What to Bring Back from Germany or How I Overfill My Suitcase Every Time
There is a rule in my family; when you travel to Germany, you must take along a list of what to bring back from Germany for yourself, and for everyone else. Each of us has special items that we can’t live without. My mother loves her instant Schweizer Krautertee (so we always pack along 3 extra cans), and my sister loves real Niederegger Marzipan.
Now…when I would go to shop for myself, the list was always much MUCH longer. (I am LITERALLY a kid in a candy store!). Oh my, there was a time I tried to bring back 4 suitcases! (Luckily the airline misplaced one for a day, so I wasn’t stuck carrying it myself… they delivered!)
(Then there was the time I wanted to bring back a Berg Pedal Car.….it was just too big for the suitcase)
Lately though, I’m finding that many of the products that I once considered rare gems only to be found in Germany, are everywhere. For better or worse, through the miracle of e-commerce, the products that I used to carefully shop for are available online. After years of honing my packing skills (can you put 15 square feet of products into a 3 foot bag? I can), it turns out that much of what I want is just a few keystrokes away….
But still… there is something wonderful about filling your bags with German Treats… and then unpacking them all when you get home. Bliss….
Let’s start with the MOST IMPORTANT Things….
This is where I get a little nutty, a trip to the grocery store candy aisle fills my suitcase: Ritter Sport, Milka, Kinder Schokolade, Toffifee, After Eights, Merci, Choco-crossis, Duplo, Riesen…..
Of course, these days, you can get a lot of them here. The first time I found Merci Chocolates at the drug store I bought their whole stock and gave them away as Christmas presents. German Chocolates are getting easier to find here in the US. You may have to look hard for your favorites though…and just because they are “German” Chocolates, doesn’t mean they are actually FROM GERMANY … so be warned! So, your best bet… buy them there!
(I just found out Amazon carries Choco Crossies, so guess I will order some, and a few pairs of stretchy pants!)
German Gummi Bears
Fill your suitcase with German Gummi Bears, because the Gummi Bears in the US are impostors. German Haribo Gummis do not contain corn syrup (when in doubt about the origin of your gummis, flip the package and look at that ingredient list).
Plus, if you are really lucky, you can find one of these Gummi Bear SHOPS! They are filled with GUMMI TREASURE! Giant Gummi Bears, Gummis of all flavors, even Gummi Bear CAKE!
German Kitchen Tools and Gadgets
Tomato Knives and Paring knives
Now, German knives in general are far superior to any other kitchen knives (don’t argue… I won’t listen). For those of us who eat a lot of tomatoes with our Abendbrot, a good Tomaten Messer is essential. In Germany they are fairly inexpensive, so I buy several. Usually you would find them in a jar by the cash register (an impulse item?) in a Hauswaren Geschaeft.
The same with a good paring knife; Oma taught me to peel potatoes and apples with a knife, and what else would you use to cut small things? These high quality knives always sell for a good price in Germany. Messermeister Tomato knives come in red and black (I like the red, because I can see it better in my knifeblock) are available on Amazon and German Deli.
Soft Boiled Egg Cups and Spoons
There has been a lot of talk online lately (A LOT of talk, it’s kind of nuts!) about egg cups. Why? Germans eat their morning soft-boiled eggs from Egg Cups with egg spoons. I’ve always eaten my morning eggs this way. However, Eierloffel (egg spoons) for soft boiled eggs are forever vanishing from my kitchen. Where do they get to, I wonder? So, I have to replace them. And while I’m in the shop, there really are some CUTE styles of egg cups, especially for kids, so I grab those too…
And while I’m in the Kitchen Store (I can spend ALL AFTERNOON in the WMF store)… I might might find some other fun things like those flat Ice Cream Spoons that you get at the Eisdiele with your Spaghetti Eis.
A Quick Stop at Tchibo
No trip to Germany is complete without a stop at Tchibo… What is Tchibo? Well… it’s a coffee store, but every week they carry a wide range of interesting gadgets that you never knew you couldn’t live without at prices that can’t be beat. They do their best to live by the slogan “every week a new world”! And ok, 90% of the time, it’s stuff you really don’t need (kind of like the stuff in SkyMall) BUT there are treasures! (Like the time I found a platter warmer that is just PERFECT for keeping the meat warm on my holiday table).
Plus, you can pick up a couple pounds of coffee while you are there…. and a tent… or a banana slicer…
For The Holidays
I’ve always loved German Holiday decorations, and I can’t imagine celebrating Christmas or Easter without wooden decorations, glass ornaments, Arches, Smokers, bunnies, window hangings or tablecloths. And even though my cabinets and attic are bursting… I always manage to find a new perfect something to bring home. (Hey, I have three kids! That means it will all be divided by 3 eventually…)
Wooden Christmas Decorations
Is there anything more beautiful than a lighted wooden Christmas Pyramid spinning on your holiday table? And the look in your child’s eyes as they watch in wonder? Most Christmas Ornaments and decorations are sold from November through January, or at Christmas Markets. BUT.. there are some shops, especially in the Erzgebirge or Black Forest where you can find authentic wooden Christmas decorations that is certain to become a family heirloom. Pyramids, Arches, Smokers… and even a hand carved Nativity Scene (my mother still has hers from her childhood!). They cost a bit more than your average souvenir, but they will bring pleasure for generations!
Christmas table cloths embroidered with stars or candles, Easter table cloths with embroidered flowers, Summer table cloths printed with flowers. Outdoor cloths are perfect for dressing up a Patio or Beer Garden table, and it’s nicer for laying out your food and drinks. (I remember the first time I brought a cloth to an American Brewery with a picnic, I got LOADS of compliments). I love them all! (Especially the ones I inherited from my mother and Omas). Tablecloths just add that special something. Sure, washing and ironing is a pain…but they look great, especially if you are hosting a Kaffee Klatsch.
Colored smaller tablecloths, toppers, are a nice contrast to a white tablecloth, and runners look nice on a table, even when you just put it over the wood (I like to use them because I don’t worry as much about having to remove them all the time.
Eierlikor (Egg Liqueur in Germany)
I always felt so sophisticated because my Oma would let me have alcohol at age 12. No, she wasn’t pouring me Schnapps! For Nachtisch (dessert) Eierlikor would sometimes find its way to the table. Eierlikor is an Egg Liqueur (like a thick egg nog) that tastes delightful over ice cream or pudding. I’m sure that we didn’t get enough to have an effect, except maybe to quiet us down so she could have her nap in peace. Bringing the bottle home was tricky… as a 15 year old I would have to bury it in my suitcase, and hope it didn’t break! In the US you can find it under the name Advocaat at Bevmo. Or better yet, make your own using this recipe from Spoonfuls of Germany.
Sadly though, if you want the original Eierlikor, you will have to shop in Germany.
This German Girl drinks a LOT of Tea
My favorite German Teas
We had tea with dinner every night growing up, and a caffeinated Lipton was not always welcome. Hagebutte or Rose hip tea has a refreshing tart flavor; my Uncle won’t drink anything else.
I find that it is delicious iced or hot.
You can get Rose Hip Tea here, but I prefer the flavor of the German brands. The flavor is stronger… more tart.
Lipton just doesn’t have the power of a good strong Ostfriesen Tee. Designed to keep hearty Fishermen warm and alert, this is the stuff that puts hair on your chest . It’s a wonderful substitute for coffee…. and even better when you add Kluntje (rock sugar)
Sadly, I haven’t found a good source of Ostfriesen Tee that is loose tea … everything is Tea Bags…
To really appreciate Ostfriesen tee, bring back loose tea from Germany.
German Spices and Seasonings
This seasoning salt in the bright yellow canister from Maggi goes on all my steamed veggies. It has a great salty, buttery flavor (hmmm… I wonder how it would taste on Popcorn?).
Maggi Wurzmischung-Nr-1-gebratenes-Fleisch-fur Braune Sosse
Maggi has 5 seasoning mixes numbered 1-5, very efficient. Number 1 is for brown sauces and roasted meats. Yes, you can get gravy mix in the US, and there are bouillon cubes, but neither of these adds the exactly right flavor that I get from the brown sauce mix from Maggie. Just a shake or two and my gravies taste like Oma’s. While Amazon carries some of the other numbers only Germanshop24 and German Deli have # 1!
I buy packets, and transfer the contents into a bottle… it’s looking a little sad (and empty) these days… time to re-order!
My Oma used this special seasoning to make Brathähnchen (roast chicken), my mom uses this to make her Brathä hnchen (roast chicken), and have never found a recipe or spice mix here in the US that I like as much. Every time I go I buy a huge container. One time I made the mistake of packing a large plastic bag of it in my suitcase, the bag tore, and everything in my luggage smelled like paprika! I managed to save as much as possible… and now I just get the plastic jars.
No one seems to sell this seasoning in the US. The closest approximation I’ve come is a mixture of Lawrey’s Seasoning Salt and extra Paprika. But it’s not the same.
German Cleaning Products
… Because…It has to be CLEAN
It’s possible to find Persil laundry soap at Home Depot… and Wallmart…!
This miracle laundry product takes the stains out of clothes like nothing I’ve found here in the US. It’s a liquid that comes in a bottle with a brush on the top to really rub it in. Gallseiffe translates to gall soap… and I can only assume that the miracle fat and protein stain fighting abilities come from a gall bladder.
I prefer the bottle with the scrubber brush. Unfortunately, it costs the earth on Amazon! So, buy it in Germany, or buy it on Amazon in bar form, and get a brush!!
From the Apotheke or Drogerie
I’ve always had trouble sleeping; it’s as if shutting off the light flips the on switch in my brain. Baldrian/Valarian is a nice herbal way to slow things down a bit and helps me get the rest I need. These herbal tablets are sold in Apothekes and Drogeries. I’m finding them now on Amazon, but they are a bit pricey.
Still a chemical free, good night’s sleep is worth it, so swing by the Apoteke for a few boxes…
German Herbal Teas or Medicinal Teas
Instant Blasen and Knieren Tee (Bladder and Kidney tea), Husten tee (coughing tee), Nervenruh ( nerve rest) are all vital componants in my first aid arsenal… And I’d much rather reach for these healthy teas than more pills. The instant teas are quick to fix (just add to hot water and stir), and they taste delicious.
Hand and Wundschutz Crème
My hands dry out so quickly, because of heat, cold, wet, whatever, so I keep a tin of Nivea in the Bathroom, in the kitchen, and in my purse; and there is something about the smell that just brings back happy memories. For me the original German brand is far superior to what is found here in the US or in Mexico.
And for little ones? there is no better butt cream than Penaten Wundschutz Crème. I used it all the time when the kids were babies. It’s unbelievably thick! In fact, I believe you could schmear it all over your body and swim the English Channel without getting wet or cold. Original German Nivea, Atrix and Penaten crème- are now on Amazon. But the selection in Germany is bigger.
German Manicure Set
Yes, I know, you can get nail files and clippers on every drug store rack… but a good Fingernagel Etui will last a lifetime! (Keep in mind… they are NOT CHEAP on either side of the Atlantic, but you can pay over $300 for a good Wusthof set here in the US.
Plus, they are compact, and fit neatly in your luggage (DO NOT carry them ON the plane… those little scissors are considered deadly weapons, and will be confiscated by TSA).
For My Feet!
After all… You need to put on comfy shoes after all that shopping!
I was buying Birkenstock before they were “cool”. Yup, want to stick out in a crowd in 1984? Slide into a party wearing Birkenstock clogs. Oh boy. I still prefer to buy them in Germany, because they have all kinds and styles, and I can try them on. (Remember, sizing in Germany is different!) Yes, you can find them online now, and in many shoe stores. And luckily, they no longer carry the image of granola-eating hippies they once did here in the US. (I love the Arizona style… my current pair is purple with flowers!) And Hausschuhe are just better in Germany….
German Reading Materials
Ladies Magazines like-Brigitte, Bella, Burda and Fur Sie, Bastel (Craft) and Handarbeits (stitching) Magazines, Cooking magazines like Essen & Trinken loaded with recipes, and my favorite, Landlust, which is full of articles and photos of the countryside I adore. GEO, an amazing magazine that covers the world like National Geographic. And seriously, there is an astonishing LACK of soccer magazines here in the US. For Dad, a copy of Stern. I love reading them, and then I pass some along to friends. Oddly, my local newsstand has a few. But it’s not the same, and they are wildly expensive as imports.
You can sometimes find them on Amazon, or get an overseas subscription (kind of pricey). But really, I get a lot of satisfaction browsing in Magazine shops in Germany. Such astonishing variety!
German Books and Books on CD
A good Krimi, maybe a Roman, and always a book loaded with photos of Germany. When I was younger I brought back the Hanni and Nanni Series, also the Funf Freunde! Later, romances from Utta Danella. Historical novels like Der Medicus. Mysteries by Donna Leon (Ok, she’s not German, but I like the stories, and reading in German is good) Whatever caught my eye. Photo essay books of home are wonderful for the coffee table, and I can flip to pages. Last trip I found a wonderful book about the Wasserbergen (Water Castles of Westphalia) Schloss Buldern is in it!
And the books on CD, this is sort of an extension of the books. Hearing the language is amazingly helpful once I’m home again. Plus I can listen in the car, which makes a nice change. Not a shock, books can now be ordered from Amazon. However, I really LOVE browsing bookstores… browsing online isn’t as fun.
Craft Projects or Handarbeiten
My mother is never without either a book, or a Handarbeit… I have the same problem. Just sitting in front of the TV is not an option!
I always stop in at a Handarbeits Geschaeft (Embroidery shop) for a project to make at home. I’ve done embroidery in the past, to stitch simple tablecloths or pictures. But I’ve also enjoyed sewing projects. My favorite is a little book is one that shows how to make beaded stars for the Christmas tree. My daughter and I have made many of these to hang on our own tree, and to give away.
Now, there is a store here where I live that sells stitching materials and patterns. I can even find books and patterns online. But again, it’s not the same.
Something im Trend!
One thing you notice about Germany is that a certain something will be in each year; maybe it’s a mouse ornament, one year it’s an angel, another time it’s hearts that you hang in the window. I like to take one of these along, to keep the connection. I love knowing that the heart hanging in my window is also hanging in thousands of windows across Germany.
One year giant Gummi Bear Lamps were in (the problem with the plug kept me from buying it!)
Walk down the street and look in shop windows… especially the flower stores…. you will see certain trendy items repeated.
They won’t be there next time you go!
Something That Lasts Forever
Many many many people love to bring home Cuckoo Clocks…. be sure to visit the Haus of 1000 Uhren! But you can also find Smokers, Wooden Christmas Pyramids and Arches, Carved figures… These beautiful heirloom pieces cost much less in Germany than they do here in the US (although, they are available in the US). Often, when you visit during the summer, you can find them in specialty shops, especially in tourist towns in the Black Forest.
And remember, some things may cost a bit more, but the lifetime value from these beautiful heirloom pieces… the pleasure you get from them, and the memories they give you… make it worthwhile.
Sadly, Some things are Gone Forever
Nothing was better than my Oma’s Erdbeer Rhabarbaer (Strawberry Rhubarb) and Johannisbeer (Red Current) Jam, there is no substitute. Every time I went, a few jars from the Keller would come home with me. I would STREEEECH it out to last as long as possible, and I’d practically lick the inside of the jar when it was gone. Sadly, it’s all eaten up, and gone forever. I may find similar recipes, but they won’t be the same. Oma’s touch made the difference.
Phew… That’s a lot of stuff!!
Then, of course, I would always have to shop for a new bag or suitcase to schlepp it all home with. Funny, I fill my suitcase with gifts and goodies for my German family, so you think there would be room in the suitcase to bring it all home. But, I never calculate right, and chocolate can be bulky.
Still… I take great pleasure in using the treasures I brought home with me. The foods, the products, even the simple things like spoons.
Time to go back!
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