Last month I went to Germany with my parents for two weeks! They flew over to Amsterdam, scooped me up in The Netherlands and then we drove into Germany and hopped around to different towns in southern Germany, mostly in the province of Bavaria.
Both of my parents have German ancestry but had never been to Germany, so it was on their bucket list to see one of the countries from their lineage. My mom really wanted to go in December since Germany is known around the world for their Christmas Markets, so we were curious to see what that was all about too!
Being vegan and gluten free is always an adventure when traveling. I have to eat gluten free or I get a bad tummy ache, but when it comes to my choice of being vegan, my philosophy is that I’ll do my best to find vegan food, but if it’s not possible, then I’ll settle for vegetarian (dairy and eggs). I don’t even have a desire anymore for meat and an animal’s life is not something I’m wanting to sacrifice anymore, so there’s no settling around that. Some vegans I’m sure would point their finger at me in shame for even including dairy occassionally, but this is my decision and I feel really good about doing the best I can, but not totally stressing out and making a fuss if it’s not possible and I end up eating dairy a couple times when traveling.
So, let’s get on with some of the highlights!
Oberwesel, Middle Rhine
Our first stop was for two nights in a small town on the Rhine River called Oberwesel, outside Frankfurt (not in Bavaria, but close to it!). We stayed at this amazing place that I stumbled upon in my research called Burghotel Auf Schoenburg, which is an old castle – about 1000 years old! – that has been refurbished into a hotel yet maintains its character where you feel like you’re back in time living like royalty.
It’s a stunning setting, on top of a hill overlooking the town and river, with its own private gardens to explore just for guests of the castle. This was truly one of the highlights of our trip and I’d recommend it to anyone! This region is known for the Rieslings, so we also went on a private tour with a local vintner. (Note – the wine on the tour isn’t vegan as far as I know.)
The Castle has a delicious restaurant where the food is fresh, simple ingredients are honored and care is put into each dish. A 4-course meal came with our room each night, and I was able to request in advance gluten free and vegetarian. Now that I’ve been there I think they would accommodate vegan too, but at the time I made the reservation I was happy to know that I could at least get vegetarian in a typically meat heavy country! As it turned out most of the dishes were vegan anyway, besides some cheese with one appetizer and ice cream for dessert.
Here are some of the dishes I thoroughly enjoyed (sorry the photos aren’t great but you get the idea!):
- Lamb’s lettuce with straw potato sticks (below – left)
- Consommé of tomatoes with fried artichokes (below – right middle)
- Braised savoy cabbage roulade filled with dried tomatoes and rice, served with root vegetables in a riesling sauce and fried olive-shaped potatoes (below – bottom right)
- Stuffed courgettes on braised cherry tomatoes and fried polenta (below – top)
None of us really wanted to leave the castle, but it was time to move on in our exploration! 🙂
Nuremberg – Christmas Market
Nuremberg (Nürnberg) is a medieval city in northern Bavaria and is famous for it’s enormous annual Christmas Market (Christkindlesmarkt) which gets about 2 million visitors per year! The market has a huge array of food, ornaments and other seasonal decorations, a variety of local artisans with their selection of winter gear (hats, scarves, gloves), candles and other household goods, as well as fun stuff for kids like a merry-go-round. I was actually expecting even more variety among the vendors, but in the end it seemed like a lot of the items looked similar to each other in the market, and even across markets – we ended up visiting quite a few over the course of the trip!
TIP: We found that the smaller markets, the ones in the really small towns off the beaten path, had more unique items and variety in the vendors. The Nuremberg Market was worth visiting for its sheer size and festive feel, but be prepared for crowds and seeing more Christmas ornaments for sale than you ever have in your entire life. 😉
Being in Germany, a lot of the typical market food was not vegan and gluten free. Think sausages, meat patties and even sauerkraut with bacon in it (too bad, because I love sauerkraut!). There were however a surprising amount of food stalls with EITHER vegan OR gluten free options, everything from waffles, pancakes and other sweet treats that looked really yummy. The key for me was finding BOTH vegan AND gluten free in one package, which was where the findings got tough. There were some Mediterranean stands with items like hummus, olives, rice and vegetables, so that looked like a good option too if I was looking for more of a meal, but I really just wanted to snack.
So, while my parents ate soft pretzels and bratwurst, I settled for roasted mixed nuts, corn on the cob and roasted chestnuts – which was a new discovery for me! “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” was previously just a Christmas carol to me, but I got to try roasted chestnuts for the first time ever and was delighted at their unique taste! They taste like a potato, which I wasn’t expecting. I also enjoyed drinking Glühwein which was available in excess – a German mulled wine with spicy seasonings like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (that’s me and my mom with our mugs in the pic below!). A great way to stay warm! 😀
Nuremberg – Mariposa
We did end up eating at one vegan cafe in Nuremberg called Mariposa (which means butterfly in Spanish), which is a tiny little place owned by two super nice sisters from Romania, one with an adorable little daughter who we had fun trying to talk to in English and Spanish (this 2 year old is learning 4 or 5 different languages!).
It was an interesting experience as we were the only people in this tiny place that felt more like a home, and the food was made to order so we had to wait awhile to get our meals. That said, we did have some really yummy vegan AND gluten free food! We started with a big salad – fresh mixed greens, raw broccoli, avocado and pomegranate seeds topped with a homemade creamy, slightly sweet dressing to die for. I seriously wish I knew what was in that dressing! (pictured below, bottom right)
Next we indulged in cauliflower gratin with gravy, sautéed shiitakes and rice (pictured above, top right). Somehow it tasted just like Thanksgiving! My parents really enjoyed it too. Whoever thinks vegan food is for rabbits clearly hasn’t been to Mariposa, especially when we talk about the next course which is probably the heartiest veggie burger on the planet… dontcha think?
This veggie burger is made out of mostly potatoes as the base, and is just totally epic. I mean, just look at the height of this thing! It’s 3 patties layered with tomatoes, arugula and creamy cashew sauce. The sauce was really good but was put on with a heavy hand and really doused the burger – so I recommend asking for less sauce or getting it on the side. Still, I loved the food and say that these Eastern European ladies know how to cook a hearty vegan meal, that is for sure!
Munich – Der Psychorr
Munich is a big city with an incredible selection of vegan restaurants and cafes. I wish I had more time to explore, but I didn’t want to force my parents (not vegan) into eating at vegan places everyday or going out of our way when there were other things on our itinerary to fit in. So, I knew I could make do at most places we found ourselves (even if I just got a simple salad). Still, I did stumble upon a couple places to share about here.
Feeling famished after a long walking tour, we were looking for a nearby restaurant to fill our bellies. We happened upon Der Psychorr, a traditional Bavarian restaurant in the heart of Munich. My guess is this place is very touristy but it has good reviews on Trip Advisor, and hey, we’re tourists so we fit the bill even though my family typically prefers to stay out of the mega touristy restaurants.
To my surprise, this place had vegan AND gluten free potato and semolina dumplings. I can’t tell you the last time I had a dumpling, so was really excited about this! It was served with veggies in tomato sauce. While it wasn’t totally amazing, it was good and honestly I was just happy to be able to eat traditional Bavarian food while still adhering to my vegan and GF preferences, so it was a ‘win’ in my book!
Munich – Lost Weekend
One day my parents decided to go to Dachau, the concentration camp outside Munich. About seven years ago I visited Auschwitz in Poland, the biggest concentration camp of them all. While I’m so grateful I went to experience the sobering, heart breaking reality of the Holocaust and definitely recommend it if you ever have the opportunity, I didn’t feel a burning desire to visit another concentration camp this time around. I feel like I saw it, felt it, honored the victims and will always remember my experience, but I wasn’t up for another visit.
So, while my parents went off on their own that day, I decided to get some work done on the blog and went out to an ALL VEGAN local coffeehouse near the university called Lost Weekend. Oh, how I miss the vibe of being around a bunch of young, budding, hipster college students! Now, I feel very young, but that environment highlighted the difference of where I’m at in my life compared to the university students about 10 years my junior… even though some days I really feel like I just graduated from college, like, 2 years ago (it’s been almost 9 years though, gulp!). I apologize for the terrible picture – didn’t realize how bad these pictures came out until after I left! 😉
Regardless, I’m a sucker for coffeeshops and could work in them all day long. There’s something about the active conversations, inspiring smell of coffee and sweets, and simultaneous lively yet laid back mood that gets me feeling super creative, motivated and connected to life in a different way. So, this coffeeshop was no different and I enjoyed an organic soy milk matcha latte and some really good hummus with celery and carrots. I tried asking if any of the sweets were also gluten free and the cashier said, “I think they all are,” which was a flag for me because that clearly wasn’t the case… so I didn’t get to try any of the yummy looking vegan pastries. In the display they also sold chia pudding, miso soup, coleslaw, couscous bowls and different sandwiches – so definitely some options for everyone!
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the places we visited, I did do what I set out to do here, which was to highlight the places where I found vegan and gluten free options for those of you on this dietary journey with me. I hope you find it resourceful when planning your trip! Danke! 🙂
Here are a few more pictures of one the most beautiful places from our trip – Garmisch, a town in the southeast near Austria. I didn’t get to scout out vegan friendly restaurants there (though for an amazing Italian restaurant with plenty of gluten free vegetarian options including great salads and risotto, I recommend Colosseo), but I highly recommend visiting this gorgeous part of Germany! These first two photos are from the top of Mount Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany where you can see over 200 peaks. Stunning! The last photo is from a trail called Partnachklamm in Garmisch.