Saturday, October 24, 2009
I must admit, I have lost count of the days of my trip. I'm not sure if it's Day 5 or 7? Nevertheless, I'm back in Munich from my 3-day trip to Bamberg.
Bamberg? How would I describe it. Some words that come to mind: quaint, lovely, peaceful, rivers, antiques, smoked beer. It is an idyllic European town, the kind that you imagine when you think of what a European city would look like. Misty cobblestone streets, a castle on a steep hill, bakeries at every corner and all of this drenched in the kind of history that is either written on the wall or come from stories told by the locals over a pint of beer. I was fortunate enough to have a local tour guide in Ursula.
Most of our time was spent in downtown or Old Town Bamberg and the outlying city of Hallstadt where she makes her home. On my first night, we had pizza at a local restaurant with her family and friends. They are a warm, welcoming bunch and spoke enough English for me not to feel completely out of place. Out of all the non-English speaking European countries I've been to, I must say, Germans speak more English or at least try to than most. In some ways, I wish I had at least tried to speak German aside from "hallo," "bitte," or "danke schon." I have learned some random words, however. Things like "ausfahrt" for car exit and "tag" for day. Some words sound similar to how they're pronounced in English. My 2-year's worth of Italian and another 2-year's worth of Spanish help very little here, unfortunately. If only I had taken Latin, my life would be somewhat easier.
We walked through a "dom" or cathedral in Old Town. The high ceilings, altar, pews and chapels were mesmerizing. I am by far not an art historian, so I won't even attempt to describe what era they came from, although the church was completed in the 13th century. There were cherubs, saints, the Blessed Virgin, clouds, darkness and light -- all painted, carved or sculpted so ornately, one would think one was gazing into heaven or at least close to it. Would European cathedrals be any less stunning? I think not. One minor detail I nearly forgot: Pope Clement II is buried at Bamberg Cathedral. It is the only site which boasts a papal burial outside of Italy and France.
After browsing in and out of antique shops, stopping sporadically in front of rivers and panoramic views of the city, we had a delightful curry wurst lunch with pommes at a small cafe frequented by University of Bamberg students. I made a mental note to bring curry powder home. Who knew curry could taste so good on a hotdog and some ketchup?
In the evening, Ursula and her friend Marida took me around Bamberg at night. Our first stop was at a Chinese buffet at a local restaurant. I'm not one for buffets, but the food was fresh, not too greasy and not too salty. Two nights in a row, I had schnapps once again with my meal. It tasted like apple juice, in all honesty. This coming from someone who has not had a drop of liquor since she arrived in Germany! But later that night, after a short jaunt around the foggy, beautifully eerie Bamburg Castle on the hill (peppered with Ursula's true stories of medieval witch burnings), I had the famous smoked beer of Bamberg called Schlenkerla's Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier from the famed Heller Brewery. A mouthful, yes, and so was the beer. It had faint notes of smoked ham. I must admit, I sipped it like a timid lady, complete with giggles and a scrunched up face that would make anyone laugh. However, I am proud to say that I drank it to the last drop. I did it for Germany! I did it for the girly girl in me!
So after picking up some handsome handmade wooden Christmas ornaments the next day and an elegant Swiss watch for my mother's 52nd birthday (which, incidentally, was 3 days ago) I said goodbye to the lovely city of Bamberg and even lovelier friend Ursula, packed my bags, boarded the train and headed to my home base in Munchen.
It is almost 2am on the eve of this milestone of my life and my iPod is going to alarm in 3 hours, so I must say gute nacht for now. Steph, Michael and I are going to get an early start on the autobahn. It will be the last road trip of my 20's. Destination: France.
We're off to Paris, darling.