Right before I went to Germany for two months, I was chatting with a professor of mine. She mentioned that one of her favorite places in Berlin was Einstein Café on the broad thoroughfare Unter den Linden, and she recommended the Apple Strudel. I tucked away that advice and, although I don’t typically pick apple desserts when given other options (like chocolate-anything), I planned to get the stereotypically Austrian/German sweet pastry.
Thus began my love affair with Apfelstrudeln (apple strudels). A particular German song, which I happen to love, seems apt:
“Lass Mich Nie Mehr Los” by Sportfreunde Stiller
[Note: Below are only two verses and the chorus, the song continues further.]
Wie New York ohne Sinatra
Wie Wien ohne den Prater
Wie ein Herzschlag ohne Blut
Wie Lindenberg ohne Hut
Wie ’ne Eiszeit ohne Schnee
England ohne Tee
So als ob bei Steve McQueen die ganze Coolheit fehlt
Jeder Boxer braucht ’ne Linke,
Kiss braucht viermal Schminke
Tonic braucht Gin.
Wie wär ein Leben ohne Sinn?
Wie ein leeres Paket
Wie ein Rad das sich nicht dreht
So als ob anstatt ’nem Sturm nur ein leichter Wind weht,
So bin ich ohne dich
Du hältst mich; mir fehlt nichts.
Lass mich nie mehr los.
Lass mich, lass mich nie mehr los
Lass mich nie mehr los.
Lass mich, lass mich nie mehr los
English Translation by Kara (it rhymes nicely in the German, not in my translation, though):
Like New York without Sinatra, Like Vienna without the Prater, Like a heartbeat without blood, Like Lindenberg without a hat, Like an Ice Age without snow, England without tea, Like if Steve McQueen existed but without any coolness …
Every boxer needs a left, Kiss needs four times the makeup, Tonic needs gin, How’d life be without meaning? Like an empty package, A bike you don’t pedal, Like if there was a storm but only a faint wind blew …
Chorus – That’s how I am without you. When you hold me, nothing’s missing. Never let me go. Never, never let me go. Never let me go. Never, never let me go.
I propose a new lyric that I think would fit perfectly in my food experience: “Wie Deutschland ohne Apfelstrudeln” (“Like Germany without apple strudels”). Germany without my beloved strudel? It’s inconceivable. Such an idea goes against all that is good, right, and real in the world. It cannot be! Like the band Kiss requires makeup and a heartbeat intrinsically requires blood, that’s how German food would feel to me without the sweet Nachspeise of Apfelstrudel. It’s totally love-song-worthy.
(Isn’t that sweet German love song? You’ve got to hear it. So lovely.)
I had a lovely first taste of the dessert at the recommended locale: Einstein Café on the wide boulevard that leads to the Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden. I sat outside, enjoying the sun (like a good German would, I’ve observed). The prices were pushing my budget, for sure. But this is a famous café and, after all my wanderings in Berlin, finding a table gave my feet a chance to relax.
I had a “Braune” coffee, which meant that along with my dark coffee, I was served a small, warm pitcher of steamed milk to mix as I saw fit.
And I had a piece of Apfelstrudel in vanilla sauce.
Mmmm. I ate it slowly to savor the perfectly cooked apples in the crisp, yet buttery, pastry. The creamy sauce added to the sweetness. Heavenly.
The next time I had Apfelstrudel was as a dessert at a dinner in celebration of a fellow student’s birthday. We’d gathered at a somewhat grungy pub, Tiergarten-Quelle, located directly under the Tiergarten S-Bahn station.
The dinner was delicious and I insisted that I couldn’t eat another bite. Until a friend suggested splitting an Apfelstrudel with me. Why not twist my arm a little? Of course, I said yes. And I’m so glad I did.
Tiergarten-Quelle has the best Apfelstrudel I’ve ever stuffed in my mouth. It was piping hot, topped with ice cream and whipped cream, dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar.
Oh gracious! If I hadn’t been so full, I might have resorted to wicked tricks to steal the other half from my friend. But I knew this dessert was not just a line Maria von Trapp/Julie Andrews sings from “My Favorite Things.” This was one of my favorite things!
As it turns out, once my husband met up with me in Berlin, this was the first (and then third) Apfelstrudel he tasted. It was, thus, my second, third, and fifth.
So, from whence came the elusive fourth (or Charlie’s second) Apfelstrudel? Where else but in Wien (Vienna, Austria), its purported birthplace!
We had visited a strangely wonderful architectural experiment called Hundertwasser in Wien.
But we were getting hungry and cranky. Charlie was hungry and saw several eating establishments that could easily fit the bill. But we didn’t have much time in Vienna and I didn’t want to waste a dinner at any ol’ place. We noticed a café at the entrance to the village and walked up the stairs to get there. I am so glad we did.
What we had for dinner has since left my memory. But we had, on our last night in Wien, a trinity of strudels as our shared dessert splurge. I can’t remember with precision their contents, but …
I know one was apple (that is, Apfel).
One was custardy.
And one involved berries of some sort.
It was all kinds of YUM. And quite fun to try different breeds within the Strudel species.
So, in conclusion, here is my Ode to the Strudel:
Ach, Du schöne Apfelstrudel,
Viel besser als einige Nudel,
Wieviel süßer, und leckerer,
Und schneller gegessen.
Ich ess’ Dich am besten.
Warning: I’m sure poetry in honor of food should never be written by a non-native speaker, if at all. But here’s my translation:
Oh, you pretty Apple Strudel,
So much better than any noodle,
How much more tasty and sweetened,
And more quickly eaten,
You’re my very favorite to eat.