Eating in Cologne, Germany

I made a point of eating as much traditional Bavarian cuisine as possible.

Bavarian cuisine is rich and hearty. It’s meat, fried meat, fried things, mushy things that weighed in your stomach. Deep-fried horse meat (see photo, the dark brown slab covered with nuts and served with applesauce) has a very… distinctive flavor. It’s like goat, but tougher and even a little bitter and a little like overcooked liver. (Even my server was surprised that I ordered such an old-fashioned, traditional dish.) I couldn’t finish the whole thing—partly because it’s huge, partly because of the flavor.

At €1.20 for a 200 mL, the local beer was more than a bargain. It was refreshing and light, and it cut through the richness and fat of the horse meat. Bar servers have this nifty trick of giving each diner a paper coaster and tallying the beers with a pen directly on the coaster. I may have had three beers.

I have a lovely story about dinner at this tiny-but-popular bar-restaurant tucked away south of the main street. Sitting alone at a tall table by the window, I was minding my business, observing the patrons, waiting for my bill. I noticed an elderly local woman step in with her husband and mill around my table—not discreetly eyeing my seat. She was clearly exuberant, conversing loudly to her husband.

She plopped down next to me. A wide smile lit up her wrinkled face. She asked me a question in German, repeating and repeating, and I felt idiotic for not understanding UNTIL I recognized a word. She was asking me where I came from! She must’ve heard of it or known someone who’d been there because she shouted to her husband something about San Francisco.

I paid my bill and said guten nacht.

But back to the food. On this evening, I ordered deep-fried blood sausage (see photos) served with mustard and fried potatoes. (Again, I was met with a mix of surprise and amusement from the server.) It. Was. Splendid. Especially with (another) local beer. I’ve never been a bar type of person, but this bar was well lit, the night air was cool, the scene was lively but far from rowdy, and the food and drink were excellent.

Go to Cologne for the inexpensive beer, the hospitable (English-speaking) locals and the amazing bread. Two nights and a little more than two full days were sufficient to see the attractions and also explore the neighborhoods.

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