Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back in Bamberg

A 1000th birthday is kind of a big deal.

For someone who considers each and every birthday to be a milestone event worthy of celebration ("the best day of the year"), it did not take me much effort to get excited about the Bamberger Dom turning 1000 in 2012. Bamberg, Germany is a magical place for us--where Jon and I met, fell in love, and eventually got married. We met some of our best friends there and created memories to last a lifetime. Needless to say, we jump on any opportunity to go back. Thus, a 1000th birthday was a perfect, reason.

We learned several years ago that the Dom (Cathedral) would reach the ripe old age of 1000 in 2012 and immediately made plans to go see it. Several friends were on board, and we actually began planning over a year ago. But then, life happened, and unfortunately our friends decided they could no longer make the trip. We still wanted to go, however, and kept our plans on the back burner...not actually making any because that would be silly.

We ultimately decided that we wanted to combine the Bamberg return trip with a couple of other choice locations: the Cinque Terre--where Jon had traveled with a friend in 2005 and continues to talk about--and Zurich--where a college friend recently moved (see subsequent posts). We hemmed and hawed about when the ideal time to travel would be, and as we are wont to do, made our final travel arrangements for the end of July/beginning of August at the last minute.

But as usual, our last-minute plans had very little effect on the awesomeness of the trip. When the only thing you have to complain about is the fact that you were unable to sit on your couch glued to the Olympics for two weeks, you know you're doing pretty well. (And besides, we were able to catch the BBC occasionally, so we didn't miss too much.)

We kicked off the trip in the only way we know how: a beer fest. Within hours of landing in Germany, we were whisked off to Annafest by some good friends (who we knew in Washington and currently live in Germany). And then, we ran into some more good friends (who also live in Germany again) in the parking lot. It was wonderful catching up with these aforementioned friends while enjoying German beer at a fest in the woods.

Beer and rides in the woods? Yes, please!

Starting to feel a bit tired from our travels (or was it the beer?), we headed into Bamberg, where we had the opportunity to show off one of our favorite places to our "Washington friends." Since it was still summer vacation for their daughters, they were able to stay the next day--Monday--so we were in full-on tour guide mode (once we got some much needed sleep).

Our first stop in Bamberg was Altenburg Schloss (castle), which allows for some of the best views in Bamberg.

While I'm pretty sure we already have taken "this" picture several times, it's still quite an impressive sight

As our friends have a similarly good taste in beer (and since they had a car), we next headed to a brewery that Jon claims to have a mystical connection to: Braueri Kundmuller. I cannot claim a similar connection, but I do know they have delicious beer and a really cool playground for kids.

So happy
We headed back to Bamberg for lunch and rauchbier at Schlenkerla and a bit of souvenir shopping. At that time, it was important to actually go to the Dom since we'd traveled all that way. Just as majestic as ever, although there seemed to be more tourists hanging about (have people found out about Bamberg?). Despite being the end of the July, the roses in the nearby rose garden were still fragrant, prompting yet another repeat photo.

Christmas card preview?
Our friends had to head home after the Dom, so we were on our own. It should come as no surprise that our first stop was a brewery.

Mahr's Brau: Jon's favorite Bamberg brewery, home of his all-time favorite beer (besides his own)
And what did we do after that? Go to another brewery.

My favorite Bamberg brewery--Spezial--and my favorite German meal, jaegerschnitzel (there's pork under all that gravy somewhere)
The next morning was the official launch of our "Best of Bamberg" tour. We borrowed bikes from our hotel and rode all over town. Our first stop was a return to the Dom and a visit to the museum. While we couldn't understand what exactly we were looking at (due to the language barrier and all), it was still cool--and important--to be there.

Happy Birthday, Dom!
All of those artifacts and religious history made us hungry, so it was time for our "Doner-Off." For the uninitiated, doner kebab is basically the most delicious street food ever. Similar to gyros, doners are a variation of meat shaved from a rostisserie (typically lamb) with lettuce, tomatoes, and yogurt sauce on a pita. So good. What we've discovered is that people get very territorial when it comes to the best doner. Everyone has their favorite spot. Jon prefers some inferior place called City Snaxx (guess what I call it), while I will forever favor Marmaris Imbiss, where I had my first doner ever. I will publicly acknowledge that Jon's doner was good, delicious even, but in a head-to-head competition, Marmaris was far superior. Jon may disagree, but really, everybody wins.

You may have noticed a common theme, that we spent the entire trip eating and drinking. This is true. But we also biked a lot. In fact, we biked to our next food location, Braueri Hoh. Of course, we couldn't go there until we stopped at another brewery, but that's just a technicality.

We left a little souvenir at the brewery where we met 7 1/2 years ago
We made the huge mistake of talking up the Hoh when we brought our families to Germany for our wedding in 2008. After making everyone salivate over pfefferhaenchen (pepper chicken), we showed up at the brewery only to discover it was closed. We didn't take any chances this time and did our research, learning that they were only open for dinner. After biking for several kilometers outside of Bamberg, we were richly rewarded.

Literally half a chicken
We had one more stop on our Bamberg pilgrimage that night: Spezi Keller, a beer garden on a hill overlooking the city.

How to order another beer in Bavaria
We had done a lot of repeat things that day, so the next day was adventure day. Once again, we borrowed the hotel's bikes and hit the road. The day was beautiful and the biking easy (at first).  Jon has recently gotten more interested in cycling. While I enjoy it--particularly when I can ride to work--I'm still very much an amateur. For that reason, I'm glad that I didn't know that Jon had planned what turned into a 36-40 mile bike ride. But it was beautiful (even the giant hill that I pushed the bike up). We rode all through Franconia and up and over Frankischer Schweiz (Little Swiss).

Everyone bikes in Germany
One of the coolest parts of the ride was that it was something new that neither of us had ever done in Bamberg before. Since we'd seen and eaten our way through Bamberg proper, we got to go places that the average tourist would never see.

However, like all good things, our time in Bamberg had come to an end. We woke up early on our last morning to run through town one last time and get some pictures of our favorite places.

Thanks, little tripod!
Is it bad that we're already planning our next trip?

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