Robert and I had the pleasure of visiting Germany (and Austria) back in March of this year. While it hadn’t been on our short list of places to visit, the opportunity arose due to a work trip for Robert and we took it. I am SO GLAD we did. We absolutely loved Germany. I’m not sure if it’s my German heritage or the fact that I’m from PA Dutch country, but it felt so comforting and familiar to me. I felt like THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. I was so happy to be in the land of soft pretzels, spätzle, sauerkraut (which it turns out I like even more than I thought I did), and wheat beers (< the only kind of beer I REALLY enjoy – and I discovered I also love dark wheat beers). It was a pure delight to be there.
My feeling that Germans were “my people” was further cemented by my coffee shop experiences. As I’ve mentioned in past travel recaps, my favorite activity in new cities is getting coffee and a pastry at their best coffee shops. I did this again on this trip, and it was my favorite way to spend an afternoon, especially while Robert was working and I had time to kill. I saw more than one local person hunkering down with a cappuccino and a huge slice of cake, just like myself. It struck me because I thought, “These people aren’t even on vacation … they’re just living life right!”
When I got home I immediately ordered the cookbook Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss (because obviously). In her intro she describes this German cake and coffee ritual, which I didn’t realize was such a part of everyday German life. At least “back in the day” it was a common tradition for workers to take a break around 3pm for cake and coffee at the closest bakery before going back to work for the day. This excited me because that’s exactly what we do at my day job, except we serve Tastykakes and it’s at 10am instead of 3pm. That tradition at my office began in the 1950s (I believe) with my boss’s dad, so I asked him if his family had German heritage. Turns out – they totally do. Did this German tradition make its way across to America and find a new life in Central PA? I guess so.
We also loved Salzburg, Austria. We began our trip there for a weekend at the suggestion of Stefan, Robert’s work partner. It’s a gorgeous, fairytale kind of town. Our Airbnb building was from the 1400s and built into a huge rock wall. Going up the stairs inside you could see the back wall was all craggly and misshapen from the way they had to cut into the rock. It was so easy to walk everywhere and there were soft pretzels on every corner. One thing I’ve been loving about old European towns is that there are steps everywhere. (Not exactly handicap accessible, but very cool.) You’ll turn down an alley and there’s just a set of stairs. We explored an alley staircase one day and ended up walking to a high point on the edge of town. It was just beautiful. Salzburg is one of our favorite cities we’ve visited together so far.
Then Robert had to go to work in Traunstein, Germany for a few days, so that’s where we spent the middle portion of our trip. Some might consider it a bummer to work on a “vacation” (although the purpose of this trip was obviously because Robert was doing a job there), but don’t feel bad for Robert. He was in his happy place. He was doing weird fantasy/sci-fi photo shoots with makeup artists and special effects, and then Photoshopping for a couple days. (Robert’s happy place is photography/Photoshop and mine is eating cake and drinking coffee in European cafes.) He was filming a tutorial for composite photo shoots and Photoshop work for Raw Exchange. Stefan, the creator of Raw Exchange, was our lovely host. He offered to be our personal driver for all portions of the trip, which was a HUGE relief. (Thank you, Stefan!)
Traunstein is a small town and it was super cold and snowy while we were there. When I wasn’t just chilling in our hotel room reading, working out and taking showers, I would walk around town a little, get coffee and pastries, go to the local book shop, etc. It was probably the most leisurely I’ve ever been on a European trip. For the last two days of Robert’s work portion he was Photoshopping at Stefan’s home office, so I spent a lot of time there as well. I would just hang out and read, spend time with Stefan’s partner and their adorable children, and try not to get too freaked out by their large, friendly cat. We really enjoyed our time in Traunstein – it’s a lovely little town with a cute square, and again very walkable. In American terms it reminded me of a place like Wayne or Malvern on “The Main Line” outside of Philly.
After Robert finished his work we ended our trip with a quick weekend in Munich before flying home. We had a nice time there, but it didn’t feel like anything super special to us after being in Salzburg and Traunstein. While it has areas that are walkable, it’s much larger so it was hard to see a lot of it in about 24-36 hours. Plus we kept doing that thing where you can’t pick out where to eat because you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for and then you just get hangry … do you guys do that? It was still great, although it didn’t charm us nearly as much as the other two cities. But it did have one of my favorite espressos, my favorite pretzel and one of my favorite meals of the trip. Can’t complain.
So you know the drill – I’ll lay out all of the places we ate in each city and give you a run-down. If you want to see more snippets of this trip, I have my Instagram stories saved as highlights on my profile. If you ever get the chance to go to Germany, DO IT. Especially if you like soft pretzels, cake and coffee. (< Hi, that’s me.)
What we ate – Round 1: Mac n cheese roll (mac n cheese, cheddar and mozzarella, guacamole, paprika, pico de gallo, black beans, corn, sour cream, lettuce), California Sunshine Waffles (rosemary sea salt with caramel)
What we ate – Round 2: cappuccino, burrito bowl (rice, beans, lettuce, pico de Gallo, paprika, corn, pulled pork, guacamole, bacon, cheese sauce, sour cream), rosemary sea salt waffles (again)
This place was right inside of town and around the corner from our Airbnb, so it was a perfect stop for lunch when we arrived and were waiting to get into our room. We also finished our trip in Salzburg by having lunch here again before heading to Traunstein. It’s an interesting spot with a cool vibe – funny, though, because we were in Austria and it had a California-Mexican theme to it. I wasn’t really a fan of their burrito options, but the rosemary sea salt waffles were BOMB. We basically only went back the second time so we could get those again.
What we ate: briocheknopf (“brioche button”)
I knew about this place because of Molly Yeh’s honeymoon recap post. And thank god for Molly because this place was hard to find, so I doubt we would have stumbled upon it ourselves. It’s the 800-year old bakery that’s part of the famous Abbey in Salzburg, and I believe they only serve two options: their classic sourdough bread and then the sweet brioche like what we had. Also the bakery is really just a kitchen with a little corner where you can purchase bread and the smell is intoxicating. I would just stand outside in the hallway all day if I could.
What we ate: 1/2 deep-fried chicken with potato-corn salad, wiener schnitzel with parsley potatoes and cranberries
Since this was described as having “the best fried chicken in Salzburg,” we had to try it. It was pretty darn good, although I’m not exactly a fried chicken connoisseur. I felt like we were truly hunkered down in a historic old European town while eating this meal. The restaurant was extremely cozy and our meal was great. I’d highly recommend it.
What I drank: cranberry kombucha
What we ate: “Sweet Town” (sweet waffle with banana, maple syrup and caramelized walnuts), croissant with butter and jam, fried eggs
Just down the road from our Airbnb, this restaurant is connected to the Natural History Museum in Salzburg. We had a very nice breakfast there and I was happy to drink some local kombucha, which they served to me in a wine glass.
What we ate: Mürbe Topfentasche, pretzel
There were a good handful of bakeries in town, but we went to this one across from our Airbnb twice. It seemed pretty old and to the point – just a counter with a bunch of delicious-looking baked goods. I believe we chose the pastry we got the first time (not the pretzel) because the woman working there said it was one of her favorites when we asked for a suggestion. It reminded me of a cream cheese danish kind of thing, and I’m delighted to report that when googling a translation for it, it came back as “tenderizing pot pocket.” Upon further research it seems to be related to kolaches (a Czech pastry) and, indeed, cheese danishes in America. Some places called it a Quarktasche, aka a “Quark bag” aka a “cheese bag” in American terms. (Quark is a German cheese product similar to cream cheese or cottage cheese.)
What we drank: Greenspot Irish whiskey (on the rocks with a splash of soda) for me, and a Murphy’s Irish Stout + a Guinness for Robert
While I normally wouldn’t have chosen this hole-in-the-wall bar to go into during a visit to Salzburg, we went for an afternoon drink because it was St. Patrick’s day. Consequently I think we found all of the other Americans in Salzburg that day. It was like being in another world because this place was so decked out for St. Patty’s day while the rest of the town certainly couldn’t give a crap. We had a good time and got a little afternoon buzz going on.
What we drank: cappuccino, chai latte
What we ate: plum cake, prosciutto ciabbata sandwich
This was the most hipster coffee shop in Salzburg and was quite busy, despite being tucked away into an obscure corner in town. The first time we walked in we actually walked right back out and chose to come back later since it was so crowded. On our second attempt we were lucky to be seated right away. (It was a coffee shop, but a little more formal with a hostess who would seat you.) Everyone (like usual) was extremely friendly and I was happy to be able to get my coffee and pastry of the day there. It lived up to the hype.
What we drank: light lager
What we ate: BBQ ribs, knödel and sauerkraut from Familie Pavlovic, cheesy pretzel rod from Backerie Raha
Augustiner Bräu is the large brewery in Salzburg, located in a former monastery. There’s a big wall of beer steins where you pick whatever size you want before going over to the bar for it to be filled up. Then there’s a small fountain thing for rinsing your beer cup between drinks if you’re switching to a different brew. A few large dining halls are surrounded by various market stalls where you can get food. We got a traditional meal of knödel, meat and sauerkraut, plus a pretzel twist. The pretzel was one of my favorites of the trip, with cheese on top and possibly some fennel seeds, giving it an interesting flavor.
• signature cocktail with whiskey, elderflower, grapefruit and mint
• gin cocktail with elderflower, bamboo bitters, tonic, mint
• variation on an old fashioned with grapefruit, rosemary, sugar melon
• gin cocktail with blueberry and ginger
• mojitos (strawberry and classic)
• whiskey sour
• cucumber martini
This tiny cocktail bar was one of our favorite parts of the trip. It was our last night in Salzburg and we planned to start the evening with one drink here, but we had so much fun sitting at the bar and watching the bartenders (plus chatting with our new American friend who sat near us), we just stayed there for four hours and hung out. The bartenders here were true artists and they worked their butts off. (We tipped our guy a full 25% – super high by European standards, especially for drinks – making this our most expensive outing of the trip and probably making his month. He invited us to come back every night, haha.) This place was magical because despite drinking four cocktails each, we weren’t super drunk at the end of the night (just pleasantly so), and had no trace of a hangover the next day. They were some of the best cocktails we’ve ever had and so much care went into each of them. It was also a few doors down from our Airbnb, which made it even better. Highly recommended!!
What we ate: 2 slices of pepperoni pizza
After our drinking adventures at Mentor’s we needed a bedtime snack, so we went a few doors in the other direction from our Airbnb to this pizzeria. They have a window on the sidewalk where you can walk up and order slices. PERFECT for late-night drinking. The pizza was great and even better that it was so easy to acquire. This, combined with the cocktail bar, was the perfect end to our last night in Salzburg.
SOME RANDOM MARKET STAND
What we ate: a vanilla cream pastry shaped like a pretzel
Thankfully we hadn’t planned to spend much of Sunday in Salzburg because most places were closed. We weren’t leaving until closer to lunch time, so we snagged this pastry at a little market stand before grabbing lunch at Escobar (see above). It was like a cream puff, but shaped like a pastry. We inhaled it, it was so delicious.
Hotel breakfast consisted of: croissants, breads, cake, cheese, meats, pickles, olives, yogurt, cereal, fruit, hard and soft boiled eggs, sausage, etc.
This was the hotel in the center of Traunstein where we stayed while Robert was working. It was from the 1800s and very charming. As we’ve come to realize, the Europeans do hotel breakfasts way better than we do. We had a lovely spread to choose from each morning, and we often went to our standby from our time in Paris: croissants with brie and jam, plus some fruit and eggs, etc. The hotel is a great choice if you’re ever staying in Traunstein, and it’s just down the street from the market square.
What we drank: local white and dark wheat beer
What we ate: schnitzel with portobello and spätzle plus green beans, fried polenta balls with roasted vegetables and parmesan
We went here our first night in Traunstein with Stefan and his family. It’s a cute beer garden that surprisingly serves all vegetarian food. It was off the beaten path and we were grateful that Stefan chose to take us there. Everything we ate was delicious and it was nice to drive through the countryside on our way there.
What we drank: Vesper (gin, vodka, Lillet Blanc, lemon), local beer
What we ate: pizza caprese
Robert and I went here with Stefan for drinks and a snack the first night. It was right on the square in town and a nice, cozy spot to get a fancy cocktail and a pizza (my favorite things).
What we ate: spätzle with cheese, herbs, sauerkraut and bacon; salad with red beans and red peppers, sprouts; couscous or millet (honestly not sure) with roasted veggies, cheese and marinara
This was probably the coolest place we went to in Germany. It’s a bar/restaurant built into the rock, so it’s essentially a cave. The bathrooms are REALLY in a cave, with rock walls that have water dripping down and ferns growing on them. (There’s also a club in the back where live bands perform.) Each day for lunch they only serve two options: one with meat and one without. We ordered one of each so we could try them both. It was fantastic.
First visit: mochaccino with birnen kuchen (pear cake)
Second visit: cappuccino and apple cake (with whipped cream)
Kava Coffee was my favorite spot in town. It was right on the square (just like almost everything else we went to), and it was my favorite spot to waste time while Robert was working. The drinks were great and so were the cakes. I loved it.
What we ate: Bavette al Amatriciana (pasta with bacon, onions, carrots and tomatoes), sausage with lentils and pears
Stefan took us here for lunch one day, telling us it was one of the best restaurants in town. Like most places it was a cozy, friendly spot and we were not disappointed. Honestly that pasta was one of the best plates of pasta I’ve ever had. Who knew I would have some of the best pasta of my life in Germany?
What I ordered: cappuccino + cream cake with hazelnut and chocolate
Stefan’s partner, Kathi, took me to this cafe one afternoon after I accompanied her to drop their daughter off at ballet class. (That was super cute.) She knew I loved cake (hence the name of this blog), so she really wanted to show me this cafe specializing in cakes. They did have a whole display case of beautiful ones, and it was extremely hard for me to make a decision. But I made one, and it was delicious.
What I bought: Osterfladen (an Easter loaf)
Kathi recommended this bakery to me and I really wanted to just buy some kind of traditional pastry. I bought this large loaf and took it back to their house to share some before stashing it in my bag as a travel snack. It was very sweet but also very good. Kathi later bought a bunch of pretzels from here so we could all have a traditional Bavarian brunch as our dinner at their house. That brunch for dinner consisted of pretzels, cheese, sausage, liverwurst, sweet mustard and other goodies. It was like a picnic and I loved it.
What we drank: a flight of four of their beers, wheat beer, other light beer
What we ate: Rindsgulasch (beef goulash) with knödel, fresh pretzel, Ofenfrischer Schweinebraten (pork with knödel and kraut salad)
We ate dinner at this local brewery for our last night in Traunstein. I was really enjoying all of the traditional Bavarian food – It was extremely comforting. And I think this is where I discovered how delicious dark wheat beers are. Molly Yeh’s cookbook has a recipe for something similar to the beef goulash and knödel I had, so I’m anxious to try it out this fall for a cozy meal.
What we ate: toast with avocado spread, tomato, fried egg, avocado slices, arugula; pancakes with bacon, fried eggs, beans
What Robert drank: mango chai latte
Who doesn’t want a California-inspired breakfast in Germany? It’s been so interesting on our European travels to encounter these American-themed restaurants, since we’re used to going to Italian/French/Japanese/etc. restaurants in America. It hadn’t really occurred to me that other countries might have restaurants with “American food,” especially since I think that can be so hard to define. (It’s kind of like how I don’t really know what an American accent is.) Robert’s mango chai latte was really interesting (they had a LOT of unusual flavors to choose from), and our meals were a great start to our first morning in Munich.
What I drank: espresso dulce (espresso poured over sweetened condensed milk)
What I ate: croissant with cinnamon and almonds
This little coffee stand was so cute and hipster-y. You could tell everyone who popped in really appreciated the care that was put into their beverages. My espresso dulce was probably the best espresso beverage I’ve had yet. It had a wonderful caramel flavor from the sweetened condensed milk, like Thai coffee on steroids or something. And of course my croissant was also wonderful. This was one of my favorite spots of the trip.
What we bought: a huge pretzel
This was a cute little bakery right near Standl 20, so we popped in after coffee. I was on the hunt for a perfect pretzel and I found it here. I wanted to buy EVERYTHING in their bakery case but only got this pretzel that was the size of my head (maybe bigger). We then carried it around for the afternoon in search of the perfect photo opportunity. When we eventually ate it we agreed that it was the best pretzel of the trip. Plus, it was so huge we were able to snack on it off and on throughout the day, and then I finished it off later as a bedtime snack.
What we ate: mozzarella and proscuitto panini from …. somewhere. I’m not sure. (Sorry!)
This was a large outdoor market with a bunch of different food vendors. There were a million options to choose from but we were having a very hard time deciding what we were in the mood for. We eventually settled on this panini to tide us over until our next eating adventure. This would be a good place to show up hungry with a group of friends so you could try a bunch of things.
What we drank: caramel hot chocolate
We were in the mood for another cafe-sit and I had bookmarked this one, famous for its long list of hot chocolate options. I had already filled my coffee quota for the day, so hot chocolate seemed like a good option. I’m very picky about hot chocolate and while I wouldn’t say this was my favorite, it was definitely pretty high on the list. If you’re a hot chocolate fan you should pay them a visit.
We didn’t get anything to eat here, but this is just a really cool store with a cafe inside. They sell everything from espresso makers to fancy clothing to pencils. I had a really good time just browsing the goods, but I did leave with some fancy chocolate bars.
What we drank: Lebanon Lush (whiskey sour with bourbon, fig liqueur, fig jam, angostura bitters, lemon, fever tree tonic), Date Daiquiri (white rum, orange liqueur, date honey, lime)
What we ate: mixed salad with pomegranate yogurt seasoning, grilled goat cheese, homemade apple-date chutney, walnuts, roasted baguette; turkey meatball with zucchini and pistachios in a flatbread (like falafel but with turkey instead of chickpeas), crispy fried sweet potatoes, mint yogurt
This was absolutely my favorite meal in Munich. We had a feeling we would love this Middle East/Mediterranean restaurant since our Turkish meal at Oklava in London was also one of our favorites. I had to get the Lebanon Lush since I’m from Lebanon, PA and I love whiskey sours. Everything we ate was soooo good – especially the grilled goat cheese slathered on the roasted bread with the homemade apple-date chutney. SO GOOD.
What I bought: various chocolate bars
This was just a fancy little chocolate shop where I stocked up on a bunch of interesting chocolate bars. There are quite a few places like this around Munich, but I believe this one was highly rated because I had it bookmarked.
What we drank: Wild Rosie (rosemary, Wild Turkey bourbon, Mondino and orange bitters), Hofbrau Munchner Weisse
What we ate: chocolate cake with golden milk and corn
Sophia’s is the restaurant and bar located at the Charles Hotel in Munich. We stopped there on our way back to our Airbnb to finish off the evening at their swanky bar area. We just wanted to get drinks and possibly a dessert, so this ended up being a perfect spot. It felt like the ideal little date night to cap off our trip before flying home the next morning. My drink was wonderfully strong and our dessert was unusual and delicious. It’s probably way out of our normal price range but it was a nice little splurge for drinks and dessert.
So there you have it! That was our whirlwind of a trip through Germany and Austria. Although Germany wasn’t high on my list to visit before we went, it’s currently high on my list of places I’d like to return to. If you have any favorite spots there, please let me know in the comments.
Illustration at top created with Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (plus other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.