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  • Meirion Harries

DAY THIRTY THREE Foodie Country

As we sat this morning in the chill of Coburg's medieval streets enjoying Kaffee und Kuchen ('pulled out' Bavarian doughnuts made with a shot of arak) we celebrated our luck at having reached Upper Franconia. This area occupies roughly the top right-hand tenth of Bavaria and is the foodie and beerie place in Germany. If you think I exaggerate – the area has per capita the most bakeries, confectioners, butchers, breweries (200 of them brewing 1,000 types of beer) in the world. And the most distilleries, flour mills, ponds, and sweet cherry and horseradish production in Europe. Not a surprise then to learn that this is where the American army located its largest base. Coburg and Bamberg patrol the western border of Upper Franconia, Bayreuth is at its centre with the region extending to the east as far as the Czech border and north to the small town of Hof. Hof has Bavaria's finest church organ – so we will try to pedal in that direction at some point. The town has food specialities: Schnitz, a kind of hotpot, and Hof sausages boiled in a brass cauldron by the Warschtlamo ('sausage man', in the local dialect). On the Monday after Trinity Sunday, you can wash your choice down with a bottle or two of Hof's Schlappenbier – named after their town militia who ran to their shooting ground in their clogs, their Schlappen.

Divje Babe Flute 43,000AD (c)National Museum of Slovenia

Clogs on cobbles are from the medieval soundworld. Some church organs are too. Church bells and Even older, the Neues Museum in Berlin plays the sound of two extraordinarily in tune bronze age trumpets. The British Museum has a reed flute from the Pyramid of Senusret III. And in Ljubljana, in the National Museum of Slovenia, is part of a Neanderthal flute made from the femur of a bear and believed to be the world's oldest musical instrument. Apparently, the flute will play two and a half octaves – three with overblowing.


Coburg sausages (c)genussregion

There was some rather nostalgic samba in the cafe where we had supper last night. But we were not drawn to dance: the focus was on the grand sausage of Coburg. If ever there was an example of how important sausages are in the German tradition – and how particular they are as a cuisine – the Coburg sausage is it. The recipe for this august sausage certainly dates back to the sixteenth century, though there is evidence of Coburg sausages being served up in 1498, two per person. My favourite origins story is that the sausage was created in 1530 for Martin Luther while he was staying in the castle; it's still sometimes called the 'evangelical bratwurst'.

Bratwurstmannie with baton(c)wikimediacommons

On our way to the restaurant, we walked past the Bratwurstmannle – actually a statue of Coburg's patron saint, the martyed Roman soldier, Mauritius, who holds an officer's baton in his right hand. And since the mid-1600s that baton has been the mandatory measure of the length of a raw Coburg sausage – 31 cm (12 inches). The recipe, too, is precise: each sausage has 100 grams of meat spiced with nutmeg and lemon. Coburg sausages are freshly prepared and must be eaten on the same day, grilled or fried. Goethe once received a letter from a friend staying in a hotel on the market square: “Since 6 am this morning, sausages have been fried on my square, on ten different fires; if this page smells of it, you know where it comes from.” With reluctance we leave Coburg today – though all Franconia lies before us. We cannot wait until we reach the potato fields of the Fichtelgebirge. Here is Albinoni's Adagio played on the 60,000 year old Slovenian bone flute - https://youtu.be/sHy9FOblt7Y Film of replica prehistoric Irish musical instruments being played - https://youtu.be/o0ExXOoXA8I This is 45 minutes of a medieval village recorded from some distance away by The Guild of Ambience - https://youtu.be/ugLwYV1GSvo


And one of Britain's greatest flautists - https://youtu.be/EsCyC1dZiN8

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