A summer’s evening with Napoleon

Zur Kanone, Tautenhain

Legend has it that Napoleon’s army left a cannon behind at the customs house in Tautenhain in 1806 because it had a broken wheel. The army was on its way to the battle at Jena-Auerstedt and couldn’t afford to drag any dead weight along. The inn that was established there later on was named after the cannon, which still stands in the garden today.

Today, Flo and I are visiting this very same inn, Zur Kanone, in Tautenhain.

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At the time of Napoleon, the inn was a customs house and coachhouse. ©Mira Held, TTG

The inn has been in family ownership for seven generations. It survived not only Napoleon’s army but also wars and the German Democratic Republic. Today, Jana Sörgel is the manager, and the inn’s history is still as present as ever. The Alte Stube room was created an impressive one hundred years ago and is lined with photos and memories. Sörgel has plenty of stories to tell. She points at an old document and says: “This is from a woman who was hiding in my father’s house during the Second World War. Her family planted a tree in Israel in thanks.”

But there is also room in the Alte Stube for reminders of everyday village life. Photos of the local choir and of hunting parties hang side by side, bearing witness to times gone by when meeting here was the weekly highlight for the residents of Tastenhain.

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Memories on the wall of the Alte Stube. ©Mira Held, TTG

The main room next door is dedicated to Napoleon. It is adorned by large murals that depict scenes from the battle of Jena-Auerstedt. Sörgel tells us that she bumped into the artists who painted it, Gundel and Emil Sogor, years later in South Africa, where they now run a winegrowing estate near Cape Town. Since then, their South African wine has been a firm fixture on the restaurant’s wine list.

Rather than taking a seat in the restaurant, we prefer the company of the cannon today and head out into the large garden. The beer garden is as popular with the locals as it is with the tourists who flock here on their way along the Towns of Thuringia Cycle Route.

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The garden is the perfect setting for a coffee break. Enjoying a coffee under the trees©Mira Held, TTG

We flop down in the comfortable seats of the ‘Kanonen Lounge’ garden and chat with Jana Sörgel over coffee and home-made lemonade. For a long while she was undecided about taking on the family business. She initially embarked on an apprenticeship as a technical draftswoman before going to university. “My dad was very clever. He asked me whether I could help him with the books seeing as I knew a little about that sort of thing. It wasn’t long before I was helping out more and more, and I ended up getting a hotel management qualification.” Nevertheless, Jana wasn’t sure she wanted to return to Tautenhain and joined the cruise ship MS Deutschland instead. After her extensive travels, she was finally ready to take the plunge and took over the inn from her parents in 2007.

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Will Jana Sörgel’s son take over the Kanone one day? We’ll have to wait and see. ©Florian Held, TTG

We head off on a short tour of the premises. The inn has 29 rooms, most of which are currently being renovated and are due to be ready in early August. The inn welcomes a wide range of guests. The Kanone is a popular venue for class reunions and family occasions, and business travellers and tourists are also among the clientele. 

As we leave the hotel, Jana Sörgel points at a large lawn. This is where the annual Kanonenfest takes place, a popular village festival in which various associations, including the local marching band and a children’s circus, get involved. Most important of all are the Lützower Uniformierten, a re-enactment society that brings to life the events of the battle between Napoleon and Prussia. They pass through the village to requisition provisions, and also set up their bivouac at the Kanone. 

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The first trout appear on the grill as we do our rounds. ©Florian Held, TTG

The Kanone team heats up the wood-burning oven for the festival and lays out a magnificent feast of freshly baked cake, handbrot (bread filled with melted cheese and ham) and cool federweisser wine from the Saale-Unstrut region.

A venue like the Kanone is an important part of village life, as is evident this evening. It’s a Thursday, and in July and August that means trout from the charcoal grill.

The guests arrive in dribs and drabs – large families, birthday parties, young couples and the occasional lone man all find a spot around the grill hut in the garden.

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Here’s the cannon that gives the inn its name. And here’s me with the cannon in the background. ©Florian Held, TTG

We’re sitting right beside the cannon, soaking up the lovely weather and the relaxed atmosphere. The menu is full of typical Thuringian dishes, everything from solyanka soup to oven-baked schnitzel. There is also a nice selection of vegetarian food, as well as themed weeks with a special focus on regionality and seasonality.

We roll with the season and choose a fresh salad with baked Altenburg goat’s cheese as a starter, topped with a generous dollop of apple and fig jam. This ruins any pretence of a healthy evening meal, but it tastes simply divine. And I’m pretty full at the end of it.

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Like the Altenburg goat’s cheese, many of the restaurant’s other ingredients are locally sourced. ©Mira Held, TTG

As I’m enjoying another home-made lemonade I feel exceedingly summery. The murmur of the other guests’ conversations creates a calming atmosphere, and it is all very cosy. Flo is sipping his South African starlette blanc wine from the Allée Bleue estate. Wines from the Saale-Unstrut region feature heavily on the drinks menu, of course, but thanks to the connection to the artists in South Africa this wine is also a firm fixture.

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DIY wild garlic soup. ©Mira Held, TTG

The friendly waitress arrives with the next course, a cream of wild garlic soup that you ‘make yourself’. The dish is the result of a collaboration with the Thüringer Tischkultur hospitality network. And this is how it works: you are served a glass of light soup base along with a small bowl of wild garlic paste. You decide how much of the paste to use and how strong the soup tastes. The end result gives me a certain sense of pride. I’ve not really done anything, of course, but somehow it fills me with joy. The main thing is that it tastes great!

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The trout is cooked on a grill, or rost as the locals say. ©Florian Held, TTG

Then its time for the highlight, the trout, which Jana’s husband himself has been cooking on the grill. It’s served with boiled potatoes and quark or a medley of mediterranean vegetables. A cracking dish on a summer’s evening.

Although we are already quite full, we treat ourselves to a dessert. Who could say no to crumble, cream and fresh cherries? We certainly can’t.

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Let’s just hope we’re not too stuffed to make our way home. ©Mira Held, TTG


Information at a glance:

The Napoleon restaurant and the Kanone garden are open Mondays and Thursdays from 5pm to 9pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11.30am to 9pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 11.30am to 10pm, and Sundays from 11am to 6pm. Information about themed weeks, the trout feast and other events is available online. The Kanone has 29 rooms, available to book via the website.



Unsere Genussexperten

Mira and Flo from the blog "How To Gourmet" are two real Thuringians and gourmets. With them, we discover culinary beacons in Thuringia. Enjoyment stories, wherever you look. They look for new impressions and delicacies at every opportunity, which they present on their blog "How to Gourmet".

Main picture 1 und 2: ©Mira Held, TTG; Main picture 3: ©Florian Held, TTG; Main picture 4: ©Carlo Bansini, TTG

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