Full disclosure: my first night in Germany was a little creepy. I stepped off the train right after dusk into the damp, freezing, sleepy little town of Bamberg, Germany only to show up at a completely empty hostel. The whole place was dark and the the check-in staff was nowhere to be found. After finding the staff in the neighboring building and sorting that situation out, I ventured out towards the Alstadt (the historic city center) to find dinner and things just went downhill. I was catcalled within 2 minutes of stepping onto the street (charming welcome wagon, Germany), got a little lost (as per usual), and couldn’t help but wonder why the heck I chose Bamberg as a destination in the first place. To be honest, my first hour in Bamberg was very quiet and solitary and slightly unnerving. So far things didn’t feel so cozy; I was wet and cold and tired and hungry and really just ready to be in Italy. After finally reaching the Alstadt, though, my spirits started to change. First of all, old town Bamberg is incredible- it’s all vibrant colors and half-timbered houses and Franconian charm, but it doesn’t feel like Disney World like I’ve heard other German towns can. I had a very German dinner- Franconian sausage and sauerkraut and bread- at the restaurant the desk girl recommended and went to the brewery where Bamberg’s claim to fame, Rauchbier, originates. Rauchbier is smoked beer and it tastes a little like bacon- I am a pretty avid disliker of beer, but I was able to down about half of my glass and didn’t totally hate it, which for me is rare. At the end of the night, over a glass of wine, I chatted about Germany with a lifelong local who happened to be wearing the most fantastic Christmas sweater. Not bad, Bamberg.
So, a little more about this city: Bamberg is very old and full of history, and at one point it was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire of Germany. It’s built on hills and features a beautiful waterfront (earning it comparisons to both Rome and Venice) and a pretty spectacular cathedral that dominates its skyline. The Alstadt survived WWII unscathed by the bombings, and now the entire area is a UNESCO world heritage site. In addition to the history, the actual city of Bamberg (which can be found across the river) is lively and charming, partly due to its large student population. Oh, and it features the most breweries in the smallest concentration in Germany- not very exciting for me personally (again, really not a beer fan over here), but definitely notable. Despite all this, I met only one other American my entire time here. Most of the tourists were of the elderly German variety, which is kind of precious.
Despite an odd introduction, I fell in love with Bamberg on my first full day. Most of my morning was spent doing my favorite thing- wandering around and seeing as much of the city as possible. This is a pretty doable task considering the fact that Bamberg is very small. For lunch I went to a bakery and bought bread, then visited the local butcher for meat and chese, and ate my sandwich on the river. I spent a lot of time in Bamberg’s outdoor market area (called the Gruner Markt), where there were fruit vendors and bratwurst stands and crepes and waffles and Christmas decorations and plenty of places to buy gluhwein (of course I partook). I met plenty of friendly people and friendly dogs. That night, the owner of my hostel recommended I eat at a restaurant called Poseidon, and I got my first introduction to what I am now calling Grerman food (Greek + German- fascinating and delicious).
Today it’s on to Munich- I said goodbye to my freezing, quiet hostel and now I’m on a train again. The couple beside me on the first leg of this journey spent most of the ride passionately exchanging saliva; they got off at the last stop and were replaced by two very large men with facial tattoos of Jesus. Train rides are always an experience. Happy new year from Bavaria- I’m not sure if a big city like Munich could possibly live up to Bamberg’s charm, but I’ll keep you posted about it.
I'll add the rest of my Bamberg photos to the website at some point, but for now, here's a few: