Today we had another “sailing morning,” so we listened to a lecture on “The Past, the present and the (possible) future of the European Union” by Machtild Fischer in the lounge. It was quite interesting and was a nice way to pass the time–learning something new, as I love to do.
By one o’clock we were heading out to the buses, which drove us into the old town section of the city of Bamberg. Bamberg is located in Upper Franconia in the state of Bavaria on the River Regnitz, near the confluence of the Main River. Bamberg is often called “The German Rome” or “The Franconian Rome,” because it was built on seven hills. Each hill is topped by its own beautiful church. The names of the seven hills are Domberg (Cathedral Hill), Michaelsberg, Kaulberg/Obere Pfarre, Stefansberg, Jakobsberg, Altenburger Hill, and Abtsberg.
For a short time, Bamberg was actually the center of the Holy Roman Empire. Pope Benedict VIII visited Bamberg in 1020 and “personally consecrated some of the city’s churches” (from Wikipedia). According to our ship newsletter, Bamberg’s “diverse and impressive architecture could easily serve as a dictionary of building styles embracing everything from 12th-century Romanesque to 18th-century Rococo.” In fact, the whole area of Bamberg’s Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The population of Bamberg is approximately 71,000 people.
We exited the bus and listened to the tour guide, who told us where & when to catch the bus later, and then began leading us along the city streets. One of the first buildings he pointed out was the Gasthaus zum Sternla. This is the oldest inn and restaurant in Bamberg, having opened in 1380.
We continued up Lange Street, listening to our guide and looking in the store windows as we walked by, until we came to the Grüner Markt (Green Market), an outdoor market square area.
We passed some gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables under the tarps in the square, but didn’t have time to buy anything. I suspect that, in the spring and summer, the vendors also offer plants and flowers for sale.
We turned away from the market and headed toward the River Regnitz. Here we came upon a wonderful sculpture, called “Centurione I” or “Face in the Sun,” created by Igor Mitoraj in 1987. (Mr. Mitoraj, who was a Polish-born artist, had died just a few weeks before we were here, on Oct. 6, 2014 at the age of 70. He lived in Oederan, Germany.)
Our guide then pointed out the old slaughterhouse along the river. He said the workers used to just dump all the animal waste into the river throughout the slaughtering process.
Our guide also said that the appearance of the buildings and fishermen’s houses lining the sides of the Regnitz River gave this area the nickname “Little Venice.”
We came up to the back end of the Altes Rathaus (Old City Hall). There is a half-timbered section (which we’ll see in a moment) that was built around 1440. The building was enlarged, and this section was added in 1668. According to our ship newsletter, the Baroque frescoes were added to this section in about 1768. “Since 1995, (the building) has housed the Ludwig Collection of porcelain and faience.”
On the other side of the bridge from the Rathaus is a statue of a woman. It is called “Kaiserin Kunigunde” or Empress Cunigunde. Kunigunde was the wife of Holy Roman Emperor Henry II (Heinrich II), who ruled as Roman Emperor from 1014 (although he was crowned King of Germany prior to that in 1002) until his death in 1024. He was the last member of the Ottonian dynasty of Emperors, because he died without an heir. (There is a tomb in the Bamberg Cathedral which commemorates Heinrich II and Kunigunde. We will see that later.)
We left the bridge and the river for the time being and began walking through the city streets.
Some of the group decided to take a break at this Hofbräu for a bit. The rest of us would meet them back here after the tour.
We moved on toward the Altes Rathaus. As you will remember, we already saw the largest and newest part of the Old City Hall as we were walking across the bridge. Now we would see the original part of the building. This half-timbered section was built around 1440. It was actually built on a tiny island in the middle of the Regnitz River. The story goes that the bishop of the city had refused to give the townspeople any land on which to build a city hall, so they became resourceful. They jammed some poles down into the riverbed to create an artificial island, built the building on the island, added a bridge (the Obere Brücke) on either side of it, and voilà! The Altes Rathaus is one of Bamberg’s most famous and interesting buildings.
Now our guide led us up to the archway in the Altes Rathaus, where he showed us a sign memorial to a former resident of Bamberg, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. He was an officer in the German army who was not a supporter of Hitler, but he was “swept along with the nationalistic tide after the quick victory in Poland” in 1940, according to the History Learning Site. However, the attack on the Soviets (“Operation Barbarossa”) in June of 1941 was what “greatly angered” Stauffenberg, because he was appalled by the atrocities committed by the German forces against the Soviet people, among other atrocities. In 1942 he decided that he must try to overthrow Hitler. He planned an attack, called “Operation Valkyrie.” On July 20, 1944, he and a co-conspirator carried a bomb concealed in a briefcase into a briefing room of Hitler’s “Wolf’s Lair” headquarters. The bomb exploded. Four men were killed but, unfortunately, Hitler survived the attack. On July 21, 1944, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were executed by firing squad. In 1980, a road in Berlin (the Bendlerstrasse) was renamed the Stauffenbergstrasse in his honor. A memorial was set up in the building where Stauffenberg had worked and where he was arrested (the Bendlerblock). The German government also erected a memorial in the courtyard where Stauffenberg was executed. There was a movie, called Valkyrie, made in 2008, that was based on this incident.
Now we shifted gears, turned around and walked through more city streets. Eventually, we came to another famous place for which Bamberg is known. The city of Bamberg, by the way, is called “Germany’s Beer Capital,” and there is good reason for this. According to our ship newsletter, this city has “ten independent breweries producing 30 different ales, so it is understandable that the beer consumption per capita here is higher than anywhere else in Germany.” There are many good beers made in Bamberg, but probably the most famous beer brewed here is called “Rauchbier, ” (smokebeer), “an almost black beer, whose distinctive smoky flavor derives from its malt being roasted over beech-wood.” The home of this special concoction is called the “Brauerei Heller-Trum” of Bamberg, or simply “The Schlenkerla.” (Our guide told us that one of the first brewers had suffered an accident, which caused him to walk somewhat crookedly. The people called him “Schlenkerla” (the little dangler) because one of his legs sort of dangled as he walked. After awhile, the brewery itself became known as the name.) Our guide showed us this brewery and told us that, after the tour, a visit here would be well worth our time.
Now we moved on to the Bamberg Cathedral (the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. George). Henry II had ordered the building of a cathedral in 1004, which was consecrated in 1012. That cathedral, however, was partially destroyed by fire in 1081. According to Wikipedia, “The new cathedral, built by St. Otto of Bamberg, was consecrated in 1111, and in the 13th century received its present late-Romanesque form.” The Bamberg Cathedral contains the marble Imperial Tomb of Heinrich II (Henry II) and his wife, Kunigunde, which was carved by sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider between 1499 and 1513.
The Cathedral is also famous for its beautiful Bamberger Reiter (Bamberg Horseman), which is a statue of a man on a horse that dates to around 1200. The sculptor is unknown, as is the identity of the rider, though it is thought that it depicts the Hungarian king from the 11th century, Stephen I.
After exiting the Cathedral we walked over to the Bishop’s Old Court (the Alte Hofhaltung), where the bishop of Bamberg lived prior to moving to the New Residence (the Neue Residenz), which is just across the road. The Alte Hofhaltung now houses the Historical Museum.
The Neue Residenz of the bishop was initially designed to have a second full wing on the left (facing us). The project ran out of money, however, so construction was stopped and one can see the unfinished edge where the blocks stick out into the air.
After this, the tour was over, as our tour guide’s wife drove over to pick him up! The rest of us walked down the steps from Cathedral Hill and back to the streets. Bill and I made a beeline back to the Schlenkerla, where we each had a refreshing glass of Rauchbier (smokebeer). The dark beer tasted only slightly smoky, not too overpowering, and was quite delicious. Here’s my beer coaster!
Bill and I then returned to the Hofbräu, where we met the rest of our group and ate sausages and drank more beer! We had a great time in Bamberg!
After lunch, Bill and I headed over to the Käthe Wohlfahrt store, where we bought a beautiful Bier Stein for our son, Austin. We requested that it be shipped to him in Montana.
After we made it back to the ship, we were treated to a Bavarian Beertasting in the lounge. Two young German men wearing their lederhosen told us all about the different types of German beer. There were four different samples for us to try: “Ammerndorfer Hell” (a bright lager from the Dorn brewery, Ammerndorf), “Rossdorfer Pils” (a Pilsner from the Sauer brewery, Rossdorf), “Krug Bräu Lagerbier” (a dark lager from the Krug brewery, Breitenlesau), and “Gutmann Weisse” (a wheat beer from the Gutmann brewery, Titting). They were all very good, and it was fun to learn something new!
We had a very busy and interesting day today. Bamberg was one of my favorite German cities!
Other interesting things to know about Bamberg:
*The city of Bamberg celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of its founding in 1973.
*Witch trials were held in Bamberg during the 17th century. Approximately 1,000 victims were put to death, the majority between 1626 and 1631, under the rule of Prince-Bishop Johann Georg II Fuchs von Dornheim.
*Bamberg has underground tunnels which were originally constructed for sandstone mining. During WWII the tunnels were used as air raid shelters.
*Another famous resident of Bamberg was Ida Noddack-Tacke. She was a chemist and physicist who discovered element #75, rhenium.