Germany: Food, Wine & Song

July 3-10, 2018 (8 days, 7 nights)  Pre-tour extension available.

As a destination with an exciting culture, varied scenery and a long history, Germany has always known how to make an impression, but German cuisine has long been another highlight to add to the list. There is no shortage of options when it comes to fine interpretations of traditional recipes or modern creations – always accompanied by excellent wine and authentic hospitality. Well known for sweet Rieslings, less well known for the feinherb (medium) or trocken (dry) vintages that are made – and predominantly stay – in Germany.

Traveling at the beginning of July is the perfect time to experience new ways to enjoy unforgettable music at the Rheingau festival near Wiesbaden.  The program includes performances of Carmina Burana in a medieval monastery, private concert of Hildsegard of Bingen’s compositions and a musical celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday at the Festival Hall in Baden-Baden.

The tour continues to Baden-Baden, the summer capital of Europe during the belle époque and a rendezvous for the rich and beautiful, which is today world-famous a spa town (time at a spa included) with a rich cultural tradition and much to explore in the region.

Delicious Highlights will include

  • A traditional continental breakfast at the first Viennese coffee house in Germany
  • Wine tasting atop Wiesbaden’s Neroberg with views overlooking the city
  • Additional wine tastings at small regional wineries in the Rheingau and Baden-Wurtemberg regions
  • Visit to the historic wine cellar in the Strasbourg City Hospital (Cave Historique)
  • Traditional dinner at a castle overlooking the Black Forest
  • Culinary tour of Freiburg, including progressive gourmet dinner
  • Dinners at authentic winstub’s in Baden-Baden and near Strasbourg

Sightseeing & Musical Highlights:

  • City tour of Wiesbaden
  • Guided tour of Bingen’s Museum on Strom and Disibodenberg, location of the  ruins of the 12th century Benedictine abbey where Hildegard of Bingen first entered monastic life
  • Private concert of Hildegard of Bingen’s own music
  • Two-hour cruise on the Rhine River
  • Performance of Carmina Burana (Carl Orff) at a 900-year–old monastery
  • Musical celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Birthday at the Festival Hall in Baden-Baden
  • City tour of Baden-Baden and visit to its casino, one of the most famous in Europe
  • Opportunity to experience German spas from natural thermal waters (therapies not included and must be booked in advance)

Included in your tour is:

  • 8-day tour by coach
  • Breakfast daily
  • 4 lunches and 4 dinners
  • Three nights at the Nassauer Hof, Wiesbaden
  • Four nights at “Maison Messmer” Dorint Hotel, Baden-Baden

Day 1

Wilkommen in Deutschland! You are met at Frankfurt am Main International Airport by the Global Gourmands host who drives you to Wiesbaden. Stop for breakfast at the first Viennese coffee house in Germany. Afterward, embark on a brief orientation tour of the city before checking in to the Nassauer Hof Hotel, where your luggage awaits. If you would like, secure a reservation for lunch at the Enten Bistro, the lunch venue of the hotel’s Michelin-starred Ente restaurant. Your afternoon is at leisure, giving you time to visit the luxurious spa, filled with thermal waters from the hotel’s own mineral spring. Late in the afternoon, join your host and fellow travelers for an amusing, historical ride on the city train to the top of the Neroberg hill, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Wiesbaden and a wine tasting. Take the Nerobergbahn (cable car) back down the hill and head out of the city for a gourmet meal in a former hunting lodge that has been lovingly restored with a modern feel. B, D

Nassauer Hof Hotel, Wiesbaden

Day 2:

Take some time this morning to enjoy the hotel, perhaps treating yourself to a “sapphire abrasion” or intensive oxygen treatment in the spa. (Please note: Spa services are not included and must be booked in advance.) After lunch, depart for Frankfurt for a visit to the Museum Embankment, a culturally rich area that is home to several museums on both sides of the Main River. Afterward, head to the Eberbach Monastery for dinner followed by an exciting performance of Carmina Burana, a scenic cantata composed by Carl Orff and based on a medieval collection of 24 poems. B, D

Hotel Nassauer Hof, Wiesbaden

Day 3: 

Today is an adventure not to be missed: exploring the life of Hildegard of Bingen (b 1098-d 1179), a Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, Christian mystic and visionary. Known also as Saint Hildegard and Sibyl of the Rhine, she was the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. Begin with a visit to Bingen’s Museum-on-the-River, which focuses on Hildegard’s life and works. At nearly 360-square-yards, the museum uses fascinating models of the long-destroyed Hildegard convent to showcase her impressive life story. The adjacent “Hilde-garden” houses an assortment of her medicinal plants and is associated with her work on natural history. From there, continue to the ruins of Disibodenberg, the 12th-century Benedictine monastery that Hildegard entered as an eight-year-old novice. Explore the main buildings and gather for a private concert of her music. After lunch, embark on a relaxing two-hour Rhine River cruise before visiting Schloss Vollrads for the day’s first wine tasting. Stroll the scenic grounds and then continue to the famous Schloss Johannisberg, one of the first contemporary producers of Riesling in the Central Rhine Valley. Tour the wine cellar, sample the award-winning wines and sit down to a delicious dinner. B, L, D

Hotel Nassauer Hof, Wiesbaden

Day 4: – July 6

After breakfast, depart in the late morning for Baden-Baden. En route to the hotel, stop at the Brahms House Museum, which for nine years was the summer residence of Johannes Brahms and today is an authentic and charming museum. After checking in at the hotel, get to know the history and style of Baden-Baden in private guided tour of the town. (Please note, there are some hilly cobblestoned pedestrian areas).  After lunch, have a private tour of the Friedrich Burda museum or enjoy free time to shop or indulge in the unique experience of a spa treatment. This evening, dinner will be served at a traditional restaurant with specialties of Baden & Alsace. If you are feeling lucky, visit the famous Casino of Baden-Baden, housed in the elegant Belle Époque original Kurhaus and modeled on the interiors of French royal palaces. According to Marlene Dietrich, it’s “the most beautiful casino in the world.”

Hotel Dorint, Baden-Baden

Day 5: – July 7

Pay a visit to the Roman Bath Museum – they were the first to appreciate the mineral hot springs of Baden Baden – before heading out to the bucolic countryside for a typical German summer day in the country. Reaching the stunning natural surrounds only takes a matter of minutes by coach along the world-famous Black Forest Scenic Route (Schwarzwaldhochstrasse). It starts in Baden-Baden and boasts wonderful views across the Rhine valley to the Vosges mountain range in France. A scenic walk finishes with a wine tasting and late lunch.  Leisure time at the hotel before this evening’s special event commemorating composer Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday. Listen to the music of the great composer – the last to succeed in combining classical forms with popular music. American Broadway star Kim Criswell sings famous selections from his oeuvre – with a glass of champagne at the intermission to soak up the atmosphere in the Festival Hall of Baden-Baden.

Hotel Dorint, Baden-Baden

Day 6: 

Today, drive through the Black Forest to Freiburg, one of Germany’s prettiest medieval towns but also one of its “green-ist”. The Green Party was born there in the 1970’s out of an effort to close a nuclear power plant, and since 1986 the city has been supporting the expansion of renewable energies with roof space for solar system and other initiatives and in 2012 it was awarded “Greenist City in Germany”. Their approach extends to their food as well. They are a member of the Organic Towns Network and serves organic food in their schools and hosts the annual Agricultural Festival. On the way to Freiburg for a day of cultural and culinary activities, make a detour to the German Clock Museum to take in the rich diversity of Black Forest clocks. On arrival in Freiburg, get to know the city through a private tour with tastings before lunch. Afterwards, there’s time to stroll through the town and relax before dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant with a charming atmosphere and sophisticated (yet simple) fare based on top quality ingredients.

Hotel Dorint, Baden-Baden

Day 7: 

Travel early this morning to Alsace, a region of France whose borders have been blurred throughout history as sometimes French and sometimes German. In Strasbourg, learn about the Council of Europe where the European Union was born. Embark on a city tour, beginning in the historic La Petite France quarter, where fine restaurants and half-timbered 16th-century buildings flank cobblestone streets. End your tour at the 1,000-year-old Strasbourg Cathedral. You have time to explore on your own before sitting down to lunch.

Then, visit a unique oenological destination: the historic wine caves at Strasbourg City Hospital, founded in 1395. The wine cellar is in the medieval basement of the hospital. Over the centuries, patients donated wines in exchange for good medical care. Now the cellar is home to more than 40 ancient barrels, a wine press dating from the early 17th century and a wine-filled barrel from 1472. This extraordinary wine – among the oldest in the world – was served just three times. The first tasting was held for the Swiss delegation in 1576, and the second was inspired by renovations in 1716. The final tasters were the liberators of Strasbourg, led by General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc in 1944. Afterward, continue to Colmar, affectionately called “Little Venice” for its canals and the “Capital of Alsatian Wines,” and check in to your hotel. The remainder of the evening is at leisure.

Hotel Dorint, Baden-Baden

Day 8:

You’ve heard the saying that “all good things must come to an end.” Today is the day your delightful food, wine and song tour wraps up.  Depart this morning for Frankfurt and your flight home.

SAVOY CABBAGE ROLLS

This sophisticated version of the common cabbage roll comes from the Baden area, whose inhabitants are known for their refined taste. Tender Savoy cabbage instead of earthy green cabbage, creamy tomato sauce instead of bacon sauce make it unique and flavorful. Inside, the rolls are all dressed up with lean ground beef and fresh herbs. (You can also use half ground pork and half ground beef.)  This is adapted from Grandma’s German Cookbook (Dorling Kindersley, 2010) by Birgit Hamm and Linn Schmidt.

INGREDIENTS

8 large Savoy cabbage leaves
1 onion
1 lb 2 oz (500g) ground beef
1 large egg
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
pepper
1 pinch of freshlygrated nutmeg
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large can peeled, whole tomatoes (850 g)
1 tsp sugar
5 tbsp heavy cream
1 pinch of saffron threads
2 1/2 tsp salt
kitchen twine

INSTRUCTIONS

Wash the cabbage leaves, pat them dry and trim the center rib of each leaf so it opens flat. Add 1 teaspoon salt to a large pot of water and bring it to a boil.  Blanch the cabbage leaves for 2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the leaves and immediately refresh them in cold water so that they retain their beautiful green color. Drain the leaves.

Finely chop the onion.

Mix the ground meat in a bowl with the onion, egg, bread crumbs, 1 tsp salt and the spices and herbs.  Spread out the cabbage leaves on a work surface.  Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the ground meat mixture onto each leaf.  Starting from the center rib, roll up the leaves, tucking the edges under. Tie the leaves into rolls with kitchen twine. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (350 degrees on convection setting).

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the cabbage rolls on both sides over high heat for about a minute. Remove them from the pan and set it aside. Pour the tomatoes into the frying pan and break them into small pieces while bringing them to a boil. Add the sugar, a half teaspoon of salt, cream and saffron.  Stirring constantly, cook the tomato sauce for about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce into a shallow baking dish.  Arrange the 8 cabbage rolls in the dish, pressing them down firmly into the sauce.  Place the baking dish on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.

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360 Degrees of German food, wine and music in the summer.

Final pricing in progress.  Airfare is not included but starts at $1,100.                                                                                           

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