Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Where to go for lunch in Heidelberg (Café Knoesel) and a dose of romantic ‘Heidelberger Student’s Kiss’ love story

My first stop in this 3-country European road trip is Heidelberg, Germany in the Baden-Wurttemberg region. The drive from the Netherlands to Heidelberg took me 3 hours and 50 minutes. Google maps says its 4 hours and 15 minutes, but in Germany, the highways outside the built-up areas have no speed limit. I drove between 150 km and 170 km per hour and I had to constantly watch the dial because I tend to press the accelerator harder, well unintentionally (I cannot help it?). For most of the ride though, I kept my speed under 170km.

It was drizzling a little bit when I arrived in Heidelberg. Glad I brought with me a little umbrella. As it was past the lunch hour, my stomach was raging. I only had an oatmeal drink when I left in the morning. I checked my little black notebook and on it was scribbled under Heidelberg--Café Knoesel, the oldest café in the city. Luckily, I bumped into the establishment without much effort.

Apfelstrudel at the oldest café circa 1863 in Heidelberg: Café Knoesel

Café Knoesel (Café Knösel in Deutsch) is the oldest café in Heidelberg so you can imagine that it is very popular with the tourists, but among the locals as well. The café serves delicious finger licking humongous cakes. They have a cake section actually. A sweet tooth visitor in this city will surely be in heaven!

Since sweets doesn’t attract me much, I ordered a typically Central European fare: a warm apple strudel with cream sauce. This was quite nice.

Apple strudel actually originates in Vienna, Austria but due to its popularity all over Germany, you’d think this pastry is a German invention. Other apple strudel variations includes a vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side.

Café Knoesel also has a hotel and a confectionery. Just a few doors from the corner entrance of the restaurant café on Haspelgasse (street name) is the chocolate shop selling the famous Heidelberger Student’s Kisses.

What I first saw when I got out of the car parking underneath this square. The Heidelberg Castle Ruins on top. More of this later.

History and romance: Heidelberger Student’s Kiss at Chocolaterie Knoesel

Fridolin Knoesel, the owner of the Café-Restaurant-Hotel and pastry chef and master confectioner of its confectionery business invented the ‘Heidelberger Student’s Kiss’ chocolate in the 1860’s.

Explaining the history of the Heidelberger Students Kiss’ in different languages.

The story goes back in the days when romance and courtship were deliberately controlled and showing signs of love and affection are taboo. The café was a favourite hangout by the affluent members of the society including their sons and daughters studying in the universities and finishing schools. Naturally, while visiting the cafe, these young girls were accompanied by their strict and prude governesses, who were quick to reprimand the girls when seen flirting with the lads.

Can you imagine living in this suppressed and deprived period? Not that I am a sexually active person when I was younger but the idea of not being able to speak out and express your mind and feelings would be enough to trigger the rebellious side of me.

Nevertheless, Fridolin Knoesel was fully aware of his young patron’s desires and was inspired by this romantic longing to create the ‘Student’s Kiss’ chocolate. It was believed that student’s exchange the chocolate as a sign of affection—a kiss.

Of course, as the years passed by, society’s moral standards changes and people nowadays kiss each other on the streets of Heidelberg, but the Knoesel confectionary however remains loyal in exclusively producing these chocolates as part of the city’s tradition.

Well, I was just curious to find out how the chocolate tastes like and what makes it so special, so I bought one. And, it is actually good! Because the chocolate has some nougat and wafer in it, it wasn’t ridiculously too sweet.

They are not very cheap though (costs about €2.45 each), but hey, its tradition going back to 1860’s =)

Travel Period: April 2013
Destination: Heidelberg, Germany

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