7 October 2004

I must have skipped class the day they handed out touring partners. For the umpteenth week in a row, the people who said they would go touring with me never showed. The associated confusion and attempts at connections resulted in a VERY late start.

So, alone and late, I set off for Bamberg. From Mannheim, I took A-6 to Heilbronn. From there I took A-81 north. I had been south on A-81 to Stuttgart, but never north. To my surprise A-81 between Heilbronn and Wrtzburg was almost empty, and entirely without speed-limits (though for the first time in my time traveling the Autobahns, I saw the white-on-blue 120km recommended speed limit. I will say that I was neither the Slowest on the road, nor the Fastest that afternoon.

On arrival in Bamberg, I followed my signs for the Altstadt Parkhaus (Old Town Parking Garage). After squeezing in, I emerged to find my way around the city. Almost immediately next to the garage was the famous "Altes Rathaus" (Old Town Hall) built in the middle of the river.This is perhaps the most famous sight in Bamberg. It is built with a yellow-on-white fachwerk on the upstream portion, supported by wooden trusses above the ship-like stone "bow." Two spans bridge from a carved stone archway and tower to both opposing banks. The back part of the building is actually the main part. The walls are painted in a baroque style - with a unique touch: some figures in the painting actually are sculptures jutting out from the wall. Most notably, the leg of a cherub near the bottom in the middle of the "port" side. If you don't know to look for it, you'd almost miss it. Unfortunately for the timing of my visit, much of the Rathaus was being rennovated, so it resulted in less than stellar pictures.

Just downstream from the Rathaus, I got an incredible picture of the Michaelsberg Abbey up on a hill over looking the city, framed by the skyline of the Altstadt and a modern-art sculpture of a broken mask. A classic juxtaposition of old and new, near and far. There is a low bridge that crosses at the extreme downstream end of the Rathaus. I took this bridge across and headed for the Domplatz (Cathedral Square). For those that don't know, in most European cities and towns, the Dom Platz (if they have a Cathedral) or Church Square was the center of town.

Winding through the streets of the Altstadt, I stopped at a souvenir shop. I picked out a Bamberg Shot Glasses (I've been touring Europe collecting Shot Glasses, though I don't have one of Mannheim yet for some reason). There were all the typical Bavarian trinkets I've seen at Rothenburg, Nrnberg, et. al. There was also a local specialty I had been told to look out for. From the Mrzen Brauerei, a Rauchbier (A smoked beer).

I climbed the hillside to the Domplatz, finding it a very striking scene. Most times the Domplatz of a city is very colorful, busy square. This one is very different. When I got there, it was completely empty. The Dom is a very imposing, 4-spired Cathedral, oriented East/West. To the north, is a great open plaza, with two variations of historic residences covering the remaining three sides. The ancient cobblestone of the plaza seemed to be made of the same stone as everything facing the square - leading to an almost monochromatic starkness. Combined with the sun darting in and out from behind clouds, I got some very imposing pictures of the square. Unfortunately, I had arrived just in time for the Dom to close for a wedding, so I didn't get a chance to see the inside. I guess it gives me an excuse to visit again sometime.

I left the Domplatz on the opposite corner from where I had entered, and wound my way through more back streets, encountering some good Franconian culture and dialects. Atop the neighboring hill, is the Michaelsberg Abbey. It has a dramatic view of the city below. I didn't stay long, I wanted to get to Coburg before the day was out. I took the back way down from the Abbey, and stopped at the river front across from "Little Venice" - a portion of town built right on the riverside in a manner reminiscent of Venice.Italy.

Returning to my car, I explored a little more of the city by wheel. On the hill above the city, just down from the Altenburg Castle, I found probably the best view of the city - with the spires of both the Michaelsberg Abbey and the Dom framing the typical Franconian skyline. After that, I had a heck of a time finding my way out of the city to the Autobahn. Going north out of town towards Coburg, I quickly found myself in a baustelle (Construction zone) that made the 40km trip into a grueling hour-long trip.

In Coburg I was searching for only one thing: A Coburger Bratwurst. When I visited Coburg in the 80's, my parent's introduced me to the Coburger Bratwurst. It's a variation of the Thringer Bratwurst - a foot-long bratwurst that is the specialty of the Thringen region, a bit to the north of Franconia. What makes these Bratwurst special, is that they are grilled over pine cones. This gives them a unique and special flavor.

I parked at the Post Parkhaus (Post Office Parking Garage) and went out by foot to find my pray. It proved to be quite elusive. I had to criss-cross the downtown area several times before I picked up the trail. First stop was a Music Fest with some ubiquitous beer and bratwurst stands. No luck. Off again... I passed through the archway of a medieval tower into the pedestrian zone of downtown. Winding my way down the street, I caught a whiff on the breeze. Burning Wood. Burning Pine to be precise. I knew I had found the trail - I would just have to follow my nose. A dozen or so meters farther along, I spotted the familiar sight of the buildings on the main square. During my last visit, a bird managed to bomb me squarely on my right shoulder as it flew off the top of a red-on-white painted carved stone building on the main square. Looking a little beyond this building, I could see smoke rising from a street-vendor hut. Success! Zeroing in, it was unmistakable. For the first time in over 15 years, I had myself a Coburger Bratwurst. Most of you can probably recall my desire to occasionally grill over Pine Cones. This was the inspiration for me to do that.

It would have been nice to have time to see the sites, but sunset was upon me, and I had many hours of driving to return home to Mannheim. I went over Nrnberg for the return trip, which meant I did not hit A81 going back, but I avoided the major Stau on A-3 that I would have dealt with had I gone a more direct route home. I got in late that night, and managed to oversleep on Sunday (and was thus late for Church).

This was my third trip into Franconia since I got to Mannheim last March. My first trip, was to Rothenburg ob der Tauber - the famous Medieval Walled City. That was my first weekend with my new camera in July. Nrnberg was my second trip in August. Now, with Bamberg and surrounding countryside, I can definitely appreciate the Franconian style, as compared to the Kurpfaltz (where I live now). For those that are interested, I can send you some pictures, and give you some more in-depth architectural descriptions, but I won't bore the whole list with the details.

And that's the news in Lake Woebegone... um, no wait.... let me try that again...

So, that's the weekend that was. In the morning, I'm departing for a 4-day weekend in Austria and Switzerland. I also plan to make stops in Liechtenstein and Italy. My camera should get a really good workout over these next few days. (I'm at about 2300 pictures, and rapidly climbing).