Baden-Baden turned out to be a German version of Bath, or Cheltenham- an elegant, monied kinda town, where the Herrenvolk go on holiday to have sterilised mineral waters (and other similar delights) shot up their backsides. I liked the place. In such a refined environment, we were expecting lighter foods: carrot juices, infusions, Ryvita bread- that sort of thing. The reality was entirely different.
First stop was at a Lowenbrau biergarten. Here, burly waiters in Lederhosen brought vast plates of sauerkraut, sausages, pasta (schupfnudein), pork knuckle, bread dumplings (knodel) and the like. Judging by the Gothic proportions of most of our fellow diners' stomachs (their toes must be a distant memory), helpings of this enormity are probably de rigeur in the Fatherland.
I ordered a beer. This arrived in a flagon about three feet high (I kid thee not) and I could barely lift the blasted thing off the table. For breakfast we had hearty heaps of bratwurst, smoked salmon, goat's cheese, black pudding, smoked meats and black bread. It's not that the food is particularly bad in Germany; it's not. It's just that after a few days of knodel, Black Forest Gateau, stomach slapping and beer burping, you start to dream longingly of the lighter and more refined food cooked by the French.
Heidelberg had a grungier atmosphere to Baden-Baden and is bathed in a rather beautiful, glowing, reddish light. A distinguished university town, it was one one of the few German cities to have survived intact after the Second World War. It's also home to the slightly sinister duelling fraternities, for which I have a burgeoning fascination. The students still wear the uniform of cap, breeches, and coloured sash. The town is overlooked by the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. In the cellars is the enormous 18th century tun- or vast barrel (Das Grosse Fass) constructed by the Prince Elector Karl Theodor to hold fifty-eight thousand gallons of wine. The tun was looked after by one lucky Tyrolean midget called Perkeo.
There are some elegant food shops in Heidelberg selling biscuits, gingerbread, cake, sweets and other goodies. Bread is good in Deutschland. Particularly delicious were the Apfelchips- presumably apples sliced very thinly, dried and then deep-fried, with a sprinkling of sugar. On The Greasy Spoon tomorrow: the paradox of Belgium. Is Belgian food better than French food? We take our lives in our hands by driving to Waterloo...