Friday, March 15, 2013

Bamberg- "The City of Beer" (and so much more!)

I found a great Groupon deal for a short getaway to Bamberg, Germany.  Bamberg is a medium sized town, just a bit north of Nuremberg. It is in the Franconian region of Bavaria and was first mentioned in 902 AD.  It was built on seven hills (like Rome)  giving it a beautiful skyline along with its many steeples.  There was hardly any war damage, so it's still very original.  The entire old city center is a UNESCO world heritage site!

Kyle and I brought Gizmo along for our two night getaway.  It was a short and beautiful two and a half hour drive from our place.  We got lucky our first day there with pretty warm temperatures, and even a few peeks of sun!  When we arrived, we stopped in the tourist info center to buy a beer tasting package.    Bamberg is definitely a city for beer lovers!  The small town has 8 breweries, and over 80 breweries in the surrounding area. Wow!  Our beer tasting package gave us info about the historic breweries in Bamberg and gave us each a beer stein and 5 vouchers for beers at any of the breweries. (Not just tastes, half liters!)
The old Rathaus, or Town Hall (1386)
When the people weren't allowed to build it on land, they built it on water instead!
By that point, we were ready for lunch and our first tasting.  We went to Bamberg's most well known brewery and restaurant, the Schlenkerla Brewery and Tavern.  It's been around since 1405 and is located in an awesome, old, crooked half-timbered building.  Their specialty is rauchbier, or smoked beer. It was very good!  They even have a seasonal Lentbier, only made and sold during Lent.  Leave it to Germany to have a special beer for Lent!  (In historical context, it actually makes sense.  It's a very hearty, filling beer that people drank while they were fasting for Lent.  Beer was much safer to drink than water anyways!)  We also had a great traditional German lunch.  I had a beef roast with horseradish cream sauce, and Kyle had pork goulash with spätzle. It was very delicious, and very filling!

Goulash and Lentbier-it doesn't look like we're fasting, does it?
We spent that afternoon and evening wandering around the old town, popping in and out of old churches, and enjoying the weather before it turned on us.  We enjoyed another drink at Bamberg's newest microbrewery, Ambräusianum, then headed to check into our hotel before grabbing dinner.  (Gizmo was with us the entire day, even in the restaurants!  It's great that Germany is so dog friendly!)  We had some good old schnitzel and used another drink voucher at Brauerei Spezial, another great historic brewery that has been brewing since 1536.

The next day was very cold and blustery, but luckily it didn't rain!  After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we headed back to the tourist information place to pick up a guided audio tour.  We really geeked it up with our headphones and audio guide hanging from our necks.  It was worth it though!  It walks you around town, showing you the highlights and telling you the history.  Learning the history and significance behind the places that you visit gives it a lot more meaning than looking at it, saying "Wow," and then moving on.  We used another drink voucher for lunch at Brauerei Fässla which has been brewing since 1649.  It was another great, hearty German meal along with our very refreshing lagers.
The Dom (1237)

The rose garden at the Neue Residenz
Enjoying the view of Michaelsberg Abbey
Part of the Alte Hofhaltung, or Old Palace
The old fisherman's quarters
We stopped back at the hotel to rest our feet and for a quick cat nap before heading back out, just to wonder around and enjoy the sites.  A good cup of coffee was high on our list of priorities after our nap.  We had some great coffee and a sinfully delicious snack at a cute little cafe and bar.  (We eat really healthy when we're at home, I promise!)  Just a little side note:  European bars and cafes usually advertise what brand of coffee they serve.  I've found the Italian brand Lavazza to be one of the best.  It's what I buy to have at home, and if the barista knows what they're doing, it's always an amazing cuppa joe!
We checked out Mahrs Bräu to use our last beer voucher before heading back to the hotel for dinner. We had a Weisse bier, or wheat beer that was very tasty!  Our Groupon voucher came with a four course dinner at the hotel, so we dined there that evening.  The dinner was actually very good, and they gave us five courses instead of four.  It also came with a glass of the local sekt, which is German champagne.  On the menu was smoked beef with pesto and onion bread, beef broth and vegetable soup, grilled chicory and shrimp salad, steak with mushrooms and potatoes, and white chocolate mousse.  It was very nice!

We headed out the next morning and hit a surprise snowstorm.  It was very unexpected, so the roads were not salted and even the autobahn was covered in snow and down to one lane in places.  There were some of the biggest flakes I've ever seen!  Kyle will tell you that I had a scowl on my face throughout the snowstorm, because I'm extremely sick of winter and being cold.

Not cool!
We cannot wait to go back to Bamberg during the summer.  There are a couple of rose gardens that should be amazing, and of course the biergartens in the summer would be a highlight!  It was another trip that did not disappoint!

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