Germany celebrates the best of the wurst in the currywurst museum.
As German as the Brandenburg Gate, the nation’s favourite snack, the curried sausage or currywurst, has its own currywurst museum in Berlin, a shrine to the saucy delicacy that has become a German national treasure.
The currywurst museum, which opened in 2009, celebrates the iconic dish, nicknamed the ‘poor man’s steak’. Every year, some 800 million pieces are gobbled every year in Germany — a staggering 1,500 sausages per minute.
Despite its name, it is not actually the sausage that is curried. The secret of the currywurst‘s acquired taste stems from the sauce — a simple but unforgettable melange of pureed tomato sprinkled with curry powder.
Best munched standing up at an omnipresent outdoor snack bar, the sausage is sliced into pieces, drenched in curry sauce and served on a cardboard plate with a plastic or wooden fork, along with bread, chips or potato salad.
Former American President George W Bush reputedly once turned up his nose at it but the currywurst was former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s favourite dish and Volkswagen sells more currywursts in its canteens than it does Golfs.
Love it or hate it, the currywurst, explained museum director Birgit Breloh, is nothing short of a ‘social phenomenon’.
“Our goal was to show all the facets of the currywurst,” she said.
A didactic experience
Entering the museum, decked out in ketchup-red with enormous plastic drops of sauce hanging overhead, the visitor can explore the world of the currywurst with all the senses, hearing the sound of sausages sizzling and the smell of spices filling the nostrils.
But for the hoped-for 350,000 visitors annually, the experience is more than just sensual, but also didactic.
A mocked-up stand, for example, offers tourists the chance to see what life is like on the other side of the grill. Visitors can also snap up a ‘Don’t worry, be curry’ t-shirt.
Also explained is the controversial story of how the currywurst first came into being — a story that has caused much squabbling between cities down the years.
Berliners insist a bored sausage seller, Herta Heuwer, created the currywurst on a drizzly September 4, 1949, less than four months after the end of the Allies’ Berlin Airlift.
Lacking clients, so the story goes, Heuwer mixed up a dash of American ketchup, a pinch of British curry sauce, a few spices and a drop of Worcester sauce and presto: the currywurst was born.
A woman looks at a handset in the shape of a bottle of ketchup at
the German Currywurst Museum in Berlin
But the residents of Hamburg in northern Germany also claim the currywurst for their own, with the Currywurst Club of Hamburg even going so far as to accuse Berlin of re-writing the history books.
Whoever first created the dish, the fact remains that the currywurst is a central part of German history, which perhaps explains the museum’s location — right next to Checkpoint Charlie where Soviet and American tanks faced off at the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War.
The only question remaining is: Will tourists fork out the EUR 11 for an entry ticket, or will they prefer to splash on four delicious helpings of currywurst instead?