Bamberg in Germany’s Franconia region is an amazing UNESCO village. The centerpiece is a stunning building that straddles the river – and although it’s not usual to find churches and cathedrals this old, in fact the Altes Rathaus dates back to the fifteenth century, which is quite amazing for a building.
Here is one view:
And here is the much more impressive view:
And here is the final view, showing the stunning painted facade:
An historian once told me that painted buildings like this only came into fashion in the eighteen century in Europe, when the paint technology was sufficiently advanced to allow them to do this.
On a recent trip to the Franconian village of Bamberg I stumbled across this while on a long hike in the woods:
An old and often historically old marker like this, with a shell, symbolizes that you are on the world famous but “Ken disappointing” religious pilgrimage route, dating back to the early Middle Ages and leading to a cathedral in Galicia, Spain.
It made my day! I try to hike sections of Jakobsweg whenever I get the chance, and in fact a short segment passes through Winterthur in Switzerland and is often a part of my 15 km daily Nordic walk. So I was quite thrilled to find this very unexpected branch of the trail!
Well, I was not surprised when my eyes sometimes later caught this fountain in downtown Bamberg, also adorned with a shell:
Don’t get me long – I love hiking the Jakobsweg, as countless people have been on these very same trails dating back many hundreds of years. But I say “Ken disappointing” because, after many years on my bucket list, I recently had the chance to visit the destination of the pilgrimage route, a cathedral in the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela – and I was thoroughly disappointed.
It’s on my bucket list to do a bit more research here. Did Santiago himself pass through Bamberg at some point?
The more you travel, the more things you don’t know – so the stupider you feel. At least in my case.
Here is a barge approaching the bridge I am standing on, in central Bamberg, a UNESCO village in Franconia, Germany:
And here is the same barge, passing directly under me, carrying what looks like a bit of iron ore:
So what makes me feel so stupid?
The name of this river is the Regnitz. It caught my attention because of a nearby town called Pulsnitz. And when I looked it up on Wikipedia, in fact the Regnitz is formed by the confluence of – and this is no joke – the Rednitz and Pegnitz.
So, what in the heck is a Nitz?!?!?
I asked a number of locals, including a cab driver who spoke a very intense form of the Franconian dialect (itself a pleasure to hear!) as well as very well educated IT specialists. Sadly, nobody could tell me.
I’ve lived in Germany and Europe for a long time, but I never stop learning new things.
While driving aimlessly around the German countryside near Bamberg I was attracted to cathedral I spotted from a distance, nestled in a sleepy farming village of very few inhabitants but very many tractors:
It turns out this is no ordinary cathedral, but rather a magnificient example of something I had never heard about before, a Kirchenburg – roughly translated as “church fortress.”
You can certainly see it has a church:
But as you walk around, you see it is indeed a church squarely within a fortress:
And not only that, but it turns out this is the third largest such Kirchenberg in Germany!