Sunday, September 09, 2007

Day 4: Meandering through German wine-country

We woke up to dark clouds and another hearty German breaky. I think I was consuming more bread, rolls and crackers than I do in an entire year, but the bread was fresh and seemed to be the thing to do. I was also getting into the cold meats and cheeses, ala continental breakfast.

Throughout the day, we climbed slowly in altitude and it was starting to get chilly.

We were driving through yet more green hills, and saw what looked to be a concorde perched on a building. Despite Betsy’s nagging and flashing, we detoured into a town called Sinsheim, and into the carpark of a huge open air aeronautical museum. There was indeed a concorde perched aloft the building, and all sorts of other planes held by huge metal struts in really interesting positions. Talk about a random place to build a plane museum!

We carried onwards to the town of Tubingen. By this stage it was pizzing down – our first real unpleasant weather of the trip. We finally found a parking spot and headed into the Old Town.

More quaintness, this time with a little river flowing underneath the front doors of a row of houses. They all had little bridges from the footpath to their front doors. Wouldn’t want to take a wrong step after a big night out…We eventually found the main piazza and the huge Rathouse (townhall). It was ornately decorated and like most places in Germany, sprouted little planter boxes of geraniums and other coloured flowers. Other buildings in the piazza had that characteristic Old Town lean about them. I loved the decorative signs and murals on the buildings. It’s just so much nicer than drab grey concrete.

The rain continued to fall, so we headed back out of town to find a hotel. That was only because we couldn’t find one hotel near the centre of town. The “hotel route” signs seemed to take us round the town in loops, and Betsy was madly beeping and flashing. The Greek-family owned Meteora Hotel became our bed for the evening. They even ran a very large Greek-restaurant, which for some reason made me chuckle. The area – reasonably high in the German alps - did not have a particularly Mediterranean feel about it. Surprisingly, we saw a lot of Greek restaurants during the rest of our travels through Germany, Switzerland Italy.

For dinner, we passed on Greek food and set out to find something a bit more German. We came across what looked like a great restaurant – warm and cosy, full of people and a good atmosphere. They said they were full, but we were welcome to try their downstairs restaurant. So off we trotted – down what looked to be the first and only flight of stairs. There were bathrooms, and two other doors, one of which I gave a mighty push and barged into the kitchen. The other door didn’t seem to lead to anything substantial, so we poked around outside in case we had misunderstood. Again, there was another door right round the other side of the building, but with no markings.

We were slightly exasperated at this stage, and went back in to get clear on the instructions. The waitress ushered us out to the loos and insisted that the next door did in fact lead to steps, and to take them all the way to the bottom floor. Right. So…down we ventured…and down some more, and then the dining space appeared. It was completely underground, dimly lit, full of chairs and tables and a couple of patrons, and a huge collection of homely junk. There were old sewing machines, palm trees, barrows of mock fruit, paintings, kitchenware and quite randomly, a big plastic flying duck attached the ceiling. It was very bizarre – hilarious in fact!

The menu looked great – it featured Swabian food, which we discovered was the region we were in. They had the ever-desirable schweinhuxe, which Dad and I decided to have – again. The Swabian version of pork knuckle was different. They called it suckling pig, and instead of roasting the pork to make the fat crackly, they left it soft. While I probably didn’t need any more lard for the day, it was slightly disappointing that there was no crackle, but the pork was delicious and tender. There was sauerkraut galore – also a slightly different version to what we had been eating in the north of Germany. This version was more pureed. And of course, there was spetzle – German noodles that are sort of like long flat pasta, but more randomly shaped cos they’re homemade. All that was covered in rich gravy and washed down with some fine Swabian beer.

The guts and butts were growing by the day, but we were indeed enjoying the food!

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