When my annual Motivational Interviewing forum was scheduled in Berlin a year ago I was excited to experience a new city and country I had not yet explored. Little did I know the sights and challenges in store that awaited me.
The last time I was in Europe 2 years ago I was not on a gluten-free diet so if I had the occasional slice of bread or even a special treat it did not affect my system, or at least I did not know it did at that time. This time I was prepared that if something was particularly special I might veer off my regime but was undecided how that would play out. I would check in with Jeffrey to see if it was “worth it.”
Bavaria is a beautiful land with lots to explore. We visited Neuschwanstein Castle, which Walt Disney fashioned Sleeping Beauty Castle after and saw sites that day, which were spectacular and beyond memorable. Bavarian treats in bakeries rival the magnificent scenery as well.
Juxtaposed to this beauty, the reality of seeing sights of the past war and persecution of humanity is sobering. It was a gentle minder of the responsibility and importance of creating a peaceful world and harmony with one another. Seeing the room where the Nuremberg trials were held and remnants of the Berlin Wall made one appreciate our freedoms.
To say eating a gluten-free diet in Germany was challenging is an understatement.
Most menus have little to offer since protein options are breaded or made with sauces that contain flour. If you want to lose weight go to Germany and try eating gluten-free. The servers will look at you like you are from Mars and offer little help on how to navigate menus.
I had a short respite when we were in Dresden, which is an amazingly beautiful foodie town. I was in heaven the minute we arrived in the train station as I discovered this amazing restaurant/buffet called Marche with lots of healthy treats including warm vegetable soup, salads, interesting veggies and an array of teas, which rivaled any tea bar. In addition, farmer’s markets are more available in plazas of older cities such as Nuremberg and Dresden.
We stayed at Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski, a hotel known for their cuisine as they have 5 restaurants, one in particular, which knocked my socks off. Watching everyone in our group eat delectable bread and treats was okay but got old given my limited options.
I was beyond happy when we went to Palais Bistro and ordered the most amazing French onion soup, which was not too salty, but spiced just right. To my surprise they had a grainy, nutty gluten-free bread and having just one slice was all I needed for the trip to be complete, making it possible to maintain my gluten restriction. The hotel had an amazing brunch with lots of great protein options, an array of fruits/veggies, a tea bar and a honeycomb display, which added to the magnificent breakfast.
Berlin was not what I expected – a large city devoid of charm and eating again was challenging. The conference was held in what used to be East Berlin, which more than shows the remnants of what was once behind the wall. I have heard there is charm but being in the conference to get out and explore was not an option, especially given the cold and rainy temperatures.
The one large grocery store we discovered too late was in a mall near our hotel, which made any gourmet market look poor. They had wonderful cheeses, yogurt, salads and an array of dark chocolate bars rivaling Dean and DeLuca.
The treat of most of our trips is flying through Charles De Gaulle since my most favorite tea, Fauchon, is only available in Europe and it is worth every sip you take no matter what flavor you buy. I was able to pick up a few macaroons for Jeffrey and because they are gluten-free I had my last treat upon arriving home – tea and macaroons for the perfect jet lag dinner.
It is hard to imagine that a country so rich in culture and advanced technology is so lacking in knowledge of gluten-free diets.
Historic sights, eating and travel challenges aside, going to a new place gives you insight into history, perspective of how you want to be in the world and freshness for the gift of life which I again remind myself is something I can never take for granted.