Gluten Traveling

I’ve spent a good chunk of June traveling, one for a brief escape from the confines of Berlin and another for a wedding back in the home country.  Both of these gave me a chance to sample the gluten-less offerings of other lands, and despair at the current state of affairs here in Berlin.

Prague

Thanks to Gluten Free Globetrotter I was aware of a couple of restaurants in Prague, one of which is completely gluten free and not by accident, as in, they actually make gluten free versions of wheat based dishes that you can’t normally eat!  Oh, how I love places that do this, its good to be able to eat in places where their food is gluten free but only gluten free because, by default, it has no gluten in it.  But to be able go to a restaurant where you can eat food that has so far been banned from your life, is amazing.

The restaurants themselves are not much to look at, the first here called Švejk Restaurant U Karla is a chain restaurant with the kind of staff and service you would expect from a chain restaurant (ie. bored looking staff and easily/quickly prepared food).

The food was a little on the bland side, but it did give me the opportunity to try some dumplings.

The second called Restaurace Na Zlaté křižovatce is much better in terms of food and service, and is the aforementioned gluten free specialist place.

The food was amazing, not least because they had in-house freshly baked soft bread (which you can also order a full loaf for the next day to take home).

I got to have my first wiener schnitzel and the most amazing beef goulash I’ve ever tasted (gluten free or otherwise).

Plus, the even had DESSERTS!  Meaning I could have my first apfelstrudel.

The only worry was that the place was near empty every time I went (except for a few English speaking tourists).  Is this why we don’t have a place like this in Berlin?  Is it just too niche to bring in the numbers required to keep it afloat?

On the downside for Prague, I didn’t find much in the way of Gluten Free offerings in the stores.  I guess its always a game of give and take.

UK

Just take a look at this picture.

That is in a fairly big but nondescript local Tesco’s.  There is nothing particularly special about it, this is a pretty standard offering of gluten free products in the UK.  The main thing to notice being the shear variety of offerings from different companies.  For some reason, in the UK there are just a lot more of them making gluten free food, the result being that there is a lot of competition and the quality of the food is far superior to anything I’ve ever had in Berlin.

The bread above was amazing (although a chunk of that is the delight at it being soft, what with me growing up in England) and was almost indistinguishable from normal wheat based bread.  That is, it didn’t crumble into a powder once inside your mouth.

For the wedding itself, I’d requested gluten free food at the afternoon tea reception and I’d expected to get something rather bland and horrific.  Imagine my joy when these were presented to me.

Again, its not that the place I went to, or the catering company, are that special.  Its just when you have a very good selection available in supermarkets, its very easy for people to offer good gluten free food.

 

In Conclusion

It is easy to get bitter about the state of gluten free food here in Germany (or maybe more specifically Berlin).  I mean, yes, the restaurants in the UK where I was were few and far between, but they were there (gluten free sandwich shops, chip shops with gluten free fish in batter, Marks and Spencers cafe offering gluten free buns) and in Prague the restaurants were limited but what was there is pretty damn good.  The vast majority of gluten free food here in Berlin seems to be a good 5 or 10 years behind what you can get in most other countries, and I’m not exactly sure why this is.  Gluten intolerance and celiac disease must occur at the same frequency in the population as other countries, so why is it relatively unheard of here?  And what is it going to take for it to catch up?

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9 thoughts on “Gluten Traveling

  1. Hi!

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time and it’s really helpful. I’m Brazilian and living in Berlin for almost 4 months. You can imagine how I was worried when I left my country and my comfort zone. Fortunately, when I got here I was really surprised by the good offer of gluten free products that I could find. Compared to Brazil, it was heaven!

    But after 4 months I just realize that it’s not that good to live in a place which in addition of the the fact that people in restaurants and cafes don’t know about your condition, we can be surprised by hidden ingredients in industrialized food, once we in the majority of the products you don’t have anything saying “gluten free”. At least in Brazil people are obligated by Law to write in the labels if the aliment contains gluten or not. Sometimes I really feel that I’m shooting in the dark.

    Hopefully, we’ll get to Uk’s point!

    Congratulations for the blog! It’s really nice 🙂

    1. Thanks 🙂

      I know what you mean about labeling, I’d been so used to, by law, everything having to be clearly and fully labeled. I guess things are getting better here though, there are some new laws coming into effect next year, so here’s hoping.

  2. We LOVE to travel in the UK. Every B&B we ever stayed at could accommodate our gf diet. So many pubs mark their menus with a G for gf. Plus, oh Tesco and Sainsburys…sigh. Love them.

  3. Gluten intolerance and celiac disease must occur at the same frequency in the population as other countries

    I wonder if that is the case. I once read about the industrialised method of bread production as developed in the UK in the 1960s (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorleywood_bread_process ) as being the major suspected cause of coeliac disease/wheat intolerance in Britain. The extreme majority of bread produced and sold in the UK is made using CBP. In Germany, for example, this is not the case. Industrialised bread production using such methods is fairly new, and in the east, very new.

    Maybe that is the reason that “nobody” has really heard of gluten intolerance and coeliac disease over here? And therefore why there aren’t the products in shops here you would be able to find in a fairly-sized supermarket somewhere in the English provinces (in Chorleywood, possibly 😉 ).

    Also: bear in mind that in Germany massive out-of-town supermarkets are rare and that the choices to be found in most “standard” food outlets are restricted compared to that in the UK. For various reasons: one or two firms (Tesco, Asda/Walmart in the UK) don’t have a stranglehold over the complete food-selling market, and small shops still exist.

    I wonder out of all that gluten-free stuff in that Tesco picture how much of it actually gets sold, and how much gets dumped shortly before its sell-by date? It’s a fair question, surely?

  4. Do you know the Real supermarket? The one I always go to in Finowfurt (50 km outside of Berlin) has a good offer of glutenfree products. There is a seperate area of glutenfree products AND the rest of their products are clearly labelled. I saw on their website that there are a few Real supermarkets in Berlin.

  5. I am so happy my gluten-free tips about Prague helped you out. I also worry about Restaurace Na Zlaté křižovatce being empty. I hope enough tourists and locals continue to dine at this restaurant and keep it open for future gluten-free patrons!

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