Bavarian Christmas Interlude 2018, Thursday: A one-night stand with my sweetie in much beloved Bamberg.


Diana and I visited Bavaria (Munich and Bamberg) just before Christmas. Prior to departure, there was a series entitled Munich Tales 2018. This is the third of seven installments summarizing what we did, saw, ate and drank. They’re being back-dated to the day we were there.

Previously: A sensory overload of Munich history — and beer.
Next: Back to Munich for basketball. 

Um, no.

On Thursday morning we boarded took an InterCity Express (ICE) train from Munich to Bamberg, via Nürnberg, where there was a eight-minute change to the garden variety regional express. This trip used to be around three hour and twenty minutes; now it’s been cut to a little over two.

Do we even have trains in America?

Oddly, there’s an unexpected price to be paid for rail speed, over and above more expensive train tickets to ride them. These purpose-built ICE tracks obviously pass through rural areas, as intended to avoid all but a few of the towns and cities along the way.

It makes riding a high-speed express more like being on an airplane, and less about the things that always intrigued me when riding a train. In short, I miss the train station architecture and platform life viewed from the voyeur’s compartment window. To cite another example, to take the fast train from Frankfurt to Köln these days means missing the beautiful scenery in the Rhine Valley, although of course one can opt for the slower journey; it helps to know the route when booking tickets.

Having noted all this, it was pleasant seeing hop trellises in the area near Wolnzach, and in the end, reduced travel time from Munich meant more hours to enjoy Bamberg.

I can’t ever have enough of this place.

The purpose of a solitary Thursday evening in December with my gal in the town I love so well was to immunize myself for months to come against the disappointment of returning to the mind-numbing inanity of daily life in Nawbany.

The idea arose more than a year ago, when Diana jokingly said that we couldn’t return to Bamberg until the garage was emptied of junk. Eventually I enlisted Big Wally to make the debris go away — “just like David Copperfield.” The result was angioplasty for our garage, and then when she expressed an interest in seeing Munich … the deal was sealed. I love it when a travel plan comes together, even if Bamberg’s part of it only for a single day.

There was a bakery in the old town, and we stopped for coffee and a snack. While there, the orange vest protests flared up outside: They selected an old-school broom and began tidying up.

I’d been under the impression that the venerable Klosterbräu Brauerei was a goner, but apparently there was an infusion of capital at some recent juncture. As a result, these excellent and unique beers live on. It’s also nice to have a brewery roughly 30 feet from our lodging, the Hotel Nepomuk. It was very quiet at Klosterbräu; no TV and no music, and in fact no one at all except the two of us and the woman working, until a tour group arrived.

The throwback floor drain pissoir was plenty groovy, too.

As noted, our choice for the overnight stay was Hotel Nepomuk, perched right on the river, which means that after 27 years of visiting Bamberg on the cheap, a splurge finally was merited. It was very nice, indeed.

Perched right outside the window of our room was an intriguing art installation.

In 2012 the exhibition 8 Poets for Bamberg of Catalan artist Jaume Plensa (born in 1955) was presented. The eight poets were sitting or crouching male figures from fibreglass who towered on six meters high steel steles. Removed from reality they shimmered in white during the day, after sunset they were glowing from within in changing colours by means of integrated LED-lamps. The figure titled Air-Earth that was placed at the Obere Muehlbruecke was purchased by the Association of the Friends of the Internationales Kuenstlerhaus Villa Concordia with the support of donors and sponsors. Jaume Plensa who lives in Barcelona ranks among the most renowned international sculptors and has realized large sculptures in public space throughout the world, such as Chicago, Dubai, London, Liverpool, Marseille, Tokyo, Toronto and Vancouver. By combining classical sculptural materials like steel, bronze and aluminium with different media like water, light, sound and video, with text also being included frequently, he creates sculptures of a strong psychological intensity.

Fun times.

It was dark early, and we set course for Brauerei Spezial. This involved weaving around the river paths to the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) astride the river, then up into the pedestrian shopping area and across the canal. I’ll get to these nighttime views in a moment.

First, it was time for an appetizer. Near the Christmas market there was a fishmonger’s festive kiosk, and an amazing Bismarck herring sandwich.

Diana even captured a closeup.

The main room at Brauerei Spezial ranks among my favorite beer drinking venues in all of Germany. Bock on the left, and gently smoky lager on the right.

Now for those photos after dark.

While we were out and about, Diana found some seasonal mulled wine.

At seven we arrived at the Schlenkerla Tavern to catch up with Matthias, the heir to smoked beer fame. I’m fortunate to have made his acquaintance those many years ago, and we talked for two hours about beer and business and life itself.

Schweinehaxe is a roasted ham hock (pork knuckle). It is one of the glories of Bavarian cuisine, and Schlenkerla’s is especially noteworthy. I’d already drained three half-liters of beechwood-smoked Märzen when the Haxe arrived, and moved to the Eiche (oak-smoked strong lager).

Do you see that crispy skin — rind, crackling, whatever — on top?

That’s what I’m saying. The kraut and the dumpling were damn good, too.