We LOVED Englischhausen. (Could you tell from this post??) It’s seriously such a cool concept, and we got to know so many amazing people during our week there.
One of those people was Renate, and she invited us to her home in Schwabach for the weekend!
YES PLEASE. My favorite way to travel is to hang out with a local. (Especially one as welcoming and sweet as Renate!)
Don’t get me wrong. I love museums and big attractions. And I will never say no to checking out the famous landmarks in a new city. But the intricacies of a culture are not easily discovered when you’re surrounded by other tourists. Staying with Renate gave us a glimpse of real life in Germany.
Even getting to her house was an adventure. (Well, it was for us.) Because we got to ride on the Autobahn.
For those of you who don’t know, the Autobahn is a federal highway in Germany that doesn’t have a speed limit. So after asking if either of us is susceptible to motion sickness (nope!), we accelerated to 220 kph (just shy of 140 mph!)
Despite not having a speed limit, the Autobahn does have a lot of other driving restrictions that are strictly enforced. For example, it’s illegal to pass on the right, you can be fined for tailgating (enforced by cameras), and it’s illegal to run out of gas (no stopping for any avoidable circumstances). The rate of fatal accidents per distance traveled is actually lower than in the United States… by about half.
And surprisingly, it wasn’t just blurs of color out the window. So we also got to enjoy the view while zipping along the highway.
We arrived in Schwabach a few hours later. Renate’s place was SUPER cute. I told her that one day, when I finally settle down and own a house, she has to come decorate for me.
I didn’t take many pictures of her place (because that would be creepy and weird), but one of my favorite things was her milk bottle light fixture.
She also had a fabulous balcony, and we frequently ate outside during our stay.
And while I think of grilling as being a very “American” pastime, I’ve come to learn that it’s pretty common all over Europe. Germany was no exception! We cooked some sausages out on the Weber one night for dinner, and while I was still marveling at that, Renate totally blew my mind by casually setting down some Stubb’s BBQ sauce on the table.
Me: Wait, WHAT?? You have Stubb’s?
Renate: Oh yes! I always buy it because it’s the best barbecue sauce.
Me: Well, that’s true. But did you know that Stubb’s is from Austin… where we’re from??
Renate: Oh, really?
Me: YES REALLY. AND IT’S WEIRDING ME OUT AND MAKING ME EXTREMELY HAPPY AT THE SAME TIME.
We also got to try white asparagus, which is popular all over Europe, but treated like vegetable royalty in Germany. Also known as “white gold” and “edible ivory,” there are entire festivals dedicated to this vegetable, sometimes even proclaiming a lucky lady as the Asparagus Queen – complete with crown and sash.
Renate also told us about the Nürnberger Rostbratwurst, a small, pork-based sausage that is cooked on a grate over an open flame. This food is protected under EU law, and thus can only be produced according to the official recipe, and only in the city of Nuremberg.
Schwabach is only a 15 minute train ride from Nuremberg, so we took a day trip into the city to see what this bratwurst was all about.
As a main dish, it’s served in quantities of 6, 8, 10, or 12 on a round or heart-shaped pewter dish (see above). As a snack, it’s typically served as Drei im Weckla, meaning “three on a bun” (see below). We had the snack variety, and it was pretty delicious!
We also got to see the Nuremberg Castle while we were in town. It is documented as existing since the early 1100s, and was used as fortification during medieval times.
My brain still hasn’t quite grasped the amount of European history that exists, so trying to fully understand that the thing I was standing on is 900+ years old was a little crazy.
So I distracted my brain by looking out at the city and all the orange-topped buildings.
And I distracted it even more with a pretzel! The pretzels in Germany are the gigantic soft kind, made fresh daily. We got a Butterbrezel, which means that it was sliced horizontally and buttered before we stuffed it in our faces.
Nom. Artery clogging, cholesterol-raising, salty goodness.
Walking back to Renate’s place from the train station, we saw a cemetery and stepped inside. Graves here are often shared among one family, and each plot is like a tiny garden.
It was really peaceful and beautiful.
Renate told us that it’s common for Germans to visit the graves of their family members pretty frequently, and that they tend to the plants and flowers on a weekly basis. There are even gardening supplies available for use in the cemetery.
In fact, since Renate doesn’t live close to her parent’s grave, she pays someone to visit and do garden upkeep every week, so that it’s stays looking nice! Super interesting and definitely not something we would have learned about if we hadn’t stayed with a local.
Renate also took us to dinner with her biking group. We had a fun time hanging out with her friends, and we were continually impressed with everyone’s amazing English skills. (They also tested our German. Michael got a half-pass, but I completely failed, except for three words: “white asparagus,” “beer,” and “cheers!”)
Also, (VERY IMPORTANT), they taught us the appropriate way to toast. And let me tell ya, they take “cheers-ing” very seriously here! We toasted probably like 5-6 times in a single meal. And there are specific rituals involved.
First of all, it’s very important to clink glasses with each and every person individually. (You should never take a sip of your drink until you’ve done this.) And you must look each person in the eyes while doing so, unless you want to be really #rude. (Also, if you’re superstitious… they say if you don’t make eye contact while toasting, you’ll have bad sex for 7 years! 😳)
In addition to teaching us about these important customs, they also thought it would be fun to go to an American-themed bar. (Yes, apparently that is a thing in their tiny town of 40,000 people.)
The walls were covered in various “American” things, including license plates, menus, flyers, state flags, and pictures of famous celebrities. (Unfortunately, photos of The Travel Medley have not yet made it to their walls.)
Stereotypically Southern things were everywhere. Cowboy boots hung from the ceiling and horses lined the walls. (They were sad to find out that as a Real Life Texan, I have never worn cowboy boots and never ridden a horse. #Sorrynotsorry. I’m more of a city girl.)
Overall, it was SUCH a fun weekend. Schwabach wasn’t on the original agenda, but we are super glad that we keep our travel plans somewhat flexible, so we can say yes to cool opportunities like this!
From now on, every time I eat white asparagus I’ll feel like a royalty (even if I’m not the Asparagus Queen), when I see Stubb’s I’ll think about the little piece of Austin, Texas on dinner tables in Germany, and I will always (always) make eye contact with everybody when I toast!
Thanks again for hosting us, Renate!! We had an amazing time. Prost! 👀 🍻