German-American Couple Takes the Steinhuder Meer Bike Tour (And I Have an Allergic Reaction to Eel Meat)

bike cyclist sign caution germany
“Bike tour on a beautiful summer day? Obviously something bad is going to happen.”

On a lovely Saturday in August, The Wife and I rode our bikes to the Hannover Hauptbahnhof, got on the S-Bahn and rode that sumbitch out to Wunstorf Station. There, we got back on our bikes and took a glorious ride to the Steinhuder Meer; the largest lake in northwestern Germany.

It’s beautiful, with tons of paddle boats, row boats, sail boats and young people making out on the dock like they ain’t got no shame at all. In the middle of the lake is a small artificial island called Wilhelmstein, with an 18th-century castle on top. (Leave it to some rich old German bastard to build himself a castle. Jesus. I can’t even afford a new bike helmet.)

The Steinhuder Meer is a big lake. It covers an area of about 12 square miles (30 km), but it’s super shallow. Its average depth is 4.4 feet (1.35 m), which means an average person could walk right across it… except for those few spots where it hits 9.8 feet deep. That’s when you go in over your head and scream like a little girl. Air bubbles rising to the surface. Eels coiling around your ankles. Underpants filling with trouser apples.

I’m not kidding about those eels though. The Steinhuder Meer is lousy with ’em, and the nearby town of Steinhude sells eel sandwiches in every pub, deli and restaurant you can find. Now, I have a deep and enduring fear of eels. Take one look at a group of eels and you just know they’re evil. Evil, and cursed by God.

eel orgy
“Is that an eel orgy? No? Oh good, then I’m just having night terrors again.” — Image courtesy of Peter Harrison (http://www.flickr.com/photos/devcentre/)

So, it was with a good measure of apprehension that I tasted the eel sandwich my wife bought at Schweer’s Aalräucherei. I considered it a revenge bite. Revenge against every eel in the world just for creeping me out. Unfortunately, I am allergic to fish. I had no clue eels were in any way related to fish (I am a wiser man now), so of course I just went for it; I took a huge bite and swallowed that mother like it done me wrong, and I discovered exactly 2 things in the following moments:

  1. Eel meat is super oily and tastes like rubber bands dipped in toilet water.
  2. I am allergic to eel meat. It causes my lips, mouth and throat to swell up, turn red and itch like unholy hellfire.

I am no stranger to this allergic reaction. I’ve tried all sorts of fish, and the only one I can get away with is tuna. Something about tuna fish is just fine with my body. So is shell fish, like lobster and shrimp. But every other kind of fish — especially salmon — makes my throat itch and my lips swell up and stick out like a Simpsons character. The sensation is a combination of burning, itching and aching all wrapped up in one mix of poetic justice. Fortunately, it comes on in like 30 seconds — so fast I can’t really ingest enough to be in any danger of asphyxiation — so I just put the stupid fish down, say, “God dammit,” and wait 45 minutes for the swelling to subside.

After my reaction to the disgusting eel meat, we had a fantastic day and took a bunch of pictures. Click on one below to start the slideshow and, as always, we hope you can dig ’em!

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35 thoughts

  1. Love your photo captions. I just tried eel this summer myself – just a bite and I didn’t know what it was till after. But mine just tasted like any generic fish taste. I was actually kind of disappointed, because that’s not a cool story about “that time I was tricked into eating eel”. It’s just a boring “tastes like fish” story.

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  2. Another superb post. Like the artsy shots- bacon and sperm always lend themselves to artistic thought-

    Why would you EVER go near an eel. OMG…so sorry for the wretched reaction. Eel, to me, are remnants of the ORIGINAL garden, after the apple got et, and all that.

    OK, a little story for you: long ago and far away, my ex and I were camping on Grand Manan Island (off New Brunswick, CA). A lovely man drove through the camp ground selling dried mackerel. My dear ex bought some, so thrilled to try this native treat…We proceeded to vomit out the back of the tent and run for the outhouses for two days until we could drag ourselves to a B&B. This very kind woman took one look at us and knew EXACTLY what had happened. (Young, stupid American couple eats dried fish…). Anywho, I love Grand Manan and regret that, trapped as I am in Minnesota, I rarely get to the northeast.

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  3. So you were the one person in Oregon who was allergic to salmon? :) We’re on this continent now, btw. Hope to see you and The Wife soon….come up for a football match and other such fun.

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  4. Aaaahaha! Can’t stop laughing! “Take one look at a group of eels and you just know they’re evil. Evil, and cursed by God.” lovin it! You should watch “Die Blechtrommel” by Volker Schlöndorff based on Günter grass’ novel – there’s a really nice scene with eels ;-)

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  5. I’m glad you still had a great tour – after the eels – and the gummi-corn. LOL
    You made me laugh once again, and I really thank you for that.

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  6. Hah, all I ever did was cycling AROUND the Steinhuder Meer. And once we were finished we had to eat an ice cream. So we tasted our way through all of the 7 Magnum Deadly Sins of that summer. The last one was probably as disgusting as your eel sandwich!

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