Schnitzel for tourists
A glimpse at cliched German culture awaits the European tourist at Bavarian World.
What makes “sophisticated” Europeans travel this country? As a 19-year-old German who just graduated from high school and is spending the summer in Reno, that’s a question I’ve been asked more than once.
Is it the amazing feast for the eye that the West Coast holds in the form of breathtaking ocean views and stunning rock formations beneath perfectly blue skies? Is it the ultimate urban experience a German tourist dressed in Birkenstock sandals and tasteful gray knee socks can only get in places like Chicago or New York?
To solve this mystery, perhaps you need an entirely different approach, a step back from the obvious. Most people who travel the United States may not even be conscious of what draws them to the New World.
The answer is quite simple. It is the American obsession with clichés—the more grotesque the better—that draws us in. For me, it’s a curiosity to see how Americans portray my culture. Some remote Midwestern villages transform themselves for one weekend of the year into meccas of Bavarian heel-kickin'. Event promoters pitch an “old Deutschland,” with festive traditions that nobody where I grew up has ever heard of or seen. During such events, Americans display pride in their German heritage by wearing the obligatory Lederhosen.
In Reno, this stereotyped atmosphere is captured at Bavarian World, a store and restaurant featuring genuine German dining. It seems I had to travel 7,000 miles from home in order to get a sample of this “authentic” European cuisine.
The first thing I notice is the sign proclaiming, “Lass Dir raten, trinke Spaten,” or “Take the advice, drink Spaten.” The sign was appealing, and I grew excited for about two seconds. However, given Nevada’s drinking age, this particular kind of advice should be thoughtfully ignored by those under 21. Silly me.
The restaurant at Bavarian World has an interesting decor: a Neuschwanstein tapestry and a set of miniature oak trees surround a dance floor that looks appropriate for Helmut the Yodel King’s Friday night shows.
These surroundings could not have seemed more at odds with the party of five Nevada cowboys who came in intent on sampling the German cuisine.
My first glance at the menu was quite a shock. The variety of items overwhelmed me. Bavarian World offers about half a dozen types of sausages, schnitzel and, of course, sauerbraten—Kassler Rippchen melts on every true-at-heart German tongue.
My companion’s Wurst, Wurst, Wurst Platter, described as “an assortment of sausage pieces served with fried potatoes and sauerkraut,” resembled our hors d’oeuvres—the difference being that the entrée was served with two kinds of mustard, not just one.
There’s a myth that says Germans are not multi-cultural. That myth was put to rest as I observed Bavarian World customers being served Muenchner Schnitzel with spaetzle by an Asian waitress.
Foreigners should be grateful that people in the United States provide wonderful treats to make us feel more at home here than in our own countries. Just think, for example, of those poor people in Belgium who can’t even order a Belgian waffle in the most exclusive gourmet restaurant.
It may be an American cliché, but I’m dying to share my backyard with one of those cute Gartenzwerg gnome lawn ornaments. Maybe before I head home, I’ll have to make a stop at the Bavarian World gift shop to pick one up.