Germany - Mecca for Beer Lovers

There is an article in today's online version of Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung in the travel section that discusses how Americans view Germany today. The basic premise is that generally speaking Americans have a positive opinion of Germany.

Interestingly - according to the cited study - the one topic Americans would like to receive more information on in regard to Germany is German beer. That may have to do with the fact that to many Americans Germany is synonymous with the Oktoberfest, which is actually in September but - as we all know - is a Mecca for Beer drinkers. But the strength of Germany's beer culture lies less in big drinking events like the Oktoberfest and more in the high quality of beer brewed by small breweries that usually almost exclusively sell locally.

Especially our region of Franken (Franconia) is well known for its beer. Zeilitzheim sits right on the border between wine country and beer country. The hills alongside the valleys through which the main river flows, that lie to our north and west, are lined with vineyards. The area to the east is predominantly beer-brewing country, however. Especially Oberfranken with its cities Bamberg, Bayreuth, Coburg, Hof and Kulmbach is known for excellent beer.

Here are a two of my personal favorite breweries:

Of course our local brewery in Krautheim (next village over) must be named first in any list of this sort. Here beer has brewed for generations by the Düll family. The staple variety is Pilsner but also the Weizen or Weißbier (a wheat beer that ferments in the bottle and is generally consumed with the leftover yeast that gathers at the bottom of the bottle mixed in).

My second favorite beer has to be Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer) which is a Märzen beer that obtains its unique smoky flavor from roasting the malt over burning a beechwood log fire (the brewery has a good description of the entire process). It is bottled and sold in crates of 20 bottles of a half liter each (which is the standard convention of delivering beer in southern Germany). I personally do not buy the Schlenkerla beer bottled, however, as the on-tap version that is served in the brewery's Schlenkerla restaurant in Bamberg from oakwood casks is far superior to the bottled version. Of course drinking this beer in the Bamberg restaurant is an experience in itself and a must-visit for anybody traveling to Germany. While you can also order good, typically-Franconian food there, you can also bring your own "Brotzeit" (or snack) which is a tradition that follows that of beer gardens throughout Eastern Franconia and Bavaria in general. It is a dying custom, however, especially in full-fledged restaurants like the Schlenkerla. I recommend buying a fresh German sourdough bread at a local bakery, a good chunk of Blutwurst (blood sausage) or Leberwurst (liver sausage) or a more benign version if you can't stomach the sound of the two named above and enjoying these with the Rauchbier at one of the sturdy tables in the Schlenkerla brewery restaurant. You will have to have at least two of these beers to fully develop a sense and appreciation of its unique taste, however. And please don't ask for a small beer when ordering: the half-liter glass is the small beer and is exactly what you get if you place your order "ein Bier bitte!".

Actually: what you get when ordering a beer depends strongly on local customs so you'll have quite a different experience throughout Bavaria when doing so. In regions where Pilsner is the staple beer (as in Zeilitzheim and surrounding villages), that is what you get when simply ordering "ein Bier". In large parts of Bavaria you will get a "Helles" which is a lager beer. In the Schlenkerla brewery you will get the smoky Märzen.

I'll be posting articles about some more of my favorite regional beers and Franconian beer culture soon, so please stay tuned! Beer Truck Photo: a beer-delivery truck from Dreuschendorf's Meusel brewery delivering to Zeilitzheim.

The Three Missionaries

The Lonely Planet site for Bavaria (specifically the entry on Würzburg) has a way with words:

"Würzburg was a Franconia duchy when, in 686, three Irish missionaries tried to persuade Duke Gosbert to convert, and ditch his wife. Gosbert was mulling it over when his wife had the three bumped off. When the murders were discovered decades later, the martyrs became saints and Würzburg was made a pilgrimage city, and, in 742, a bishopric."

The three missionaries who were "bumped off" were Kilian, Totnan and Kolonat. They died as martyrs in 689. St. Kilian became the apostle of Franconia. The relics of the three missionaries are kept in the Würzburg Cathedral. It's quite a show when on St. Kilian's Day (July 8th), the glass case containing the three skulls is removed from a crypt under the cathedral and paraded through the streets of Würzburg.

The region's Irish heritage based on the one-time missionaries still shines through here and there. The Irish name Kilian is quite popular in this part of Franconia and the annual fair (Volksfest) in Würzburg is called Kiliani.

Kiliani is like a (much) smaller version of Munich's Oktoberfest which makes it a lot cosier. The fact that people in and around Würzburg tend to be wine drinkers more so than beer drinkers, like in Munich, also makes for a different, perhaps more refined culture of partying. If you visit Germany during the first two weeks of July be sure to visit Kiliani-Volksfest in Würzburg! Peace

Photo: St. Kilian on the bridge bearing his name across the river Main beneath the fortress "Marienberg" in Würzburg.

Tourism Barcamp

The digerati of German and Austrian tourism met in Eichstätt, Bavaria, last weekend (Tourismuscamp 2010, #tc10). Topics included mobile web services and social media in tourism in general. I suppose the iPhone to attendees ratio was pretty high and that seems to be a major part of where things are going: location-based services for travelers. It was an interesting weekend with many like-minded people. Do you use location-based services when traveling? Which are your favorites? I have yet to create an optimized-for-mobile version of my website. But I guess that really is where things are going.

Gearing up for a new season

The hotel is closed throughout January and February but we are busy preparing for another great season. We had our annual get-together with all of our staff this evening to look back on 2009 and to set the sights on the year we have just started. After the obligatory annual (short) rehash of the statistics, we enjoyed a "family" meal together. Pretty soon the major spring cleaning and refurbishing will begin so that we can open the hotel doors with new-found motivation and some improvements on March 1st!

Allergy translation cards

Great idea to improve communication between guests and staff

I stumbled upon a great idea on Cheryl's blog "crispy not crunchy": allergy translation cards (check out the original post on her site). Basically these are cards travelers can carry with them that translate the terms of common allergies into the host country's language and have pictures on them to make it very clear, what foods the guest is allergic to. While we speak English here at the hotel, not everyone on the staff would be proficient enough to use and understand dietary terms. Having cards in various languages on hand and enabling guests to use them if and when needed might be a great idea! And certainly a good service idea. I'll need to research which dietary terms to translate / prepare on a fact sheet. If you have ideas to share, please let me know! And please remember to tell us (preferably before your arrival) if you have any special needs of a dietary sort. General information about food allergies can be found in this Wikipedia article. Cooking with Wolfgang Marquard

A Lesson Learned

The intricacies of blogging across platforms

Today I learned that when using squarespace to write a blog post, save your text if and when (actually before) you switch you editing raw html mode. You can switch, but your text will be gone. Since I have no inclination, right now, to try to think of every I was going to write, I just won't. I'll just add a little winter picture from the castle garden. And I want to say thanks for the initial feedback on the site (please keep it coming!).

Update: I also just found out that it's just as easy mounting a squarespace blog as it is a blogger one with marsedit for mac. That makes posting that much easier. Awesome! Stay tuned...

A New Beginning!

With more and more guests visiting us from the United States, I thought it was time to create a web presence that is geared entirely toward you! Please stay tuned to this website and blog for travel information to our region of Franconia in northern Bavaria.

This is where I'll be adding content about traveling to Germany - what to consider, places you might want to visit, local customs and traditions etc.

I think this may be of value to you regardless of whether you come and stay at our hotel in Zeilitzheim Castle but of course I would love to have you visit with us, too!