I have been to Germany twice before and Munich once. Four years ago I had 4 nights in the city, using at as a base for day trips to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Neuschwanstein and Dachau. Again this year I used it as a day trip base. It is in such a fabulous location with an excellent public transport and day tour network.
Trying to decide which day trips to take went around in circles, like the rest of my planning. On my first visit I used tour companies for my day trips but being a bit more of a seasoned traveller I was wanting to do my own this time. I eventually decided that my first day would take me to Bamberg. I had pre-booked fast ICE trains each way, pre-booked to get cheaper tickets. Buying train tickets for German trains is simple via the Bahn website. Like many European countries there are two tiers of trains. Regional trains that are slower have fixed cheaper prices and fast trains that have fluid pricing, the earlier you buy the better. I went for the faster train because Bamberg is quite a distance from Munich and I didn’t want to spend all day on trains.
It was only a ten minute walk from my hotel to the HBF, the hautbahnhof or main station where the intercity trains departed from. The station is huge, well set out and clean. The fast trains all have numbered carriages clearly marked on your ticket and the platforms have indicators along them showing just where each carriage will be, so you can easily position yourself to get straight onto the correct carriage. It is a sophisticated network that works really well.
I arrived in Bamberg a bit before 9am on a Sunday. My first stop was inside the station at a pastry shop. If there is one thing I love about German trains more than their efficiency and quality of service it is the pastries that you can buy at most of the stations. They are utterly delicious.
Bamberg is known for a few things. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, mostly undamaged by WWII so it has wonderfully preserved architecture. It has a quirky Town Hall building, built over water between the two sides of the city, supposedly to stop ether side from claiming superiority. And it has rauchbier, unique smoked beer produced at a few local breweries.
So why did I choose Bamberg? It looked like a good city to photograph and I was curious to try the rauchbier. I was given some good advice on an online forum about how to walk the city to best see the sights, so armed with a map of those landmarks and fueled by the pastry, I headed off.
It is about a 20 minute walk from the station to the Town Hall building and it gradually gets more picturesque as you get closer.
Early in the day there weren’t a lot of people around but it quickly got busy with tour groups starting to fill the old town. The Town Hall building was the centre of attention.
After a good wander around the historic centre I stopped for lunch, after first purchasing my travel companion for the trip. On each of my last two trips I have bought a small toy for my youngest son which accompanies me on my trip, features in a few photographs, and becomes his when I return home. This time I knew his toy would have to involve lederhosen, given that I was starting in Bavaria. The local souvenir shop did not disappoint.
Lunch was at one of the most famous breweries in Bamberg. Schlenkerla was established in 1405 and produces rauchbier, the distinctive smoked beer of Bamberg. It also has a restaurant serving traditional food. When in Rome… I tried the rauchbier, which certainly had a strong smoky flavour, and a stuffed onion which was delicious.
After lunch I continued to wander, to the Little Venice area, complete with gondolas, up to the Bamberger Dom, the city Cathedral, flanked by the Residenz, home to the Bishops. I was fortunate to visit the Dom at a time of day when there were stunning sun rays lighting up the building. From there I walked up to the monastery for amazing views across the city.
After obligatory holiday gelato, I finished up my day by wandering back through the historic centre, getting some photos in different light to earlier in the day. By now there were tour groups everywhere around the Town Hall and I retreated back to another part of town to sit down and people watch, have my first spritz of the trip and an early dinner of flammkuchen before my train back to Munich.
Doing a Bamberg day trip from Munich was a long day but well worth the travel. I’d recommend booking ahead and taking the fast trains, I’d also recommend arriving early, because it really did fill up with tour groups later in the day. There is plenty to see to fill a day, and the food and beer is great.
Arriving back in Munich late, very satisfied with my first full day in Europe, it was pretty much fall into bed still undecided about what to do the following day. Did I mention how organised my planning was?! Second Munich day trip coming up in next post.