Saturday, 8 January 2011
Final Musings about Bamberg
Despite it being the main reason for my visit, I decided to give the beer a bit of a rest during the first half of my second full day in Bamberg. Whilst I hadn't been drinking all that heavily, I was feeling a bit jaded. I don't know whether it was the bitterly cold weather, or a touch of the post-Christmas blues, but whatever the cause I thought a slight break from the booze, combined with a bit of exercise and fresh air, would do me the power of good.
I therefore decided to hike up to the Altenburg Fortress, the impressive former refuge of Bamberg's ruling Prince Bishops. The Altenburg Fortress is situated on the highest of Bamberg's seven hills, and you can read all about my visit, and see some of the photo's, by clicking onto my other blog, Paul's Beer Travels.
It was definitely a worthwhile visit, even if the walk back was a lot easier, and much quicker than the outward journey! I spent the afternoon shopping, including purchasing a mixed case of bottled beers from the famous Schlenkerla Tavern, when I arrived back in Bamberg, before heading back to my hotel. I had some packing, ahead of my departure the following day! Come late afternoon though I was definitely in the mood for a beer or three!
From my hotel, I headed across the Main-Donnau canal via the new bridge that was in the process of being built during our previous visit to the city. I made my way to Spezial, slightly surprised to find the place open as I was given to understand it was closed between Christmas and New Year. It was busy, but I managed to find a seat. This is something I really love about German pubs; the willingness of the locals to make room for newcomers. There is none of the spreading out, coats on benches, "this is my space" type attitudes that are all too common back home. The willingness of people to start chatting to strangers is another thing that really impresses me, and no doubt accounts for why pubs are still so busy and well used in the Federal Republic.
As I sat enjoying my glass of Rauchbier Lager, I was joined at the table by a group of newcomers. I soon got into conversation with one of them who turned out to be a railway worker from one of the surrounding villages. He had called into Spezial for a drop of refreshment whilst his wife went shopping in the city. He spoke no English, but my German was of sufficient standard for us to have a rudimentary conversation. He reckoned that beer was expensive in Bamberg compared to some of the villages, where it could be found for as low as 1.60 Euros a glass!
Later on I decided to give the seasonal Rauchbier Bock a try. It was dark in colour, very tasty and quite moreish, but I resisted the temptation for another. My new found friend's wife and son had arrived, and after they had consumed a quick drink the family departed, but not before the railway worker handed me over a bottle of Rauchbier as a parting gift. This was a really nice gesture and just serves to illustrate my point further about how friendly the local people are in their pubs.
On leaving Spezial I crossed the road to Faessla, another of Bamberg's famous brewery-taps, where again I managed to get a seat despite the large number of people inside. I ordered a Lagerbier to drink, plus a Wiener Schnitzel to eat. The latter seemed to take an awfully long time to arrive, which was very unusual for a German pub where service is normally extremely prompt. I mentioned this to the couple sitting next to me and their reply was that the waitress must have forgotten. They called her over, explained the situation, and a short while later my food appeared. It was worth the wait, and I switched over to the stronger and darker Zwergla.
By this time I was deep in conversation with my new found friends. It turned out they were from Essen, but were holidaying in Bamberg and actually staying at Faessla. After learning about my interest in beer, Olaf recommended the region to the east of Bamberg known as Fraenkische Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland) as a particularly good area for beer and pubs. I promised I would bear it in mind for a future visit to Germany. Before leaving Olaf and his wife treated me to a glass of Schnapps, which again illustrates the friendliness and generosity of the German people.
The following day was time for me to leave Bamberg. After a last look around I lunched at Schlenkerla where, once again, I spent much of the time conversing, in German, with someone who was a regular visitor to the pub. After some soup and a couple of Rauchbiers, it was off to the station for the train back to Nuremberg Airport and my flight home. It had been a good few days seeing Bamberg at a totally different time of year, and it was especially good to have the chance of sampling some of the seasonal beers.
As I've said before, all beer lovers should make a point of visiting this beautifully unspoilt city to experience its delightful and beery charms for themselves!