The Mucha Museum, in Prague, is one of my favorite “almost hidden” treasures in the City of 100 Spires. Located in Nové Město, just a quick walk from Wenceslaus Square, it should be on your must-see list of things to do in Prague.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link for an item or service I recommend and make a booking or purchase, I may get a small commission on that sale. It won’t affect the price you pay. Also I was offered a discount on this tour to be able to write about it for you. But that has not affected my opinion. My enthusiasm for this experience is genuine.
December 26,1894 – The workshop office of Lemercier Printers, Paris:
The phone rings and Maurice de Brunhoff, manager of the publishing firm, picks up. On the other end is the most famous actress in Paris, if not the world, Sarah Bernhardt. Her current production of Gismonda is being extended and she wants a new poster designed at once. Of course, Madame, M. de Brunhoff replies. Then Bernhardt drops the bomb; she wants the poster ready to distribute by January 1.
Let’s imagine the rest of the conversation, shall we?
“But, ma chère madame, that is only one week away!”
“Mais oui, mon chèr Maurice. And I want something different, non? Something unique. I am going to plaster Paris with them. See to it, please, will you, mon chèr?”
Well, clearly, M. de Brunhoff now found himself in a pickle. You just did not say no to the world’s greatest actress, not to mention one of your firm’s best customers, as they had been printing Bernhardt’s posters for some time. But it was the holidays; all his artists were unavailable. Where was he to find someone to design such an important commission and get it ready and printed in seven days?
Fortunately for him, and for the future of the art world, a not-well-known but talented artist/illustrator, a fellow from Moravia, was in the print shop at that moment, correcting some proofs. “Can you do it?” the manager asked after explaining the problem. Well, of course he could, replied Alphonse Mucha. And he did.
One week later, Paris was indeed plastered with Mucha’s 6 ½’ high poster. Bernhardt was delighted with the design, full of complex details and subtle colorations. It showed her full length and bigger than life, dressed as a Byzantine princess with orchids in her hair, holding a palm frond. Her head was outlined with an arc that looked like a halo, a design feature that would become a signature element of Mucha’s work. So popular was the piece that people were pulling it off walls and kiosks, taking it home to decorate their own walls. 4000 posters were printed. Bernhardt immediately offered Mucha a six-year contract to design posters, costumes, and stage sets for her.
Alphonse Mucha, who had been struggling to make his name known, to say nothing of paying his café bill and the rent on his atelier, had been designing restaurant menus, advertising posters, and illustrating popular novels. With this poster, he became one of the most popular artists in Paris almost overnight.
You can see this beautiful Gismonda poster—yes, the original proof print, from 1894—at the Mucha Museum in Prague. And I heartily suggest you do.
How to Get the Most Out of a Mucha Museum Visit
I have been a fan of Mucha’s work since my college days—a long time ago!—so I was thrilled to see so many of his pieces in person. Also, since I knew almost nothing about his life, I enjoyed seeing the photos, drawings, and the reproduction of his Paris studio. The museum is small, but rich for anyone who loves the work of Mucha or Art Nouveau in general.
I suggest you plan to spend at least an hour here—I stayed closer to two—and that you begin your visit by watching the excellent 30-minute film—in English—shown in the video room at the very back. It gives a great overview of the artist’s life and work, and is the perfect introduction, especially if you are not familiar with the breadth of his work.
After the film, return to the front of the museum and work your way through the sections one by one.
“The purpose of my work was never to destroy but always to create, to construct bridges, because we must live in the hope that humankind will draw together and that the better we understand each other the easier this will become.”
– Alphonse Mucha
The Decorative Panels and Posters
The first sections are where you’ll see the Mucha works you probably know best—decorative panels and posters. In fin-de-siècle Paris, there was a hunger among the middle class for beautiful but affordable artworks to adorn their homes. Mucha was happy to supply them with a stream of decorative panels, calendars, and prints. He developed an archetypal style that would forever mark his work—flattened, subtle colors, curved lines, flowing hair and fabrics, and strong outlines.
He often worked in series—The Four Seasons, The Four Flowers, The Four Times of Day. I particularly loved The Four Arts–Dance, Poetry, Painting and Music. Its warm golden tones, the lushness of its flowing lines contrasted with the rigidly round crescent behind each figure, drew me in.
The Four Flowers has a quite different feel, although a similar palette. The thing that most struck me about it was how modern the flowing dresses on the four women seemed. You could put these gowns on any woman walking the red carpet at a celebrity-heavy awards ceremony and they would not look out of place.
This is also where you can see some of the famous Bernhardt posters. I was intrigued by the Medée poster, which captures the actress’s powerful presence in the look of horror on her face as she stands over the bodies of the children she has killed. The snake bracelet she is wearing was a design detail the artist added. Bernhardt liked it so much, she commissioned the jeweler Georges Fouquet to make her one just like it.
Mucha’s style was also perfectly adapted to the growing need for printed advertising materials in turn-of-the-century France, and he was glad for the commissions. He designed advertising prints for champagne and chocolate, beer and Benedictine, bicycles and corsets. And his ads sold merchandise, making him much in demand.
In this section, you can see his famous ad for JOB cigarette papers, featuring a scantily clad woman in flowing fabric and even more flowing long black hair. This wild mass of almost Medusa-like hair was another signature of Mucha’s work, often called “macaroni” or “vermicelli.” The woman’s pose is flirty and sensual. Even in such early advertising, it was already clear that “sex sells.”
Documents Décoratifs and Czech Posters
The next section of the museum contains a number of what are called Documents Décoratifs. These are primarily pencil drawings highlighted with white paint showing his designs for everything from furniture to fireplaces, tableware to cutlery, hair combs, fans, chandeliers, and jewelry (much of which was produced by the famous Parisian jeweler Fouquet).
These works are followed by more posters, Czech ones this time, created after he returned to his country of birth in 1910. He was very much a Slavic nationalist, and the work he created at this time shows a distinct difference from the Paris posters. Folk costumes, Slavic faces, and strong Slav sports figures replace the flowing, almost liquid lines of so much of the Parisian work. Social commentary in speaking out against the Germanization of the Czechs is also present.
Alphonse Mucha Paintings
Although Mucha made his name and fame as an illustrator and graphic designer, his first love had been painting, which he studied in Munich. There are not a lot of examples of his painting work here, but one drew me to it and I stared for a long time, taking in every detail. It is a powerful work, called variously “Star,” “Woman in the Wilderness,” and “Siberia.” It shows a Russian peasant woman, wrapped in a shawl, sitting alone on a field of snow, her face turned upward to the night sky with a single bright star hanging above her. There is defeat, acceptance, and finally a sense of peace in her posture. The artist’s wife, Marie, posed for the painting.
A Man of Many Talents
The final section of the museum seems specifically designed for the artist to just show off his astonishing versatility. There are drawings and pastels and studies, jewelry and sculpture, a design for a stained-glass window at St. Vitus’ Cathedral (which you can see while you are in Prague). There are examples of the Czech banknotes and stamps he designed.
You’ll also see here a small reconstruction of part of his Paris studio. That studio must have been a lively, happening place (especially when the painter Paul Gauguin lived with him for awhile). You can tell by looking at the many photographs on display. Mucha made glass-plate photos of models in preparation for many of his pieces, and they are fascinating. Look beyond the models at the studio itself, the furnishings and objects of the exotic Bohemian interior.
“Advised to “Find a Different Career”
This is the feast of the Mucha Museum. Once you have seen the astonishing brilliance and breadth of his work here, it’s amusing to learn that in 1878, when the budding young artist was 18 years old and applied to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, he was rejected. The person rejecting him told him to “find a different career.” I don’t suppose anyone remembers that man’s name. While Mucha went on to be hailed not only as the greatest of the Art Nouveau artists, but even as “the most famous artist in the world.”
If you’d like to get a good meal near the museum, I suggest heading to Bistro Spejle, just a block away; good food and a fun concept, with everything served on a skewer, with your bill calculated by how many skewers you consume. You can read my full review of Bistro Spejle here.
Fast Facts for Visiting the Mucha Museum:
Where: The museum is located at Panská 7 in the Kaunický Palace. This is in Nové Město, just a short walk from Wenceslaus Square. With your back to the National Museum at the top of the square and the venerable good King Wenceslaus astride his horse, walk about 2/3 the length of the square to Jindřišská and turn right. Go one block to Panská. You will see the museum on your right.
When: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm
Cost: Regular admission tickets are 300 CZK, about US$13.25. NOTE: There is a senior discount for visitors over 65 with tickets costing 200 CZK, about US$8.85
Amenities: There is a wonderful gift shop at the front near the entrance, full of Mucha inspired gifts, books, posters and other items.
Accessibility: The museum is wheelchair accessible.
Facilities: Clean, free restrooms are located near the front of the museum across from the ticket desk.
http://www.nomadwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo-340.png00Donnahttp://www.nomadwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo-340.pngDonna2020-01-14 08:08:092020-01-14 08:08:19How to Visit the Mucha Museum, Prague
Ahhh…. European desserts. Lives there a woman traveler who can resist them? Certainly not me. Because one of the great joys of traveling is… eating. And one of the great joys of eating is… dessert!
A whole lot of travel and food bloggers seem to be just like me—unable to resist desserts in Europe. So I asked some of them to share their favorites with us. Together, we’ve come up with a list of an even two dozen of the best European desserts you need to try on your next trip. Let’s begin with one of my own personal favorites.
Poffertjes in the Netherlands
Poffertjes come directly from the gods, I swear it. These little pockets of heaven are small, puffy buckwheat pancakes (seen in the photo above), baked in a special cast-iron pan with shallow spherical depressions. Once baked, they are slathered in butter and covered in large driftings of powdered sugar. When I first went to Amsterdam, more than 45 years ago, poffertjes were usually bought from special circus-style stands that set up around town at various holidays. Today, you can find them at the street markets, such as the Albert Cuyp Market, and in many cafes. I’ll eat them anywhere I find them, but one of my favorite poffertjes stops is Café De Prins at Prinsengracht 124. This really is one of my very favorite European desserts. You need to try them. Trust me on this.
Lebkuchen is a traditional German Christmas treat. Although the word kuchen means cake in German, I would describe lebkuchen as the love child of a gingerbread man and a spice cake. These German sweet treats are baked on a thin, white, edible wafer called oblaten that always reminds me of a Communion wafer. As it turns out, that’s because the 13th Century German monks who invented lebkuchen in Nuremberg used larger, unconsecrated hosts to structure the cakes and keep the dough from sticking to the baking surface. The cake itself can range from sweet (also known as honigkuchen or honey cake) to spicy (also known as pfefferkuchen or pepper cake).
Typical lebkuchen ingredients include some combination of honey or molasses, spices (like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg), nuts (like almonds or hazelnuts), and candied fruit (like dried apricots or candied lemon peel). As a final step, lebkuchen is dipped in a glaze or dark chocolate. In the country that invented the Christmas tree and is the setting for the Nutcracker Ballet, no Christmas would be complete without soft, sweet, and spicy lebkuchen! They are available at every bakery and every Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in Germany throughout the holiday season.
Skyr is one my favorite treats in Iceland. Pronounced “skee-er,” skyr is a dairy product that resembles yogurt but has a milder taste. It is one of Iceland’s oldest dairy products and has been around for nearly 1,000 years. Instead of having a sour and tart taste like yogurt, the cultures that make up skyr have a rich and creamy flavor. Skyr is also very good for your health. It contains more protein and less sugar than yogurt. In Iceland, you can find all sorts of flavors like peach cloudberry, strawberry, banana, apple, raspberry, coconut and more.
Trying skyr is one of the inexpensive things I recommend doing in Iceland on a budget. It costs around 200 ISK or $2+ USD. You can find Skyr at grocery stores, gas stations and even some restaurants.
For your morning coffee or chocolate and churros in Madrid, you must visit Chocolatería San Ginés in the center city. It’s just off Calle Arenal about halfway between the Puerta del Sol and the Plaza de Ópera. If you go at the typical breakfast time of mid-morning, you’ll stand in line for a few minutes to order at the cashier. You pay, get your ticket, and then wait a couple more minutes for a table to open up. The place has seating on two levels in the main shop, and another large room next door. The turnover is quick, so the wait is never long, but even if it were, it would be worth it.
Basically, there are four combinations that are the standard fare. You can either have coffee with milk or hot chocolate, and you can either have churros or porras, which are basically just bigger churros. Churros are the Spanish equivalent of donuts. They are fried dough, usually sprinkled with powdered sugar, although they are so delicious, you can certainly forego the sweet garnish. I do. However, the essence of the Spanish churro breakfast is not the churros. It’s the chocolate. This isn’t the thin gruel that Americans call cocoa or hot chocolate. This is a thick, dark, bitter chocolate that comes in a cup, but is really too thick to drink. It exists solely for dipping your churros. Enjoy.
One of the yummiest sweet treats in Sardina is the sebada (or seada), generally referred to in its plural form—sebadas or seadas. These are made by preparing a very plain dough which is then laid very thin and filled with a mild cheese (it can be Dolce Sardo, but it should traditionally be a sweet and fresh pecorino cheese) and grated lemon or orange rind. The pastry is then folded together carefully, and deep fried. It’s cooked until crispy and then served with honey. The end result is a sweet, salty and at the same time crispy and tangy dessert that makes any mouth water. A classic among European desserts.
When you visit Bucharest, one of the “must have” sweets is a typical Romanian cake called “Snow-White.” I know, it has a funny name, but it is so delicious, light and sweet, that you will immediately fall in love with it, just like the Prince did with the real Snow-White. This is my childhood’s cake. My grandma used to make it, as it is a favorite amongst children and adults alike. It is a layered cake, made from three thin sheets of cake with vanilla-lemon cream in between them. That fresh cream perfectly balances the sweetness of the pastry layers to create a fresh dessert.
Typically, this is not found in your average cake shop in the city, but look for the cake shops that sell “home-made” cakes. It’s a must for them to have it and for you to enjoy it! Better yet, find a Romanian grandma to make one for you. If you can’t manage that, you can always try Lulu’s Cake (located at Strada Bogdaniţa, Nr. 8-10, in Bucharest). It’s a cake shop that makes “home-made” cakes, and they are my favorite when it comes to bringing me back to my childhood.
Florence, Italy, is considered the birthplace of not just the Renaissance but also my favorite sweet treat, gelato. Story has it that in 1565, Bernardo Buontalenti, the man in charge of setting up fabulous events for the Medicis, decided to chill pastry cream for a dessert offering at a banquet. And that’s how gelato made its debut! Without a doubt, Florence is home to some of the best gelaterias on the planet. But even in this land of plenty, there are standouts that you absolutely must not miss when you visit. Stop by Vivoli for unsurpassed renderings of classic flavors. Pay Gelateria dei Neri a visit for daring and contemporary flavor combinations. Stand in the inevitable line at La Carraia for gelato that oozes decadent richness. Visit Carapina for the most purist take on gelato artigianale. And why not stop by Perchè no! for its cute name and delicious gelato?
One of the tests for whether a gelateria is great is supposedly to see if it carries nocciola (hazelnut) gelato as a stand-alone flavor. Hazelnut is an expensive ingredient, and only top gelaterias offer real hazelnut on its own. Fior de latte, translating literally to flower of milk, is another test…if a shop can do a great sweet cream flavor, which contains nothing but milk and sugar, you can be confident its offerings will be delicious. Happy tasting, and happy gorging on gelato in Firenze! One of the best European desserts in one of the best cities!
The Hungarian language is full of words that are very hard to pronounce, but one of these unpronounceable words, kürtőskalács, quickly becomes part of the vocabulary of those who visit Hungary. Kürtőskalács is a cake that comes originally from the Hungarian speaking part of Transylvania in Romania, but it is one of the favorites not only in Hungary, but also other places in the region. During your walk around Budapest, you will easily find a food stall that sells this beauty, and you will also find another version in Prague that is called trdelník.
Kürtőskalács is a spit cake (sometimes they translate it to chimney cake), prepared in a special oven where the dough is wrapped around a wooden spit. The cake is baked slowly over a wood fire and then is glazed in sugar. There are different versions with cinnamon, vanilla, or even walnut added to the sugary glaze. A new trend is to put ice cream in the middle, but that cools it down, and I think it’s much tastier when it’s warm.
Brunsviger is a Funen cake that will make your blood flow a little slower due to a butter and sugar overload, but boy is it good. The cake is a yeast dough covered in a sugary mass made out of butter and brown sugar. The icing has to be soft, smooth and without crunch; the sugar grains have to be melted. If you get a piece of brunsviger with a crunch, the baker didn’t do a good job. On Funen, it is customary to have the baker make a brunsviger shaped as a boy or girl and decorate it with candy for kids’ birthday parties. The name of the cake is derived from the German city Braunschweig, but other than that the connection is uncertain.
Although the cake is hugely popular on Funen, people from other parts of the country don’t really understand it. But if you have grown up with brunsviger, you will keep craving it for the rest of your life. I, the writer, was once forbidden to eat brunsviger in the car by my boyfriend because he was tired of putting his hands on a sticky and greasy steering wheel every time I had been to the bakery. Have I stopped? Only I and the car know.
Sticky toffee pudding has always been one of my favourite English desserts. It is one of those desserts you can find in all kinds of restaurants, from pubs and chains, to high-class gourmet restaurants. The combination of gooey sponge pudding with a sweet toffee sauce and ice cream or custard is hard to beat, and the perfect way to finish any meal!
There is something incredibly satisfying about a warm, sweet sticky toffee pudding which never fails to put a smile on my face—British comfort food at its best. There is some contention about the best recipe of course, mainly whether to include dates in the sponge mixture. Personally, I prefer it without, but there is no right and wrong when it comes to a good dessert. Either way is delicious! The most recent sticky toffee pudding I had was in London, in a restaurant on the South Bank of the Thames, as part of a food tour. Even though I was already stuffed, I still found room for it, and am so glad I did!
Cranachan is a traditional dessert well worth a try if you find yourself in Scotland. A classic after-dinner accompaniment, a cranachan (occasionally spelled crannachan and pronounced kran-nuh-kun) encompasses a whole host of local produce that make it a quintessentially Scottish pudding. The layered dessert was originally made at the end of summer to celebrate the harvest but is now served at any time of year. It contains layers of toasted oats, cream, honey, fresh Scottish raspberries, and of course a little dash of whisky!
You’ll find this on most Scottish restaurant menus and it is certainly a staple at many occasions such as a Burns Night or at a Hogmanay meal. We even had it at our wedding! There’s also plenty of variations on the standard recipe, but you’ll usually have a tall glass with layers of each ingredient. It should be made with fresh raspberries, local honey, and should be light and sweet rather than heavy, but don’t be surprised if it has a kick as some places can be a little liberal with the whisky!
Exploring the Hungarian capital city and looking for something sweet to eat? If this is you, then trying a slice of Dobos Torte in Budapest is the answer to your cravings! This classic cake contains 7 spongy layers with chocolate buttercream icing in between each of them. The top decoration is where Dobos gets its signature look: a hardened, shiny caramel layer is waiting for you to break through when you enjoy a slice.
The cake itself was created by József Dobos. a Hungarian pastry chef. in the late 1800s. As the legend goes, József was a creative baker who was tired of his creations going stale shortly after baking them. His solution? Create a dessert where all the exposed cake was covered up! He whipped together (pun intended) a chocolate buttercream icing and covered all the layers and the exterior edges of the cake. Finally, he drizzled and spread the caramel until it hardened on the top. This combination sealed the cake inside, keeping it moist and fresh. From that experiment, Dobos Torte was born! Whatever you have planned for your time in Budapest,, there are lots of confectionery shops around the city that serve a great slice of Dobos. We’d recommend Café Gerbeaud for an authentic Hungarian experience.
The world was introduced to the complicated German Berliner dessert in 1963. That year, John F. Kennedy made a famous (and what some considered to be erroneous) speech. “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Urban legend has it that he stated, “I am a jelly donut!” That’s because the Berliner is a popular pastry you can get in any German region. It is a sweet dough, fried in oil to create a donut. Instead of a hole in the middle, the Berliner is typically filled with marmalade or jam. You can also find Berliners with chocolate or custard fillings. Obviously, there are many versions of the Berliner, including with powdered sugar toppings or icing.
In parts of Germany, including in Berlin, the Berliner pastry is more commonly known as Pfannkuchen – literally “pancake.” In Switzerland, however, you’ll find the true and classic Berliner, filled with jelly (hence the jelly donut). I had my first Berliner in Lucerne, Switzerland. Because Lucerne is quite culturally German, you can find many pastry shops and cafes which have their own Berliner specialties.
Follow the Round the World Guys on Facebook at Facebook.
Portugal’s best and most well-known pastry is the pastel de nata (often called a Portuguese custard tart). Made from layers of filo pastry and egg custard, this sweet may be simple in its ingredients, but its flavors are complex. It’s best enjoyed with a small black espresso (called a “bica” in Lisbon) outside a small cafe, as you sit and watch the world go by. You’ll find pastel de nata in just about every cafe in Portugal, but the best ones come from the city where the recipe originates: Lisbon.
Pastéis de Belém is credited with the original nata recipe, and it’s definitely worth making a special journey to this pastelaria. Recently, however, a number of newcomers have sprung up and many have even won the coveted annual “melhor pastel de nata” award. Which is the best? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to work your way through the entire city.
One of my favorite sweets ever is strudel, a roll of pastry cut into slices and served with whipped cream, custard, or ice cream. It’s found all over the Alps. You can also find strudel filled with ricotta cheese, forest fruits, or other types of fruit; but the best and most common filling is definitely apples and cinnamon.
I love to eat strudel after hiking because I found it satisfies my cravings for carbs and sugar without feeling too heavy on the stomach, like many other types of sweets and cakes. Recently I went on a three-day hike around the Brenta Dolomites, staying in mountain huts, and while everyone was having beer or radler at the end of the day, I was happily munching away on a huge slice of strudel! The best strudel I’ve ever had was at Rifugio Alimonta in the Brenta Dolomites, but I think the fact I had it after hiking for seven hours is part of the reason why I found it so delicious!
Bossche Bollen are the traditional sweets from Den Bosch, the Netherlands. ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) is a beautiful city in Brabant about one hour from Amsterdam with a rich culture. Their own delicious pastry is one you’ll want to try, especially if you love chocolate and cream. This Dutch sweet is made with cream and melted chocolate in a giant ball.
When visiting ‘s-Hertogenbosch, you can find these delicious specialties all over the city, although the most famous come from a bakery close to the central train station, Banketbakkerij Jan de Groot. Most of the cafes around town will serve fresh Bossche Bollen, so don’t worry about finding them within the city. Even outside of Den Bosch, you can find them at some bakeries around the Netherlands. I recommend sharing one with a friend and saving plenty of room for later as they’re quite filling.
One of my all-time favorite European sweet treats is Rote Grütze, a delicious traditional summer dessert from northern Germany. If you like berries, you’ll love Rote Grütze! It’s basically a compote made from simmering blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and red currants in red fruit juice and a bit of sugar. When I was served Rote Grütze at a friend’s house, it was typically served warm with a small pitcher of cold, fresh cream to pour over the top. SO good! However, if you order it in a cafe or restaurant, they’ll probably serve it cold or at room temperature and topped with vanilla sauce, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Don’t worry, no matter how it’s served, it’ll be amazing! Rote Grütze is super easy to make from scratch, but if you’re in Germany (especially northern Germany) you’ll find a jar of it in any grocery store. Rote Grütze: the perfect local sweet treat to enjoy in your AirBnB!
I love trying new foods when I travel, especially when they’re sweet, and I fell in love with trdelnik in Prague during my first visit there. Trdelnik are pastries made by wrapping dough around a spit and then roasting it over a grill. Once cooked, they’re coated in sugar and nuts. Nowadays you can even get them filled with chocolate, pie filling, and whipped cream. My favorite version has melted white chocolate drizzled all over the inside.
Watching them being made is almost as fun as eating them. They’re a great snack to eat while walking around Prague’s historic streets, though if you want to minimize the mess while you explore, opt for one of the simpler flavors, because the fancy ones full of creamy fillings can definitely get messy. You can find variants all over central Europe, but they’re absolutely everywhere in Prague. Don’t miss out on a chance to sample these tasty treats during your visit.
Black Forest Cake is indeed from the Black Forest region of Germany, but there is debate about in which town it originated. Some of the first published recipes for the cake date from the late 1920s. You can see one of these recipes at the Black Forest Open-Air Museum, in the town of Gutach. You can have a large slice of the cake in their lovely restaurant as well.
The Black forest region is famous for its cherry trees, so much so that the women’s traditional local costume includes a hat with giant red pom-poms on top, resembling cherries. It’s no wonder the cherries and Kirschwasser (cherry liqueur) made their way into the famous dessert. A proper Black Forest cake layers light chocolate cake with whipped cream or buttercream, with one layer of sour cherries and Kirschwasser. It’s then topped with buttercream dotted with chocolate swirls.
Bulgaria has been conquered and ruled by many over the centuries, so there’s little wonder that her rulers left their culinary influences on the country. Lokum/Bulgarian Delight may be presumed to have arrived with the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Bulgaria from late 14th century to 1878, but it also could have arrived earlier, as Middle Eastern cuisine features heavily in Bulgarian food. Bulgarian Delight is, like its Turkish neighbour, made of a gel of starch and sugar. The primary Bulgarian Delight flavour is rose—for which Bulgaria his famous. Bulgarian Delight is eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar. You’ll find boxes available in tourist stores and be able to spend your last Leva on it at the Airport.
As in Turkey, Bulgarian Delight is known as lokum, and in the Bulgarian alphabet is written as “локум.” The sweet is served at room temperature and often given as gifts.
Now when you think of British desserts, I’m sure a couple of them come to mind. But the one that typically instantly comes to mind? Scones! If you for some reason happen to not know what scones are, they’re a baked good made of wheat or oatmeal and baked in the oven. There are many varieties of the scone. Some scones come flavored with things like lemon. Some contain fruits like berries or raisins mixed into the dough. While there are savory versions (total sacrilege in my opinion), scones are usually sweet and best eaten with jams and/or clotted cream.
The actual best way to take in a scone is with an afternoon tea. Afternoon teas typically serve you scones with an assortment of jam flavors in addition to clotted cream. It’s a great way to try scones for the first (or tenth) time as you get to try a couple of different flavors. Plus you get to drink tea and dress up!
Traveling to Austria and not trying Kaiserschmarrn, the favorite dessert of Emperor Francis Joseph, would be like going to Paris and not having crêpes. Kaiserschmarrn is a thick, fluffy shredded pancake dusted with icing sugar and traditionally served with raisins and fruit compote. It’s so filling that many Austrians even have it as their main meal. There are different stories as to how Kaiserschmarrn was named after the emperor. A favorite is that it was prepared by a nervous farmer who served it up after Francis Joseph and his wife unexpectedly stopped by for lunch.
The secret to making the perfect Kaiserschmarrn is in preparing and frying the batter just right. To ensure the thick and fluffy texture, many eggs are used with the whites beaten stiff before gently stirring it into the rest of the batter. Generous helpings of the batter are then fried in real butter while “shredding” it into pieces with a fork. Not everyone likes raisins in their Kaiserschmarrn, so there’s often an option to have it without. The most popular kinds of fruit compote to accompany the pancakes are plum and apple. A traditional Austrian restaurant without Kaiserscmarrn on the menu is just as unusual as one without Wiener Schnitzel!
The sweltering Sicilian capital of Palermo is a paradise for foodies with a sweet tooth. Sicilians love their sugar, and its capital city is the spiritual homeland of one of the island’s most famous exports: cannoli. These iconic, deep-fried tubes of pastry adorn the windows of bakeries and patisseries around the island. The tasty tubes are filled with a sweetened sheep’s milk ricotta and topped with a variety of crunchy chunky things. The most common is chopped chocolate chips with candied peel or a glacé cherry.
Although you can now find cannoli (the word is plural) around the world, the freshness of the ricotta in Sicily ensures these will be the best you’ll ever taste. Fresh quality produce is a serious business on this island. Rumor has it that the best cannoli is to be found in the twin villages of Piana degli Albanesi and Santa Cristina di Gela, just south of Palermo. Cannoli is just the beginning of Sicilian sweets and desserts though; don’t miss a helping of gelato wedged into a brioche bun for breakfast (yes!), or its famous sponge cake cassata with its neon colors, or the utterly divine setteveli chocolate hazelnut tart. They are all exquisite european desserts.
Many people flock to Lake Bled for its spectacular views and historic marvels, but fewer people know about its best-kept secret: kremna rezina or kremsnita, a traditional Slovenian cream cake. Among one of the best things to do in Lake Bled, trying a slice of this cake is a must for visitors to the region. Between layers of fluffy, soft cake is some of the most delicious and drool-worthy sweet cream in the world. Whether you’re trying to satisfy a sweet tooth craving after dinner, or as a reward after a taxing hike in Triglav National Park, kremsnita is definitely a treat you can’t pass up if you’re visiting the area.
Several cafes in the town of Bled serve kremsnita, but the original and best variant is at the Park Hotel. Here, you can order a slice of cake with a coffee or tea and admire the amazing views of Lake Bled from the hotel terrace.
So….what’ll it be? What will be the first of the many delicious European desserts you’ll try on your trip around the continent? Calories? What are those? You’re a Nomad Woman, an adventurer. It’s your duty to try everything, taste everything. And you know, really, calories don’t count when you’re traveling.
What are your all-time favorite desserts in europe. Let us know in the comments.
Pin It for Later (so you remember all these wonderful European Desserts!)
https://i0.wp.com/www.nomadwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Bossche-Bollen-Dutch-dessert.jpg?fit=1100%2C734&ssl=17341100Donnahttp://www.nomadwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo-340.pngDonna2018-08-14 03:28:452018-08-14 03:28:45Two Dozen of the Best European Desserts You Need to Try
When in Lisbon, Portugal, eating Pastéis de Belém, the iconic Portuguese egg tart, is an absolute requirement, whether you’re a foodie or not. Here’s why you must try it and how to enjoy it at its best.
I admit it. Last year in Lisbon I became a junkie. Obsessed. Hopelessly addicted.
My drug of choice? The Portuguese egg tarts that fall under the general term Pastel de Nata. And for the best fix of all? The original, the only, the best… the supreme Pastéis de Belém.
Portugal is famous for Pastel de Nata, and you’ll see them all over Lisbon. Most are good, a few are great. Some are just… meh. But once you learn to spot the good ones—and it’s not hard to do—it’s near impossible to pass them up. Or at least it was for me.
The beautiful, delicious and iconic original Pastéis de Belém egg custard tarts of Lisbon. Photo by Jordiet on flickr, CC license.
A Religious Source-Tarted Up Like Sally Fields
So how did these pastry treats come to be an almost universal symbol of culinary Lisbon?
Back in the day, say in the 17th century or so, many priestly garments, nun’s habits, headdresses and such were heavily starched. (For our generation, think Sally Fields lifting off as The Flying Nun and you get the idea.) Can’t you just imagine the intimidating “swish” of the stiffened underskirts as they glided past? Anyway, to get that desired stiff and glossy finish, they used beaten egg whites.
But this practice of basically painting their clothes with meringue made for a whole lot of leftover egg yolks lying around monastery and convent kitchens and laundry rooms. What to do? Wasting them would surely be a sin, would it not? Such thrifty folk couldn’t simply toss such golden goodness down the drain.
So the nuns in the kitchens began inventing a lot of special dishes to use up all those otherwise-to-be-wasted egg yolks. (Apparently gluttony must have been seen as a sin of a lesser order than waste.) As it happens, there was also a sugar cane refinery next door to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a monastery in the Belém area southwest of Lisbon, so sweet desserts, cakes and pastries became the use-up-the-egg-yolks recipes of choice. Convenient how that worked out, no? Clearly, the religious folks there dined well and often.
Detail of the elaborate Manueline architecture of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monastery in the Belém section of Lisbon, where the famous Pastéis de Belém egg tart was created and just 100 meters from the bakery where it has been sold since 1837.
Pastéis de Belém as Financial Savior
The sweet egg tarts might have remained safely hidden away within the walls of the convent and monastery of Jerónimos forever, fattening only the prayerful and lucky few. But in 1820, there was a liberal revolution in Portugal, and things did not go well for religious institutions. By 1834, monasteries and convents had been closed down and the inhabitants lost all public and government support. The days of dining on sweet pastries were over. They were left to fend for themselves and hunger was looming.
In order to survive, the nuns from the Jerónimos monastery had the idea to begin selling their delicious egg tarts. The sugar refinery had a small store attached, and this became the first outlet for the Pastéis de Belém (Pastéis is plural for pastel, which means cake or pastry in Portuguese.) Eventually, the nuns sold the recipe to the refinery bakery.
At around that same time, the grandeur of the Manueline architectural style of the monastery itself (which is beyond amazing in its size, wedding-cake ornamentation, and beauty) and the nearby Tower of Belém, became popular tourist attractions with the good folk of Lisbon. They could take a steamboat from the city for a day excursion and sail right up to the monastery’s own docks. The fame of the delicious sweet treats sold at the sugar refinery store, now officially known as Pasteís de Belém, began to spread. By 1837, their popularity had outgrown the small store, and the baking moved to larger premises about 100 meters away. The visitors quickly made their pilgrimages to the new location.
They are still doing it today. Now they come in hordes, both locals and tourists. But these tarts are so good almost nobody minds standing in line for them.
In 1837, the business had outgrown the tiny refinery store next to the monastery. They moved 100 meters down the street to a larger location, where they are still do business today.
A Secret Signed in Blood?
Even 180 years ago, when the recipe was first passed on to the sugar company, the secret of making the perfect Pastéis de Belém was entrusted only to a few “master confectioners.” That still holds true today. And those few who do know it are sworn to secrecy. One guide told me, in hushed tones, that it is a blood oath. Another said it was a signed and sealed sacred legal contract. Then he added that the few people who know it are never allowed to all travel together. Imagine if they were all lost! He rolled his eyes and shuddered quite dramatically while telling the story. Apocryphal or not, it’s a good one, you must admit.
There was a line outside when I got to the Café Pastéis de Belém, just as I had been told to expect. I had also been told it would move pretty quickly. But I was hungry, my feet hurt from wandering the vast halls and lovely cloisters of the Monastery, and I felt like sitting down. So instead of getting in the take-out line, I went in the door to its left, which had no line at all, and into the café itself.
The place is much larger inside than it looks from the street, with many tables winding through several small rooms. Except for the very busiest times of day, it’s generally possible to find a seat without much of a wait. If it looks full, just keep wandering through the corridors towards the back, through room after room, until you find a free table.
You will also find clean bathrooms inside as well as a glass window where you can watch the magic happening in the kitchens as the bakers produce dozens upon dozens of tarts as well as other bakery treats.
I found a seat at a table in a front room, beside a wall covered in traditional blue-and-white Portuguese tiles. In only a few minutes, I’d ordered a pastel and a galea—a tall glass of milky coffee. There are also beer, soft drinks and other options on the menu, but for me, a coffee drink is the perfect accompaniment.
As I bit into this warm piece of heaven, the look on my face must have been like something out of a movie—a sort of Meg Ryan look in “When Harry Met Sally” prompting the woman at a neighboring table to say “I’ll have what she’s having!” The young German couple at the next table started to chuckle. Then with sign language, they offered to take a photo of me enjoying my treat. How could I refuse?
As I bite into my very first original Portuguese Pastéis de Belém, I am tasting a bit of heaven. I will never be the same!
First, you realize your tart is so fresh it is still warm, just out of the oven. The first thing your mouth encounters is the crust. It’s super flaky, like a thousand layers of phyllo-type dough have been gently laid atop each other, with crispy bits offering gentle resistance. Then you reach the warm custard, soft, almost-but-not-quite runny enough that you think it really has melted in your mouth. The top is lightly blackened is spots, like the best crème brulée. Shakers of powdered sugar and cinnamon are offered on the table. Add them if you like—or you must—but necessary they are not.
Ordering a single tart was a mistake obvious from that first bite. It was never going to be enough. I ordered another as soon as the waiter passed by. When I asked him how many of these delightful treats are swallowed here or toted out the door every day, he happily answered. “We bake 20-22,000 on a normal day.” While I was still blinking at that enormous number, he added, “but on special days, holidays and such, it can be 40,000.”
Yeah, you might say that Pastéis de Belém are just a mite popular.
If your goal on heading to the Café Pastéis de Belém is to have some of the tarts to take home for later, my advice is still to go inside and find a seat, order a pastel and a coffee, enjoy it at your table, order more to go, which your waiter will happily bring all wrapped up in a lovely box, and then go on your way. You’ll have your pastéis to take home, you will have had a nice break and a treat, and you will probably still have saved time!
If you can’t wait until you get back to your hotel to tuck into that pretty blue-and-white box for more, the tranquil Jardim de Belém park, directly across the street from the café, makes a refreshing spot to sit and down another one—or more.
Pretty take-out boxes lined up and ready as the crowd throngs the counter at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal. There’s always a line, but it moves quickly. Photo by Andres Monroy Hernandez on flickr CC license.
Good Pastel de Nata Beyond Belém
While the original Pateís de Belém recipe is so secret is has never been precisely duplicated—and likely never will be—you will find similar egg tarts everywhere you go in Lisbon. These copycats are called Pastel de Nata and their quality ranges from excellent to good to meh to awful… basically a dollop of thickened custard pudding in a pre-baked mini pie crust, and the whole thing’s been in the display case too long. Most of the Pastel de Nata I had was quite good, and I would have been happy to have it every day, had I never eaten the real deal in Belém.
The best Pastel de Nata I ate in Lisbon, almost, but not quite, as good as the original, was at a small café just outside the entry gates to the Castelo San Jorge at the top of the city. Its name, appropriately and accurately, is The World Needs Nata. The tart was served warm, and I had it with a glass of galea. The custard was rich and smooth, the pastry light and crispy. When I came out from exploring the castle a couple of hours later, I sat down and ordered another!
My personal bottom line for Lisbon: Do not—repeat, DO NOT—fail to make the trip out to Belém while you are in this beautiful city. There is much to see and do there, including the Monastery, the amazing collection in the Coach museum, the Monument of the Discoveries, the Belém Tower and the Presidential Palace, among others.
But for me all that is icing on the tart. The TRUE reason to go to Belém is the egg custard bites, the true, the original, the one-and-only Pastéis de Belém, eaten right where they were created some 200 years ago.
Shakers of cinnamon and powdered sugar sit on every table for adding to your egg custard tarts–a nice addition, perhaps, but not really necessary. They are perfect just as they are! Photo by Inayaili de León Persson on flickr. CC license.
As for me, I am jonesing for more Pastéis de Belém as I write this. And since I quite fell in love with Lisbon on my last trip and have plans to go back as soon as possible, I have no intention whatever of looking for a recovery program for my addiction. On my next arrival in this gorgeous city on the Tagus River, I’ll hit the ground running—toward the first tram that will get me out to Belém, a tall glass of galea, and a plate full of warm, crispy-crusted, runny-fillinged goodness. With my plate of Pastéis de Belém before me and a look of total joy and satisfaction on my face, I will be fine once more. Just look for me there.
For more information about the original Pastéis de Belém and more pictures of the bakery and restaurant, visit their websitehere.
Café Pastéis de Belém Rua de Belém, 84-92 Belém, Lisbon, Portugal Open 8 am -11 pm in winter, 8 am–midnight in summer
The World Needs Nata Café Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo 7, Lisbon, Portugal Open daily, 9:00 am-9:00 pm
Pin it For Later: You Know you Want to Save This One!
https://i0.wp.com/www.nomadwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/eating-pasteis-de-belem.jpg?fit=900%2C569&ssl=1569900Donnahttp://www.nomadwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo-340.pngDonna2016-04-18 15:35:412017-04-25 14:23:43Hooked on Lisbon’s Delicacy: Original Pastéis de Belém
Here are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)