Aug 072018

Today is the birthday (1779) of Carl Ritter, who, along with Alexander von Humboldt, is considered one of the founders of modern geography. It is also the birthday of Sir Robert Dudley (1574), an English explorer and cartographer who published the first world atlas of maritime maps. I am going to focus on Ritter mainly, but adding Dudley makes today Geography Day, and not just Ritter’s birthday.

Ritter was born in Quedlinburg (130 km northwest of Leipzig) in northern Germany, one of six children of Dr. F. W. Ritter. Ritter’s father died when he was 2. At the age of 5, he was enrolled in the Schnepfenthal Salzmann School, a school focused on the study of nature (apparently influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s writings on children’s education). This experience influenced Ritter throughout his life, and he retained an interest in new educational modes, including those of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. In fact, much of Ritter’s writing was based on Pestalozzi’s three stages in teaching: the acquisition of the material, the evaluation of material, and the establishment of a general system.

After completion of his schooling, Ritter was introduced to Bethmann Hollweg, a banker in Frankfurt. Hollweg hired Ritter to tutor his children, and arranged for him to study at the University of Halle at Hollweg’s expense. His duties as tutor began in 1798 and continued for 15 years. In the years 1814–1819, when he was continuing to tutor, he began to concentrate on the study of geography, and wrote and published the first two volumes of his Erdkunde.

In 1819 he became professor of history in Frankfurt, and in 1820 he received a teaching appointment in history at the University of Berlin. Ritter received his doctorate there in 1821, and was appointed professor in 1825. He also lectured at a nearby military college. He was particularly interested in the exploration of Africa and kept in constant contact with British scholars and with scientific circles such as the Royal Geographical Society. He was one of the academic teachers of the explorer Heinrich Barth, who traveled in Northern and Western Africa on behalf of the British government to negotiate treaties that were to stop the trans-Saharan slave trade. Carl Ritter himself was a dedicated anti-slavery propagandist in Germany.

Ritter’s impact on geography was especially notable because he brought forth a new conception of the subject. H wrote:

Geography is a kind of physiology and comparative anatomy of the earth: rivers, mountains, glaciers, &c., were so many distinct organs, each with its own appropriate functions; and, as his physical frame is the basis of the man, determinative to a large extent of his life, so the structure of each country is a leading element in the historic progress of the nation. The earth is a cosmic individual with a particular sui generis organization, with a progressive development: the exploration of this individuality of the earth is the task of geography.

In 1822 Ritter was elected to the Prussian Academy of Sciences, and in 1824 he became a corresponding member of the Société Asiatique de Paris. In 1828, he established the Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin (Berlin Geographical Society). He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1849. In 1856, he was appointed curator of the Royal Cartographic Institute of Prussia. He died in Berlin in 1859.

Carl Ritter’s 19 part (21 volume) masterwork, Erdkunde im Verhältnis zur Natur und zur Geschichte des Menschen oder allgemeine, vergleichende Geographie, als sichere Grundlage des Studiums und Unterricts in physicalischen und historischen Wissenschaften,( Geography in relation to nature and the history of man or in general, comparative geography, as a secure basis of study and instruction in physical and historical sciences), is one of the most extensive works of geographical literature written by a single author. The first two volumes were published by G. Reimer in 1817 and 1818 respectively, after which the third would not be published until 1922. He also wrote and published Vorhalle der europäischen Völkergeschichte vor Herodotus um den Kaukasus und um die Gestade des Pontus, eine Abhandlung zur Altertumskunde (Vestibule of the European history of nations before Herodotus around the Caucasus and around the shores of the Pontus, a treatise on antiquity), which marked Ritter’s interest in India. It also served as a transition to a third volume of Erdkunde appearing first in 1835.

In total, Ritter intended to write an all-encompassing geography spanning the entire globe. His work was to consist of three parts:

  1. The solid form or the continents
  2. The fluid form or the elements
  3. The bodies of the three realms of nature

Part one was to undertake the continents of the globe beginning with the “Old World” and work to the “New World”. The dynamic of old and new proposed here does not correspond to contemporary notions, rather refers to the evolution of human activity on the planet as Ritter understood it. Due to the colossal scale of his project, Ritter was never able to complete it.

Part two was to deal with the fluid forms; by this he meant water, air, and fire. These elements correspond approximately to the studies of Hydrography, Meteorology, Climatology, as well as Volcanology. This part, too, was to be examined within the framework of the whole system.

The final part of the proposed work was to be dedicated to the interrelationships of organic life with geography and history. Ritter’s approach to geography was to identify the relationship between the variables at stake. He was particularly interested in the development of these relationships over time and how their constituent components (animals and the earth) contributed to this evolution. Borrowing the concept of “organic unity” used by Alexander von Humboldt, Ritter went further saying a geography is simply not possible without it.

Ritter had produced an astonishing amount of geographical literature contained in his Erdkunde alone. It amounts to 21 volumes comprising 19 parts which can be roughly divided into 6 sections:

  1. Africa (I) 1822
  2. East Asia (II-VI) 1818-1836
  3. West Asia (VII-XI) 1837-1844
  4. Arabia (XII-XIII) 1846-1847
  5. Sinai Peninsula (XIV-XVII) 1847-1848
  6. Asia Minor (XVIII-XIX) 1850-1852

Ritter established the treatment of geography as a study and a science. His treatment was endorsed and adopted by all geographers.

By comparison to Ritter, explorers and cartographers such as Sir Robert Dudley (1574 – 1649) were piecemeal geographers, who were, of course, data gatherers and not theoreticians. But Ritter’s work could not have existed without them as forerunners. Dudley was the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, who was treated very well by his father. He inherited the bulk of the Earl’s estate in accordance with his father’s will, including Kenilworth Castle. He also inherited titles from his uncle. In 1603–1605, he tried unsuccessfully to establish his legitimacy in Elizabeth’s court. After that he left England forever, finding a new life in the service of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. There, he worked as an engineer and shipbuilder, and designed and published Dell’Arcano del Mare (1645-1646), the first maritime atlas to cover the whole world. He was also a skilled navigator and mathematician. In Italy, he styled himself Earl of Warwick and Leicester, as well as Duke of Northumberland, titles recognized by Ferdinand II, grand duke of Tuscany.

In 1594, Dudley assembled a fleet of ships, including his flagship, the galleon Beare, as well as the Beare’s Whelpe, and the pinnaces Earwig and Frisking. He intended to use them to harass the Spaniards in the Atlantic, although the queen did not approve because of his youth and inexperience. He did, however, engage in multiple trips across and around the Atlantic.

The most important of Dudley’s works was Dell’Arcano del Mare (Secrets of the Sea). It includes a comprehensive treatise on navigation and shipbuilding and it has become renowned as the first atlas of sea charts of the world. Dell’Arcano del Mare consists of six known volumes that illustrate Dudley’s knowledge of navigation, shipbuilding and astronomy and it includes 130 original maps, all his own creations and not copied from existing maps, which was unusual for the period. Dell’Arcano del Mare was originally published in Florence in 1645 in Italian. It represents a collection of all contemporary naval knowledge. The atlas also includes a proposal for the construction of a fleet of five rates (sizes) of ships, which Dudley had designed and described. Dell’Arcano del Mare was reprinted in Florence in 1661 without the charts of the first edition. The distinctive character of Dudley’s charts was influenced by the Italian baroque engraver Antonio Francesco Lucini. Later mapmakers chose not to copy Dudley’s style and so it became a unique and rare relic in the history of cartography. Lucini recorded that he had spent 12 years and 5,000 pounds of copper to produce the plates.

Leipzig hodgepodge would be a good recipe for today, coming from Ritter’s home region, and taking in all kinds of ingredients. But I have already given it here: .  Here instead is Kartoffelsuppe mit Krabben, potato soup with shrimp, a Saxon recipe from the major Baltic port of Lübeck. The city was the capital of the Hanseatic League, a powerful medieval trade association of cities and merchants. They needed geographers.

Kartoffelsuppe mit Krabben


6 oz very small raw shrimp, unshelled
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed, and chopped
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium red potato, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp dried tarragon
¼ cup light cream


Cook the shrimp in boiling water until just pink (2 to 3 minutes). Shell and devein them and reserve. Simmer the shells with 2 cups of water for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Sauté the shallot until translucent. Add the leek and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrot, and chicken broth.

Strain the shrimp stock, add it to the soup and stir. Reduce the heat and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Pulse the soup in a blender or food processor a few times so that some of the vegetables are blended and some remain in chunks.

Add the shrimp and reheat the soup thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste, ginger, and tarragon. Stir in the cream and serve at once.

Mar 312016


Today is the supposed birthday of P. D. Q. Bach (1742), a fictitious composer invented by “professor” Peter Schickele. Schickele developed a five-decade-long career, performing the “discovered” works of the “only forgotten son” of the Bach family. Schickele’s music combines parodies of musicological scholarship, the conventions of Baroque and classical music, and some slapstick comedy. The name “P. D. Q.” is a parody of the three-part names given to some members of the Bach family that are commonly reduced to initials, such as C. P. E., for Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. PDQ is, of course, an initialism for “pretty damned quick.”


According to Schikele, P. D. Q. Bach was born in Leipzig on March 31 (J.S. Bach’s actual birth date), the son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Anna Magdalena Bach; the twenty-first of Johann’s twenty children. He died May 5, 1807, though his birth and death years are often listed on album literature in reverse, as “(1807–1742)”. According to Schickele, P. D. Q. “possessed the originality of Johann Christian, the arrogance of Carl Philipp Emanuel, and the obscurity of Johann Christoph Friedrich.”


Schickele began working on the character while studying at the Aspen Music Festival and School and at Juilliard, and has performed a variety of P. D. Q. Bach shows over the years. The Village Voice mentions the juxtaposition of collage, bitonality, musical satire, and orchestral surrealism in a ” “bizarre melodic stream of consciousness.” “In P.D.Q. Bach he has single-handedly mapped a musical universe that everyone knew was there and no one else had the guts (not simply the bad taste) to explore.” In fact, it is clear the Shickele is an accomplished musician, theorist, and composer to people with a decent background in music.


Schickele’s works attributed to P. D. Q. Bach often incorporate comical rearrangements of well-known works of other composers. The works use instruments not normally used in orchestras, such as the bagpipes, slide whistle, kazoo, and fictional or experimental instruments such as the pastaphone (made of uncooked manicotti), tromboon, hardart, lasso d’amore, and left-handed sewer flute.


There is often a startling juxtaposition of styles within a single P. D. Q. Bach piece. The Prelude to Einstein on the Fritz, which alludes to Philip Glass’ opera Einstein on the Beach, provides an example. The underlying music is J.S. Bach’s first prelude from The Well-Tempered Clavier, but at double the normal speed, with each phrase repeated interminably in a minimalist manner that parodies Glass’s. On top of this structure is added everything from jazz phrases to snoring to heavily-harmonized versions of Three Blind Mice to the chanting of a meaningless phrase (“Koy Hotsy-Totsy,” alluding to the art film Koyaanisqatsi for which Glass wrote the score). Through all these mutilations, the piece never deviates from Bach’s original harmonic structure.

The humor in P. D. Q. Bach music often derives from violation of audience expectations, such as repeating a tune more than the usual number of times, resolving a musical chord later than usual or not at all, unusual key changes, excessive dissonance, or sudden switches from high art to low art. Further humor is obtained by replacing parts of certain classical pieces with similar common songs, such as the opening of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 with “Beautiful Dreamer”, or rewriting Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as the 1712 Overture, with Yankee Doodle replacing Tchaikovsky’s melody, and Pop Goes the Weasel replacing La Marsellaise.


Schickele divides P. D. Q. Bach’s fictional musical output into three periods: the Initial Plunge, the Soused Period, and Contrition. During the Initial Plunge, P. D. Q. Bach wrote the Traumerei for solo piano, an Echo Sonata for “two unfriendly groups of instruments”, and a Gross Concerto for Divers Flutes, two Trumpets, and Strings. During the Soused (or Brown-Bag) Period, P. D. Q. Bach wrote a Concerto for Horn & Hardart, a Sinfonia Concertante, a Pervertimento for Bicycle, Bagpipes, and Balloons, a Serenude, a Perückenstück (literally German for “Hairpiece”), a Suite from The Civilian Barber (spoofing Rossini’s The Barber of Seville), a Schleptet in E-flat major, the half-act opera The Stoned Guest (the character of “The Stone Guest” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni), a Concerto for Piano vs. Orchestra, Erotica Variations (Beethoven’s Eroica Variations), Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice, an opera in one unnatural act (Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), The Art of the Ground Round (Bach’s The Art of Fugue), a Concerto for Bassoon vs. Orchestra, and a Grand Serenade for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion.

During the Contrition Period, P. D. Q. Bach wrote the cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn (Gluck’s Iphigenia in Aulis, etc.), the oratorio The Seasonings (Haydn’s The Seasons), Diverse Ayres on Sundrie Notions, a Sonata for Viola Four Hands, the chorale prelude Should, a Notebook for Betty Sue Bach (Bach’s Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach and Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”), the Toot Suite, the Grossest Fugue (Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge), a Fanfare for the Common Cold (Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man) and the canine cantata Wachet Arf! (Bach’s Wachet auf).


A final work is the mock religious work Missa Hilarious (Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis) (Schickele no. N2O – the chemical formula of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”).

P.D.Q sometimes uses the tromboon, a musical instrument made up of the reed and bocal of a bassoon, attached to the body of a trombone in place of the trombone’s leadpipe. It combines the sound of double reeds and the slide for a distinctive and unusual instrument (mostly unplayable). The name of the instrument is a portmanteau of “trombone” and “bassoon”. The sound quality of the instrument is best described as comical and loud. The tromboon was developed by Peter Schickele, a skilled bassoonist himself, and featured in some of his live concert and recorded performances. Schickele called it “a hybrid – that’s the nicer word – constructed from the parts of a bassoon and a trombone; it has all the disadvantages of both” (the difficulties of playing a slide instrument and a double reed). This instrument is called for in the scores of P. D. Q. Bach’s oratorio The Seasonings, as well as the Serenude (for devious instruments) and Shepherd on the Rocks, With a Twist. The tromboon (although it was not called such) was independently conceived of by the French composer Gérard Grisey, who used it as a sound effect in his 1975 work Partiels. It is unclear whether either Schickele or Grisey were aware of each other’s untraditional use of the trombone. It’s not surprising that the “instruments” was independently invented twice given that the bocal of a bassoon fits neatly into a trombone mouthpiece aperture.


Here’s Shickele playing the part of announcer for a comic rendition of Beethoven’s 5th.

For PDQ Bach’s birthday here’s Quarkkeulchen – a specialty fried dumpling from Saxony (PDQ’s birthplace), made with potatoes and quark (curds), sprinkled with cinnamon and served with apple sauce. The combination of ingredients has the “flavor” of PDQ’s music of strange combinations.

Quark is also known as  Speisequark, Topfkäse, Weisskäse, Matz, Bibeleskäse, Lukeleskäs, Topfen, Klatschkäse, and Sibbkäs. The word quark means “curd” or “cheese curd.” It is a cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk. The milk is curdled through the addition of a bacteria. The curdled milk is stored at 70°F (22°C) for 24 hours to allow the milk protein to thicken. Then the liquid (whey) is drained through the use of a mechanical separator. The remaining solid is quark. Depending on the desired fat content and consistency of the final quark, producers then mix cream back in.

Quark is basically concentrated milk. It is high in protein, calcium, and phosphate. It is also used extensively in both cooking and baking throughout Germany. It accounts for half of the total cheese consumption in Germany.




1 lb (500g) potatoes, peeled and boiled
1 lb (500g) quark
1¼  cup flour
1 egg
oil or butter
apple sauce


Mash the potatoes. Add the quark, egg, and flour and mix to form a moist dough. If the dough is too wet to hold together, add a little bit more flour.

With floured hands, form flat, thick pancakes.

In a frying pan, heat the oil or butter. Fry the Quarkkeulchen until golden brown. Before serving, sprinkle each Quarkkeulchen with sugar and cinnamon. Serve with apple sauce.

Feb 262016


On this date in 1936 German Chancellor Adolf Hitler unveiled the “people’s car,” later called the Volkswagen. It is often erroneously stated that Hitler designed the car: he did not. Sometimes it is also stated that he sketched the design on a napkin. If so, he was certainly copying designs that were already being offered. The ethos, and history, of the Volkswagen beetle is fascinating, going from the pride of the Third Reich to the quintessential hippiemobile in less than 30 years.

In the early 1930s, the German auto industry was still largely turning out luxury models, and the average German could rarely afford anything more than a motorcycle. As a result, only one German out of 50 owned a car. Seeking a potential new market, some car makers began independent “peoples’ car” projects – the Mercedes 170H, Adler AutoBahn, Steyr 55, and Hanomag 1.3L, among others.

Mercedes-Benz 170H

Mercedes-Benz 170H

The trend was not new; Béla Barényi is credited with having conceived the basic design in the mid-1920s. Josef Ganz developed the Standard Superior (going as far as advertising it as the “German Volkswagen”). In Germany the company Hanomag mass-produced the 2/10 PS “Komissbrot”, a small, cheap rear-engine car, from 1925 to 1928. Also, in Czechoslovakia, the Hans Ledwinka designed Tatra T77, a very popular car amongst the German elite, was becoming smaller and more affordable at each revision.


Ferdinand Porsche, a well-known designer of high-end vehicles and race cars, had been trying for years to get a manufacturer interested in a small car suitable for a family. He felt the small cars at the time were just stripped down big cars. Instead he built a car he called the “Volksauto” from the ground up in 1933, using many of the ideas floating around at the time and several of his own, putting together a car with an air-cooled rear engine, torsion bar suspension, and a “beetle” shape, the front hood rounded for better aerodynamics (necessary because it had a small engine). His design became the VW Beetle.

In 1932, with many of the above projects still in development or early stages of production, Adolf Hitler got involved, ordering the production of a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph). The “People’s Car” would be available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings plan at 990 Reichsmark (€ 3826.35 today)—about the price of a small motorcycle (the average income being around 32RM a week).


Despite heavy lobbying in favor of the existing projects, it soon became apparent that private industry could not turn out a car for only 990RM. Thus, Hitler chose to sponsor an all-new, state-owned factory using Ferdinand Porsche’s design (with some of Hitler’s design constraints, including an air-cooled engine so nothing could freeze). The intention was that ordinary Germans would buy the car by means of a savings scheme (“Fünf Mark die Woche musst du sparen, willst du im eigenen Wagen fahren” – “Five marks a week you must put aside, if you want to drive your own car”), which around 336,000 people eventually paid into. However, the entire project was financially unsound.

Prototypes of the car called the “KdF-Wagen” (German: Kraft durch Freude – “strength through joy”), appeared from 1938 onwards (the first cars had been produced in Stuttgart). The car already had its distinctive round shape and air-cooled, flat-four, rear-mounted engine. VW Type 82E


Erwin Komenda, the longstanding Auto Union chief designer, part of Ferdinand Porsche’s hand-picked team, developed the car body of the prototype, which was recognizably the Beetle known today. It was one of the first cars designed with the aid of a wind tunnel—a method used for German aircraft design since the early 1920s. The car designs were put through rigorous tests, and achieved a record-breaking million miles of testing before being deemed finished.

The building of the new factory started 26 May 1938 in the new town of KdF-Stadt (modern-day Wolfsburg), which had been purpose-built for the factory workers. This factory had produced only a handful of cars by the time war started in 1939. None was actually delivered to any holder of the completed saving stamp books, though one Type 1 Cabriolet was presented to Hitler on 20 April 1944 (his 55th birthday).


War changed production to military vehicles—the Type 82 Kübelwagen (“Bucket car”) utility vehicle (VW’s most common wartime model), and the amphibious Schwimmwagen—manufactured for German forces. As was common with much of the production in Nazi Germany during the war, slave labor was used in the Volkswagen plant, for example from Arbeitsdorf concentration camp. The company would admit in 1998 that it used 15,000 slaves during the war effort. German historians estimate that 80% of Volkswagen’s wartime workforce was slave labor. Many of the slaves were reported to have been supplied from the concentration camps upon request from plant managers. A lawsuit was filed in 1998 by survivors for restitution for the forced labor.


The company owes its post-war existence largely to one man, British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, REME. In April 1945, KdF-Stadt, and its heavily bombed factory were captured by U.S. forces, and subsequently handed over to the British, within whose occupation zone the town and factory fell. The factories were placed under the control of Oldham-born Hirst. At first, the plan was to use the factory for military vehicle maintenance, and possibly dismantle and ship it to Britain. Since it had been used for military production, and had been in Hirst’s words, a “political animal” rather than a commercial enterprise—technically making it liable for destruction under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement—the equipment could be salvaged as war reparations. (Allied dismantling policy changed in late 1946 to mid-1947, though heavy industry continued to be dismantled until 1951.) Hirst painted one of the factory’s cars green and demonstrated it to British Army headquarters. Short of light transport, in September 1945 the British Army was persuaded to place a vital order for 20,000. The first few hundred cars went to personnel from the occupying forces, and to the German Post Office.

Some British Service personnel were allowed to take their Beetles back to the United Kingdom when they were demobilized, and one of the very first Beetles brought back in that way (UK registration number JLT 420) is still owned by Peter Colborne-Baber, the son of the original proprietor of the UK’s first official Volkswagen Importer, Colborne Garages of Ripley, Surrey.

The post-war industrial plans for Germany set out rules that governed which industries Germany was allowed to retain. These rules set German car production at a maximum of 10% of 1936 car production. By 1946, the factory produced 1,000 cars a month—a remarkable feat considering it was still in disrepair. Owing to roof and window damage, production had to stop when it rained, and the company had to barter new vehicles for steel for production.

People's Car

The car and its town changed their Second World War-era names to “Volkswagen” and “Wolfsburg” respectively, and production increased. It was still unclear what was to become of the factory. It was offered to representatives from the U.S., Australian, British, and French motor industries. Famously, all rejected it. After an inspection of the plant, Sir William Rootes, head of the British Rootes Group, told Hirst the project would fail within two years, and that the car “…is quite unattractive to the average motorcar buyer, is too ugly and too noisy … If you think you’re going to build cars in this place, you’re a bloody fool, young man.” The official report said “To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise.” In an ironic twist of fate, Volkswagen manufactured a locally built version of Rootes’s Hillman Avenger in Argentina in the 1980s, long after Rootes had gone bankrupt at the hands of Chrysler in 1978—the Beetle outliving the Avenger by over 30 years.

Ford representatives were equally critical. In March 1948, the British offered the Volkswagen company to Ford, free of charge. Henry Ford II, the son of Edsel Ford, traveled to West Germany for discussions. Heinz Nordhoff was also present, and Ernest Breech, chairman of the board for Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford II looked to Ernest Breech for his opinion, and Breech said, “Mr. Ford, I don’t think what we’re being offered here is worth a dime!” Ford passed on the offer, leaving Volkswagen to rebuild itself under Nordhoff’s leadership.


As we now know, Volkswagen did rebuild itself. The Volkswagen Group is now a German multinational automotive manufacturing company headquartered in Wolfsburg. It designs, manufactures and distributes passenger and commercial vehicles, motorcycles, engines, and turbomachinery and offers related services including financing, leasing and fleet management. In 2012, it produced the second-largest number of motor vehicles of any company in the world, behind Toyota and ahead of General Motors. It has maintained the largest market share in Europe for over two decades. As of 2013, it ranked ninth in the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s largest companies. In 2014, it reached production output of 10.14 million vehicles. Volkswagen Group sells passenger cars under the Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Audi, Porsche, SEAT, Škoda and Volkswagen marques; motorcycles under the Ducati brand; and commercial vehicles under the MAN, Scania, Neoplan and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles marques.


Lower Saxony, where Wolfsburg is located is famous for a number of dishes including Hochzeitssuppe (literally: “wedding soup”). It is a clear soup based on chicken broth, filled with small meatballs (Fleischklößchen), asparagus heads, noodles and savory egg custard garnish (Eierstich). Various versions of hochzeitssuppe are now eaten throughout Germany by the bride and groom and guests, traditionally after the wedding ceremony, and it is usually served as the starter on the menu at the wedding reception.

Preparing the soup is a bit of a rigmarole. All of the ingredients should be prepared separately, not in the broth, and kept warm before serving. To serve the soup, arrange the warm ingredients in bowls, and then pour hot broth over them, then garnish. This method guarantees that every guest has a fair mix of all the ingredients. Here’s the basics with proportions for about 8 servings.


Begin with a rich, clarified chicken broth, brought to a simmer.

You can use a number of vegetables if you wish, but white asparagus and carrots are traditional. Cut them into small pieces and simmer until al dente. Keep warm.

Take equal quantities of spicy German sausage meat, such as Thüringer Mett, and ground beef, and mix it thoroughly with a beaten egg and some breadcrumbs. Roll the mix into small meatballs, and poach them gently in water or stock (not the soup stock). Keep warm.

You can make the eierstich, egg custard, in several ways. Beat together 1 cup of milk or cream, 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks, plus a dash of freshly ground nutmeg and salt. Don’t be so vigorous that a froth forms. Pour the mix into sealable plastic pouches, close them tightly, and place in boiling water for 10 minutes, or until the custard is firm. Unseal the pouches and cut the custard into small pieces. I have little decorative cutters for this job. Keep warm.

If you like you can also cook some flat egg noodles.

Serve the soup in wide bowls. Arrange the vegetables, meatballs, custard, and noodles (if used), in individual bowls, pour over the hot broth, garnish with chopped chives or parsley, and serve.