Monday, August 27, 2012

Germany for Tourists...water and other libations

Whenever I used to request water in a restaurant in North America, my dad would say, "Not me, water is for washing." It seemed odd and I ignored it. I often asked why he would say such a thing. His answer was simple and always the same, "because it is." It wasn't until I first went to Europe, a place he left when he was twenty, that I made the connection.

Ordering water in a restaurant in Germany is a bit different than here. You get a glass or bottle of  "sprudel" which is comparable to Perrier, seltzer or sparkling water and is available in regular or medium. I'm unclear as to the difference as the bubbles seem to be the same. Perhaps, the sodium content (natrium) is different. It is often listed as "mineralwasser" on the menu. Some restaurants, but not all have "still" water which also comes in a bottle. Tap water, although safe to drink is not commonly consumed. After all, "water is for washing".

When shopping in a grocery store, "still" water usually has a pale blue cap. It's important to read the label and actually see the word "still" if this is what is desired. Otherwise, if it says "Kohlensäure" it will contain carbonic acid. As you can see, it's inexpensive. There is a bottle deposit.

Soft drinks tend to be costlier. Surprise of surprises however, wine, beer and other forms of liquor are extremely inexpensive. In fact, people often drink "sekt", a form of bubbly wine to which we often give the name, champagne. Cappuccinos, lattes and coffee are also commonly consumed and readily available.

Here's an example of a restaurant drink menu. Schorle is usually a thinned down or spritzer version of a drink. For example Apfelschorle is a popular form of apple drink.

So on my last trip, I learned not to request "Wasser" lest I receive a bubbly, effervescent liquid. Instead, when not in the mood for beer or cappuccino, I asked for "Stilles Wasser bitte". Hopefully, nobody thought I was planning on washing with it.

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