A few months ago, I visited the "Sugar Shop" in Heidelberg. In the storefront windows were elegantly-dressed, somehow perverted-looking mannequins. (see picture!)
After entering the store, I walked past some display copies of Nazis on Speed and made a very special request to the heavily-tattooed woman working behind the counter. She responded with a knowing wink, and turned around and delved deep into a drawer. She brought out something and gave it to me in a plain brown wrapper. She told a few curious children they couldn't have any of what I'd just bought. No, I hadn't bought an "erotic guide" featuring (G) Paul McCartney's wife. What I bought was more dangerous: Salzlakritz, or salt licorice.
This is a Northern European specialty I've never seen in the States. It's made with licorice, all right, but it's licorice mixed with big doses of salt and, sometimes, sage. These bitter additives multiply the normal tanginess of licorice exponentially. You pop a black, coin-shaped piece of Salzlakritz into your mouth and it's as if you've begun chewing on a mixture of brimstone and melted car tires. You begin salivating like a dog; not so much because it's so "delicious," but because your body wants to dilute the poison you've just stupidly begun to eat. After a few minutes, it feels as if someone's taken a pipe-cleaner to the inside of your sinuses.
Thus, it wasn't just be chance that the woman at the Zuckerladen called it richtig fieser Salzlakritz (really nasty salt licorice), and really, honestly wouldn't let the children try it. Why spoil their innocent childish dreams of sweet, harmless licorice coils with the tongue-thrashing XXX masochism of the real thing?
And somehow, it's delicious, and you want more. If you want more, visit this online shop. Not only can you order any sort of licorice you'd like in all shapes and sizes (from cats to houses to keys to crayons), you also get to delight in poetic product descriptions (slightly edited):
Soft salty Hindelooper diamonds,
pithy sweet Snekers
and real full sweet ship's knots.
Make your choice when
you check out (3 or 1/1/1).