Gruene Woche: A taste of the world in Berlin

I know we’ve blogged about Berlin not too long ago. But this topic is right on time. The Gruene Woche is going on through this week and it’s a great event to see. There was a protest staged against it last weekend, and it gets huge press here in Germany.

What is the Gruene Woche?

Gruene Woche translates to Green Week. It’s ¬†an opportunity for the world’s food, farming and gardening industries to show off. The green doesn’t mean eco-friendly, here, just having to do with food, agriculture, or gardening. And it takes place for a week (longer, actually!) A ticket to the Gruene Woche gets you access to hundreds of informative stalls and displays. You can hear local music, taste regional food, buy flower seeds, test an in-home sauna, see organic cooking demonstrations, and go eye-to-eye with prizewinning livestock. And, there’s a whole hall devoted to beer.

Gruene Woche Overlook

The photo’s a bit old, but it still looks much the same. Photo by: _raina_

What happens at the Gruene Woche?

It’s part convention, part massive international market. (Here at germany-travel, we go for the market part!) On the grounds of Berlin’s convention center, exhibitors from literally all around the world flock to the Gruene Woche to show sides of the countries you’ve never seen. Last year I discovered cheese from Romania and reindeer from Norway, while this year I sampled tagine from Morocco and pickles from the next state over in Germany!

Gruene Woche 2013 - Norway

Norway’s setup in 2013. Photo by: Landbruks- og matdepartementet

When’s the best time to visit the Gruene Woche?

In general, weekdays will be less busy than weekends. But I went on a Saturday and survived. If you go on a weekend, the key is to get there as early as you can – the later you go, the more crowded it will be.

Gruene Woche 2013 - Plants

An oasis in the convention center: the plant showcase. Photo by: Anagoria

 

Top Tips for Gruene Woche 2014

  • There’s folk dancing at Greece’s area, and don’t miss the creatively-named olive oil company nearby.
  • Take a tour of Germany without leaving the city. Each state has its own snazzy setup. It’s a great way to discover regional foods and traditional costumes. I recommend Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, try the turkey salami products and the St√∂rtebeker beer!
  • For a natural break, make your way to the plant showcase. The air is fresh, the plants are lovely, and they have water dispensers.
  • Avoid the Austria exhibition if you can. I’m only saying this because one end of the hall narrows and causes a horrible bottleneck. It took us 15 minutes to herd our way out of that 50-f0ot-long human traffic jam.
  • Buy eggs from a vending machine in the organic hall.
  • Or, for the pescatarians, chow down on a fish-based currywurst!

All in all, the Gruene Woche is a fun experience for the whole family and a really interesting way to see a snapshot into other countries you might not have known about before.

Lubeck Marzipan: Almonds as you’ve never imagined

Germany’s best-known marzipan comes from Lubeck, on the Baltic Sea. Read on to learn a German New Year tradition featuring Lubeck marzipan and some interesting marzipan facts.

 

Marzipan was brought to Europe by the Crusaders, but it’s popular around Europe and has left traces and traditions all over the world. Countries from Germany to Italy, Estonia, Portugal, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Belgium all have special ties and traditions with marzipan, and marzipan-like sweets can be found in Iran, Latin America, India and the Philippines.

 

Lubeck marzipan fruits

Why are those fruits plastic-wrapped? Look closer… that’s not fruit, it’s marzipan! Photo by: GaijinSeb

 

What makes Lubeck marzipan so special?

Within Germany, Lubeck marzipan is such a tradition that it has its own protected geographical indication (PGI). That’s the same name protection as Champagne and Roquefort cheese. Some Lubeck marzipan makers have been at their craft for more than a century. That’s a tradition with a history.

 

Traditions with Lubeck marzipan

The New Year is around the corner. Have you got a German you want to impress? Be prepared as the clock’s counting down. Germans have a tradition of giving out pigs made from Lubeck marzipan at the new year. There’s still enough time to get all your pigs in a row (get it?), but only if you hurry! So where should you rush to find the best Lubeck marzipan?

 

Lubeck marzipan schweinchen pigs

Photo by: Alice Wiegand

 

The best place to get Lubeck marzipan

First, get yourself to Lubeck! Lubeck itself is well worth a visit. It’s a lovely city with a gorgeous Old Town and beautiful architecture. One popular spot is Niederegger, which hosts a Lubeck marzipan cafe and a well-stocked gift shop. They’ve even got a cool quiz machine where you can win your own piece of marzipan if you answer three questions in a row correctly. And don’t miss the special tea offerings, flavored with – what else – the house’s own marzipan.

 

Lubeck marzipan variety

There is something there for everyone. Unless they don’t like marzipan at all. Photo by: Susie Wyshak

From fruits to Marzipankartoffeln (yes, that’s marzipan potatoes… just don’t try making potato pancakes out of them), to solid logs flavored with chocolate or booze, to colorful animals, seasonal decorations and even dinosaurs: The makers of Lubeck marzipan are nothing if not creative! While you’re getting your Lubeck marzipan piggies, snap up a few other tasty companions for those oinkers. One bite will have you saying “wee, wee, wee” all the way home.

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