Wirtshaus "Zum Grünen Baum" (The Green Tree Tavern), Passau, Germany

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When travelling abroad, finding a decent place to have some good food an a couple of beers can be one of the most frustrating things. Especially when you're not into the haute cuisine hype but rather down-to-earth, you run a great risk of getting disappointed and ripped off by tourist traps. Just in case your travel plans lead you to Germany, or even to Passau, to be more precise, this Entry will show you a great place to hang out.

How to get there

One of the prominent buildings of Passau, besides of the Dome, is the town hall tower, situated on the right bank of the river Danube only a short distance before the Dreiflüsseeck (three-river-corner). Find that tower, place yourself at its base and look straight towards the Danube. Then make a 90° turn to the left and you'll look into the "Höllgasse" (which translates to "Hell Alley", not kidding!). Just some 100 yards away from you you'll find the "Wirtshaus Zum Grünen Baum" (Green Tree Tavern, or short: "The Tree").

What to find there

It is a rather small tavern, with seats for some 80 people, divided into two rooms. The furniture is oldfashioned in its best sense, which means that you'll not find any of those modern gimmicks, no darts, no slotmachines, no fancy neon signs. The chandelier in the first room is a real eye-catcher: It has been soldered together from spoons, knives and forks.

Eating and Drinking

You will not find too many different things on the Tree's menu. The cuisine is rather basic, but of excellent quality. Above all you will have the chance to try traditional bavarian food, such as cooked beef with a stew of root vegetables and horseradish cream, different kinds of venison (depending on what the innkeeper could get his hand on), the inevitable pork with kraut and dumpling (excellent!) or, and that is a strong recommendation for those cold days, a big bowl of meat strudel soup.

The Tree features a rather rich variety of vegetarian dishes, which is rather unusual for a traditional "Wirtshaus". Try those "Kässpatzen" (a kind of noodles with melted cheese and roasted onions), and you might be tempted not to eat meat any longer. The staff is always happy to fulfill your special demands, and if you want or have to keep a special diet, just tell them. If they have the ingredients at hand, they'll cook exactly what you like to have, at a very reasonable price.

You can expect to get good and even excellent beer anywhere in Bavaria, and that is definitely true for the Tree. They have the standard assortment of lager1, ale, stout, Pilsener or Weizenbier, plus some specialities:

  • Zwicklbier, or short Zwickl is basically a lager, but it is not filtered. That makes the beer rather cloudy but keeps all the healthy and tasty stuff suspended in the drink. You night be reminded of a "wholemeal" beer.
  • "Strasskirchener Gutsbräu is a brown beer that comes from a little brewery just some miles outside of Passau. The brewer uses ingredients form organical cultivation only, no chemistry whatsoever. As with all Bavarian beers, the "Reinheitsgebot2" (purity law) is strictly obeyed.

The Staff

The chandelier definitely is not the only eyecatcher. If the innkeeper enters the room, he really fills the place. 6'6" tall, some 300 pounds and with scrubby hair and beard, he would have been an excellent cast to play Hagrid, the gamekeeper from the Harry Potter novels (with no makeup required).

The atmosphere is really familiar. The staff is always willing to make your stay nice and pleasant. If you come there for the second time, they will remember you, and after the third time you'll be treated like an old friend. And this is not just the 'professional care' that you might know from other restaurants. They don't just care for you as a customer, but as a person and friend.

The Music

Music plays an important part in gastronomy, and you will hardly find any place lacking some kind of background music. Sometimes that music is really annoying, sometimes it's just dull. In the Tree, you'll hear a excellent choice of many different kinds of music. One day you might hear classical music, like Felix Mendelsohn-Bartholdy's Symphony in A major Op. 90 ("Italian Symphony"), the next day they'll play some genuine folk music and on the third day you'll hear Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue". You might be surprised how well classical music and traditional (i.e. "classical") food go together.

Are tourists welcome?

Yes, they definitely are. Most of the staff speak at least some rudimentary English, and English menus are also available. Just try it, you will not be disappointed.

1Please keep in mind that the Bavarian "Helles", which comes closest to what you might know as lager, has more penetrating power that most international lagers.2This is one of the oldest food regulations, dating back to 1516: Anything that calls itself "beer" must be made from nothing else but water, hop and barley. Wheat was allowed later as a replacement for barley, and the fact that yeast plays an important part in the brewing process was discovered centuries later.

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