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I am from Iran and in here, we are allowed to put up a tent and make fire almost everywhere, and it's up to us ourselves to take care of the jungle and leave nothing behind.

I just recently moved to Germany with the hope of great camping experiences and all, just to find out not only that tenting is prohibited, we can't even have a bbq in our own rented apartment!

Now, I was out for a walk today in Nurnberg, and I was wondering if I can at least bring a small stove (camping gas stove) and make food on it? Or even better, one of these stoves that burn wood and you make food on top of it.

Are even these two banned? I've seen and have read everywhere that it's prohibited to make fire, but I've also seen people making fire in a Brazier or something like that.

I've heard people in Germany are really into hiking. But do they just walk? Don't eat anything there? And does everyone just go to a hotel or another home? Is that all the fun one can get?

My main question is about making food in Germany and Bayern in particular.

update I don't know how I ended up giving the assumption of wanting to bbq inside the apartment, but with inside or in apartment, I meant in a balcony. and also since it's in a balcony, fire would not make since and a gas stove is what I mostly meant. I think I wrote my question so bad that it made the assumption that I want to put on a fire with wood, inside the apartment.

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    I guess most people just won't eat hot food while hiking. Just Brotzeit/Jause. Feb 14 at 7:26
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    @phipsgabler hot drinks on the other hand, at certain times of year can be rather a good idea. You could take a flask - I usually would - but you have to make it up somewhere. I have taken a gas stove to a picnic before (in the UK)
    – Chris H
    Feb 14 at 13:41
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    we can't even have bbq in our own rented apartment! Homes in Northern Europe generally lack the ventilation to burn charcoal safely indoors (carbon monoxide from charcoal is a real risk, and you have to remove smoke as well as protecting the ceiling from it). That doesn't usually matter as it's not an everyday form of cooking in Germany, France, UK etc.; instead we'll sometimes cook outside on charcoal or open fires when the weather and occasion permit.
    – Chris H
    Feb 14 at 13:44
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    Yeah, do NOT try to have a fire or BBQ indoors in an advanced western country. Residences here tend to be very well sealed and you will absolutely fill the house with CO2 and carbon monoxide, risking killing everyone inside. Please be careful! Where gas ranges are used they will have ventilation fans installed to remove the combustion products. A standalone BBQ will not.
    – J...
    Feb 14 at 18:15
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    "I just recently moved to Germany with hope of great camping experiences" sorry...
    – njzk2
    Feb 14 at 22:30

3 Answers 3

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Official Fireplaces / "Grillplätze"

I think the only legal option you have is to find / plan your hike along "official fireplaces". These are specially prepared places with solid base for a contained fire, sometimes with a grill, etc.

In German one of the more commonly used terms seems to be "Grillplatz" / "Grillplätze" (plural). So I would suggest trying to google for some of these in your vicinity and planning your next hike such that you can spend your breaks at one of these places and have a BBQ there.

BBQ at Home

As for having a BBQ inside your apartment... I guess that is a culture clash, but essentially no one I know from Europe would do that, or would allow this to happen in their flat were they owning one. If you want to have a BBQ while at home you will have to do it outside, e.g...

  • in your private garden
  • in a communal/garden area belonging to your house (check with your landlord first if that is OK)
  • on a balcony / terrace (again, check with your landlord if that is permitted, also give other residents a courtesy call so that they can close their windows)

For any of these options you will want to use some sort of grill (gas, electric, wood, cole), unless there is already an existing firepit.

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    @fgysin I have at least one reason: you can use different techniques on gas. Feb 14 at 11:06
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    For the BBQ at home part: a lot of balcony flats forbid open fire (gas or coal) on their balcony or terrace.
    – Hobbamok
    Feb 14 at 12:51
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    thanks. and I didn't mean to make a fire inside the house! so for bbq on the balcony, I mean using electric (I think gas is not very customary here in Germany so not an option) bbq that they sell in the mediamarket or something like that. but never have used those and have no idea what kind of smoke and smell we would get out of that. I see people all the time buying meat, but what are they doing with it if not bbq? I think I should start learning German and European meat cooking customs. thanks for your answer though.
    – senaps
    Feb 14 at 13:17
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    @senaps I'm reasonably sure that electric grills should be ok on most balconies, just to be clear. Not from Germany, though.
    – Nobody
    Feb 14 at 16:10
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    @senaps I'm from Germany and I agree that electric grills on the balcony should be totally fine (even indoors). It's mostly about fire hazard but during summer you will smell grilled meat all over Germany, everyone finds a way to do this at home.
    – kopaka
    Feb 15 at 8:53
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I am from Austria and can confidently talk about the situation here, but most of it will carry over to Germany, as we are culturally quite close.

As to what most people would do when hiking: for day hikes, you mostly eat cold stuff (Brotzeit/Jause: bread, sandwiches, and the like). For hikes of several days, within alpine territory, you'd usually stay in alpine huts and eat there in the evening and morning. There is an excellent system of trails and huts in the alps to allow for comfortable day sections between huts.

Considering usages of fire, there are two aspects to what is OK: the open fire itself, and the caused pollution (Geruchsbelästigung).

Open fire

You can assume that open fires are forbidden, unless you have explicit permission from the owner, or there is an official public fire place. Potentially, different laws will apply for meadows, forests, Ortsgebiet (municipalities), and everything above the tree line.

The most important practical aspects here, though, are 1) traces, and 2) forest fires. Land owners don't want to see any traces of campfires, or camps at all (unless by their permission, of course). And, while not so much of a problem as in drier countries, you should avoid any dangerous things in hot summers (even so far as to avoid smoking).

There remain a couple of gray area possibilites, if you want to "do as the locals do":

  • Cooking on something that has no direct contact to the ground, and is not in danger of doing so, and not on dry ground, is usually OK. This mostly means: camping gas simiilar stoves on some kind of base such as stones, blank earth, snow, forestry roads, etc., and only for temporary usage -- you can cook coffee or a warm meal and then move on.

  • For camp fires, there are some secluded and safe places which are established. E.g., I know some places for bivouacing above the tree line with existing unofficial fire places, or some at cave entries*. Still illegal, but somewhat customary.

    Respect, though, that this kind of place invites stupidity of your successors: an existing illegal fireplace in a wood near the city might be "customary", but is not automatically OK. Judge whether the place is reasonably acceptable on its own, not based on what others have done before (basically the categorical imperative of behaviour in nature).

This is not a statement of legality, though. Both activities would most likely still be forbidden, although the first one is very likely to be ignored.

Pollution

This applies within municipalities and your own garden. Barbecueing on your lawn, or often even balcony, is an absolutely accepted practise, subject to Ortsüblichkeit: in a concrete municipality or housing estate, there might be rules forbidding it (especially on balconies).

It is good custom, and sometimes required by law, to use good fuel (e.g., no wet wood), and polite to inform and respect your neighbours. Sunday lunch BBQ from time to time: totally fine; one week of 24h smoking: not so much. This extends to braziers and wood fires in your own garden, although they are much less customary in cities**.

Now, with public fire places, or defined public areas where BBQ is allowed, you can in principle do all that. There is a cultural aspect playing in, though, which I'd like to warn you about. Sometimes, these places are established by well-meaning municipal governments to control otherwise illegal BBQs. These can work very well and do their job, but unfortunately, there are many cases of conflicts with locals: people complain about the new sources of smoke (and rubbish), sometimes with racist language ("the foreigners and their smelly practises!")***. I am really sorry having to say that. On the other hand (but I don't want to excuse the racism!), visitors of such places in cities sometimes really are pretty inconsiderate (loud and leaving rubbish), so again, be nice and behave reasonably.

Finally, barbecueing inside your home: with a camping gas stove, it should be no problem, as there are no extra exhausts compared to a cooking stove. Using wood or charcoal would be considered very strange (and likely dangerous, due to the gases); your landlord and neighbours would likely have something against it, and it's legally definitely not ortsüblich. (Historically, smoking inside was acceptable, but this also has pretty much changed.)


*This is one of the cases where you can see how hard this judgement is with incomplete information. Never make a fire inside a cave -- it will disturb the severly protected bats. My places are either before the cave, still on stony ground, or within short, large tunnels with large openings on both ends.

**I run a scout group in a city. We regularly make campfires in braziers, within a residential area; people sometimes complained, but we have figured out that with respect to local and (Austrian) federal law, it is OK. The ones complaining were 90% of the "old grumpy neighbour shouting at kids" type, though.

**I presume this is a class issue, actually. Poorer people, which are more likely to be immigrants, might less likely own their own BBQ equipment and especially no lawn or terrace. That, combined with more BBQ-friendly cultural backgrounds, makes for an unfortunate mix.

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4

Welcome to Germany!

 I've heard people in Germany are really into hiking.

We are :-)

But do they just walk?

Hiking (wandern) indeed translates to "just walk" in German. Possibly eating and drinking stuff directly from the Rucksack (e.g. sandwiches, nuts, fruits, cookies), sometimes even standing.

 Don't eat anything there?

Additional features get additional words. Picknick for example, which means a typically cold meal you eat outdoors.

And does everyone just go to a hotel or another home?

Some do (incl. going to a Biergarten)

Is that all the fun one can get?

No :-).


Here's about BBQs:

  • fgysin already mentioned the very official Grillplätze. The inconvenient thing about them is that you need to book most of them in advance. We mostly use them for a campfire and party of a whole evening, so not a quick break at a hike.

  • Some regions have very official "low-tech" campgrounds (Übernachtungsplatz, Trekkingplatz, e.g. in the Spessart
    They often have very officially the possibility to have a campfire as well.

  • It is not true that you cannot put up a tent or make a fire/cook with a stove. In most places, if the owner of the land permits, you can do so. (exceptions are e.g. natural reserves, also you typically won't get permission to have an open fire in a forest)
    Tent for one night LNT (possibly including cooking on a hiking gas stove) - often no problem. I would not expect to get permission to make a camp fire, though.

  • Now, for BBQs I'd recommend to take a look at Thuringia. From my (Hessian) point of view, BBQing is close to the status of a human right in Thuringia :-D

    • I've seen BBQ places in wayside shelters at the Rennsteig which you can use apparently without obtaining a permit or giving notice (if you need to do so, there'll be a sign telling you whom to contact) and we very much enjoyed this possibility for a very nice lunch on a rainy day.

    • Also, BBQ place regulation is up to the commune/municipality. E.g. in Jena, you can bring your own small Grill to a park and do your BBQ there. On a nice summer evening, half the town will be BBQing in the Paradies (paradise, a park)

    * (Thuringian BBQ vocabulary is somewhat different from the usual German, but they understand what is meant by the usual terms)

  • If instead of a BBQ stove/grill you're talking about a small hiking gas stove, similar to what phipsgabler says about Austria, we've used some such thing lots of times without any problems - as long as there is very obviously no special risk of fire. E.g. last sunday, we had a fresh coffee on a paved parking ground. I've even had coffee on an outside platform at Munich train station early in the morning. (At some point, a commuter train arrived. Lots of people laughingly told us they're jealous because we're on holidays and they on their way to work...) However, if the "grumpy old man" comes along, you'd better be fluent in German apologies and ready to put out the stove immediately.


Less fun, but also pretty good in terms of the grilling results: we bought an electric grill a few years ago (because of the risk of a normal grill causing a wild fire during severe draught), the type with a "water bowl" below the heating. This turned out to be a very nice tool, and it is suitable for use on a balcony or even indoors.
With a grill that can be put into a dishwasher and the water taking care of anything that drips off the stuff you grill it is really hassle-free and we use it a lot.


Update: "no permission needed" as in talking about fire baskets

Also, there's several types or levels of permissions that may be required and that are just referred to as "permission".

In general, to have an open fire (any kind of fire that is not completely enclosed in a combustion chamber), you need the permission of the land owner. Plus you cannot do it in a way that is too disturbing to your neighbours (there have been court cases about the number of BBQs a neighbour must tolerate per year), and even the land owner may be bound by the house rules.

However, in certain cases an additional permission by the municipality is required. This is the permission meant when e.g. a fire basket is referred to as "no permission needed": you can put and use this fire basket without a permission to establish a fire place in your own garden (as opposed to, say, a big camp fire site or a brick-built BBQ place). The permission of the land owner is implicitly assumed in these cases.

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    "However, if the "grumpy old man" comes along, you'd better be fluent in German apologies and ready to put out the stove immediately." why?
    – njzk2
    Feb 20 at 22:11
  • @njzk2: In the situations I've described, we wouldn't have been able to argue that we were in the right. We may have been (AFAIK, a land owner can silently agree) - but we could not have been sure of it. So if someone complains, it is IMHO time to stop the stove (i.e. to put yourself into a position where you are clearly in the right from now on) and to apologize. And I consider it polite to apologize in the local language. Plus, tactically, I think assuming that the other is genuinely concerned (fire risk) or disturbed pays off. At least when you did not make sure you're in the right... Feb 24 at 13:37
  • ... it is much easier for other people to trust that you are a responsible person and will leave no trace and cause a fire if they find you polite and considerate. Feb 24 at 14:05
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    Polite and considerate, sure. Always. But apologising for what? At that point we're talking about "a small hiking gas stove", right? Is that actually forbidden?
    – njzk2
    Feb 24 at 21:45
  • @njzk2: yes it is forbidden to light even a small hiking gas stove without permission of the land owner (also subject to further fire safety regulations, national park regulations, etc.). The small hiking stove is an open fire since the the flame/fire is not completely housed by a burning chamber. Just like matches, lighters, cigarettes (although they often get special treatment e.g. in forestry laws). Mar 1 at 15:31

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