Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg and More
I have said it before and I will likely repeat it again before I am finished describing this marvelous adventure. Viking does things right! By now, we had become pretty well adjusted to those parts of the day that were truly routine. However, there is much more than routine when you are on a Viking river cruise. In my mind, routine means that meals will be served at specified times, staterooms will be serviced pretty much any time the occupants are not in them, the ship will make all port stops on time, and guides, buses, and other support services will be ready to meet guests as they disembark per the published schedule.
While that seems simple, there is an incredible amount of work that goes unseen by the guests to keep the routine well, routine.
With all this in mind, sometime in the early morning of September 16, Viking Bragi entered a lock. While in the lock and secured, an acclaimed artistic glass blower along with his equipment and a good bit of completed work that would be available for purchase all were brought on board. Now, the clever guest would have been able to figure out this was going to happen because the Viking Daily for September 16 had the following entry.
10:00 AM-11:00 AM Live Demonstration: Glassblowing: See a traditional German Glassmaking family
create an exquisite work of art from industrial glass in this captivating demonstration in the Lounge.
We had also been told by David our cruise director that the event would take place in the morning during his daily Port Talk on the evening of September 15.
I doubt that any of the guests gave much thought to how they pulled this sort of thing off. The Viking Daily didn’t include a brief stop to pick up the glassblower. He had not been seen on board after getting underway on the 15th. My point in all this is by this time in the trip we had all become accustomed to events occurring as scheduled and none of us guests needed to worry about the logistics. Viking had long before worked out the logistics and hidden all the worry from their guests in the most charming of ways
As indicated in the Viking Daily the demonstration took place in the lounge. While the seating in the lounge was arranged in a manner that we could all see quite well what the artist was doing, the room was not a convenient place for high-quality photographs. Not only that, his demonstration lent itself more to video recordings vs still photography. My camera was in our stateroom and my phone stayed in my pocket so I wouldn’t miss any part of the demonstration.
The glass blower was Karl Ittig II of Glass-House – Wertheim. Karl is the sixth generation of the family business. His son, Hans-Joachim Ittig has established himself as the 8th generation and he has a son who will likely keep the family business tradition going well into the future.
Karl is not only an expert glassblower capable of making beautiful art pieces and functional glass items, but he is also a teacher of glass-blowing art and an entertainer. He uses scientific-grade glass that when properly annealed is nearly indestructible. His precision work results in functional scientific glass items as well as artistic yet functional items such as the floating thermometer I purchased.
I have included two links below. The first is a short family history of the Ittig family of glassblowers:
The second is a short YouTube video taken on another Viking River Cruise. Although it is very short it at least provides a glimpse at this great artist at work.
Immediately following the demonstration we all had the opportunity to purchase some of Karl’s work. Connie and I did our best to keep his business afloat.
During the very next lock operation, Karl and all his gear left the ship. A great treat for all the guests who attended and a marvelous bit of logistics by Viking and Ittig Glassblowing.
Early in the afternoon, we made a brief stop in Hassfurt where those going on either of the two excursions would get off the ship. Connie and I had chosen the Bamberg Walking Tour with Dani as our local guide. Once again, the knowledge, experience, and efficiency of Viking came into play for the afternoon. From Hassfurt to Bamberg by coach is about 30 minutes, but by the river, it is 5.5 hours. Since we were not on board for that transit I can only imagine there must be a lot of locks and probably a good bit of river traffic along this stretch of the Main River.
Our walking tour was about 90 minutes in length and we snaked our way through the historic parts of Bamberg learning of its history and taking in the sights and sounds of a rather bustling city.
The city of about 78,000 people sits near the confluence of Regnitz and Main Rivers. The town dates back to the 9th century. Its old town preserves structures from the 11th to 19th centuries, including the muraled Altes Rathaus (town hall) which occupies an island in the Regnitz and is reached by arched bridges.
Bamberg escaped destruction during World War II primarily because it was not an industrial city.
As we walked into the medieval heart of Bamberg, one of the first buildings we saw was the Old Slaughter House. This image is of the main entrance to the building which is now part of the University of Bamberg. The oxen statue above the door must have provided a good landmark. While in operation as a slaughterhouse the waste from the process was dumped into the river. The building sits at the bank of the river.
I have no idea how old this boat winch is, but it certainly looks old.
A better look at the boat winch.
The oldest section of Bamberg lies on the west bank of the Regnitz River. Also on the west side of the river is the Bamberg Cathedral. On the east bank of the river lies a flat area known as the Burgerstadt (borough), home to a pedestrian zone where the 17th-century baroque St. Martin’s Church is located. In the 14th century, the citizens of Bamberg wanted to build a city hall that served both sides of the town. To achieve their goal, they built a bridge across the river, and on a manmade island in the middle of the river, they built the Rathaus or Town Hall which was in use for 350 years until it was replaced by The Neues Rathaus (The New Town Hall) in 1736. In 1746 the original building was rebuilt with baroque and rococo touches added in 1756. It is now a museum boasting beautiful frescoes and the Ludwig Collection of porcelain and earthenware.
This shot was made from the bridge as we approached the Rathaus. The murals were part of the baroque touches added in 1756. The artist, Johann Anwandar painted recreated scenes on both sides of the building.
One of the features that Johann Anwandar included in his mural was a leg that appears to be sticking out through the wall of the building. This was the sort of three-dimensional additions he was known for. Like many artists of the time, he also included an image of himself somewhere in the mural. I was unable to identify it. By the way, the leg is below the fourth window from the left of the image above.
The balcony on the Rathaus.
This was the sight coming off the bridge on the other side. It is important to note that this city was not bombed during the war. Therefore, most buildings in this part of town are really old.
This is the front of the Schlenkerla Pub, with the usual crowd out front. The fellow in the lower left of the frame was our local guide for the day, Dani. The Schlenkerla was founded in 1405 at this location and was also the brewery but in 1936 the brewery was moved up the hill to Stephansburg due to increased demand. This brewery makes the world-class Rauchbier. Rauchbier is different from most beers in that it is made with malt that has been dried over open flames. The common English name for this beer is toasted beer. It is unique and very good.
Most all brewpubs have signs similar to this one outside the establishment. The signs warrant some explanation. The star on the left edge of this photo is called The Brewer’s Star.
The Brewer’s star was the official insignia of the Brewer’s Guild as early as the 1500s, and its association with beer and brewing can be traced back even further. Digging deeper into the past you’ll find that what is today a star didn’t start out that way. In about the 15th century, when alchemy – a medieval science and speculative philosophy that aimed to turn common elements into precious metals – was still a thing, and triangles were symbols that were strongly associated with it. One triangle, pointed skyward, symbolized fire; another triangle, pointed at the earth, symbolized water. Superimposed on one another, they achieved balance.
It also bears noting that the fire triangle, called the “blade,” correspondingly represented the masculine element of air, and the water triangle, called the “chalice,” represented the feminine element of the earth. Interestingly, this has been compared to the yin-yang symbol of Eastern alchemy, which also achieves harmony and balance, or the unity of opposites.
From the pub, where we did not stop (yet), we continued our walking tour toward the Bamberg Cathedral. That means we did some uphill walking. The beer at the pub was looking better with each meter in elevation change we made. It was difficult on this tour to keep people out of my photos. There is a bonus in this one. That is Connie taking her version from this same vantage point.
This is the entrance to the courtyard and bishop’s residences and eventually the cathedral itself.
As was the case at most of the cathedrals we visited there were throngs of people milling about and most were on organized tours similar to ours. We got to recognize the various tour companies by their version of the audio systems used to quietly communicate to the group what they were looking at.
This plus the next four photos show the details of the stone sculptures that guard the entrance to Bamberg Cathedral. No further words are necessary.
I was unable to get far enough back to get the entire entrance in the frame without people getting into the shot.
As you can probably imagine, I sometimes get carried away with my photography and miss out on some of what was being said regarding what I was shooting. Sometimes I get lucky and there is a clue in the photo. The only clue I have for this photo is that I know it is of a wooden transition under an arch. One purpose of the arch was to protect a passage between buildings on the cathedral grounds. Why it was made of hexagonal cross-cut logs was explained, but… That said I know it was a ground shot because I cropped out my feet.
It is not my habit to photograph the insides of cathedrals and the Bamberg Cathedral would not be an exception. However, there are some great views of the city to be had from the cathedral complex.
In this photo, the old and the new come together. There is a modern tower crane in the left background of this image.
After the organized walking tour we had about two and a half hours of leisure time before we would see the Viking Bragi again. The guided portion of our day ended in the gardens of Neue Residenz (New Palace). The palace was the seat of Bamberg’s prince bishops until 1802.
Sadly, I didn’t get any really good photos from the gardens. As beautiful as they were, the bright sun made it hard to compose a good shot. The flowers had peaked a few days before we arrived making closeup photography unreasonable from an artistic point of view.
The place we exited the gardens was not where we had entered, so there were a few minutes of muted panic as we tried to determine how to get back to the bus to take us to the heart of the town.
Ultimately, we found the brewhouse with the famous Schlenkerla smoked beer served from traditional wooden barrels without the aid of alley gas. We purchased our beer through a small window that, while inside the building was not in the actual bar. The bar was on the other side of the window. Once beer was in hand we joined the locals and many of our fellow guests outside the bar in the street to enjoy the weather, beer, and this very local tradition of meeting one’s friends for a smoked beer on the street.
Connie’s photo of barrels of beer being moved from storage to the bar at Schlenkerla Pub.
Connie’s photo from inside Schlenkerla Pub. While I didn’t go into this room, I would have to guess that this is a ceramic heater that is actually warmed from the other side of the wall. We saw examples of this sort of heating system in other places of the same age.
Connie’s photo of me getting my beer through the window.
This, the most important of Connie’s phone photos was snapped by some random local. This is Kathy and Carlos Mejia of Southport, North Carolina, and Connie and me in front of the Schlenkerla Pub doing what the locals do. We, at least Carlos and I, were enjoying a Rouchbier. Interestingly enough, this beer had tones familiar to me from some of the craft beers I have enjoyed around the United States. Many locals in Branberg seem to think it is an unusual-tasting brew.
We returned to the ship shortly after it moored in Brangerg and almost immediately we were underway headed towards Nuremberg.
On the morning of September 17, we boarded a bus with our local guide Siegrun (Ziggy) for a rather fast-paced bus tour of the city before disembarking for a walking tour. Ziggy was quick to point out that while Nuremberg is best known for the Nazi activities that occurred there during the lead-up to World War II, the city has a rich history dating back to 1050. Between then and 1571 the city expanded and rose dramatically in importance due to its location on key trade routes. However, over the long history of this city, there were plenty of events to not brag about. In 1298 the Jewish people of the town were falsely accused of having desecrated the host, and 698 of them were killed in one of the many Rintfleisch massacres. German persecution of Jewish people would, as we know, culminate in the Holocaust under the reign of Hitler. With all this as background, Ziggy did her best to acknowledge the horridness that was part of the city’s and country’s past while also educating us on the cultural positives of Nuremberg.
Volumes can and have been written about the plight of the Jewish people in this city and the broader region. I will leave it to interested persons to research on their own and stick with what made us smile on our tour.
The highlight of our walking tour was Nuremberg Castle. Like all good castles, this one sits upon a hill providing 360° views of the surroundings. Fortunately for us, our coach dropped us off very near the entrance to the castle grounds preventing a very tough uphill walk.
The castle is quite a sprawling collection of buildings with a rock wall as a protective barrier from would-be intruders. During medieval times the castle was considered to be one of Europe’s most formidable fortifications.
The castle was no match for twentieth-century bombs and was pretty well laid to waste during WWII. Following the war, the castle was restored under the direction of Rudolf Esterer and Julius Lincke to its historical form. That restoration included the complete reconstruction of the Luginsland tower which had been completely destroyed.
The castle is owned by the state of Bavaria today.
Linked below is an aerial view of the castle I borrowed from the internet. The photo is the work of Hajo Dietz
By Hajo Dietz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23203556
Here are my photos of this very interesting and complex structure.
This is Ziggy, our local guide for the bus and walking tour of Nuremberg. The bus tour did not lend itself to any sort of photography, but we did see the infamous Nazi Rally Grounds which are being restored to remind people of how bad things can be when allowed to get worse. The bus tour also included the famous Nuremberg Courthouse where the Nazi war criminals were tried. That courthouse remains in use to this day.
Our visit to Nuremberg was chilly and wet. During the tour of the castle, there was a strong breeze making for a bit of misery. Here is a portion of our group waiting for the rest after a much-needed comfort station stop.
A look at the flag flying over the watch tower gives one an idea of how windy it was. Also, the reconstruction efforts can be seen in this image through the different colored stones that make up the watch tower.
Taken from inside the gates of the castle, this photo shows some of the architectural features of the complex.
The Sinwell Stephen Tower was constructed in the second half of the 13th century. The tower was named after its cylindrical form: “sinwell” in Middle High German means approximately “extremely round”. The tower served as a “keep”, in other words, it was primarily built for status and defense purposes and probably functioned mainly as an optical deterrent. Because of its considerable height, attackers could be detected quickly. The original entrance which can be seen bricked over was about halfway up the tower. Let your imagination guide you as to the reason(s) for that. Some say it may have been for use as a repository, as a treasury, or as a prison. It certainly would be useful in keeping attackers from gaining entrance as long as the rope ladder was not dangling from the entrance. While much of the castle was destroyed during WWll, this tower was not.
These two images are views of Nuremberg from the castle. Again, the contrast between the old and the present can be seen from the construction cranes in the background.
Not pictured here but certainly noteworthy is the myriad of tunnels below the old city that were built as beer and wine cellars before the days of refrigeration. The temperature in the tunnels was suitable for keeping the beer chilled to European standards albeit much warmer than Americans prefer our beers. In the late 30s when citizens all over Germany began to realize that Hitler intended to start a war, there was great concern about all the artwork and important artifacts housed in museums, churches, and private homes. Many of those were quietly moved to safe places such as the beer tunnels for safekeeping. This was true not just in Nuremberg, but essentially all over Germany. Other parts of the country had different types of safe hiding places, but all had the same idea to keep them safe from destruction or theft by the fuhrer.
We were back on the ship in time for lunch. Following lunch, I napped while Connie attended an onboard lecture on Bavaria. She didn’t share.
The ship was underway just after 2 PM bound for Regensburg, Germany.
On the morning of September 18, we had one of the most important onboard presentations we would have for the entire journey. Our Program Director, David had an hour-long presentation with slides and video of the many types of cruises Viking currently offers. It was an impressive seminar for sure. We learned about the new polar explorer ships that are coming online which will give people an opportunity to visit both poles in luxury and get up close and personal to life on the ice and below the surface of the polar oceans. There are also several riverboat offerings in the United States as well as well-advertised ones in Europe such as the one we were on. Finally, they also have a fleet of ocean liners that share the Viking philosophy of traveling on the water as a means to expand one’s knowledge of the world we all share. That said, the Viking ocean ships are much smaller than the companies such as Holland America, Princess, and others who seem to concentrate the onboard time on entertainment vs cultural education. I do not mean to demean the “conventional” cruise ship industry. I only point out that their offerings have different goals than Viking’s.
By 1 PM we were safely moored in Regensburg where we went on yet another walking tour. Allow me to pause briefly here to let anyone who cares know that during this entire trip Connie was nursing failing knees that are scheduled to be replaced this autumn and winter and I was suffering through what seemed to be a never-ending road to recovery from foot surgery and a partially torn Achilles Tendon. We both wondered how we would hold up during all the walking tours we had signed up for. By this point in the cruise, Connie was doing far better than I was at pain management. She had been treated just prior to leaving home and I was reluctantly taking ibuprofen as necessary to keep my pain at bay. I worried that the cobblestone streets and sidewalks would give me fits, but as it turned out they were actually beneficial because of the constantly changing micro twists of the muscles and tendons in my feet. On different days one or the other of us had to slow down for the other and I was always very keen to get off my feet at the end of the day. All in all, we did quite well.
Regensburg is another very old German town. The first settlements in the area date back to the Stone Age. The oldest Celtic name given to a settlement near Regensburg was Radasbona, a site where a Roman fort was built around AD 90
In 179, a major new Roman fort, called Castra Regina (“fortress by the river Regen”), was built for Legio lll Italicas during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It was an important camp at the northernmost point on the Danube.
As the centuries passed, Regensburg thrived. During WWll the city suffered very little bomb damage. At the time the city was home to a Meseerschmitt BF 109 aircraft factory and an oil refinery, which were bombed by the Allies on August 17, 1943, in the Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission and on February 5, 1945, during the Oil Campaign. Although both targets were badly damaged, Regensburg was mostly spared. The nearly intact medieval city center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our visit coincided with a cold and windy day. The walking tour was fairly fast-paced making stopping for lots of photos difficult. Here are the best of the few images I was able to capture
This is Sylvia our local Regensburg guide. Notice how warmly she is dressed. There was a reason. It was a cold and blustery afternoon walking tour.
The Stone Bridge of Regensburg is one of the iconic landscapes of this very old city. The bridge was built across the Danube between 1135 and 1146. There is a legend that the bridge builder and the cathedral builder (who were apprentice and master) had a bet as to who would finish first. When the building of the cathedral progressed faster than that of the bridge, the bridge builder made a pact with the Devil: the Devil would aid him in exchange for the first three souls (or the first eight feet) to cross the bridge. The Devil helped as requested, and the bridge was finished first. But the bridge builder sent a rooster, a hen, and a dog across the bridge first. A statue of a falling man on the cathedral is said to represent the master throwing himself off in reaction. Enraged, the Devil attempted to destroy the bridge but failed, but that is why it is bent. In fact, the bridge was already complete when construction began on the cathedral in 1273. Some legends just don’t stand up well to the facts.
Porta Praetoria – gate in the northern wall of the Roman military camp. The wall dates back to 179 AD and many segments of it were incorporated into medieval Regensburg and are now in modern Regensburg. The massive stone arch is very impressive indeed. I also found the multi-colored cobblestones to add a touch of color to the otherwise bland setting.
More of the Roman Wall.
The rectangular slot in the rock pictured here was used as mechanical aid in the process of rock mason construction.
This is a typical street in Old Town Regensburg.
The narrow streets allow little light to get to the street. Not that it would have mattered on this chilly day.
The businesses in these tight quarters were actually quite nice looking.
Goliath House – The name of the building says it all.
We tried two local beers in Regensburg. We shared them in order to make sure we would be able to find our way back to the ship.
Both beers were quite good, but I found them to be stronger than what I had become accustomed to drinking during the trip to this date.
By now Connie and I had decided we needed to be tasting the local beers in each city visited. We had been unable to for some of our previous stops for timing reasons or our unwritten and dare I say silly policy of not drinking before noon. This tour ended at 3:30 in the afternoon and underway was not until about 6:30. So, we braved the wind and cold and found a bar/cafe that served the local beers and ordered one of each. I must have drunk more than half of each, because between the beer in town and the one or two in the lounge before dinner and whatever I drank at dinner I was hard-pressed to recount in my notes the highlights of the day’s tour. Here is what I wrote in my journal.
“Following lunch, we did a walking tour of Regensburg led by Silvia, The tour included Ancient Roman works and medieval German
works and how to tell them apart. It was a good walk with a lot of information. Once the official part ended, we found a
place where we could sample two of the local beers resulting in memory loss and incoherent writing. –
Hopefully, I will do better tomorrow!”
I have far exceeded my self-imposed 2000 words, but I did cover three days. Up next are Passau, Germany, Melk, Austria, and maybe Vienna, Austria.