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Art, culture and fine food on the Romantic Road

Three great concepts are inextricably linked together along Germany’s oldest and most popular tourist route: art, culture and fine food are all synonymous with the Romantic Road, which is now over 60 years young. This famous 460-kilometre route, with its cult of relaxed travel far removed from the bustle of the motorway, links the River Main in the north with the Alps in the South – including their regional cuisines and specialities, from the wines of Franconia and the beers of Bavaria. Devotees of good traditional home-cooking as well as lovers of gourmet cuisine will all be spoiled for choice. Anyone with a heart that can be reached through their stomach will find the Romantic Road a real pleasure trail: delicacies from the regions of Franconia, Baden, Württemberg, Swabia, Bavaria and the Allgäu, cultural experiences that are truly out of the ordinary, dazzling art events together with all kinds of celebrations as well as festivals of regional cuisine – all lure travellers 365 days a year to discover new surprises and offer ‘Symphonies for all the senses’. There are many delightful Italian influences too, in the Tiepolo ceiling frescoes in the Prince Bishop’s Palace in Würzburg, for example, or on the Roman Via Claudia Augusta, which runs parallel to the Romantic Road from Füssen in the foothills of the Alps to Donauwörth farther north. Cosy farmhouses, rustic inns, stylish restaurants, trendy lifestyle hotels and elegant temples to gastronomy conjure up classic dishes and traditional specialities – plus many other forgotten dishes – on their menus and their tables.

A particular delicacy in Lower Franconia is ‘Meefischli’: small, crispy fish from the River Main, served with their heads, skin and bones, rather as they grill sardines in the Mediterranean. In the Tauber Valley, ‘Grünkern’ – a dried spelt grain – is used in a wide variety of dishes from soups to desserts. Beef, pork, lamb and game are cooked in a variety of different ways in different regions – as ‘Kärrnersbraten’ (stuffed beef pockets) and ‘Zwiebelrostbraten’ (roast beef with onions), stews, chops, cutlets, roulades and as ‘Schäufele’ – a Franconian speciality of spicy, lightly smoked pork shoulder. There are also delicious sausages, called ‘saure Zipfel’, which are marinated in vinegar and then either fried or served in aspic. In Franconian fish ponds there are tasty carp, which are served as ‘Knusper Filets’ (crispy fillets) – without their dreaded bones. For some years now, they have also been growing and processing ‘Emmer’ here, an ancient variety of wild wheat; it is even brewed into beer. And the nearer the Romantic Road gets to the Alps, the more often delicious brown trout and char find their way onto the table. People in the know look out for the butterfly-shaped ‘Regionalbuffet’ logo, which is a guarantee of fresh, local produce. In Bavarian Swabia, around Augsburg and in the Lechfeld region, there is sheer poetry in the Swabian pasta dishes such as ‘Krautkrapfen’ (herb fritters) and especially ‘Maultaschen’, a larger version of Italian ravioli, stuffed with sausage meat and spinach.

In the Pfaffenwinkel with its heavy baroque influences and rococo extravaganzas, and in the Königswinkel, with the castles of the fairy-tale king – both of them regions on the Romantic Road that enjoy world heritage status – menus include a lot of milk and cheese products, and flour is a staple ingredient of many dishes: cheese gnocchi, cheese dumplings and cheese noodles, quark noodles and plum dumplings. In addition, of course, to meat from grazing animals and game. The diversity of the cuisine is accompanied by a fine range of beverages to wash it down with. Franconian wine from the valleys of the Main and Tauber, in their typical ‘Bocksbeutel’ bottles, as well as Hohenlohe wines, enjoy an excellent reputation amongst connoisseurs, as do the delicious beers. There’s many a convivial tipple to be enjoyed in the ‘Ratskeller’ (traditional cafés in or near the old town hall), in the local chateaux, in the winegrowers’ cooperatives, in the wineries and breweries of both bourgeois and princely origin…..

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