würste in all incarnations (sausages) and nudeln (pasta/noodles) has begun to have a noticeable impact on my waistline. Another culprit has been CHEESE. I love cheese… and there is just so so much of it here. So of course i’ve been gradually working my way through all of it.

Apfelkuchen…. Flammkuchen… all manor of deliciousness…

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German food gets a bad rap internationally; certainly from a British perspective atleast, it’s a common perception that German cuisine consists solely of meat and potatoes. OH, and Sauerkraut, of course. I can’t deny it; meat and potatoes are staples of the average German’s diet… but there’s certainly a lot more to it than that.

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The title of this little ramble wasn’t a gripe- in fact, quite the opposite. I love german food so much (well, most of it) that it’s giving me a little extra Hüftgold (literally means, ‘hip gold’… lovehandles!)

I’ll definitely go running soon… and will be picking up my climbing shoes and harness from my parents’ place when i’m back in England next week (for my graduation), in the hope to counteract the slow and steady crawl towards irreparable bodily damage…!

I’d love to be around for a while yet… to enjoy more delicious foo, drinks and adventures of course!

 

“All change please”

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If you’ve ever ridden the London Underground to the end of a line – or maybe just to a junction- you’ll be familiar with  the booming, instructional voice-over phrase… “all change please, all change.” This is exactly how i’m feeling right now.

I’m aware that this is something of a crude analogy, as life- is in fact, not, a tube train. Yet somehow, it does feel like a pivotal moment in world events too, not just in my little bubble.

Uncertainty  and change can often bring us fear, apprehension, excitement, stress… all manner of emotions. Even changes we have planned can be daunting. For example… graduating University, which I plan to do in July, is currently all of these things to me.

I’m also feeling very grateful for everything the past three years studying at Surrey have brought into my life. Most significantly, the wonderful friends and memories who I plan to carry with me for the rest of my life. I’ve had a total blast and grown a lot, in many ways. I’m grateful for all of the opportunities (and fun) this place has afforded me, and I’ve grateful that i have gained an awareness of just how privileged I have been in life.

Right now, i’m sat surrounded by most of my worldly possessions, all bagged and packed up- and it’s kind of symbolic of my state of mind, too.

2 weeks ago, I had my last lectures at University and last Monday was my penultimate coursework deadline.

On Friday, (tomorrow) I’m heading home to my folks’, to spend some quality time with the family before I set off for Frankfurt (by coach this time, with all my luggage) on Sunday night. Wish me luck!

There are lots of petty little things I know i’m going to miss about living in the UK…

I know I’m going to miss…

  • The universal availability of a cup of tea –often pretty well made. and the cultural understanding that “Tea?” is the way one begins to solve most of life’s problems. This being said, I am a coffee person these days really… so that’s good.
  • Sunday Roasts– though i’m going to do my best to recreate them in Germany with limited supermarket range… i’m told there’s a British shop in Frankfurt… which I may just have to hunt down. (I’m off to the carvery with my two uni besties shortly to indulge in a proper roast. I cannot wait.)
  •  Proper British/Indian curry… on every corner  (you can get it in Germany but it is waaaay less common.)
  • Chippie’s- Fish and chips, contrary to stereotypes, are not the staple of the modern Brit’s diet. They do however, hold a very treasured place in the hearts of most… myself included. I love proper fish and chips, though only once in a while.
  • The NHS- judging by the rhetoric of the current UK General Election, it may not be around a great deal longer in its current incarnation anyway, but I sure as hell am going to miss being blessed with one of the greatest free-at-point-of-use healthcare services in the world.
  • Wagamama… and Nandos. Frankfurt has neither of these… a quick google tells me that my suspicions were correct and actually there are neither of these great “British” chain restaurants anywhere in Germany at present…
  • Chip & pin readers, everywhere- It may sound alien to some of you, but in Germany, unlike the UK, it’s not uncommon to find yourself stuck for payment methods if you’re without cash. Germany is still Europe’s most cash-heavy economy, in-spite of governmental efforts to change this. I love the convenience of knowing i can pay using my VISA without a second thought here anywhere, although using cash more can be useful too- It can be easier to keep tabs on your spending and can also help small independent businesses.

More than all of the material and cultural things though, I know i’m going to miss some very special people the most of all. But as I say- I’ll be home soon. 

I’m sure it won’t be long before I come up with some more things i’m missing about home…! I’ll keep you posted.

For now,

Ciao-

Han

“Where have you been?”

Hello there world.

Sincerest apologies for my brief blog hiatus. It’s been a busy couple of weeks… Last week I got my dissertation results, finished final year lectures & did quite a lot of socialising!

At the weekend I went somewhere I hadn’t been before… To… Dunstable, Bedfordshire…! (It’s near Luton, but far greener and nicer than I had anticipated from what I’d been​ told!  (An atypical minibreak destination, I know!) but I was with friends and we had some great fun together!

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Some words have a whole new meaning to me now… ‘busway’ for example… A magical bus only road/rail for super whizzy fast buses between towns! Who knew? The photo above was the view out of the window whilst we took a ride from Dunstable back to Luton station on Sunday afternoon. The weather was glorious.

IMG_20170520_224632994.jpg We enjoyed some retro entertainment at the bowling alley on Saturday night! Followed by a quick game of pool at the (very sticky) local sports bar!

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I’m stupidly overcompetitive (an early school report said “Hannah needs to learn to lose at games”) and thus, got very into the whole affair! IMG_20170520_230935531

Also notable weekend in Dunstable occurances were…

Epic pork katsu food time…

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A little walk through the park… (And some very interesting local knowledge about an angry Henry VIII and the establishment of the Church of England)

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And the cuddling of two lovely bunnies, Frank and fizz. Very good indeed.

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Our weekend trip to Dunstable (2 great uni pals and I) goes to show… Random English towns can be pretty fun too.

Also notable in my life at the moment… It’s all change…! It’s now only two weeks until I’m hitting the road and travelling back to Frankfurt to move in with my boyfriend and start my new grown-up job! I’m super excited. And also terrified. I’m currently at my parents house again for a couple of days, catching up with the family whilst I can.

I took all of my teenage bedroom ‘wall of stuff’ down today. (14 year old me decided sticking 47 postcards, 6 records, over 30 posters and more than 250 tickets of various varieties along with other odd bits and bobs- chopsticks, badges, medals- all over my walls would be the coolest idea ever.) I wouldve left it longer but my parents want to repaint in June before they sell the house… So it was a necessary evil. My room feels very bare now and it’s all started sinking in.

I’m excited to write again soon with more exciting news, updates and adventures.

See you later, alligator.

Han xoxo

Why i’ll always be a Londoner at ❤… (and never be gone for too long!)

I often think how sad it is that I’ll never get to experience London as a tourist.

It’s the most eclectic, multicultural, amazing city I’ve ever been to. It’s just so varied, full of culture, heritage, sightseeing opportunities and iconic landmarks. That being said, I love being a Londoner. This is something that has come to my attention more recently, showing international friends around the city I know and love so much…

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Here’s a lovely candid, happy pic I took of my American/Spanish friend Layne enjoying the full tourist experience on Westminster bridge last weekend.

I was born in the London Borough of Bexley- with the rate that London is growing and sprawling more and more, i’m sure one day Bexley will be considered more central than peripheral- But I grew up with it very much on the edges of the city. Close enough to the feel the buzz and experience the benefits of being a Londoner (better public transport, refuse collections and regionally inflated wages for my parents) and far enough out to feel comfortable and suburban.

The local train station, just a few minutes walk from my parents house, where I lived from the ages of 7 to 18 (and still frequent as a cheeky visitor) is in Zone 6. That probably won’t mean much to you unless you’ve spent some time in London. The transport network in London has its very own authority (Transport for London, or TfL) with the London underground and overground, privately owned regional train providers and vitally over 700 red bus routes serving the capital. It’s really so easy to get from one place to another, though not as cheap as other international transport links, it is quite efficient when you think about how much of a gargantuan operation it is to move London’s 8.64 million inhabitants everyday, (plus the 31.5 million visitors we see every year (that number was from 2015 alone)!!)

When I moved to provincial Guildford and the lush Surrey countryside for University three years ago… the lack of buses every 4-9 minutes hit me hard. What’s more, the need to carry around small change or risk the wrath of bus drivers when you sheepishly wave them a £10 note… and pray they let you ride!

When I moved to Frankfurt last summer, I was struck by the lack of ticket barriers… HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT EVERYONE HAS BOUGHT A TICKET?! The truth is you don’t… and Schwarzfahren or freeloading/riding is pretty damn common. That is something difficult to reconcile with my will to be a good person… do the right thing… and pay for a ticket… and the overwhelming temptation to see if I can get away with it. The only deterrent is a 60 euro fine if caught, which isn’t really enough to dissuade many people, though it’s definitely worth buying a week or month pass if you travel often because they are far cheaper than the fine. What i’m getting at with that point though, is that London is my yardstick for everything. 

I frequently find myself saying “Oh this would be atleast twice as much money in London” (in the case of most food/drink I buy in central Europe) or “Goodness, you could get two of these for this price in London” (In the case of beer in Iceland– which is really saying something, as beer in London is not at all cheap by international standards!)

I see a ferris wheel and think… “that’s cool, but it’s no London Eye.”

I see a river and think- “that’s lovely, and much cleaner than the Thames!”

I see a clocktower and think of the Queen Elizabeth bell tower/ St. Steven’s tower (Big Ben is the name of the bell inside, actually!)

I find myself thinking- “The air is so clean here I can run without choking… must be far from home!”

As with most things in life, the place I grew up in is my imprinted scale for comparison when I travel.

It’s a blessing and a curse, having London, a great, influential sprawling city for a hometown.

Whenever I’ve been away for a while, even just in Guildford, I get a wave of relief from Heimweh I didn’t even notice I was suffering from, wash right over me as I see the skyline pulling into Waterloo.

 

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Flying into Heathrow on a sunny afternoon in April.

I took a really cool photo from the window of an aeroplane back from Frankfurt a few weeks ago and the guy next to me asked me (in German) if I was going on holiday to London too. I just smiled and told him something like, ‘No, i’m just going home. But it never gets old.’

ttfn

Han xoxo

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Staycations; International friends and the beauty of holidays at home.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a heap of wonderful people in my relatively short life so far. Many of whom, hail from places half a world the way from me.

I’ve found its amazing to make international friends, and it’s always so exciting meeting up after a long while apart…

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This weekend, my friend Layne (check out his travel blog, right here), who was my colleague last summer in Frankfurt (we taught the same classes together, every day for 7 weeks) is staying with me in Guildford! Layne is from Missouri in the USA, but has been living and working in Granada, Spain, for the past few years since finishing Uni (or College, as he calls it!) Having not seen one another since parting ways at the end of last August, I was super thrilled to be reunited yesterday at Gatwick airport, and give him his first taste of green and merry England this weekend.

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Postbox by the Old Electric works in Guildford, a really SUNNY Friday in May!

This isn’t my first Staycation rodeo, though… Around a month ago, during the Easter break, my school music exchange partner, Lara, came to stay with me for a few days along with her boyfriend Elias. Lara and Elias are from Smallish towns in Hessen, fairly near to Hanau, a short train ride out of Frankfurt, Germany.  I’ve known Lara since I was 14 and seen her every year (bar one) since we first met. It’s been especially nice being close during my time in Germany and we’ve seen way more of each other than either of us could’ve anticipated a couple of years ago.

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This was the three of us enjoying some happy hour cocktails at Fifty-Five Bar in Camden.

Moreover, I’ve spent some time with my German boyfriend Felix staying and I’ve also sort of played host then too- doing some touristy things and enjoying the sights together. Cooking obligatory full English breakfasts and tracking down the tastiest fish and chips in London.

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Touristing it up with Felix, last October
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Lara’s red telephone box picture… artistically back-dropped by St.Paul’s cathedral!

Showing your friends around your home town or city has plenty of benefits you won’t even realise until you do it.

Both of my recent staycations (one currently in-progress) have made me more appreciative and aware of the beautiful things in the place where i’m from (and the place where I live now!) It’s so easy to ignore things nearby that you enjoyed doing once or have entirely ignored, despite the fact they’re right on your doorstep.

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Guildford Castle Grounds

One major plus side of a Staycation is, by throwing yourself into a busy schedule, going out and doing stuff, you feel like you’re on holiday, but you have the benefit of being close enough to home to go back and crash out at any point. It’s really flexible. What’s more, you cut travel costs… no flights means just trains and buses to factor in.  It can actually get kind of expensive, especially in London, where almost everything is pricier than it needs to be- but there’s plenty of stuff to see and do for free, if you know where to look.

It has been really good fun for me reeling off loads of random cultural and historical trivia I have to my friends as they look on in (what I hope genuinely has been) fascination! Local knowledge is always something I really appreciate on trips abroad.

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Layne and I at Guildford Castle

Food wise- you can cook whatever you want and eat whenever you want. You aren’t bound by restaurant meal times (and prices) and it’s totally acceptable to grab a drink… a pint, a glass of wine, a tray of tequila shots… (just kidding) at any time of day. YOU’RE BASICALLY ON HOLIDAY, FOR GOODNESS SAKE! But you know where all the best places to eat are, how to navigate a supermarket perfectly, and have all your own utensils and crockery… perfect!

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Why not make a picnic full of traditional favourites? That’s what I did for Lara and Elias, and it went down a treat!

This isn’t always an issue, but it’s really useful to have a local around for navigation and communication can be super handy. Knowing the quickest and prettiest way from A to B, as well as… the cheapest train ticket option, the fastest bus route etc. is a real bonus. Especially if you’re on a short trip somewhere- you don’t want to waste time bumbling around in circles (although there’s no concrete guarantee that won’t happen a little to a native in some unfamiliar areas of London- it happen’s to the best of us!)

Getting an outsider’s perspective on somewhere you take for granted can be really refreshing. 

Living in the UK, one thing you can’t count on is the weather- So far this year, all of the sunniest days have landed when I’ve had guests to stay… which has been damned excellent luck- that or they’ve just been bringing the sun with them, which is a definite possibility.

 

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Westminster after dark, from Southbank

Those were just a few of my thoughts on holidays from home/ Staycations! Definitely a great thing to do, especially when you have friends from elsewhere to stay.

Cheerio-

Han xoxox

 

 

Strasbourg: Alsace Romance

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Back in August of 2016, my (then, brand spanking new) boyfriend took me to Alsace to Celebrate my 20th Birthday. We drove over from Frankfurt and the trip was remarkably quick- just a few hours in the car. I enjoyed my first foray into the infamous German number plate game during the journey (you guess where the car is registered by the first section of its number plate… F is Frankfurt, HH is Hamburg, B is Berlin… but the best ones are the trickier ones! HD, Heidelberg, MKK, Main-Kinzig-Kreis etc.) I think I impressed him a bit with my random knowledge of some obscure German geography…!

We stayed in a really gorgeous apartment in Strasbourg, a really lovely airbnb, perfect for a short romantic break in the city. The host was lovely and told us enthusiastically of the restaurant where he (40 odd years ago) had celebrated his own 20th birthday in the city.  The photos from this weekend still make me smile so much. It was really the weekend that made me certain I had fallen so in love with Felix, and in just a few weeks. As it drew to an end we had to decide what to do. I was going to Berlin in a weeks time, and then back home to London, before heading back to Surrey for my final year in October. We decided to make a go of it long-distance… and here we are; 9 months on from when we first met, and 32 days away from moving in together. Since then we have spent many wonderful weekends exploring some European cities together, including our own. (Posts on Bruges, Leipzig, London to follow!)

Cheesy as it sounds- the trip in and of itself was really lovely, as well as the company. The city is beautiful and fairly quiet (atleast it was when we visited in late August.) The architecture is stunning, the food and wine were even better than i’d anticipated, and in our case atleast, the weather held out.

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Felix and I looking very fresh faced and excited!

 

 

We enjoyed some epic food and drink, even though we were only in Strasbourg for around 36 hours- we made sure to fit plenty in!

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view from our airbnb bedroom!
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Amazing unexpected cathedral light show
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Petit France
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Happy

That was just a very brief post about beautiful Strasbourg, with some very grainy pictures (sorry for the low quality, old phone camera!)

I would definitely recommend you take a trip to Alsace, and I look forward to going back soon.

TTFN

Han xoxox

Top 10 things you should taste in Germany

I love food. And drinks.

I’m not picky at all and love sampling the local cuisine wherever I travel to. Here are just a few of my favourite German specialities I think you should try next time you’re in Deutschland! For the fully immersive German tourist experience, I’d suggest going all out on the food and drink. Try everything you can. If it’s your first time in Germany, ease yourself in…. ‘But, when in Rome, do as the Romans do!’

Brezeln

Start gently, with a hard-not-to-love Laugenbrezel-  a traditionally german savoury bread pretzel. Tasty with butter or on their own, my favourites are the fairly plain sated ones, although you can also get them super cheesy, or covered in pumpkin seeds (Kurbis). The great thing about these is, they are cheap, tasty, filling and available pretty much everywhere. They are cheapest to eat if bought from the bakery section of a supermarket, like REWE, where you can get a fresh one for around 30 cents (definitely under 50), in comparison to the 2,50 or 3,50 you can easily end up paying if bought from a street vendor. That being said, they are wonderful warm, so sometimes its worth paying the extra bit for that.

Apfelwein

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(Photo Credit: http://www.wanted.de)

Why not drink some Apfelwein… or Ebbelwoi as it is affectionately known in the local Hessisch dialect. It’s a delicious, often quite tart but also fairly fruity apple based alcoholic drink- (I would just call it a cider but i’m not sure my boyfriend would ever look me in the eye again if I did..!) It’s crisp and refreshing on a hot day, especially lovely drunk from a traditional glass. Fun Fact… there’s a building in Frankfurt called the Westhafen tower, which is built to resemble an Apple wine glass! If you’re in a hurry or on a budget, you can buy around a litre of decent tasting applewine for about… 1,39 euros… here is a photo of me lovingly clutching some on my very first night in Frankfurt last summer, at the gay pride parade…

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Auflauf

Auflauf is one of those things that is just so very German it’s quite hard to explain… it’s essentially a word to describe any combination of carbs (pasta/potatoes/rice/ pastry – though not all at once) with eggy, cheesy, goodness, baked in the oven. My favourite so far has been a Spinach, Salmon, King Prawn and Pastry Auflauf (home baked in cooperation with boyfriend’s mum!) But i’ve also tried a pasta one and a potato one with different ingredient variations. It’s heavy but delicious and there’s a filling for everyones tastes…! 7IMG_20170418_185706980

Käsespätzle

Literally translates to something like ‘cheesy egg noodles’, this fresh egg pasta dish made with ample cheese and the special pasta variety spätzle is a must-try for carb lovers. It’s most often cooked with bacon cubes, onion, garlic, and often also spinach or other veg for variation. But it’s the definition of cheesy goodness. Just eat it. Please. do it. Unfortunately don’t have my own pic of this, as I always eat it too fast to take one.

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(GuteKueche.at)

I feel as though i’m doing German cuisine the greatest injustice by reducing it to this rundown- it is pretty varied (not so carb heavy as i’m making out) and tasty… Although I love all of these things- so my recommendations are made in good faith!

Weißbier

If I had a pound (£) for every-time i’ve heard the words ‘gerne eine Halbliter Hefeweizen, bitte’ fly out of my mouth, i’d be half way to clearing my student debts. But seriously. I love this stuff. It’s so good and refreshing. It’s naturally cloudy, but you can also have it filtered, when it becomes ‘kristallweizen.’ A must-try for your time in Germany.

Flammkuchen

Pretty much carbonara topped thin crust pizza… yet an other gross oversimplification of the delights of german cuisine… but it’s great.

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My (veggie) sis had a 4 cheese flammkuchen, and I opted for the classic in this pic. Ignore my derpy face I was like ‘mum please don’t take a picture i’m busy eating my foooood’.

Wurst

Now I couldn’t write a post with some tips on German Cuisine without including what the nation is undoubtedly most famous for; Wurst. Sausages… they come in all shapes and sizes, and are pretty much everywhere in Germany. It’s really not uncommon to see people eating snacking sausages just walking about the city… there are lots of different types… so, why not try something different?

  • Frankfurter Würstchen (classic, boiled, porky, great with mustard/ketchup in little a bread roll)
  • Weißwurst (literally- ‘white sausage’- Veal and Pork)
  • Rindswurst (Beef sausage- really nice with mustard
  • Currywurst- In my opinion… the king of sausages… usually pork/beef sausage (frankfurter/rindswurst) covered in delightful curry ketchup goodness. I cant get enough of it
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Currywurst mit Pommes (curry sausage and chips!) at Conrad’s. Hauptwache

 

Eis

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Eis near the Romer, July 2016

Whether you want to opt for the delightfully retro spaghettieis or a more traditional scoop or two of gelato… german ice cream is generally pretty awesome- and the reason for that is, its mostly italian. There is a pretty large 3rd generation Italian expatriate community in germany, with many Italians moving to Germany to rebuild after the end of the war to offer temporary (mostly manual) labour… and a few sticking around! Totally a bonus when it comes to food.

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Spaghetti Eis (with Nutella topping!)

Apfelkuchen

Apple Cake, more like Apple pie… with lashings of whipped cream and plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg inside! You have to grab a slice.

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I ate this slice last Sunday at Cafe Metropol am Dom. Bliss.

Hamburgers

Although modern thought implies that the ‘Hamburger’ as it is consumed in its base, patty form my millions every day is an American invention, that is certainly not the kind of Burger the Germans would like to take credit for. I have eaten some seriously EPIC burgers in Germany- Fletcher’s Better Burger, Jamy’s Burger, Die Kuh die Lacht (The laughing cow) are a few common and popular chains (especially in and around Frankfurt) BUT my personal favourite Burger joint is without a doubt Der Fette Buelle. I celebrated my birthday there, took my family there during their visit to Frankfurt in August… it is simply amazing food, and not too expensive either which is a huge win.

I hope you enjoy sampling a few of my top German delights during your next trip. Let me know if you think there’s anything I haven’t mentioned that I need to try!! (Naturally these are just my personal highlights, If I wrote everything German I’d eaten or drunk lately this post would be 30,000 words long.)

Tschüssi!

Han xoxo