Eating Across Germany, Norway, and Iceland (2018)

In May/June we combined several planned trips into one big trip…a cycling tour along the Elbe River in Germany, from Dresden to Magdeburg; visiting some family history sites in Magdeburg and Berlin; a scenic train journey in Norway from Oslo to Bergen; and (finally it worked) a layover in Reykjavik, Iceland courtesy of IcelandAir.

A highlight of being in Germany in May is that is (white) asparagus season! Asparagus, or Spargel, was on the menu literally everywhere. Much more delicate than its green cousin, the soup – Spargelcremesuppe – was especially delicious. I’d make it here at home if I could get my hands on some good fresh white asparagus. I know, one can buy a packaged mix, but the real thing is so much better.

Soup and asparagus aside, our meals in Germany included many of our favorites – lovely breakfast buffets with wonderful breads, meats, and cheeses; various schnitzels, wurst, dumplings, red cabbage, and sauerkraut; thin-crust Pfannkuchen pizza; decadent sweets (had to have second breakfast after all!); Doner Kebab (gyros, basically); and, sure, some pasta and salad here and there for variety.

Barbyer Misthaufen

Also a couple of times, I ordered things just to find out what they were – Soljanka was in that category, a hearty soup of Russian and Ukranian origin, very common it seemed on the menus in eastern Germany. The “what is it” notion also led me to order Barbyer Misthaufen at the Gasthof zum Rautenkranz in Barby – and yes if you know some German, Misthaufen basically means manure-pile – was schnitzel with fried onions on top to look somewhat like hay. 🙂


Least favorite had to be Berlin’s much-loved Currywurst – seemed to me to be just a humdrum hotdog with ketchup on it and a sprinkle of curry powder – but it’s definitely something to have while there, and could be the cheapest lunch you’ll have. Try the venerable Konnopke’s Imbiss when you’re in town. Runner-up on “ok, I tried it, but not really my thing” was the Schmalz, rendered fat (bacon?) spread on bread instead of butter. Tasty, and I know butter isn’t much healthier, but if I have a choice, I’m going with the butter.

Radler and Diesel (beer with sprite or coke)

For drinks, beer, of course. The cycling trip however took us through the Saxony (Sachsen) wine region. The region is the most north-easterly and one of the smallest in Europe. While we didn’t manage any winery visits, we did sample the wines at restaurants along the way. My own favorite had to be the Grauer Burgunder, known in other parts as a pinot grigio or pinot gris. Of the beers, we often opted for the lighter Radler (beer with sprite or fizzy lemonade) or Diesel (beer with coca-cola). There was also Alster, which was supposedly beer with orange soda, but that name seemed to be used interchangeably in places with Radler, so it wasn’t always clear what we would get.

In Norway, the focus was on fish, with the occasional interesting sausage (reindeer, anyone?). The much higher taxes though took away some of our interest in enjoying beer or wine in restaurants – most drinks were in the $12-15 range. We’d been advised (thank you, Rick Steves) to purchase alcohol in the duty free shop at the airport and simply have a drink before/after going out, but didn’t manage to do that. Luckily, we discovered that alcohol-free beer can actually be pretty good, and it is far less expensive (it showed up on the menus under soft drinks). Also the apple juice and hard cider are particularly good, produced by three farms on the “fruit and cider route” in Ulvik. (And one could actually buy some for take-away at the farms, vs. anywhere else having to go a state-run liquor store.)

One could save some money eating out by buying take-away, but it’s so much nicer to sit down in a cozy restaurant. The expense takes a toll after a few days, though, even with eating a lot at breakfast to carry us through the day. For the last leg of the trip in Iceland, we did indeed hit the duty-free shop in Bergen, Norway before flying to Reykjavik; never has a $4 bottle of beer (König Ludwig Dunkel, no less) looked so good. We were staying at an AirBNB in Reykjavik, and knew we had a kitchen with a refrigerator, so stocked up.

Plokkfiskur (mashed fish)

Iceland is pretty expensive too, which is why we were at an AirBNB vs. a hotel; there was a decently stocked grocery store just a few blocks away, so we were able to buy provisions for our breakfasts and lunches, and one dinner. We did eat out twice, once for some terrific burgers (albeit $25 burgers…), and again at a fine fish restaurant, Messinn, downtown. (At least eating out in Iceland, there’s one big bonus – they have a no-tipping culture! Makes the prices a little more palatable.)

The full set of food and drink photos follows. Prost! Skål!

Places where we ate included:




© Liza Weissler 2018, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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