Whisk yourself away to Germany: Experience the land of Beethoven

Bavarian fare at Paulaner Brauhaus Singapore.
Bavarian fare at Paulaner Brauhaus Singapore.PHOTO: PAULANER BRAUHAUS SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - The Germans have a word, Fernweh, which means an ache for far-off places.

Travel-starved Singaporeans longing to visit Germany might not be hopping on a plane any time soon - but can certainly follow these tips to experience the land of Beethoven, Heidegger and the Brothers Grimm from Singapore.

Beer, bread, Bratwurst

"It sells like sliced bread" is a German idiom to describe items that fly off the shelves. It is also a sign the Germans love their bread.

In Singapore, you can get classic sourdough bread and Roggenbrot (rye bread) at Nick Vina Artisan Bakery, which has been operating at Icon Village in Tanjong Pagar since 2011.

Singaporean founder Nick Chua trained in Hanover before bringing back to Singapore the skills of the trade and an 82-year-old mother dough that is still cultured at the bakery.

Authentic bread can also be ordered from Haubis, whose offerings are stocked by various grocers and can be ordered online on RedMart and Amazon too.

For restaurant food, head to Paulaner Brauhaus Singapore, which serves Bavarian fare and has been in Singapore for more than two decades. The three-storey microbrewery and restaurant in Millenia Walk is loved for its sausages, pork knuckles, pretzels and, most famously, its beer.


Roggenbrot (rye bread) from Nick Vina Artisan Bakery. PHOTO: NICK VINA ARTISAN BAKERY


Pork knuckle at Paulaner Brauhaus Singapore. PHOTO: PAULANER BRAUHAUS SINGAPORE

The most popular classic brews are Helles (lager), Weissbier (wheat beer) and Dunkel (dark beer), with seasonal varieties also available.

Germany's king of vegetables is the white asparagus, in season from April to June.

Paulaner Brauhaus Singapore and restaurants such as leopold gastrobar (offering Austrian, German and Swiss cuisine) have special white asparagus menus at the moment.


Asparagus and salmon from Paulaner Brauhaus Singapore. PHOTO: PAULANER BRAUHAUS SINGAPORE

For more German dishes, check out The Lokal in Neil Road, which is Australian, but has a German head chef who sometimes whips up food from his homeland.

Satisfy your dessert cravings with a signature Black Forest cake at the Stuttgart Blackforest Boutique S-Cafe in Scotts Road.

Home cooks looking for German products beyond Haribo gummy bears and Ritter Sport chocolate should head to Huber's Butchery in Dempsey Road and the German Market Place in Bukit Timah Road.

They stock a range of specialities such as cold cuts and quark ("curd"), a soft cheese.


Learn the language

German is the most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union. Why not pick it up by enrolling in language courses at the Goethe-Institut?

The centre in Neil Road also has a multidisciplinary project space for the arts as well as a selection of physical books and learning materials.


Goethe-Institut Singapore. PHOTO: A.SCHIEKOFER

These are supplemented by the resources on the digital library platform Onleihe, which has more than 35,000 books, audio books, newspapers, magazines and films.

Podcasts are another great way to learn more about German culture. Interview series Alles gesagt? has several English episodes and you can also check out the podcast recommendations from Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle and travel platform Culture Trip.


Netflix and chill

Curl up in front of the television or laptop and check out classics such as tragicomedy film Good Bye, Lenin! (2003), long-running police drama Tatort (1970-present) and war film Das Boot (1981).


Dark starring Louis Hofmann. PHOTO: JULIA TERJUNG/NETFLIX

Do not miss these other recent series that have won critical acclaim - time-travel thriller Dark (2017-2020, starring Louis Hofmann), which weaves a tangled web of intrigue around four families in a fictional German town; and Babylon Berlin (2017-present), a crime drama set in the Weimar Republic replete with corruption and decadence.


Hip German music

Marlene Dietrich, Nena and Rammstein will ring a bell among people of a certain vintage.

For a more up-to-date playlist, check out a monthly "popcast" which shines the spotlight on the latest rock, pop, hip-hop and electro music acts from Germany.

Last month's episode, for instance, featured a range of musicians such as Berlin-based, Peru-born producer Sofia Kourtesis.


Berlin-based Peruvian singer Sofia Kourtesis. PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER BOUCHARD

The series by the Goethe-Institut and Rundfunk, Bavarian Radio's magazine, is on Apple, Spotify and the centre's website.

You can also find some German versions of English songs on Spotify.


Culture from afar

Lovers of Beethoven, Bach and Brahms can look forward to classical music concerts in Singapore. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra's upcoming online concert A Gift To The Universe, for instance, has a full Bach programme that will be live-streamed on May 21. It will be viewable till June 4, 8pm.


A Gift to the Universe. PHOTO: SINGAPORE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

The Berlin Philharmonic, meanwhile, has a digital concert hall with online programmes. Berlin's Volksbuhne theatre is also streaming some productions online. 

Behave like a German

• Be on time – in other words, five minutes early.
• Step out into nature and follow your wanderlust. Hiking, or “Wandern” in German, is the most popular outdoor activity in the country.
• Mix yourself an Apfelschorle – a popular soft drink in Germany – by adding apple juice to carbonated mineral water.
• Sneak these nifty words into your dinner table conversation – Schadenfreude (pleasure at the misfortunes of others), Fremdschamen (embarrassment on behalf of someone else) and Geschmacksverirrung (a lapse in good taste).


Insider's tips: Tania Joslin recreates German lifestyle in Singapore

German expatriate Tania Kaiser Joslin has been living in Singapore for 12 years and is proud to call it home. But there are still some things she misses about her native land, such as the food and the smell of Christmas.

"I do not get 'homesick', yet I miss certain dishes like a good Wiener Schnitzel (a breaded, battered meat dish) with Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) or Apfelwein (apple wine)," says Ms Joslin, 51, who comes from the south-western German city of Frankfurt.

"I typically invite friends over for dinner and will rush to Huber's Butchery and the German Market Place to (get ingredients to) cook German specialities."

Ms Joslin is the founder of public relations agency Grimaud Communications, and is married to a British citizen who works in the finance industry. Their 10-year-old daughter was born in Singapore.

The family has a playlist of German songs they listen to at home. "I'm not sure our neighbours enjoy it as much as we do," says Ms Joslin, who is a fan of singers Herbert Gronemeyer, Xavier Naidoo and Udo Lindenberg.

The German Market Place, she adds, is a "treasure trove" of specialities like German butter, yogurt, quark, Haribo products and grey prawns from the North Sea.

"The white asparagus season has started in Germany and you can place orders for this at the German Market Place. Ahead of the Christmas season, it flies in Christmas cookies, chocolates and everything needed to celebrate a traditional German Christmas in the tropics and things sell out in a heartbeat."


Ms Tania Joslin gets her bread from Nick Vina Artisan Bakery. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF TANIA KASIER JOSLIN, NICK VINA ARTISAN BAKERY

She gets her bread from Nick Vina Artisan Bakery.

"He (Nick Chua) totally nails German bread. German rye bread, Vollkorn, sourdough - all the German things he makes are absolutely authentic.

"Otherwise, there are many other artisan bakeries across the island that bake great sourdough bread, like Starter Lab, Yeast Side or Micro Bakery."

To recreate the warm, woody smells of fir trees and fireplaces - scents which she associates with the Christmas memories of her childhood - she lights Christmas candles. Her favourite brands are Cire Trudon, which can be found at Escentials in Paragon mall; and To Be Calm, available at Tangs.

She also looks forward to annual highlights such as the Oktoberfest celebrations at the Swiss Club and the German Film Festival. Does she consider herself a "typical German"? Such stereotypes might not really ring true these days, she says.

"There are lots of stereotypes - that Germans don't have a sense of humour and we are always on time.

"But these have changed. Germans have a sense of humour and Germans can also be late. Just like Singaporeans."

• The Goethe-Institut Singapore contributed to this article.

• For more stories on exploring Singapore, go to str.sg/sg-go-where