If I were a poet, I would write an ode to the European breakfast. Well, more specifically, to the complementary breakfasts served by moderately priced European hotels (CBSBMPH), at least in the western and northern parts of the continent. In the ode, I would praise the bountiful nature of the offerings and the richness of the choices. Also, I would rhapsodize how the breakfasts satiate those who partake of them. I might also contrast those breakfasts with those “served” in similar hostelries in the U.S., where the selection is meager, little is palatable, and nothing is memorable. Those sugar-based breakfasts are piled onto flimsy paper plates and eaten, amid debris left by earlier patrons, with flexible plastic utensils.
I honed my appreciation of CBSBMPH during my recent Eurail Pass trip during which I typically stayed at a moderately price hotel near a train station. The hotels in Germany, Denmark, Norway, France, and Austria almost always provided breakfast in the price of the room. In Spain and Switzerland, breakfasts had to be purchased separately. As in the United States, more expensive hotels rarely had complementary breakfasts, instead demanding up to 20 Euros for their breakfast feasts.
The complementary breakfasts I had during the trip were usually self service, though the one in Büsum (Germany) was not. There, the waitress described the options and quickly brought the preferred breakfast to the table with a kännchen of coffee. Elsewhere, breakfast items were spread across tables and each person piled what he or she wanted to eat on a plate or two. With few exceptions, drinks were also available for the taking. A few places served hot drinks Dennys-style, putting a thermos filled with the drink of your choice on the table. However, most often coffee was drawn from a huge machine with many choices (espresso, cappuccino, etc.), each selected by the push of a button. These automated machines make good coffee if they are fed fresh coffee beans. Every breakfast offered a choice of juices, including orange juice.** (In the old days, finding fresh-tasting orange juice in Europe was a challenge. Now, squeezed orange juice is widely available.)
|From left to right: scrambled eggs and small wurst, sliced meats, sliced cheese, veggies and fruits, fruit compote, butter/margerine, jams, cereals, bottle water|
The breakfast options always included fresh bread (brötchen in Germany, semmeln in Austria, sliced baguettes in France, and loaves of many varieties of heavy bread in Denmark and Norway), different varieties of cheese (soft cheeses predominate in Denmark and Norway, hard cheeses elsewhere), sliced meats (ham is the most popular), butter (also butter substitutes for the calorie conscious), different vegetables (sliced peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.), and many different types of jam. For me, an ideal breakfast consists of a couple of semmeln or brötchen smeared with butter, one eaten with Swiss cheese and ham, the other with a fresh jam.
Other options for breakfast usually included cereals (granola) with milk; fruits and nuts to be eaten with yogurt; fruits; and a fruit compote. Probably more than half of the hotels where I ate breakfast also offered scrambled or boiled eggs, and many of those also provided bacon or wurst alongside the eggs (a sign of the Americanization of the breakfasts). At some hotels there were surprises such as crepes or pastries, and one hotel had a grill where patrons could fry their own eggs.
After about 25 hotel-provided breakfasts over 35 days in October and November, I remain an enthusiastic fan of them. Not one of these breakfasts was bad or a disappointment. Some were inspiring. In fact, I wish Keats were around to write a proper ode to the beauty of the CBSBMPH, I am sure it would bring tears to my eyes. Of course, the tears would not be as voluminous as those shed the next time I eat a waffle at a Day’s Inn.
Some more pictures of breakfasts:
Breakfast in Vienna: Table with sliced meats and cheese, fruits and vegges; to the left is a griddle on
which diners can fry eggs; behind the table are cereals, yogurt, and jams
|At same breakfast in Vienna, a table with breads, pastry, and fresh fruit (also a toaster for sliced bread)|