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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Federweisser und Zwiebelkuchen

Heidelberg - Elegant and Sweet

Mainz - arrive by River

Travels in Germany with MS Jane Austen


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Travel Reviews
- Germany

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Federweisser und Zwiebelkuchen

Heidelberg - Elegant and Sweet

Mainz - arrive by River

Travels in Germany with MS Jane Austen

Mainz – arrive by River

mainzThis is a beautiful and cultured city and accessible from the river. One walks a few yards from the Rhine and the history of Mainz unfolds. There are 2000 years of human habitation here so plenty to discover.

During World War II about 80 percent of the city’s centre, including most of the historic buildings, was destroyed, although these days one finds a town rebuilt with renovation and new architecture side by side. It’s a sympathetic melange and the urban renewal of the old town changed the inner city. Pedestrian zones have been developed around Mainz Cathedral. It is one of the most important churches in Germany and its foundation stone was laid in 975 AD. The Cathedral is famed for its Marc Chagall blue stained-glass!

The picturesque old town is very much centred around the Romanesque St. Martin’s Cathedral. There are narrow and winding streets fringed with boutiques, galleries and tempting pastry shops. Many of these have restored half-timbered, Baroque and Rococo façades, giving a beautiful impression of architectural continuity.

mainzThere is plenty to enjoy in the square in front of the cathedral on the three weekly market-days. There are more than one hundred fountains in Mainz and the fountain in the market square is noteworthy. It’s the oldest, and dedicated as a carnival fountain, depicting all the paraphernalia of that festival.

Mainz is Germany’s wine capital. Rheinhessen is the country’s largest winegrowing region and The Weinmarkt is one of Mainz’s three major festivals. Along with the aforementioned carnival, Midsummer’s Eve is celebrated with a four-day fair at the end of June. It was originally held in memory of Johannes Gutenberg, he being the inventor of movable type, and the printer of the eponymous Bible. There is a fascinating museum in Mainz where one can see a printing press and learn more about Gutenberg and his work.

Mainz is a surprise. It has a wealth of buildings presenting delightful photographic opportunities. The shopping is classy and eclectic with both German chain names and independent boutiques for art, fashion, jewellery and confectionery. One can get a real sense of the city without the need for a bus journey. All the main sights are within a short walk of the Cathedral Square and there is plenty to occupy the day-tripper. Take a river cruise for a few days and one that includes Mainz, as a stroll into the city from one’s own temporary home is a joy. Take coffee and cake in one of the small cafés near the square and appreciate this truly unique town. Mainz is well worth a visit.

Learn more about this and other Riviera tours here

Learn more about towns visited here

food and travel reviews

Travels in Germany with MS Jane Austen

Jane austin It sounds like the title of a Victorian novel - Travels with MS Jane Austen! Well, it is actually a few words about a delightful cruise, rather than about a literary excursion with a famous author. All the cruises in this collection from Riviera offer return travel and transfers, so it couldn’t be easier to connect with your cruise and start enjoying the experience. They have scheduled flights from 8 regional UK airports or, for those who hate flying, seats on Eurostar from London St Pancras International with regional rail connections. There are coach transfers to and from the ship, escorted by the tour manager or a guide.

The cruise was on MS Jane Austin which is a well-appointed boat in their fleet. The Jane Austen is new and it shows. It (or is it she?) was only launched in 2015. There are no corners looking down-at-heel, no scuffed edges and no worn carpets. The cabins and suites are amongst the largest you will find on a ship on any European river. They have en-suite bathrooms and our cabin had its own balcony where we enjoyed striking views as we slid by vineyards, castles and picturesque towns – and all while enjoying a nice cup of tea!

jane austin MS Jane Austin has all the amenities of a good floating hotel. Each room has the expected tea and coffee, TV and bathroom toiletries, but it also provides complementary wifi. Yes, you are on holiday but you will want to share your pictures on Facebook!

The cabin is comfortable but the rest of the boat is sumptuous with cosy nooks and convivial spaces just perfect for lone voyagers or those travelling with a group. There is a marble-floored lobby, tropical hardwoods, wrought iron, highly polished copper and brass, and soft leather chairs into which to sink with a good book and a glass of wine at one’s elbow.

This is a Swiss-operated vessel with 35 staff taking care of just 140 guests. All crew, tour managers and local guides are English-speaking and it’s much easier to get to know both crew and other passengers when one isn’t floating on a boat carrying several hundreds. The restaurants are not huge and anonymous, and there isn’t a seating plan which obliges travellers to sit with the same strangers every night. One can sit anywhere and make new friends or dine alone.

jane austin All meals are included and the food is of a high standard. There is plenty to satisfy the cravings of those with gastronomic inclinations as well as those who just like unfussy food. Breakfast can be an early-morning pastry or, later, the Full-English and everything in-between from the buffet. If one has a fancy for coffee and cookies during the day then they are available at the small bar area at the rear (stern), along with light fare for lunch. Afternoon tea presents a spread of pastries just in case you have a chink of space not yet filled. The midday buffet in the restaurant is memorable and the more formal dinners are outstanding, with silver service and a tempting wine list with very reasonable prices.

One won’t want to stay on-board and eat all the time – although one could. There are excursions to enjoy and walks to take. We were in Germany with visits to towns which offered charm, history, photo-opportunities, retail therapy of the highest order …and cake shops! This particular package included Koblenz, which found us spending a morning exploring this historic town sitting at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers; the beautiful old town of Boppard; through the natural beauty of the world-famous Rhine Gorge onto Mainz, celebrated for the ‘Gutenberg’ Bibles; stunning Heidelberg, by the picturesque river Neckar; Strasbourg, a 14th century city of winding alleys; Colmar, a quaint medieval Alsatian town; Rudesheim, one of the most popular towns on the Rhine; Cologne, to see the remarkable cathedral. Learn more about some of these towns here.

jane austin A cruise on MS Jane Austin with Riviera Travel might well convert those who have been hitherto sceptical about cruising. It appeals to those discerning travellers who appreciate quality. The boat is small enough to feel intimate, the service is more personal and corners are not cut. The included excursions are fun and informative, but one isn’t chained to the group – it’s possible to be independent and one is encouraged to stop at that little chocolate shop, have a stroll around the market, linger in the boutique. Make this YOUR holiday.

Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin, with a limited number of single cabins available on all decks with relevant supplement. Price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day (if you choose to travel on any of the full-day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided; anyone choosing to stay on the ship can have lunch in the restaurant); morning and afternoon tea and coffee; all visits and excursions as mentioned in the brochure; airport/station transfers; coach travel as mentioned; travel to and from port of embarkation; and the services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager.

Learn more about this and other tours here

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Federweisser und Zwiebelkuchen

Sounds like a bit of a mouthful – Federweisser und Zwiebelkuchen – and indeed it is: a delicious mouthful …and glassful.

Federweisser is German for feather white and refers to the cloudy wine which is still fermenting (although that wine has a hint of yellow about it). The prospect of sipping a still-fermenting wine might seem alarming, in fact the reality is delightful. This “new wine” alcohol content must be at least 4 per cent, but can get up to 10 per cent. It’s refreshing, light, gives one the sense of drinking a fruity sparkling wine… and it is positively addictive!

Federweisser needs a companion and it is traditionally served with Zwiebelkuchen which is an onion tart, usually offered in substantial portions.


by Chrissie Walker


German onion tart 1 roll commercial all-butter shortcrust pastry (I have also used hot-water-crust pastry)
4 medium onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
4 bacon slices, diced
Small tub (about 300ml) sour cream
3 eggs, beaten
½ - 1 tsp caraway seeds (authentic but optional)
Salt and pepper
A little oil for frying


Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.

Line a large lightly-greased quiche pan with the dough, and prick the pastry with a fork. Cover with baking parchment and weigh down with rice or baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes.

Fry the bacon in a little oil over medium heat until the fat runs. Add onions and garlic, and sauté until caramelized.

In a medium bowl, mix together cream, eggs, caraway seeds and seasoning. Add the bacon and onions and mix again.

Spread the mixture over the pastry. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking till the custard is just set.

You will likely not be able to find Federweisser unless you live in Germany, so choose a good well-chilled Riesling to enjoy with your onion tart.

Travel through wine-producing regions of Germany with Riviera Travel.

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Heidelberg - Elegant and Sweet

HeidelbergHeidelberg is picture perfect, well preserved and a working town. There are alleys, boutiques, cafés, restaurants, stunning churches, statues and history at every turn, but slow down and take a walk around the streets, stop for coffee and cake, and enjoy your day. Shop in pedestrian-only neighbourhoods and be transported to a gentler time while admiring the beautifully ornate buildings.

Heidelberg is a romantic and historic city on the bank of the river Neckar in south-west Germany. It is famous for its castle, and Heidelberg University is Germany's oldest. Heidelberg's library, founded in 1421, is the oldest public library in the country.

In 1537 the castle, located higher up the mountain above the town, that we now see mostly in ruins, was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion. The castle and its garden were destroyed several times during the Thirty Years' War and other conflicts. Prince Elector Karl Theodor attempted to restore the castle but lightning struck in 1764 and further reconstruction was put on the metaphoric back burner.

The castle became a handy quarry and stones were taken to build new houses in Heidelberg. In 1810 the French revolution refugee Count Charles Graimberg started to reconstruct the palace ruins and establish a historical collection. In 1815 the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia formed the "Holy Alliance" in Heidelberg. The refurbished interior of the castle is in Gothic style, although the King's Hall was not built until 1934. It is used for celebrations, banquets, balls, theatre performances and concerts. The castle is surrounded by a park, where the famous German poet Goethe once walked.

Heidelberg It’s thought that Heidelberg escaped bombing during WWII because the U.S. Army wanted to use the city as a garrison after the war. Heidelberg didn’t have any military importance so was not a target. On December 9, 1945, US Army General George S. Patton had a car accident in nearby Mannheim. He died in the Heidelberg US Army hospital on December 21, 1945 and his funeral ceremony was held at the Heidelberg-Weststadt Christuskirche.

Since 1979 there has been a bronze sculpture of a monkey at the end of the Old Bridge of Heidelberg. The monkey is a symbol of the town and was mentioned as far back as the 15th century. The original monkey stood with a mirror in one hand and touching his behind with the other. He was mentioned in the poem of Martin Zeiller in 1632 which is still written beneath the new sculpture of the monkey on the bridge. These days the monkey continues to hold a mirror but his other hand now forms a sign to fight off the evil eye. This sculpture has been a magnet for lovers of the selfie, as the head of the monkey is in the form of an ‘audience-participation’ mask.

Heidelberg There is a very charming spot with delicious history in the Old Town: Café Knösel is in the beautiful centre.  Fridolin Knösel was a master confectioner who was very popular with the student body, and in particular the young ladies attending Heidelberg´s finishing schools. Chocolate was the draw here and the girls were frequent visitors. The young men from the university would come for the chocolate but also in the hope of meeting the girls.

In 1863 Fridolin created a chocolate which he called the Student´s Kiss. It’s a rich chocolate with a wrapper showing the silhouette of two young lovers exchanging a romantic kiss. The wrapped chocolate was given to young ladies as a love token, which was deemed acceptable by even the most hard-hearted governess.

Heidelberg Fridolin Knösel’s descendants continue the family tradition in the little shop on Haspelgasse.  They still hand-make Student´s Kisses according to the original recipe of praline-nougat-chocolate filling on a wafer bottom, and coated in dark chocolate, and they are made fresh several times a week. With the distinctive design these chocolates make a unique souvenir of Heidelberg and of its student history.

But where were the lads when they weren’t chasing girls at the chocolate shop? Heidelberg’s famous Student Pub and Inn Zum Roten Ochsen – The Red Ox Inn – has been around since 1703. It is now into the 6th generation of a family that has worked here for 170 years.  Anne and Philipp Spengel look after this truly charming and original student pub.

Thirty guest books give testament to the history within these walls. There are signatures from such worthies as John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and those from further back such as Bismarck and Mark Twain. Zum Roten Ochsen is the kind of German pub for which one searches and mostly in vain. Here it is and here it will stay, complete with drinking horns, music and warm conviviality.

To learn more about Heidelberg visit here.

Learn more about Riviera Tours to Heidelberg here

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