Coffee. The smell beckons us. The color warms us. The taste tantalizes us.
This morning, I spent quite a bit of time sipping my daily coffee and pondering what the topic should be for my first post about our recent multi-generational trip to Germany and Austria. As the warm, sweet elixir seeped into my body and woke up my mind, I thought to myself. “I really do enjoy a great cup of coffee to start off my day.” That thought led to another and then another and then I knew what I wanted to share about first from my trip. Coffee.
Now before I lose the readers out there that don’t drink and enjoy coffee for whatever reasons, I beg your patience as this post isn’t really all about coffee. It’s about life. Life….and coffee.
While Americans like to think that coffee culture originated in Seattle Washington, according to blogger Elizabeth Childers, (Third Wave Coffee; A History, posted on January 13, 2014), European coffeehouses were alive and thriving as early as the 17th century. The big thing I noticed in reading through her article was that women were banned from partaking of coffee inside the coffeehouses in all countries except Germany. But in Germany, women frequented coffeehouses, held coffee clubs and utilized this beverage as a supplement to their social activities. This alarmed men, who perceived the women were using coffee to support their life-style of gossip. Thus the term kaffeeklatsch was born.
Reading a little further on, Elizabeth mentions that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a comical piece of music entitled, Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, or loosely translated, “be still, stop chattering.” It is a story-song about a father and his young daughter. The daughter loves her coffee. The father wants her to stop her life of frivolity and… drinking coffee.
You bad child, you wild girl! Oh! If only I could have my way: get rid of coffee!
Father, don’t be so hard! If three times a day I can’t drink my little cup of coffee, then I would become so upset that I would be like a dried up piece of roast goat.
I have to admit there are days when I feel like if I don’t get my morning coffee I will dry up like a piece of roast goat. While a bit over dramatic, this light little ditty is completely entertaining. Here’s the link if you’d like to read more of the words to this song. It’s a hoot and quite unlike the typical songs that we are used to associating with Bach.
For me though, it’s not just the taste and pick-me-up qualities of coffee that I enjoy so much when I travel in Europe. It’s the act of coffee. It’s being on vacation and having nothing more pressing to do than take a few extra minutes to visit with my travel companions before we start a day of running here and there. On this trip my travel companions were my mom, my husband and my son. Relaxed stories shared over a morning cup of coffee. Memories of what we did yesterday and shared excitement over the plans for the day to come. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a fancy espresso in a dainty little cup, or a fresh ground and brewed mug. Add a light two spoons of sugar and some quality cream. Stir until it’s the color of caramel…and enjoy. Ahhh!
That is the way to truly start our day. Everyday.
But in Germany and Austria, coffee gets a second round of action later in the afternoon. The tradition of afternoon coffee and cake is alive and well and if the crowds in the restaurants are any indication – thriving. Again, it’s not just about the beverage and pastry. It’s about the culture of taking a rest.
Along about 2:00 in the afternoon, we would start looking for a restaurant that displays a kaffee und kuchen sign outside their doors. You get a chance to stop – rest – reflect. Sometimes we would order hot coffee and sometimes the afternoon stop included iced coffee. It all depended on the day and the weather. Many times it included apfel strudel or kase kuchen which we commonly shared. One piece and four forks, thus cutting the calories into quarters.
Once in a while when you travel you come across a region that has a special dessert or dish. Be sure and take advantage of sampling these. Tasting a Sacher Torte’ or Swartzwalder Kirsche Torte is an opportunity to taste the heritage and culture of that specific location. Seeped in history and tradition. Recipes passed down hundreds of years. Don’t be shy. My travel mantra is, “I will never be in this place, with these people, at this exact time again…don’t waste it. Enjoy!”
So tomorrow morning or maybe later this afternoon, when you are sitting back and enjoying your “cup of joe,” I urge you to stop for a moment. Think about the little things in life that truly make it special…like a great cup of coffee shared with a friend. Raise your cup in a toast to the finer things in life and know that you are in good company. All of Germany and Austria are joining you.