Bamberg – A Day Trip

Recently my friend Kim and I went for a little day trip to the nearby city of Bamberg, Germany. Bamberg had been a city I had set my sites on for quite a while, not only for the fact that it’s your typical old-world German town, but also because of its history. We spent a day walking along the streets, seeing the Altstadt Rathaus, the bridges, a never-ending antiquary (old, used books- seriously the coolest), and the churches. We didn’t do everything we could have done, but we had a lovely casual day wandering around.

A little bit of history on Bamberg…

The first mention of Bamberg dates 902 as a mostly Slavic settlement. In the early 11th century, the Holy Roman Emperor (Henry II) made it a family inheritance and a separate diocese from Wurzburg. Once all the border details were sorted out, Henry II ordered the building of a new cathedral AND a Benedictine abbey for the training of clergy. With their involvement, Bamberg became a center point for the Holy Roman Empire; the Pope had visited several times, consecrated some of the churches, and thus, both Henry and his wife, Kunigunde, are buried in the Bamberg Cathedral. 

Through the centuries, the city started to expand and change, going through the reformation and land changes. In the 17th century, the witch trials came to Bamberg and claimed around 1,000 victims. The 17thcentury also ushered in the University of Bamberg. Finally, it 1803 Bamberg became part of Bavaria after losing its independence the year prior. Bamberg has also played a role in the political landscape of Bavaria- being a safe place for the state government in World War 1 (after a communist uprising), the location of the passing of the first republican constitution of Bavaria, and then the venue for the Bamberg Conference, a conference convened by Hitler to stifle dissent within a young Nazi Party. 

In 1993 Bamberg became a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its authentic medieval appearance. 

One final fun fact: Bamberg is known in some places as a “Franconian Rome” as its geography extends over seven hills. Each hill has its own church at the top, overlooking the city. 

We started our day off walking the Obere Brucke, which is one of the bridges connecting the lower town to the hills. Halfway across this bridge is the Rathaus (town hall). The legend of the town hall is quite typical of the time period: the bishop did not grant the citizens approval to build a town hall, so they took matters into their own hands and rammed stakes into the river and create an “island” on which they built their town hall. The frescoes painted on the town hall are quite incredible, giving it a 3-D appearance- although there are a couple spots where it isn’t just an appearance.  

From the bridge we wandered through the streets, stopping in the Antiquariate Lorang. I’m mentioning this mostly because it was basically a store of old books that never ended. If you’re a book or bookstore lover, it’s one of those stores that you dream of going to at least once a week. Filled floor to ceiling with any and all books (and some notebooks), most dating quite far back it was just a dream to walk through and look at everything. It was a great start to our day. 

We wandered the streets a little bit more, then started to climb up on of the hills towards the Church of Our Lady (Obere Pfarre). This church is Bamberg’s only purely Gothic church.

Planning of the church started at the end of the 13th century, with construction starting at the beginning of the 14th (the foundations date 1375). There were quite a few additions and rebuilds to the church, including damage done by an aerial bomb during World War 2. Walking inside the church was breathtaking. I don’t know if I have the words to truly do this one justice, so the pictures will have to speak for me. A few bits- the paintings are from the 19thcentury by Adolf Riedhammer, with some repainted in the 1930’s by Hans Bayerlein. There is a walnut portrait of Mary with Child which was from a school in Cologne dating around 1250. There is an incredible painting of The Ascension of Mary by Tintoretto that you can view as well. Overall, this was one of those churches that you really just have to walk through. 

From the church we headed over to the New Residence. To get to the New Residence you go through the Old Court. The Old Court was originally the Castrum Babenberg and then the palace of Henry II. It then became the Bishop’s residence and it features an incredible gateway from the square to the inner square. Now, the Old Court is a historical museum and a small chapel for civil wedding ceremonies. It was really neat to see (I love Timber Frame anything ha-ha) and there was actually a wedding reception while we were there!

We walked through the gate and on to the main square of the New Residence and Bamberg Cathedral. The Cathedral Square is at the top of one of the seven hills and is the heart of the city. Before we went into the Cathedral, we went over towards the Library, Residence, and Rose Garden. The New Residence served as the seat of Bamber’s prince bishops. There are 40 magnificent rooms filled with artwork and lavish furniture. You are able to tour the inside of the residence which not only takes you through a few of the rooms, but shows you a large Bavarian State art collection. We elected to head over to the Rose Garden in the inner courtyard and take a little rest and relaxation moment. 

Designed by Friedrich Karl von Schonborn, the Rose Garden contains around 4500 roses, along with several sculptures, a fountain at the center, and an absolutely incredible view of Bamberg. We stopped at the café in the garden pavilion and had a lovely treat of a pear/mint lemonade and light food. In the summers there are musical performances in the garden and the entire area is so enchanting.

After a refreshing pick me up, we started to head out, first stopping real quick at the State Library. 

Let me tell you, some of our American libraries can learn a thing or two. The little glimpse we got to see inside was just incredible. The vaulted, painted ceilings, the quiet peace that comes from the library, the pristine collections, it was incredible. Not only that, but the library contains quite a few manuscripts dating from 1000, as well as 3 Reichenau manuscripts that are listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage documents. We only got a glimpse, but it was a pretty neat spot. 

Finally, it was time to make our way to the Cathedral. St. Peter’s and St. George’s Imperial Cathedral is the legacy of Henry II.

The cathedral was completed in 1012 (after only 10 years of being built!), however it took 3 different constructions to get the current cathedral due to fires. Now, when we visited there was quite a bit of restoration and reconstruction being done, so we weren’t able to see the Bamberg Horseman and the alter and such were tucked back in the construction. We were able to see the tombs and the overall look of the cathedral. The thing that makes cathedrals so special in ways, is not how incredible they are on the interior (though they can be) is just the sheer craftmanship it takes to craft and build a cathedral (and most built before our modern engineering and technological advances. 

Our last stop of the day was to head down to Little Venice.

This is a former fish district of the Island City. The river way is lined by half-timbered buildings that date back to the Middle Ages and each has a little tiny garden. The homes are right next to each other, holding each other up in some cases, and sets quite the little backdrop. It is absolutely adorable and was the perfect picture of Bamberg to end our day with. 

The only thing that we missed that I wanted to do would have been St. Michael’s Monastery. This is the home of the abbey that Henry II commissioned. I would have loved to see the monastery and walk its walls and church buildings (and garden), however it is currently closed due to restoration work. If you do get the chance to see it, do!

And that was our day in Bamberg! It was the perfect little outing and day trip for us. 

Autumn in Bavaria

I’m interrupting all of the travel content for this very special post…

Ok, maybe it’s not that special, but I wanted to do a post acknowledging two things:

1) This is my 300-blog post published to A Cuppa Cosy. 300 posts. While my content has bounced all over the place, it is still crazy to think that I have written and published 300 posts in this little corner of mine. And for my 300th post I wanted to focus on something I love, something that just kind of perfectly coincided with the timing of this post and everything else and that is…

2) Autumn. Specifically, Autumn in Bavaria. 

Autumn officially begins next week, but we’ve been officially welcoming it since September 1st (as we do every year) and I think this year, given everything, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the changing season a bit early. 

I’ve lived a fair amount of places that have had beautiful Autumnal Seasons, and a couple that don’t really get an Autumn at all, but it is my personal opinion that Bavaria just takes the cake (at this time, I’m sure in the coming years that may change, but I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the incredible season here). Between the weather, the festivals, the leaves, it just creates the best of the best of Autumn. 

Let’s start with the weather.

If you know me, you know that Autumn has always been my favorite season. I’m really kind of obsessed with the two transitional seasons- Spring and Autumn, but Autumn takes the cake. I’ve loved Autumn before it became the “basic girl” thing to love. Something about the heat fading away, the days slowly going shorter, the start of the school year, the crisper air moving in, and the leaves changing colors just made me feel so alive. And I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

I’m a massive rain fan and Autumn in Bavaria has its fair share of rainy days. This isn’t necessarily the hard rains of spring and summer storms, but rather that soft, sometimes mist like, rain that just peppers the ground and bounces gently off the roofs. The overcast nature of many of the Autumn days gives the perfect backdrop for the bright red and oranges that the leaves turn throughout the months before falling to a damp ground. The air starts to slowly turn crisp with the cool crisp air settling just in time for apple and pumpkin picking. Don’t worry though, it’s not always rainy and cool, there are those brilliant sunny days peppered throughout the 3 or so months that encompass the changing season. Those sunny days are full of life and joy and somehow…always happen on festival days. It’s a time where you may have to pack up the shorts, tanks, and summer dresses, but you can still wear t-shirts and such for a little bit longer. Same for sandals and boots, you get a great chance to wear both throughout the month of September. 

Let’s briefly talk leaves. 

I mentioned the fall colors, but something about the vibrance here in Bavaria makes a difference. Maybe it’s the rolling hills and alps that are just peppered with trees. Maybe it’s the balance of the “evergreen” trees and the changing leaves. Maybe it’s the fact that the sky has just always seemed a bit bluer and clearer in Bavaria. Whatever it is, the changing leaves are absolutely incredible here. You get a real range not only in color, but in timelines as well. It takes a full month to month and a half for the full process of changing colors and falling leaves and it is EVERYWHERE. You don’t have to drive far to get just the simple beauty of the season, you can walk right down the road. You don’t need to take any random country back roads or make a special trip (although you certainly can do that) in order to get the real pretty views. And you can get everything range of colors at any times, from the lighter green, to yellow, to the fiery reds, and brick oranges, all peppered against a brilliant blue sky or overcast gray. It’s truly incredible. 

Finally, let’s talk ambiance. 

Autumn is all about getting cozy. It’s about family, friends, changing weather, and the upcoming holiday season. It’s full of celebration and nobody does celebration better than Bavaria. Autumn, at times, almost feels like, after the grueling heat and harvest filled months of summer have ended and everything can take a deep breath again. Not only can you breathe, but you can celebrate, and Germany sure knows how to celebrate. 

***Obviously celebration will look drastically different this year due to Covid-19. I haven’t seen much about how some of the festivals that we attended last year will happen or not happen this year, but I am looking to see what I can find, and, in the meantime, I have linked a couple of posts from last year.***

The season kicks off with Almatrieb, which is a festival to celebrate the cattle (and sometimes sheep too) coming down from the mountains in anticipation of the colder weather. The cows are decorated with floral crowns, given massive bells, and then paraded on their route to pasture. It’s a massive party, which you can read about HERE. Everyone knows about Oktoberfest, the biggest party in Germany (which actually occurs in late September-usually ending the first week in October). We attended Munich’s Oktoberfest last year and had a blast (you can read that post HERE), but there are also a lot of smaller versions of Munich’s AND there are a multitude of other festivals throughout Autumn. One that I went to last year was Ertedankfest (you can read about that weekend HERE), which is a celebration of the harvest, complete with dried hops decorations. There are also the obvious, plentiful, markets in every town. 

Overall, Autumn in Bavaria is the perfect combination of sunny crisp days and grey rainy days, celebration of the changing season and getting cozy in our own homes. I don’t know that I’ve experienced the perfection of Autumn until I’ve been here. Maybe it’s just the changing season, the sentimental nature of who I am, or just the love I have for Bavaria, but I have truly found my happy spot of the year. 

Fasching 2020

Here in Bavaria (a state within Germany) they are highly religious. Every holiday is celebrated with the appropriate parameters and one of those celebrations is Fasching, or Carnival. We experienced our first Fasching parade last year, but we were still so new that I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it much. Now, a year later I feel a bit more comfortable. I may not know all the ins and outs, but I feel a little bit more of a connection with the culture and having seen two very different parades, feel like chatting about it. This will be similar to my “Bavarian Weekend” post, in which I talk about some of the traditions of the region that we live in.

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Fasching is also known as Carnival or Fastungnacht and refers to the time leading up to Lent. In much of Germany carnival season actually starts around Epiphany (January 6, also known as Three Kings Day) and continues through to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Most parades and parties occur in February, with many being the weekend right before Ash Wednesday. Overall though, the days of carnival signify a party; a last shebang if you will before the seriousness of Lent.

Carnival occurs across Germany, as well as Switzerland, Italy, some areas of Austria, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, but other countries have also adapted Carnival to their own traditions such as Latin America, and even New Orleans’ “Mardi Gras”. It didn’t really pick up much steam in regard to the United Kingdom or United States of America due to the history of Henry VIII moving away from the church and such. The history of Carnival (or of this style of celebration) can be traced back quite a ways, but the oldest mention is somewhere in the 13th century.

Basically, it is a chance to party and enjoy life, before repenting all the sins and it is very much enjoyed by all.

Last year we attended a small-town Fasching Parade which consisted mostly of very small floats being pulled by small tractors or by hand. All of the floats usually had some parody of local and international politics. All of the floats (whether about politics or not) all reflected what was trending in the world at the time of the parade or within the last year. For example, there was a cart referencing the Border Wall from last year. When attending a Fasching Parade or Event (they have balls and other parties as well), it is expected that you dress up. For the parade it is a chance to dress up in a costume of your favorite character and there is candy tossed for the kids, shots of alcohol for the adults.

So, last year’s small-town parade was a really nice introduction to the concept of carnival.

The kids got to experience the parade, load up on candy, and it wasn’t a “big production”. This year we went to a slightly bigger town (that is in fact closer to our house) and got a much bigger taste of what Fasching can actually be. We had so much fun getting swept away by the excitement of the crowd, the party atmosphere, and just the general feeling of “fun” that the Germans have when it comes to life.

At this year’s parade, we saw floats about Star Wars, Frozen, Vikings, Snow White, Coronavirus, and so much more. We collected an incredibly large amount of candy (that my kids will definitely take a year to eat), and I even got to have a shot.

The entire afternoon was set up as one big celebration and we definitely got a little swept away in the atmosphere. This year’s parade was exactly what we want when we look for these celebrations- not too small, but also not too big. There are much larger, much more well-known parades and parties that we could attend, but I like the small-town community feel of our neighboring larger towns. This is how I would recommend celebrating the Fasching or Carnival period. I say that, but I may have a larger plan for next year to attend one of the bigger ones in our area (bigger than this year), in order to experience what the larger one is like.

I don’t know if this post really went a direction that I intended it to, but I hope that you enjoyed learning a little bit more about Fasching and getting a little glimpse into some of the celebrations that we experience living here.

I Didn’t Give Germany A Chance

Untitled Design 7When we first started tossing around the idea of moving to Germany it felt surreal. The concept of actually living in Europe wasn’t something I could have wrapped my head around. I had been to England and Scotland when I was a baby, but Europe was this distant dream that I dreamed for a long time, but never really thought would be able to be a reality.

When we got orders, it still felt surreal. I couldn’t believe that this dream I had would be a reality. That we would be so blessed. The concept of being able to travel Europe, to go to all these countries was just too good to be true. Incredible. I thought of all the sights we could see, all the countries we would visit.

And I’ll be honest- I treated Germany as simply a location. A central spot that we could then travel out of. Not as a place to explore beyond a few historical landmarks. I knew about Germany, knew its history, it’s big cities, some of its culture (like Oktoberfest), and that was about it. I focused solely on EVERYWHERE else we could go, all the other things that we could see, all the dreams that would no longer be just dreams.

I now realize how much of a mistake this was.

Germany is stunning. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its own spots ,it doesn’t have troubles, but I definitely should have thought more about everything that we could do within its borders, rather than just looking outside the country. There is so much to see here, so many little holes in the wall spots that no one really thinks about that are just stunning. A lot of the little towns are old world quaint and each has its own history. Take Tubingen (HERE) or even Weltenburg Abbey (HERE), we had considered these both a nice little day trip, but both are so perfectly European and German, and I loved it. This was something I hadn’t really thought about when we got orders. The history here goes back much further than I had even anticipated (yep, I’m naïve) and there is a never-ending number of things to do and places to see.

And, since we can’t ignore the elephant in the room…Germany has such a way with its own history. They have quite the history here, quite the troubled past, but they’ve managed to settle with it. One of the things that has stuck with me in our time here so far is how they handle their own history. They don’t hide behind it; they don’t bring it up time and time again. They acknowledge what happened, they acknowledge the hurt and pain that was caused, they punish those responsible. They take steps to make reparations, they don’t destroy everything relating to their own history, choosing to make the most incredible memorials that I’ve seen out of the pieces. The Berlin Wall Documentation Center, The Berlin Wall, The Eastside Gallery, Dachau Concentration Camps, Nuremberg Rally Grounds, Nuremberg Court House…the list goes on. All of these places are landmarks, marking down what happened for everyone to see. They’ve made changes, they’ve learned, anyone who visits these places learns. They move forward.

We can all take a lesson from that.

Not to mention just the sheer amount of history here. In a city right near us they are excavating bodies from Roman times and have a set of Roman archways from… It’s incredible to think that some of the places that we see have that much history.

We won’t even start to get into the culture of this country. Festival season is such a fun, warm and welcoming time, not to mention the season we are about to go into…the most wonderful time of year. The way of life, the idea of a slower pace. We live in the countryside (something we’ve been wanting for a long time) and the number of animals and crops that we see daily is something else. It’s been an incredible bit of time and one that we are looking forward to continuing for the next couple of years.

I’ve found a true home in a place that I hate to admit that I discounted. I figured it would be a home base for everywhere, but we’ve really made a home here in such a short time. I won’t discount a place again.

 

A Bavarian Weekend – September 2019

The last weekend in September we got to do several different local cultural things. There wasn’t enough to do a single post for each event, and since they all occurred over the same weekend, I figured I would condense them into a single “Bavarian Weekend” blog post. We had so much fun and I am excited to share these two events with you.

The first event we attended was at the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Regensburg Germany. This was a light show that was displayed against the Regensburg Cathedral (known as the Dom St. Peter or Regensburg Dom, the second being the most common name, in German) and it depicted the history of the cathedral and church. This cathedral isn’t the original church, as the original church burned in 1273. This was the third fire and this one rendered the church a complete loss. Thankfully, Regensburg was able to rebuild and build an absolutely gorgeous cathedral. In 1869, the two towers of the church were finally completed, and the light show we attended was to celebrate 150 years of the completion of the towers.

 

We ended up seeing the light show twice as my husband was not able to go with us on the first evening. Setting the history of the cathedral aside, the show itself was absolutely incredible. To have a) the backdrop of the cathedral (which is incredible as it is), b)the musical choices which matched perfectly with the feelings in each section, and c) the sheer enormity that must have been creating and engineering the light portion of the show. It was an experience that we will not be forgetting anytime soon.

With the end of summer/beginning of Autumn it becomes festival season here in Germany. Obviously there is the Almabtrieb (which you can read about HERE) and then Oktoberfest (blog post coming next week), but there is also a little holiday called Erntedankfest. Erntedankfest is the German Thanksgiving or Harvest Festival. It is celebrated at the end of the Harvest season typically on the first Sunday in October. This year the official date was October 6, but one of the little towns semi near us held their festival on the last Sunday of September.

The holiday/festival is intended to give thanks to the gods for a good, bountiful harvest. There is almost always a mass or church service at the start of the festival, that can also have a procession during the service through the town. There will also always be “bounty” at the center of the church and town square. This bounty highlights a “Harvest Crown” made of wheat and a large amount of produce from the season.

The practice of Thanksgiving, or a Harvest Festival, can be dated back to the Ancient Roman Empire (!) and is practiced all over the world with slight variations based on climate, region, and even religion. Fun fact: in 1934 Thanksgiving became an official holiday in Germany occurring every year on the first Sunday after September 29.

The Erntedankfest that we attended was in a little town in the heart of Hops Farming. They had local performers for music and dancing (although we didn’t get to stay long enough to see a lot of the performances), as well as food and drinks. We treated ourselves to a meander through the craft booths seeing everything from handmade mugs, handmade wood carved items (with him carving in front of us), to jewelry, and dirndls. Each of the booths were decorated with over harvested hops, which added such a nice touch, and spoke to the local farms. Everyone was dressed in their best (which was lederhosen and dirndl’s) and we simply soaked up all of the culture. There was an air of gathering, freedom, and happiness to this festival.

We treated ourselves to a giant pretzel (which was a struggle to eat split between 5!) and I treated myself to a couple new mugs. We had glorious blue skies and sunshine and it was just a really fun way to end the weekend on a high note. The kids loved seeing all of the booths and dancing along with the music.

And that was our Bavarian Weekend! I hope you enjoyed seeing some of these cultural events through our eyes.