Alex Robertson Textor writes to us from Paraguay, where he found German bakery that hits the spot.
There are Germans all across South America, but somehow the Germans of Paraguay seem to have a particularly robust presence. This impression may have something to do with the varied routes of German immigration into the country. Two streams have received the most attention: the Mennonites, clustered in prim Chaco settlements, who provide the country with much of its dairy products, and a number of reasonably well-documented and quite unsavory characters who arrived in the wake of the Second World War. Germans are by no means the only minority of note in Paraguay. There are significant numbers of Koreans, Japanese, and Taiwanese as well, not to mention noteworthy tallies of Brazilians of various ethnicity in the country’s east.
According to John Gimlette’s At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig–a fantastically colorful introduction to Paraguay–there are about 100,000 Paraguayans of at least partial German background. An American expat suggested to me that even today a steady trickle of Germans turn up in Paraguay to set up businesses or otherwise invest.
The German-language infrastructure in and around Asunción was made clear to me even before I visited. During my hotel research period, I ran across Hotel Westfalenhaus, a spic-and-span hotel in a leafy neighborhood of the capital city. The hotel’s interiors wouldn’t look out of place at a country inn in the Allgäu. I was tempted to stay at Westfalenhaus but was finally convinced, given the brevity of my stay, to find more centrally located accommodations.
Hotel Westfalenhaus is just the tip of the iceberg. German-speakers in Paraguay have Der Paraguay Bote
as a resource. The monthly newspaper is full of advertisements for old-age homes, hotels, tour companies, Frankfurt-Asunción flights, and even a rehab clinic. There were articles on local investment and infrastructure news, and even a primer on the country’s flora and fauna. The newspaper simultaneously cheerleads for Paraguay and keeps its readers abreast of news in German-speaking Europe.
The most distinctively German spot I came across in central Asunción is Michael Bock, a panadería/bäckerei (pick your tongue!) that looks and feels like an enclave of 1970s Germany. It reminded me ever so slightly of Lehr’s German Specialties
- Nat Geo Expeditions
in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, another antiquated and cute community hub far from Germany. At Michael Bock, I opted for a Käsekuchen (German cheesecake) and coffee. The cake was delicious, with just the right density and level of sweetness. “¿Hablas alemán?” I asked the woman at the register. She didn’t, though she thanked me, very sweetly, in German.
My mid-morning snack cost about three dollars, a delicious if atypical meal for an incredibly hot and languid summer day.
Photos: Alex Robertson Textor