Of Kings, Cakes and Professional Scroungers

Bamberg Travel Blog

 › entry 4 of 8 › view all entries

So - time to explore Bamberg then...


We three thousand kings of Bamberg are!

When we set off in the morning we were met with the sight of some oddly dressed children scurrying ahead of us.  Further investigation led us to the town square in front of the Rathaus where they were gathering in front of a stage.  It appears that they were engaged in some sort of ‘Three Kings Festival’ organised by the local Catholic churches.  There were thousands of them, all dressed in elaborate costumes representing the kings from the nativity.  We literally saw coach loads of them arriving!


It didn’t seem to be a particularly exciting event however.  All they seemed to be doing was aimlessly milling about in front of the stage whilst some earnest types sang Christian rock songs at them.  Several hours later when we were on our way back to the hotel nothing seemed to have changed.  They were all still milling aimlessly around in front of the stage ignoring a singer.


Those crazy kids eh?


You’d not get me in a barge on there!

Walking through the old town you have to cross what is described as ‘the canal’.  Now I’ve seen plenty of canals, even travelled on some, but I’ve never seen one with rapids on it.  Rapids and a very fast flowing current - not a definition of canal that I’ve ever come across!


The bridge is a distinctly ancient one and bizarrely has some old municipal building smack bang in the middle of it.  Apparently some local ruler was into the baroque style and the whole thing is painted with figures, cherubs, garlands and fake columns and windows.  The oldest part is apparently a wooden bit that extends over the aforementioned rapids.  Most of the building is now a museum but this wooden bit looks like it’s still apartments.  Now on the face of it this would be an excellently kitsch place to live but on further consideration I decided that the constant sound of onrushing water would only make me want to spend all my time in the toilet!


Lordy that’s a big empty square.

Climbing up the hill into the old town you reach the Domplatz (Cathedral Square) which houses the cathedral as you would imagine.  This is a big churchy type thing which you can go in and look at if you like that sort of thing.  Apparently it’s 1,000 years old in 2007.  The other side of the square is taken up by the old town hall which has a very highly regarded rose garden inside.  We went to look at it but the roses weren’t out and all the statues were covered in packing crates.  And the café was shut.


Between the dom and the alt rathaus was a massive cobbled square through which the thoroughfare was surreptitiously marked.


Once you got used to looking out for cars creeping up behind you there really wasn’t much else to do here.


You will have your cake and eat it!

Sitting further along the hilltop is another imposing old building - the monastery.  Now in the UK these things are usually ruins, and generally all Norman arches and high cloisters.  This however was a much more modern looking building - 1700’ sort of time - so isn’t your run of the mill monkhouse.  Again you can go inside and yes - it’s all churchy in there.


The major draw here is the terrace garden café which can be found round the front of the building overlooking the town.  The big draw in the café is their speciality cake.  This cake is the mother of all layered sponges - a full eleven layers of cakeness that covers most of your plate when you have a slice.


Sitting inside (as it was rather too cold to terrace it) we decided to indulge in this marvel of culinary snackdom.  The place was pretty empty and that had obviously not improved the waitresses mood any as she snapped and grunted at us.  When the fabled cake arrived it turned out not to be all that nice unfortunately.  Now I’m sure that in those parts it’s a cakey miracle of taste sensations but to my unashamedly English taste buds it was a bit dry and not sweet enough.  There was too much earthy style stuff and not enough chocolate and cream etc.


So grumpy was the woman serving though that we didn’t dare leave half of it so we hid it in a serviette and took it out in a rucksack in case she shouted at us.


Shady goings on at the castle?

The castle is located high on the hill side and looks down on the rest of the town that spreads out below it.  It’s about a forty five minute walk uphill from the Domplatz area which is quite steep in places so make sure you’ve got sensible shoes on!


Passing a suspicious looking man reading a paper in a parked car at the bottom of the path our route took us through what was billed as a nature area.  (Keep this in mind as he makes another appearance later on!)


This nature area seemed to be little more than an open grassy park with a very steep meandering path climbing the hillside.  After traversing this area the path opened back out into a road which led up to the castle itself.


As anyone in Bamberg will tell you the castle provides unparalleled views of the town and surrounding panorama.  Obviously by the time we got there it was so misty that you could barely see five yards ahead of you, let alone the picturesque views of the town below!


The castle itself is proper castley, with battlements and ramparts surrounding a central keep which now hosts an expensive looking restaurant.  It’s much more of the sort you get in England rather than the Disney style turrets and towers you normally get round here.


Having had a poke around and decided that there was no way we were going to catch a glimpse of anything that could equate to a view we set off back down to the town.  Taking the alternative road away from the castle, who should we come across part way down but the same bloke parked up at a different junction reading the paper once more.


Now in a famous five type manner it was obvious that he was probably some sort of secret agent who was following us around to make sure we didn’t accidentally discover his nefarious plans up at the castle - world domination and all that sort of malarkey.


...With lashings of ginger beer.

Back in the town and we repaired to the Gasthausbrauerie Ambrausianum in the old town for some much needed vitals.  Despite it now being mid afternoon it was still quite bustling with plenty of groups enjoying a late lunch.  Finding ourselves a cosy little corner we stocked up on wine and a delicious plate of ‘pommes mit rot und weiss’ - chips with mayonnaise and tomoato sauce.  Except I didn’t have the sauces - just the chips.


So after a bit of refreshment it was back into action again as we wandered back towards the hotel via the old town.  The ‘canal’ looked no less rapids like from the bridge and the king singer children were still wandering around in the town square.


By this time the weather was starting to turn a bit cold and had started to drizzle so we retired to the hotel for an afternoon nap to build up energy for the evenings eating and drinking.


I’ve banged my stick so give me some cash!!

After a couple of hours biddy napping we were all set to venture out into eating territory once more.  The rain had eased off and we headed for Zum Kachlofen where we had been told that there was no need to book... which turned out to be a lie.


To be honest they weren’t operating anything looking like a booking system but this meant that there were loads of groups of people cramped around the bar waiting for tables.  My family being my family meant that we immediately decided to dispense with this venue and search out somewhere else.


The idea of finding this place the night before had been to cut out the wandering round from restaurant to restaurant looking at the menu to ensure they served at least some vegetarian foodstuff (which in Bavaria is never a given).  But here we were again doing exactly that thankfully for not too long as we quickly discovered Gasthaus zum Domreiter.


As per usual for our eating holes this was a very traditional style gasthaus, all dark wooden boards and hearty food.  This being the period between Christmas and New Year they still had their decorations up - and there was more stuff in here than there is on Oxford Circus.  Every inch of wall was covered in fir trees, there were decorations hanging from the ceiling, the lights, the trees, the tables, the bar - everywhere.  On asking we discovered that the whole lot had taken two weeks to set up - the memory of which prompted our waitress to roll her eyes at the thought and suggest we come back next year as they would be doing it all again.


Whilst we were here we were visited by a couple of zimmermen (see relevant review) who went through their usual routine and came round to collect money.  Everyone else seemed very pleased by their presence and readily coughed up some cash for the pleasure of a bearded bloke banging a curly stick on the floor and telling some sort of poem.  We on the other hand mused that they were just professional scroungers who had probably pulled up outside in their BMW and were ripping everyone off.  But we gave them cash anyway...


After a decent meal we headed back to Ambrausianum for some more drinks to finish the evening off.


Rebecca didn’t sing tonight - she obviously hadn’t had enough to drink...


Higton says:
Costarricenes are in awe of the concept of a building over 150 years old. Everything here gets periodically knocked by earthquakes, covered by volcanoes or bulldozed by progress.
Posted on: Jan 12, 2007
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photo by: ms_travelr