Foodie Heaven in Augsburg: The Bavarian City No One’s Heard Of.

With the charms of the alluring Munich, Regensburg and Nuremberg all nearby, Augsburg doesn’t get much of a look-in on the Bavarian tourist trail.

In fact we have lived an hour’s drive away from here for two years now and hadn’t even bothered to visit Augsburg ourselves until this weekend.

This was due to a bad review from an American expat friend (who wasn’t that impressed) and a less than enthusiastic write-up in the Lonely Planet.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Germany’s third oldest city is a beautifully buzzy place with astounding architecture and a thriving market perfect for foodie types.

In typical German style the Stadtmarkt (city market) must also be one of the world’s cleanest and most organised.

In one lane you will find around half a dozen bakeries, selling delicious German breads and mouth-watering cakes.

In another there are the colourful fruit and veg stalls peddling autumn truffles among the florists and a few home ware shops.

Then on a third aisle you have all the fishmongers and a few eateries where you can snack on fresh fish buns while watching the world go by.

As if that’s not enough the market also boasts a food hall full of international goodies in its Viktualienhalle.

Here you’ll find stalls brimming with Italian antipasti, Asian spices and fine smoked meats as well as a couple of pop-up bars where weary shoppers pause for a wine or beer. Nice!

It’s the perfect place for stocking up (particularly at Christmas time) and soaking up a great atmosphere at the same time.

As I grew up in Essex in the UK I used to think of markets as being the kind of place where dodgy guys sold cheap clothes and knocked off shampoo somewhere under a grimy underpass.

So I’m forever impressed when I stumble on a market that has charm, class and sells fruit a bit more exotic than apples.

After munching our way through the market we checked out Augsburg’s colourful Altstadt (old city) with its 17th century Renaissance Town Hall and gothic cathedral.

The sun even popped out for a bit, causing a rush of Germans to the nearest ice-cream sellers (they are mad for ice-cream here. When sun shines,  Brits sunbathe. Germans buy ice-cream).

Large chains and independent shops are in abundance in compact Augsburg too (perfect for shopping) with some cool arty places dotted along winding backstreets such as Dominikanergasse. I was impressed and wondered why the hell no one had gushed to me about this wonderful place before.

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t trust American dudes or Lonely Planet. Find out for yourself.

After being seduced by the market and the shops we didn’t have time to see much else, but hopefully we’ll pop back one day to see the Art Nouveau synagogue and the famous Augsburg Puppet Box.

Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!

What Two Years of Living with the Germans has Taught Me.

I have been living with the Germans for two years today. And I haven’t killed myself yet! In fact, I have learnt a lot from these lovely lot. Like…

English: high heels

The most un-German shoes ever. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Sexy doesn’t have to mean heels, mini-skirts and cleavage.

The only women you’ll see in Germany combining all of the above are the hookers. German women dress very conservatively and practically. Think rucksacks instead of handbags, terribly comfortable walking shoes for all occasions and Wolfskin jackets instead of stylish macs.  It is as if they are always anticipating the next hike.  I was by no means a terribly slutty dresser when I came to Germany, but my favourite FMBs have definitely not seen the light of day since I’ve been here. While I miss London’s vibe of fashion, individuality and style, I have learnt that flaunting it isn’t always the best look. Go Germans!

Germans' idea of going wild

To Get Out and Enjoy Nature

Germans love going for a hike or bike ride in the countryside on their days off. The roads around here are full of cyclists – including entire families – on weekends and holidays. Us Brits on the other hand prefer to spend our days off with our heads in the toilet nursing off our hangovers. We also spend far too much time in shopping centres or watching television in our free time compared to the Germans. This is evident from how quiet high streets are in Bavaria on Saturdays compared to those in Britain. Many shops close at 1pm on Saturdays – even just before Christmas – while in Britain high streets are heaving on a Saturday. Go Deutsch. Go to the woods instead!

Make Things Instead of Buying Them

These Bavarians are a crafty lot. Since arriving I have received hand-made woolly hats, a drawer full of hand-knitted woolly socks, hand-made greeting cards, home-made cakes, and a hand-crafted and painted one-metre stork (a gift put up outside our home after I gave birth here). While us Brits rush out and buy everything ready-made, the Bavarians try and make it themselves. They do a lot of home improvements themselves too instead of hiring the experts. My Bavarian boyfriend can’t understand why we have huge shops in England selling just greeting cards. “You English are crazy about buying cards. Just make them,” he says. Genau!

To Support Young People and Families. So they can buy more beer.

Young people in Germany are supported once they leave school, both by the system and their families. Many go into paid apprenticeship training or to university for free (sometimes for decades rather than three years). Many live at home for as long as they possibly can too. In England, it’s just not cool or acceptable to still be living at home in your twenties, despite the soaring cost of living.  Most people I know in Germany in their twenties are still living at home. It’s not uncommon for older people with children to still be living with parents here too, to help them save for their own homes. There is no stigma attached to that. New mothers are assisted to stay at home by the state and society does not look down them.

That Britain Is Still Great

The Brits moan a lot. They say there are too many immigrants, gas prices are too high, the weather is miserable and the health service is failing. But it wasn’t until I left England that I realised what a fantastic place it is too. We have an education system that helps the disadvantaged. We have a society that is generally very open and tolerant of others regardless of their race and sexuality. We have a health system available for all including free contraception and many other benefits you would have to pay extra for in other countries (in Germany you have to pay for contraception on top of your health insurance. A coil would cost you in excess of 200 Euros). There is a society, charity or support group for virtually anything.  We have a world-class media with high-quality journalists, TV and Film makers. We have charity shops. And the British weather isn’t that bad once you’ve experienced Germany’s. We also know how to get into the spirit of things (hello London Olympics). And most importantly, we have Digestive biscuits.