This article is part of the series “The German Wurst Adventure”“Teaser” with original itinerary The German Wurst Adventure: Part One – Berlin The German Wurst Adventure: Part Two – Weimar The German Wurst Adventure: Part Three – Erfurt The German Wurst Adventure: Part Four – Nuremberg The German Wurst Adventure: Part Five – Coburg The German Wurst Adventure: Part Six – Munich
More of the wurst. And great, great beer…
Let’s get the boring bit out of the way a.s.a.p. If you haven’t already, check out the introduction and itinerary, the article covering Part One of the Wurst Adventure which we spent in Berlin and the one covering Part Two in Weimar
While you’re at it, why not read all about this project organized by the Nordic Travel Bloggers collective and check out the official German Wurst Adventure website.
Finally, let me repeat that my trip was sponsored by the German National Tourist Office for the Nordic region, with help from Deutsche Bahn and Best Western Hotels and assure you that all opinions are my own, as they always are.
As you’ll recall we left our sausage-loving heroes on the train to Erfurt after an enjoyable day at the annual Onion Market in Weimar. We checked in to our hotel, the Best Western Plus Hotel Excelsior which is just five minutes from the station. We have the luxury of two whole nights in the same place so I took advantage of this and unpacked my bag. I’ll do the review of the hotel at the end of this article.
One other thing – this post will cover Holzhausen and Arnstadt as well as Erfurt. There reason for this is that we visited these towns while based in Erfurt and that is what most people are likely to do as they are only 20 km from the city.
After a brief rest our group met in the hotel lobby and went out in search of dinner. We had a recommendation from reception for a restaurant and made our way there – Gasthaus Feuerkugel. En route we were able to appreciate the beauty of the old town despite the darkness, but when we got to the place it turned out to be full as it had limited seating.
However, there were plenty of other options all around and right across the road we had more luck at Haus zum Naumburgischen Keller (the lovely building on the left in the photo above).
We got one of the last tables down in the cellar, a very atmospheric and cozy place to eat.
Traditional (i.e. heavy but tasty) Thuringian food was on the menu and I went for the heaviest, tastiest and most traditional I could find – Goulash with red cabbage and apple and Thüringer Klößen (dumplings).
Needless to say I did not leave hungry – in fact the rest of the group were impressed that I finished my plate. Hey, I was hungry, okay? Anyway the food was delicious and a couple of cold weissbiers were the ideal accompaniment. No dessert though, that would have been just silly.
Haus zum Naumburgischen Keller, Michaelisstrasse 49, 99084, Erfurt http://www.haus-zum-naumburgischen-keller.de
We made our merry way back to the hotel, passing this rather adorable figure – he’s a character from an East German children’s TV series that is remarkably popular in Norway at Christmas.
Known to us as Jon Blund or the Sandman, he helps kids fall asleep in the evening, apparently.
I didn’t need his help, I can tell you. I slept like a baby and woke refreshed and ready for a new day and plenty of wurst.
Breakfast was good at this Best Western too; once again a large number of options at the buffet, both hot and cold.
However we had a train to catch so there was no time to linger.
At the station we printed our tickets from the machine and were soon on our way to Arnstadt, just 15 minutes away.
When we arrived at the station, we were met by Thomas Mauer, Managing Director of the 1st Deutsche Bratwurstmuseum. Yes, the 1st (and only) German Bratwurstmuseum.
It was his father that came up with the idea of a museum dedicated to this most German of dishes, and is still in charge since it opened in the tiny village of Holzhausen in 2006.
A roundabout on the way into Holzhausen provides a clue as to what this place holds dear.
You might need to zoom in to see it…
On arrival we began with a guided tour of the indoor exhibition areas which are located over two floors and detail the history and tradition of the Thuringian Bratwurst (and of the German grilled sausage in general).
The first documented mention of the bratwurst dates from 1404 and a purity law determining its ingredients pre-dates the far more famous one for beer.
There are displays of the various tools and machinery used in producing sausages throughout the ages.
Cutting pork by hand using one of these extremely heavy tools was a tough job, so the invention of the mincing machine was a blessing.
These have also developed over time while maintaining many of their original features.
The modern, heavy-duty machinery used in large-scale production.
Here are the 9 herbs and spices that form the basis for bratwurst; although every chef has their own secret mix…
Here you can try to identify the herbs and spices from their aroma – push the stopper down and put your nose against the hole, then flip the card for the answer. Rather clever, I thought.
How sausages were grilled back in the day.
You can get a bratwurst all over the world; this display shows you a few of the most famous international outlets.
If you have small children in tow you can keep them occupied for a while while you browse the museum…
Next we went back outside to be greeted by a bitingly cold but beautifully sunny day. Time to visit Bratwurst World…
The museum features the “largest accessible bratwurst in the world” which basically a means a huge sausage-shaped exhibition area you can walk through. At first I though it contained an actual bratwurst so was a little disappointed.
Here a famous German artist has created an interesting illustration showing various celebrities at some kind of banquet dinner. You’ll recognize a few of these for sure, but one in particular stands out.
‘Brat Obama’ has been crowned the Thuringian Bratwurst King since he chose to visit the region first when coming to Germany for his initial visit.
Here you can check just how far you can go for a decent bratwurst.
We went back indoors to the dining area to warm up and grab a coffee. The next item on our busy agenda was to make our own Thuringian bratwurst. Now this is something every visitor should try; make sure you reserve a space with the chef.
Equipped with aprons, hats and disposable gloves we were led into the preparation area. Several kilos of high quality pork were slapped onto the chopping boards in front of us and we cut the meat into strips to be fed into the mincing machine.
Thomas and the chef took care of this part and the resulting mince was then put into a large bowl. We added the required spices and mixed it thoroughly. We also tasted it and adjusted the seasoning – there is no risk involved eating such excellent meat raw and it tasted good but needed a little more salt.
Then the fun starts – one person must feed the mixture into the funnel of the next piece of machinery, this is then compressed by turning a handle while a second person threads the pig’s stomach (or sausage casing, if you’d prefer) over a spout from which the meat emerges.
Once the required length/thickness is achieved (at least 15cm long) a signal is given so the first person stops turning the handle, the casing is dragged a little to form an unfilled gap before the process is repeated and the next sausage forms.
Once all the meat is used or the casing runs out, the ‘links’ between each wurst are cut and by holding each end of the sausage and rotating it a few times, the sausage is ‘closed’.
When we were done, we had this lovely pile:
After discarding our kitchen clothes and returning to the dining room we met our distinguished guest – the Bratwurst King. Halfway through his two-year term, he was clearly enjoying his position and honoured us by grilling our sausages himself.
The finished article, in a roll with mustard, was rather impressive though I say so myself.
And what’s more, they tasted delicious. The Bratwurst King said he found them “good” when asked for his professional opinion, which we took to mean that they were perhaps better than any he’d tasted and was a little worried about maintaining Thuringian supremacy in this area.
It is possible that we may have been reading a little too much into it, though.
After a quick photo op with Thomas he was on his merry way, as were we.
The 1st German Bratwurst Museum is definitely worth a visit; it’s fun, has plenty to see and do and in a beautiful location surrounded by three castles in various states of repair from ruined to rebuilt as a hotel.
1 Deutsches Bratwurstmuseum, Hinter dem Gute 2, 99310 Wachsenburggemeinde, OT Holzhausen www.bratwurstmuseum.de
We had a little time before our next appointment so we drove up to one of the castles for a quick look and to enjoy the view.
There are trails between the castles and around the surrounding area which would make excellent day hikes; this is clearly a good place to come for an active holiday.
We then drove to meet Uwe Keith at his office. He’s the man in charge of promoting Thuringian bratwurst and meat. We learned about the EU protected origin status of the Thuringian sausage and that such protection does not come cheap – unless I got it completely wrong I believe there was mention of a EUR 500,000 cost.
It’s probably worth it though, and the sausage seems to be in rude health.
In the archive room I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this – which I assume represents the holy trinity for a happy life:
No arguments there.
With that, we piled back into Thomas’ car and he dropped us at Hotelpark Stadtbrauerei Arnstadt, which as you may have guessed from the name is that most fabulous of concepts, a brewery and a hotel under the same room.
We joined a guided tour led by the charismatic “beer caller” in full traditional garb.
He explained that his role back in the day was to announce when fresh beer was available from one of the 130 or so taverns in town. Beer was big business and taken very seriously ever since it was first served in 1407.
This particular brewery had closed a few years after the demise of East Germany but had now reopened and was back in production with the addition of a hotel with swimming pool and bowling lanes.
Thank goodness for that, because this is some of the best beer I’ve tasted. Shame then that it can only be purchased here, at a few shops in Arnstadt or at a handful of restaurants in Germany.
Our guide claimed – nay, insisted, that weissbier (wheat beer, my absolute favourite) was invented right here so this (a) gave my own visit an almost sacred status and made it feel like a spiritual pilgrimage and (b) meant that I had sky-high expectations to their own weissbier.
I was not disappointed. I’ve tried a lot over the years but this was one of the absolute best. I will clearly have to return. With a semi-trailer.
We sampled a few other beers too, all of which were great, before moving on to coffee and cakes.
Overall I was impressed and whilst we didn’t get to see the hotel I’d definitely consider staying here just to live at the source of all that beery goodness…
Hotelpark Stadtbrauerei Arnstadt, Brauhausstrasse 1-3, 99310 Arnstadt www.hotelpark-arnstadt.de/en
But we had to return to Erfurt and that meant catching the train from Arnstadt station. This was only a few minutes’ walk away so we said our farewells and headed out into the fresh air.
On returning to the hotel we had an hour or so to relax (or work…) before meeting in the lobby to go out for dinner once again in Erfurt. The local tourist board had reserved a table for us at a place a stone’s throw from where we ate last night called Zum Goldenen Schwan.
The tourist board had clearly done its homework as this is a traditional style beer house with its own brews on tap. Oh and good food, too – more meat-focused Thuringian fare which was fine by me.
Zum Goldenen Schwan, Michaelisstrasse 9, 99084, Erfurt http://www.zum-goldenen-schwan.de
We returned to the Best Western for a fairly early night and again, I slept really well.
In the morning we checked out after breakfast but left our bags at the hotel to collect later. Today we would finally see some more of Erfurt with a guided tour which began at 0930.
Renate, said guide, told us that Jon Blund was not alone – there were many children’s’ TV characters all over Erfurt as the programmes had been made nearby. We came across this fella in one of the main squares…
Erfurt is a well-preserved and very attractive city that’s easy to like.
It has more than its fair share of historic buildings, churches and the like and enough to keep visitors occupied for several days.
We made our way to the cathedral square where it’s hard not to be impressed by the building and neighbouring church.
Great care has clearly been taken in the restoration and preservation of the old houses in the city centre.
Beer has always been important here, too. Many buildings have these holes above the entrance; this is from when beer was brewed inside – when it was ready a bunch of straw was placed in the hole to signify to the beer caller who then spread the word. For a fee, of course – paid in beer.
Erfurt also has its own mustard museum; a tiny exhibition contained in a mustard shop in the city centre. You can learn about the history of the local brand and sample the exotic varieties on sale.
I tried quite a few and liked the beer one so much I had to buy a jar. Not hugely surprising, I’ll admit.
BORN Senf-Laden & Senf-Museum, Wenigemarkt 11, 99084 Erfurt http://born-feinkost.de/erlebniswelt/born-senf-laden-senf-museum/
The road you see in the photo above is actually a bridge, indeed it is the longest inhabited bridge in Europe. Merchant’s Bridge is today home to shops selling local specialities and the authorities have wisely turned down applications for premises by McDonalds et. al. in favour of keeping things authentic.
From this side it’s a lot easier to see that it is indeed a bridge.
Another highlight in the city is one of very few preserved medieval synagogues in Europe, which remained hidden between other buildings for years before being opened up to the public and restored.
After all this walking, it was time for lunch. Faust Food is an absolute must in Erfurt – the concept was to take the traditional outdoor snack stand with its charcoal grill and bring it inside, add seating, heating and expand the menu. But prices remained low despite the very high standard of food on sale – so it’s a major bargain.
We got to sample their bratwurst, which was actually the best so far (we grudgingly accepted that it beat our own version) but for lunch proper, a cheeseburger was called for:
I think the picture speaks for itself. Highly recommended.
Faust Food, Waagegasse 1, 99084 Erfurt www.faustfood.de
Best Western Plus Hotel Excelsior
This is another Best Western hotel with an excellent location. About five minutes’ walk from the main station in Erfurt, nobody’s going to complain about having to drag their bags all across town before checking in.
I was given a very large room with a separate sitting area and sofabed so there is space for one or two more guests here – it would be good for a family with children.
The desk was suitable for working but again, it could perhaps have been a little bigger. There was a well-stocked minibar in there too.
As you can see I had a lot of space. I don’t really like carpets in hotels (or at home, for that matter) but these were at least clean. The double bed was – as it often the case with German hotels – actually two singles pushed together which is fine when travelling alone but not ideal for couples.
If you don’t need to use the sofabed to sleep on then you have a large area to relax in.
The bathroom was compact but again the shower was fabulous. Best Western have clearly understood the importance of this in their hotels and thumbs up for that.
Not much space otherwise in the bathroom, but then not much needed. It might have been a squeeze for a family but using it one at a time shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s good to see dispensers on the wall as this is more environmentally-friendly although this hotel provides small bottles as well.
Here is a video of the room:
Breakfast was, as reported earlier, excellent.
In conclusion, this is a very good choice for accommodation in a central location in this fascinating city.
Best Western Plus Hotel Excelsior, Bahnhofstrasse 35, 99084 Erfurt
Erfurt and Holzhausen: Total wurst tasted – 5
- Thuringian Rotwurst
- Thuringian Leberwurst
- Thuringian Rostbratwurst – coarsely minced
- Thuringian Rostbratwurst – coarsely minced at Faust Food (same type so only counted once)
The winner: Thuringian Rostbratwurst from Faust Food