This morning we had the scheduled walking tour of Bamberg with the whole complement of (remaining) guests from the ship. I say "remaining," because quite a few of our compatriots made the decision to jump ship due to the changes brought on by the flood waters that are still ravaging parts of the countries bordering on the Danube. With some folks it was medical concerns about being on a bus for the travel necessary to reach Munich, Vienna and Budapest that resulted in their having to forego the balance of this trip; that sort of thing is completely understandable. For others, however, it appeared to be more that they weren't getting exactly what they wanted, and they simply didn't have it in them to make the best of an unfortunate situation. I, for one, am delighted that we made the decision to soldier on with so many new-found friends; quite frankly, it has been relaxing and fun, which is what I was looking for in the first place! (Add to that the fact that, with the 75% credit toward another river journey, we will be able to return, and you have the VERY best of a bad set of circumstances...)
Once again, we had a personable young lady named Ann Marie who walked with us through the historic center city of Bamberg, another UNESCO World Heritage site. In fact, this was the first instance where an entire city was accorded such a status. The Center City radiates outward from a sculpture of Neptune (called a "Gabelmoo" in the local dialect) who presides over what is known as the Green Center. Today being Saturday, the Green Center lived up to its billing by playing host to numerous stands where local farmers were selling their lovely fresh fruits and vegetables. Our wild Polish friend Taddeusz happily shared some of the most delicious strawberries I have ever tasted while we were gathered in the Green Center.
Bamberg, with its ideal location at the confluence of two large rivers, has a population of approximately 70,000, of which over 12,000 are college students. As you may imagine, this makes for a lot of partying, and the many beer gardens (supported by the highest per capita number of breweries in the world) are the settings for imbibing large quantities of the local "smoked" beer and dancing on a regular basis. These activities seem very apt in light of Bamberg's role as a purveyor of high-quality hops to the rest of the world.
The city's history that dates back well over 1,300 years. Henry II, crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in 1002, hailed from this city and intended to make it the capital of the Empire, but this went the way of so many other good intentions. He and his wife Cunegonde are the only royal couple to have both been canonized as saints. But perhaps the loveliest thing about this pair was that, in an era when royal marriages were arranged to fulfill political aspirations and/or obligations, theirs was a love match.
As we took out leisurely tour through the picturesque Center City we learned that spaces outside many of its most important buildings were used during the filming of the most recent incarnation of Dumas' Three Musketeers. We passed an apothecary shop that first opened in 1437, and were told the story of Bamberg's Jewish community, which is finally making a comeback. It was also sobering to realize that some things never change: one of the 17th century Frankonian rulers, who wanted (like every other royal in Europe!) to have a residence the style and opulence of Versailles, was able to complete only two-thirds of the structure before he ran out of money.
After the conclusion of the "formal" tour with Ann Marie, we had the opportunity to do some shopping prior to returning to the Skadi, and happily purchased some ornaments that will enjoy prominent positions on this year's Grayson Christmas tree. This spate of consumerism was followed by coffee at an outdoor cafe on the Langestrasse, which allowed some time for people-watching.
In this city, as in all the European cities we have visited, the bicycles are omnipresent and aggressive, and their ridership includes every age group. Heaven help the unwary pedestrian who wanders into the designated bike lane portion of the sidewalk; while most bikes are equipped with some sort of warning device, it is generally employed after the collision has occurred!
After a few more attempts by Gary to find a pair of shorts and hanging out with some of our shipmates back at the Gabelmoo, it was time to return to the Skadi for lunch. Meals have become a festive congregation, full of stories of the day's adventures and mishaps, and discussion of the history of the locale from which the various travellers have returned. I shall miss these spirited, and often uproarious, exchanges when our journey is concluded. Optional sidetrips are available; these offer the opportunity for a more focussed experience of selected aspects of the day's itinerary. It is always a welcome treat to learn of our fellow travellers' responses to these alternate excursions, although we often regret our decision not to join them!
The rest of the day we devoted to R&R and to working a bit on the blog; I apologize for not getting this post completed in as timely a manner as I have been doing, but this is, after all, a vacation. My psyche is rebelling at the thought of anything resembling a deadline; thus, this posting a bit after the fact.
Nuremberg is our next stop, and we are eagerly anticipating our tour of Albrecht Durer's hometown. Auf wiedersehen!