BOOK | Blue Window | A Food Journey into the Past via Europe’s High Peaks and River Valleys | Germany

Allotment City

We are taking tram 21 in the direction of Moosach in the north-west of the city between Schloss Nymphenburg and the Olympic Park to a place called Westend because we have been told this is where we will find Munich’s allotment city.

Sure enough the tram slides past an area with hedges and trees and prefab huts, then turns into a narrow tramlined road, stopping just before a U-bahn entrance for Westfriedhof. We look back at the tram. Sure enough its destination reads Westfriedhof. And sure enough when we enter the area under a sign for a Greek taverna there they are, the products of a typical allotment, merely obscured by the hedges around the outer rim and the trees that encourage birdlife and wildlife, and stimulate urban biodiversity.

How did we manage to confuse a tram displaying Westfriedhof for Westend?

Westfriedhof is a small area, one of 83 allotment gardens throughout the city, Westend containing several adjoined gardens for a larger area. With allotment areas disappearing from cities all over Europe – Berlin’s once vast allotment area is now private housing – clever management by the Munich Allotment Garden Association has 8,700 established plots and a desire to keep the city as green as possible. Some 4 million people tend allotment gardens throughout Germany.

The Westfriedhof site is Munich Allotment Garden Association North-West number 3. It was founded on July 21, 1925 on an area of ​​46,600 m². There are 172 gardens with an average size of 240 m² which is slightly smaller than the national average, 400 m².

Several allotment gardens in Munich have a small restaurant and we would like to believe that some of them serve jemöszuppe – the soup made with fresh herbs and fresh leaf and root vegetables – in honour of the allotment growers who work hard every year to raise produce for their own use.

Small gardens have been an aspect of urban life every since the first cities were established. The continuing excavation of Pompei is revealing an urban lifestyle that included market gardening.


Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (train) 71–87 minutes

Bayerischen Leberkäse

The snow is visceral. Seasonal smells mingle with seasonal stragglers. The wafting aroma of baked fruits, nuts and spices. The smell of roast chestnuts. A fragrant air colliding with cold vapours. Christmas is long gone, yet its essence lingers. The carnival detritus is also evident. The Maschkera have put away their hand-carved wooded masks for another year. The sun shines with a fierceness that contradicts the season, reflecting our images on every casual surface. We live in that lightness of being, walking the path from serendipity to inevitability.

This morning that path is alongside the Loisach river. We are not alone under the southfacing Almhuette and Wetterstein mountains, as we survey this magical twin-town and its surrounding peaks. Like us the people glance skywards. Unlike us they know their beloved heimat in the valley is sacrosanct. Up at Zugspitze and Leutasch Dreitorspitze, familial high peaks, comforted by the knowledge of their perpetual existence.

As is the traditional food. Leberkäse – equal beef and pork, a quarter of that amount in bacon, one part water to four parts meat, seasoning and herbs – served with potato salad – potatoes and chicken stock, lemon juice and mustard – is our treat today.

The 4000 Bavarian butchers who specialise in leberkäse cannot afford to deviate from tried and tested recipes. Attempts to introduce an ingredient they believe will improve the quality of the finished product are usually rejected. More often than not that ingredient is an egg, because the Bavarian leberkäse is made with an emulsion that can fall apart during baking. Butchers prevent this by freezing the meat, adding ice and keeping air bubbles out of the emulsion, so that when it bakes in a low oven it holds both its shape and texture. An egg would achieve that end.

A Bavarian leberkäse should not be grey, it should be a pale pink with a reddish brown crust. The end slice, called scherzel, is coveted because it combines the crunchiness of the crust and the melt-inthe-mouth softness of the loaf. Leberkäse should taste delicious hot and cold. Hot it is cut into thick slices and served with potato salad or two fried eggs, and with sweet mustard. Cold it is eaten as a snack, usually with gherkins and a bread roll. [snip]

Bräustüberl Garmsich



Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Zugspitze 15 minutes (return 15 / 20 minutes)


At Niesenhorn in Switzerland a shimmering blue sky, casting its light on the settlement between the lakes, created an effusive mood, everything bright and light.

At Zugspitze in Germany a creeping gothic mist, moving eerily around crystal peaks, creates a claustrophobic feeling, everything doom and gloom. On a clear day we would have seen the expanse of our alpine journey, written in the sky, from Mont Blanc in the Savoy Alps to Mount Triglav in the Julian Alps. It wasn’t to be.

Instead we contend ourselves with the knowledge that we have been to the top of the European world. Time for dinner! Sauerbraten is on the menu and it has got us wondering about the origins of this wonderful dish. A traditional dish rooted in the regions, the Bavarians and the Rhinelanders argue that their version is the best, while the Swabians know their soured meat by a different name – bofflamot.

Originally made with game meat, sauerbraten is now associated with beef and is generally served with boiled potatoes and red cabbage, with dumplings or noodles.

Zugspitze Panorama

RECIPE — Bayerischer Fleischpflanzerl meatballs
RECIPE — Bayerischer Kartoffelsalat potato salad
RECIPE — Bayerischer Leberkäse Bavarian meat loaf
RECIPE — Bayerischer Sauerbraten Bavarian soured meat
RECIPE — Bratkartoffeln mit Zwiebelrostbraten und Bratkartoffelgewürz spiced fried potatoes with fried onion
RECIPE — Eintöpf pot stew
RECIPE — Hutzelbrot fruit bread
RECIPE — Jemöszupp fresh herb, leaf and root vegetable soup
RECIPE — Laugenbrötli lye bread buns
RECIPE — Spanferkelrollbraten roast suckling pig roll

Gasthof Fraundorfer


Chef Hansjörg Betz


Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Mittenwald (train) 21–33 minutes (bus) 30 minutes



Alpine Herbs
Bärlauch (wild garlic) Story
Carnival Pastries




Kempten to Oberstdorf (train) 48-64 minutes


Our trip to Oberstdorf to taste the roast suckling pig in the restaurant of this singular brewery turned into a pleasant day in the mountains, and instead of a large lunch and a sip or two of their craft beer we sampled the products of the bakery in the railway station instead, after a stroll around the town. We had managed to miss their announcement that the dampfbierbrauerei would be closed for annual staff vacations.

We’ll be back.

Oberstdorfer Dampfbierbrauerei | Menu

RECIPE — Bayerischer Brotzeitteller snack plate | Bayerischer Schlachtplatte meat plate
RECIPE — Ente mit Kartoffelknödel und Blaukraut duck with potato dumplings, red cabbage
RECIPE — Hausgmachte Rindsrouladn mit Kartoffelbrei beef roll, mashed potatoes
RECIPE — Kassler Ripperl auf Sauerkraut mit Kartoffelbrei smoked pork chops, soured cabbage, mashed potatoes
RECIPE — Krautwickerl mit Kartoffelbrei und Rahmsoß cabbage roulade with mashed potatoes, cream sauce
RECIPE — Rehrücken saddle of venison marinated in red wine
RECIPE — Schweinsbraten mit Biersoße crispy pork roast with beer sauce
RECIPE — Schweinshaxn Münchner Art roasted pork knuckle with crispy skin, Munich style
RECIPE — Spanferkelbraten roast suckling pig
RECIPE — Tellerfleisch mit Kartoffelsalat und Meerrettich beef, potato salad, horseradish
RECIPE — Weißwürste mit süßem Senf white sausage with sweet mustard and pretzels
RECIPE — Weißwürst veal sausage
RECIPE — Wildgulasch venison stew



Venison / Wild

We are touring the enchanting Bavarian countryside with its patchwork quilt of green and golden fields. Our quest is a gasthaus with local products on its menu, venison in particular, a farm shop with venison cuts and an enlighted chef to explain the fascination Bavarians still have with the foods of the wild. We are on roads around Landshut and Regensberg in south-central Bavaria. The village of Neufraunhofen is lively. We stop and find ourselves amidst confirmation ceremonies, the menu inviting. We find a space in the upper flour banquet room. The venison dish we entertain is not a gulash or a stew, it is roast venison pieces served in a sauce made with a venison stock, and it is enchanting, deliciously tender and juicy.

Gasthaus Rampl


At Regensberg railway station we are waiting for the Alex, the train that runs the Munich-Prague line. We are going to Karlovy Vary, the spa town with the big hotels, just across the border. This is Bohemia!

First a phenomenon.

Once again, looking at the assortment of breads in the cabinet of the station bakery, we notice the proliferation of small breads.

What is this?

It seemed that the small breads revolution that began in German-speaking Switzerland in the late 1990s when several bakeries in canton Vaud around lake Murren began to experiment with various flours and ingredients, taking the small bread to a level beyond mere flour, water, yeast and salt, had reached a nadir some years ago, the price being prohibitive.

Flour combinations included halbweissmehl, a semi-white flour with barley flour, wheat flour and wheat gluten, zopfmehl, a strong white flour with barley flour, spelt flour and wheat gluten, plus spelt-wheat, maize-spelt and wheat-rye combinations.

These produced specialist yeast rolls, vis:

  • Apfelmost Brötchen — wheat flour, apple juice, cream (pictured)
  • Aprikosen Brötli — semi-white, maize flour, apricots, butter, milk
  • Aprikosen Brötli — white spelt, white wheat, apricots, butter, milk
  • Gewürzzopf Brötchen — zopf flour, butter, milk, spices, yoghurt
  • Hölzlibrötli — white, wholewheat flours, butter, herbs, milk
  • Kartoffel Baumnuss Brötchen — semi-white flour, potato, walnuts
  • Käse-Brötchen — white flour, butter, mountain pasture cheese, milk
  • Maisbrötchen — maize, spelt flours, curd cheese / quark, milk / soya milk
  • Nussbrötchenn / Nussbrötli — semi-white flour, milk, walnuts
  • Rosinenbrötchen — white flour, butter, egg, milk, raisins
  • Zöpfliknoten — zopf flour, butter, honey, kirsch, milk, with egg-saffron glaze

This cornucopia appeared to reflect a trend with modern traditional baking in Europe, where the simple bread roll made with butter and milk was being gradually replaced by breads that cater for all tastes.


These are edited draft versions of some the content that will appear in the finished book.

Switzerland (Geneva) & France (Bonneville)
Switzerland (Pre-Alps)
Switzerland (Alps)
Italy (Piedmont)
Switzerland (Rhône Valley)
France & Italy (Mont Blanc | Monte Bianco)