Nothing like an eis on a hot day
B and I have been coming to the German city of Münster in the north-western province of North Rhine-Westphalia for as long as we have been in Europe. The city is the home of his Australian father and his German wife (the father’s, that is) who generally host us and generously feed us up. It’s a university city full to the brim with students, bicycles and various denominations of the Christian faith. Westphalia is also well renowned for its horse breeding. The province is flat as a tack, hence the abundance of bikes and perhaps horses, but I’m not sure the geography goes anyway to explaining the faiths. We have visited this flat land in all kinds of weather. Though something like last winter’s snowfall was exceptional, summer is definitely my favourite season, with long warm evenings spent lingering over eine große bier in one of the many biergartens that populate the city.
One of the other delights at this time of year is the uniquely German creation of the Eis Café (ice cream shop). These cafés spring up in any available space all over Münster and in the surrounding small towns only to shut or transform during the winter months.
Proliferations of chairs and tables appear like summer blooms on paved forecourts and cobbled squares to provide an ice-cold relief for the eager and greedy customers.
But this in itself is not the unique part of my Münster summer ice cream eating. These Eis café’s don’t just serve your everyday cone and cup, they specialise in the becher.
Eis becher: A literal mound or tower of ice cream, fruit and/or nuts, cream, and topping.
It is nothing to sit at a sunny table of an afternoon and consume what must be close to 500ml of ice cream and unthinkable quantities of calories. These ices aren’t a sweet reward for the diet conscience; you need courage and conviction to take on a becher.
You will also need similar amounts of courage and conviction to navigate the menu with, on average, over 100 options and various combinations of eis, topping and sprinkle. Perhaps you’re in the mood for a Hawaiianbecher? Or a Heidelbeerbecher? A Zabaglionebecher? How about a Rumtofbecher? The options are endless and the kinder have their own separate comprehensive menu including a bizarre creation called spaghetti eis.
Once you’ve chosen your poison, you place your order with a grumpy male waiter and ogle as those around you gulp down their cream and wafer creations. The waiter will reappear carrying anywhere from three to six towering sundaes at once, balanced on little silver plates.
When finally the marvel has been placed in front of you it’s time to negotiate the additional summer pitfalls of ice cream eating; namely melting, multiple curious and hungry wasps and the dreaded ice cream headache.
Sure, other countries enjoy their ice creams and even have respectable ice cream sundae options but nothing compares to the German eis becher for scale and indulgence. Guten Appetit!