Today’s theme is Bamberg and local German culture. This post continues the series describing our experiences on AmaWaterway’s Europe’s Rivers and Castles aboard the AmaDante. You can read the previous day’s post here.
Morning on the Main River
This morning we continued cruising down the Main River. There are so many locks on this river – each lock requires the ship to stop, wait for the gates to close, wait for the other side to fill with water, then wait for the opposite gates to open. So sailing along the river can be slow. It can also be a little bumpy, though you only feel it at night. (nothing more than a little felling – quite innocuous). And while virtually all the rivers we’ve cruised on had locks, none had as many as the Main. And so it does give this cruise a different character.
Since tomorrow we leave the ship, today’s morning included a disembarkation briefing. One thing I really like about the cruise ships is that the disembarkation process is so easy. You can either buy transfers from AmaWaterways or you can use a taxi. The cruise manager actually arranges the taxis the night before. Luggage is placed outside your cabin 30 minutes prior to your departure and you simply walk off the ship and into the awaiting taxi with the luggage already loaded. Easy.
After the briefing we hear a very interesting lecture on the European Union. The talk focused on the EU’s history as well as some of its current tensions. Very interesting and topical. I wish all the US voters could hear this as many European countries have dealt with many of the same concerns currently tugging the US in opposite directions. We can always learn from others.
Immediately following the lecture was a German Furhshoppen. This was basically a chance to sample local pretzels, frankfurters (cheese inside), pretzel bread sandwiches and of course fresh German beer. This was accompanied with classic om-pah music and local costumes. While the food and drink were surely good, it was just a nice touch to bring some of the local culture on board. Very festive.We actually did have lunch afterwards – salad and soup was fine.
We then arrived in Bamberg which is a UNESCO city. Bamberg is built on seven hills like Rome but truly is a Franconian center piece. Very little of the city was harmed during the war so there’s a great sampling of buildings from the 14th – 19th centuries. The bishop’s courtyard and cathedral really impressed us on the walking tour. Also offered was a culinary tour. Walking through this area really transported us to the 14th century when the bishop controlled most of the wealth and power in the country. You could see the entry gates used by the carriages coming into the household, the blacksmith’s station to make and repair horseshoes, stables on the first floor and residences and offices on the second.
A new grander residence was built next door in the 18th century. The new residence includes features like a rose garden (4500 plants) and a parquet type wood floor under the carriage entrance to minimize noise (the outside approaches are the typical cobblestone which makes a racket under horseshoes). Overall it was built to impart wealth and power.
The old town hall was built on a island between two halves of the city. One side was the older section of tanners and millers. On the other side were the newer side with merchants. The building symbolically and physically bridged the two sides of the city. Perhaps a lesson for today’s politicians?
Bamberg is famous for Rauchbier which is a smokey tasting beer. We were introduced to this last year by Don Russell (aka Joe Sixpack) on one of our beer themed river cruises. I didn’t care for it then. But tasting it in Bamberg was another matter altogether – it was a more subtle taste and of course tasting it where it was made definitely enhanced the experience. After our tasting, we headed back for the ship.
The remainder of the day was spent packing, checking out, exchanging email addresses and of course eating. Dinner at the captain’s table resulted in very nice conversation not only with the Captain but with several other well traveled passengers. One was from Israel, another from Florida and another couple from British Columbia. Everyone had unique experiences so it was fun to compare notes. The Captain was from Serbia but was on vacation when duty called since the usual captain was ill at the time. He was anxious to get back to his family to be sure. The Captain discussed taking charge of the crew with a different style than the previous captain. He also said that the meandering rivers were much harder on the crew than rivers with many locks – something I didn’t really expect.
What a great day to end the cruise. The morning was leisurely (didn’t have to get up early), informative (lecture on the EU) and fun (German food and drink). The afternoon was great as well since Bamberg was historical and tasty (Rauschbier). So is river cruising really: leisurely, informative, fun, historic and tasty? I actually think that’s a good summary of our entire week. Some river cruises are more active, others more historic, others more food / wine oriented. This one – AmaWaterways Europe’s Rivers and Castles had a very nice blend. Interesting since we really only traveled through a single country. This is testament to Germany’s diversity and AmaWaterway’s understanding and presentation of that diversity.