Bamberg was probably not one of the better-known destinations in Bavaria, perhaps being overshadowed by the modern major destinations of Munich and Nuremberg. But, Bamberg was well known among American expatriates, mainly due to its Cold War ties with the US Army, ties that continue to present day. Those who have been there knew Bamberg as one of the most colorful and joyful cities around. Stretching along the Regnitz River in upper Franconia, Bamberg enjoyed both a tremendous history as a river haven and a modern boomtown that attracted lots of tourists. It was also one of the friendliest and lively cities I have visited, and that was saying something.
I have visited Bamberg three times, once on business, once as a pure tourist with an afternoon to kill, and once during Christmas Market season. This travelogue primarily presents the middle visit, which took place in May of 2001. Click here to see the brief travelogue on the Christmas market.
I would describe the city as being in three parts. There was the old upper city, containing the Bamberg Cathedral and other primarily religious attractions. Then there was the old lower city (the Altstadt), containing the market squares and original commercial district, plus the river. Finally, there was the new city and residential area. I started at this part of the city, following the Regnitz away from the Altstadt. While I did not post any pictures of it in this travelogue, that section had numerous exhibits of old-time architecture -- between the fancy and colorful old residential buildings and the municipal and commercial offices occupying what appeared to be old castles or palaces. The upkeep of this lesser-traveled area was excellent. For those interested in such architecture, it would be worth the walk.
However, I reserved the bulk of the travelogue for the Altstadt, where many memorable attractions stood. The first photograph shows a scene from the Regnitz between the market section and the upper side. It shows one of Bamberg's tour boats lazing downriver after just having left port. The winch was no longer in use, and remained there as historical monument. Beyond the left bank, St. Michael's lay off in the distance -- more on that later.
I covered the lower Altstadt next. The second photograph was taken on the main shopping street that was made of cobblestone and was shaped in an arc, as the buildings in the background at right showed. This was taken from behind a Neptune fountain and facing one of Bamberg's many churches. The large open square that hosted the city's beautiful Christmas Market was a short distance beyond (the river was to my rear). There were numerous cafes and bierhalls, and it was hot outside, so I took a break.
After I enjoyed a beer, I moved back to the river and happened upon the building in the third photograph, which was built on top of a fork in the river just downstream from some artificial rapids. It was called the Brueckenrathaus, the "Bridge Town Hall", that was both a town hall and at least occasional exhibition center. Last time Tom was there, the lower floor hosted an exhibition of a local artist. It was decorated in classic Bavarian style (with painted-on columns and reliefs), but this building was much more vivid that most I've seen around. There was a great photo spot on a small footbridge upriver from this point by 50 meters. Stand in the middle of that footbridge and pointing the camera at the church was the perfect postcard shot, unfortunately mine was into the sun at the time so I didn't post it here.
The upper Altstadt extended for several winding blocks that slowly but increasingly inclined. The two main attractions -- the Bamberg Cathedral (Dom) and St. Michael's Monastery -- sat atop two different hills overlooking the city. On my Christmas Market visit, I had the chance to go inside the Dom, one of Germany's oldest, and it was easily among the most beautiful cathedrals I'd ever seen. As it was the Advent season at the time, it was also brilliantly decorated. At the opposite side of the Dom's plaza (now a parking lot) was the entrance to the Rosengarten, shown in the fourth photograph. The roses were just budding at the time -- the hints of red buds are perceptible in the photograph. The photograph also showed the next spot, St. Michael's, in the distance.
Getting to St. Michael's required another good 20 minute descent and climb to the next hill over. The interior was very decorative, with brilliant white walls with gold and copper-green trim. The artwork inside is breathtaking, and views of the city below were spectacular.
The final photograph shows another view of the river and the tour boats that ride upon it. This was a scene from Bamberg's river district, called its "Little Venice" district because of its heavy concentration of the beautiful buildings right up against the banks. Because the Regnitz was a well-protected canal and not a river, there was apparently little concern among the building owners about flooding. This stretch was several hundred yards long and very pretty.
This travelogue really only scratched the surface of Bamberg. There were numerous other churches, castles, and monuments spreading throughout the Bamberg metropolitan area, but I did not have time to visit them all. Bamberg's tourist maps were superb for getting visitors around to the attractions, offering several walking tours (some of these are also presented on Bamberg's extraordinary tourist web site, provided in nine languages). So, despite it not being along the more common tourism routes, Bamberg was one of the best places to visit in Bavaria. I highly recommend it to anyone.
Trip taken 27 May 2001 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin