Southern Germany actually doesn’t exist – at least not as one landscape. Not as one unit. The former great powers of Europe clawed at Baden, Swabia and Bavaria so much that the folk didn’t have time to rally themselves – or even to figure out a shared identity. Anyone traveling across the country will be amazed at the glaring differences – the extreme diversity of language and culture, cuisine and religion, temperaments and values. The former tiny principalities that made southwestern Germany a confusing patchwork still exist. Inherited from the nobility and bartered away by the clergy, the land of Baden and Württemberg was divvied up into small parcels. There is no one clear story, just a lot of chapters. The situation is completely different in Bavaria’s southeast, which was historically under one rule – a mood that still lingers today. All this makes Southern Germany extremely appealing and exciting. If you travel with your eyes wide open, you will stumble across a densely packed past and encounter a kind of people that reflects this turbulent and eventful history.
Perhaps you need to come from Southern Germany to recognize the good-natured, considerate heart under the tough, gruff skin of its people. Tourists from abroad deserve a word of warning: Asian cultures, for instance, whose weaving pattern consists of elaborately staged and ritualized friendliness, may be shocked by the brusque Bavarian ways, or could easily misunderstand the challenging dryness and austerity of the Swabians for disinterest, presumptuousness or rejection. Even the Northern Germans – and as far as the Bavarians are concerned, their homeland begins just north of Nuremberg, and from the perspective of a Baden-Swabian, somewhere near Cologne – have trouble communicating with Germany’s southerners. Not only because the Swabian and Bavarian dialects are so far away from High German: silence in the south earns the highest praise, people regard too much courtesy as unpleasant servility or as patronizing. They prefer to talk emphatically with very few words: Unless it has to do with swearing and cursing: then the earthy repertoire of Bavaria is rich, colorful and extremely creative. The Swabians, too, like to string together many words into one long curse, like a caress for their enemies or, even better, for their best friends. The faces of the northern neighbors brighten only when it comes to eating and drinking. Finally, it’s time to feast. The cuisine of the northerners is characterized by dour home-style cooking. In Cologne they even offer a cheese bread roll and call it “half a rotisserie chicken” – such hunger pangs are unthinkable in the south of the republic. Baden is famous for its excellent wines, and the cuisine has a French finesse. Things get more rustic in the Black Forest. Here, the dry-cured ham radiates an intense, smoky heartiness; the almost knee-high cherry gateau seduces with its delicious creamy topping only to throw a brutal schnapps uppercut. “Cherry” doesn’t really mean fruit here, but a clear, alcoholic distillate – you’ll only realize this when it’s too late. Entire busloads of seniors are said to have left the Black Forest with great difficulty, distress and many stops under the curse of the Black Forest Gateau – only to return a year later to do it all again.
Swabians love livers, kidneys, sauces and the world-famous spaetzle, a gnocchi-like dough which must be hand-snipped – or in other words, cut with a knife on a wooden board and dropped into boiling water. Legend has it that suitors for marriage were chosen according to this handcraft – for instance, when a prospective mother-in-law watched as a potential daughter-in-law snipped the dough, and found that neither the consistency nor the shape of the spaetzle was acceptable. Redemption was possible, but only with the perfect maultasche, a kind of giant ravioli filled with meat-onion-bread and devoured either in a broth or as a gratin. The fact that these dumplings are also called “Herrgottsbscheißerle“ (Deceivers of God), is a charming hint to the religious inclination of the south: during Lent, the meat-filling in the maultasche ravioli was thought to be well-hidden from the Lord. But the pious Swabians also contributed to the culinary evolution in other ways: At home in Württemberg, gluttony was regarded as a waste and a sin. So, the Swabians made a stealthy exodus across to Baden’s Black Forest – resulting in a high density of Michelin star-studded restaurants today.
In Bavaria it’s different, but just as delicious and hearty: Weisswurst bathe in sweet mustard, pork knuckles crackle, dumplings steam and for dessert, the Bavarians reveal themselves as the neighbors and blood relatives of Austria: sweet, crisp, fruity, deep-fried and packed with sugar, feasting towards a heart attack. During this time, the beer tide has risen – it is a long way from the wines of Baden to Bavarian barley and hoppy happiness. Happy are they who can cover the distance without spilling a drop. Admittedly, Bavarian beer is world-famous for good reason: full and fruity, pleasantly bitter, refined yet rustic – for us, it blows any champagne out of the water. The landscapes are just as diverse as the history, culture, people and gastronomy of the south; we don’t have one true favorite, we like the peculiar ruggedness of the Black Forest as much as we like the mild landscape north of Lake Constance as well as the lakes of Bavaria and the wild beauty of the Bavarian Alps.
It’s palpable: We can hardly wait to set out on this journey with you, to travel from Baden-Baden to the Black Forest and only let go of this great journey across Germany once we have made it to the Königssee at the eastern end of Bavaria. It would give us great pleasure if you find delight not only in the carefree traveling but also in the many stories of this land. This country and its history have taught us one thing above all else: freedom is a privilege, not a right. Driving CURVES-style means: be mindful, be respectful. Be open. But who are we to say? That’s exactly why you’re here.