June 2, 2011
We had been to Bamberg on a cold and grey November weekend 40 years ago when we lived in Germany. (Ok, to be precise, it was 37 years ago.) We had hardly any remembrance of the town and who knows where our slides are that we took when there.
Today, the weather is finally sunny and mild (22 degrees) although there's a cool breeze. The drive across Germany is beautiful. Looks a lot like Wisconsin - rolling green hills, woods, fields and small towns. Of course, the architecture of the towns was significantly different, Germanic one would say. And of course, German farms are always in villages and don't dot the countryside as US farms do.
We are staying in a true German gasthaus which warms our hearts with the remembrance of many happy hours spent in these places long ago. Gashauses are unpretentious affairs. One sees lots of wood, ceilings, tables and chairs as well as booths. There is a bar of course, but not one where you sit at the bar and talk to the bartender. This is a working area with the bartender filling orders and the waitress delivering them to tables. In our gasthaus tonight, there is a large family party in the private room and there are several groups still eating when we come in at 9 for a beer. And there is one waitress for all this commotion. She can be forgiven for giving Dave a small beer rather than a large. And, as we remember from the past, in this gasthaus, when the people from the party want to pay, they still depend on memory - the guest tells the waitress what they ate and she writes it down, totals it and they pay. Quite amazing the lack of technology in a place like this.
And this is a large operation. There are many rooms, some with private bath, others, like ours that have only a sink in the room and use shared toilet and showers down the hall. (Remember, I said it was the only room left in town.) In addition there is the huge restaurant, bar, and an outside terrace. There seem to be only a few people working and when we check in, it is clear they don't use technology. Our name is on a list of reservations that is hand written. (Although, we did make the reservation by Internet, so someone is able to use computers here.)
When we arrive, we throw our stuff in the room, which is spare but comfortable. Then we head for downtown Bamberg. We find a place to park down in the center of town without much trouble and find ourselves right in the center of old Bamberg. Bamberg is divided by the Regnitz River which splits around an island where the old center of town sports a rather impressive old rathaus (town hall) on an even smaller island. This most impressive building is part stone, part exposed timber framed burgermeister (mayor) house. And there is a side of the building that is completely painted in frescoes.
Bamberg is mostly a baroque town with some parts going back to much earlier periods. And incredibly, Bamberg escaped damage in WWII, so it is a wonderful example of Renaissance and Baroque German architecture. The houses are all painted soft shades, mostly earth tones, but with the occassional surprise such as this blue house. The town was apparently wealthy as the houses are large and sport many sculpted details as well as the occasional painted mural. Every corner is worthy of a postcard.
As a medieval religious center, Bamberg has many large churches and the associated universities, convents and other religious buildings. As a government center, there is an old medieval Residence and a new 17th century Residence building . We wander the streets, mostly pedestrian. Of course since we've arrived in Bamberg at 5 PM, everything is closed, but really, looking at the outsides of buildings is all that is necessary.
We decide to eat dinner in a biergarten (beergarden) on a little square and are lucky enough to get the last table at 7 PM. Germans eat earlier than the French! We order Bamberger beer and specialities of the area. Dave gets a plate of 3 sausages with saurkraut and dumpling. I get Bamberger zwiebelschweinebraten, baked pork and onions with roast potatoes and salad. We each order Bamberger beer and the whole thing is the cheapest meal we've eaten yet (including lunches). I realize when I get my plate just the degree to which German food is comfort food for us. It is our midwest German - Scandinavian heritage. We leave very satisfied.
As a last activity, we decide to try to find the viewpoint that overlooks the old city and all its churches. We don't have a map (the tourist office closed at 2:30 today since it was a holiday). But we've studied a couple of maps posted by the city to help people find their way around. We head off aiming for what seems to be a high point of town and are rewarded by "THE VIEW" and in addition, we find the Altburg, the 14th century castle perched on top of the highest hill around. The castle is marvelously preserved (remember, it wasn't bombed in the war) and still has its keep, ramparts, and central living quarters. After a bit of wandering, we return to our gasthaus and are now sitting at one of the tables in the restaurant/bar drinking beer and writing this entry.
Tomorrow, Berlin and Sandra. It should take us 3.5 hours to get there, so we plan to arrive by early afternoon.