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Germany A-Z travel guide 2019: Bamberg

To fight or not to fight? Bamberg, in northern Bavaria, makes the case for settling disputes amicably, and travellers find few cities with such untouched historical beauty.

The city’s state of preservation is remarkable and the fact that it failed to follow medieval practice by building defensive walls is probably a blessing. For fear of destruction it was ransomed during the 15th century Hussite wars – which ravaged many German cities – and narrowly avoided disaster in the Thirty Years War, even though the Catholic imperial general Wallenstein was headquartered there. Also, it is one of a handful of German medieval cities mercifully little damaged by World War II bombing, some say, because Churchill was against the idea of it being attacked.

But three arguments continue in Bamberg – whether there are seven hills or six, who the Bamberger Reiter really is, and who brews the best beer.

First, some background. Bamberg’s old town on the Regnitz has a structural legacy including a largely Romanesque cathedral, Renaissance and Baroque princely residences and well over 2000 heritage-listed buildings. But its UNESCO world heritage status is due also to its medieval layout. The earliest churches form a cross – albeit roughly – on the map, a planning practice that was followed in other towns as the Holy Roman empire of German lands stretched eastward in succeeding centuries.

This came about because Bamberg was conceived by its patrons as a holy city. It owes its 9th century origins and name to the castle maintained by the Babenberger dukes of Franconia. But the German king and later Holy Roman emperor Heinrich II founded a Bamberg bishopric in 1007 with a view to spreading the faith – and with it monastic life – eastward. Heinrich was devoted to the notion of monasticism and he and his queen Kunigunde, who each controlled extensive lands in the region, ensured the bishopric was richly endowed. Both are today remembered by prominent city statues, both were sanctified and both are buried in Bamberg’s cathedral. The city’s connection with Rome is strengthened further by the fact that the city also produced a pope, Clement II – also buried in the cathedral.

The present Bamberger Dom mixes Romanesque and Gothic and is consecrated to St Peter and St Georg. It is the third cathedral on the site since Heinrich II had the first built in 1012. It was remodelled with spires in Baroque in the 18th century but was returned to Romanesque style in the 1830s. Its ornamented portals and the enigmatic equestrian statue known as the Bamberger Reiter (c 1235) on an interior pillar are highly valued. The tomb of Heinrich and Kunigunde (1513) is by the master sculptor of the period, Tilman Riemenschneider. The grave of Clement II (inaccessible, but there is a pillar sculpture in the north aisle) and those of other Bamberg bishops are in the church and a separate shrine for the heads of Heinrich and Kunigunde is in the west crypt.

The city’s other historic churches are well worth a visit. The Klosterkirche St Michael is the most prominent building of Michaelsberg, a former Benedictine monastery above the cathedral precinct. Its burial chapel contains the grave of St Otto, the 12th century bishop who rebuilt the original church. The building has been much altered, including the vaulted ceiling, which now depicts a unique compendium of almost 600 plants. On the ceiling of the Heiliggrabkapelle a danse macabre or Totentanz, an artefact revealing the equality of all social classes in the face of plague, has been sculpted in plaster. Full interior restorations mean all these are inaccessible at present, but the views from the terraces are superb.

Just below Michaelsberg, and also associated with St Otto, is the 11th century St Jakobs Kirche, which possibly hints at how Heinrich II’s first cathedral looked. Its style was remodelled several times, eventually to Neoromanesque, but externally Baroque shapes are still clear and the onion dome on the north tower is from this period. The original of the Kunigunde bridge statue by Johann Peter Benkert is inside.

The 14th century parish church Obere Pfarrkirche, on the hill Unterer Kaulberg, is Gothic with later remodelling. The Brautportal with its porch was the place for marriage blessings and is flanked by carvings of the wise and foolish virgins. Much of the interior is 18th century Baroque with stucco, including the nave ceiling, but key Gothic elements were preserved including the Madonna of the high altar.

There was a church on the site of the present St Stephan Kirche from the time of the earliest bishops, built by the empress Kunigunde and consecrated in 1020 by the pope Benedict VIII. But the present predominantly Baroque building, with 13th century survivals, is 17th century. The tower now reaches 50m.

The 11th century St Gangolf Kirche, in the lower town off Obere Königstraße, is probably Bamberg’s oldest church and forms the foot of the cross around which medieval Bamberg was laid out. Parts of the church were altered and extended in later centuries and the interior was largely remodelled in Baroque and Rococo, without disguising the church’s Gothic heritage.

The 17th century Jesuit parish church St-Martin-Kirche was developed on an old Carmelite monastery site. Niches are the features of its Baroque facade, housing sculptures of the bishop Marquard Schenck von Stauffenberg and saints beloved of the Jesuit order. The rich interiors include an illusionary cupola fresco.

Bamberg, by the 13th century, was one of the biggest of Germany’s episcopal principalities and remained so until the Napoleonic secularisation of the 19th century. At times its bishop also held dominion over the cities of Würzburg and Regensburg. Bamberg’s central hill, the Domberg, became a clerical enclave. This comprised the cathedral and the city’s episcopal residences, first the Renaissance Alte Hofhaltung and later, too, the superb Baroque Neue Residenz, containing 40 chambers that are well worth touring.

The Domberg was surrounded by other hills topped by church foundations and overlooked by the Michaelsberg monastery. There is also a Baroque summer palace, Seehof, a few kilometres east of the city and a former episcopal castle, the medieval towered and moated Altenburg, which overlooks the city from the west.

Bamberg’s commercial quarter grew on the flat island described by the arms of the river Regnitz and the canal linking the Main and Danube. Such division of the town, like in many episcopal cities, led to later problems between the church and civic leaderships.

A story survives that the 15th century bishops were unenthusiastic about providing ground around the Domberg for a town hall. Honour was duly satisfied all round by creating an island in the west arm of the Regnitz and building the town hall there, reached from either side by a bridge. The town hall’s exterior was recast in Baroque in the mid-18th century with Baroque wall art and prominent balconies and heraldic reliefs, but its age is still betrayed by its half-timbered south end, the most photographed scene in the city. At least, that argument was settled.

The town residences are among Bamberg’s architectural treasures. The 18th century bourgeois palace known as Böttingerhaus, with its Italianate facade, on Judenstraße, and the French-influenced Villa Concordia, sited on the the Regnitz, were both built by Johann Ignaz Tobias Böttinger and speak of the wealth of Bamberg’s citizens.

But not all the residents were wealthy. Fishers and canal captains owned houses facing the Regnitz in a city quarter that came to be known as Klein Venedig (‘little Venice’). Some, built up to three storeys, have gradually been renovated in recent decades as guest accommodation. The balconies began as work galleries, used for drying nets and equipment.

The small Renaissance palace Schloß Geyerswörth on the smallest of the Regnitz islands was formerly a town residence but was renovated for the use of the bishops until the building of the 17th century Neue Residenz.

A short bus ride outside the city are other episcopal residences. The Altenburg, visible on the hill to the west above Bamberg, was the stronghold of the prince-bishops from 1305 to 1553, built on the site of a castle mentioned in the 12th century. The tower can be climbed for a view of the city and Regnitz valley.

Schloß Seehof at Memmelsdorf, north-east of Bamberg, was built late in the 17th century as a summer palace for the prince-bishops. The episcopal apartments have been restored in recent decades. The ceiling paintings in the Weißer Saal by Giuseppe Appiani show hunting as the centre of a lord’s ideal world. The Schönborn bishops commissioned Rococo grounds, for which the master garden designer Ferdinand Tietz created cascades (1771), stairs and more than 400 sandstone figures, some of which survive in the orangery. The cascades are switched on hourly in warmer months.

Over six centuries, market gardening has curiously remained near the centre of the city, which became known for onion growing and viticulture. The old town square Grüner Markt is still the scene for sales of some of the city’s produce. A statue of an assertive, even foul-mouthed market woman known as Humsera marks the spot today – legend has it she won all her arguments.

But brewing was also important to Bamberg, so much so it has been the daily task of the monks of Michaelsberg for centuries. Today there are several secular breweries, each with several styles and labels. The style most identified with the city is Rauchbier, a reddish smoked beer of distinctive taste.

To return to the key questions – seven Bamberg hills are named, which fits nicely with Rome. Though this case seems settled, the suspicion is that two slopes of one hill are separately christened. But why the debate? The most important thing is that so many hills provide lots of excellent views, such as from the Rosengarten terrace behind Neue Residenz or from Michaelsberg.

Who is the Bamberger Reiter, the enigmatic knight of the equestrian statue mounted on a pillar of the cathedral? Traditions associate it with the Hungarian king St Stephen, the perfect medieval warrior whose cult was vibrant and who was the Bamberg pope Clement’s brother-in-law. The charismatic Hohenstaufen emperor Friedrich II, who built much of the present cathedral, has his supporters. Heinrich II himself is a candidate, among other suggestions. This argument will never be settled.

And whose is the best beer? You be the judge.

A full guide to Bamberg’s attractions, with food and accommodation options, is downloadable free from the Jewels of the Past section below.

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Berlin

Great Cities of Germany

Füssen

Füssen travel guide PDF in 3 pages

The tiny town at the foot of the Alps has its own medieval castle and Baroque monastery as well as being the jumping-off point for visits to the famous Romantic castles nearby.

● How to visit Schloß Neuschwanstein and Schloß Hohenschwangau

● The Wieskirche, a UNESCO-listed Rococo pilgrimage church, is a short ride away

● The town’s own castle, churches and museums

Hyperlink access to essential tourist and accommodation information

Aachen

Aachen travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The Romans developed the hot springs at Aachen, then 1200 years ago the Frankish king Charlemagne set up his court there and the town became the centre of his empire. The 2018 Raven Guide to Aachen is available for free download now.

● A guide to Charlemagne's church, which grew to become the present Aachen cathedral, one of the first world heritage sites

● The Roman and medieval survivals of the city and details of the city tour

● Essential services with hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Eisenach

Eisenach travel guide PDF in 4 pages

The new Raven guide to the Thuringian town, birthplace of Bach and hiding place of Martin Luther early in his revolt against the established church. It is also the site of one of Germany’s great medieval castles, with links to another great German composer, Wagner, and a centre of automobile making.

● Guide to the Wartburg castle

● Guides to the Bach museum of his life and work and museum of car manufacture

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Wittenberg travel guide PDF in 4 pages

More than 500 years after Martin Luther's Reformation, this free guide covers the place where it all began. The town was the cradle of the religious movement that threw off the structures of the Catholic church and shaped new ideas and ways of worship, but also more than a century of bitter conflict that shaped Germany forever.

● Key sites, now world heritage monuments, include Luther's house and the castle

● The church where Luther's revolt began and churches Luther and his associates preached

● Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation

Bamberg

Bamberg travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The layout of the UNESCO heritage-listed city centre and a range of Baroque and medieval architecture makes Bamberg one of Germany’s most beautiful cities.

● The Romanesque cathedral, the opulent bishops’ Residenz palace, and its Renaissance predecessor dominate the old town

● The old town hall in the middle of the river Regnitz and the mysterious statue Bamberger Reiter attract millions of travellers

● Summaries of 35 historic sites and museums

● Information on tours, parks, food and the arts

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Trier

Trier travel guide PDF in 7 pages

The Roman Trier was at one time second only to Rome itself. It was home to one of the most powerful Roman emperors, Constantine the Great, and later to Karl Marx. Signs of its past greatness remain for travellers to marvel at. Germany’s oldest city – and one of its oldest cathedrals – remain and are world-heritage listed.

● Read about the ancient Roman city gate Porta Nigra, the Roman bath complexes, a well-preserved amphitheatre and Constantine’s former imperial palace, plus the buildings of the medieval city

● The guide includes more than 30 sites, churches and museums, with essential services, *transport links, transit and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg travel guide PDF in 4 pages

Completely walled with more than 40 towers, the cobbled pedestrian streets of the Romantic Road town perched above the Tauber valley are little changed since the 17th century, with medieval and Renaissance half-timbered houses and stone churches.

● The guide includes 17 sites and museums and an excursion to the Franconian open-air museum at nearby Bad Windsheim

● Essential services, transport links, food tips and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and websites for many of the town’s small accommodation houses

Potsdam

Potsdam travel guide PDF in 8 pages

The Stadtschloß palace was the first Prussian royal residence and more gradually multiplied in the city's extensive parklands. The city’s minorities grew with waves of immigration, leaving the Dutch quarter Holländisches Viertel and the Russian colony Siedlung Alexandrowka and its tiny Orthodox church.

● The delicate Rococo palace Schloß Sanssouci and the palaces and pavilions of Park Sanssouci with brief histories

● Potsdam’s ornate city gates, its Baroque streetscapes and 10 museums

● Essential services, transport links and fares, accommodation, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Regensburg

Regensburg travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The streets, archways and buildings of this medieval city, which grew from remains of a Roman legionary camp, remain. The range of ancient monuments and its streetscapes justify Regensburg’s world heritage listing.

● One of Germany’s classic Gothic cathedrals, several medieval churches, rare Gothic tower houses and one of Germany’s oldest stone bridges

Almost 30 sites and museums, including the nearby Walhalla gallery of great Germanic figures of history

● Information on essential services, transport links and urban transit and fares plus listings of travel essentials

● Hyperlink access to accommodation websites and further tourist information

Würzburg

Würzburg travel guide PDF of 7 pages

The prince-bishops who controlled Würzburg for centuries built wealth, power and influence expressed in Baroque by their huge palace, the UNESCO world-heritage Residenz. Their medieval castle still commands the city, reached by a stone bridge.

● Summaries of Würzburg’s grand residences, the medieval cathedral, churches and other sites

Museums and galleries including one of Europe’s prominent Jewish museums

Tours, essential services, transport links, transit services and fares and food tips

● Hyperlink access to accommodation and further tourist information websites

Passau

Passau travel guide PDF in 4 pages

The border city of three rivers includes the Baroque cathedral of St Stephan, with one of the world’s largest organs, the fortress Veste Oberhaus and the well preserved old town.

● Descriptions of 13 sites and museums, including the exhibits of Passau’s Roman past and history of glass manufacture

● Details of essential services, transport links and urban buses including fares, accommodation, food, tours and spectacular views

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Dinkelsbühl

Dinkelsbühl travel guide PDF in 2 pages

This short guide covers a tiny medieval walled town, left unchanged by a royal decree and now a favourite of artists and a small number of travellers.

● Dinkelsbühl’s town walls and many Gothic and Renaissance buildings keep its atmosphere alive

● Small hotels, pensions and restaurants complement the historical scene

● Essential services, tourist and transport information are included with hyperlinks to accommodation

Augsburg

Augsburg travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The wealth and influence of Augsburg’s powerful families brought the Renaissance to Germany at a time when the city was also the site of key events of the Reformation.

● The home of Germany’s onion-domed towers, museums with magnificent works of art, and one of the beautiful Renaissance streets of Germany, the Maximilianstraße

Guides to more than 30 sites, including monuments to Roman settlement

Transport links and fares, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Heidelberg

Heidelberg travel guide PDF in 7 pages

The most common description for Heidelberg is Romantic. This comes from its valley location, half-ruined castle and the towered stone bridge crossing the river Neckar.

● Explore Heidelberg’s cobbled streets in search of the essence of the city – Germany’s oldest university, the churches, monuments to its religious struggles, and its restaurants and cafes

● Discover the castle, its history, and thefunicular railway that makes the climb – and vantage points above the city – much easier

● Several budget hotel and private hostels that help make Heidelberg accommodation affordable, plus hyperlink access to other accommodation and tourist information sites

● Guides to 27 sites and museums

Goslar

Goslar travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The medieval town has hundreds of colourful half-timbered houses, Romanesque churches and the Kaiserpfalz, one of Germany’s oldest palaces. Its ancient Rammelsberg mines were the source of its wealth and are partly responsible for the town’s world heritage status.

19 sites and museums including the finest town houses

● A town walk and Rammelsberg tour

● Information on transport links plus listings of travel essentials and hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

● An excursion to the nearby half-timbered Harz town Wernigerode

Lübeck

Lübeck travel guide PDF in 7 pages

Trade made Lübeck the centre of the Baltic and the red-brick Gothic old town its merchant wealth built is now UNESCO world heritage-listed. Its churches, town houses and civic institutions are preserved and restored.

● The commercial and civic culture of the city through guides to 30 sites, museums and galleries

Tours, the best views and food options with other travel essentials

● Information on transport links and transit services including fares

● Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation

Berlin

Berlin travel guide PDF updated for 2019

Get 34 pages of things to do in Berlin free. Berlin is used to crisis, novelty and immigrants – so to visit Berlin is to visit many Berlins. The city that the Enlightenment and industrial progress created survived years of destruction and division.

● Descriptions of places to visit in Berlin including more than 60 historic sites, with guides to walking sections of the Berlin Wall, its museums and its memorials

● A complete guide to what to do in Berlin, including tours, cruises, parks and the best views

● Separate sections for the districts Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Neukölln, Schöneberg-Tempelhof, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Spandau, with local food and accommodation lists and quick guides to essential services

● Summary of major transport links with Berlin

● How to use urban transit services including Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn, with their differences and the fares

● Summaries of more than 50 Berlin museums of history, art and culture, and information on all major performance groups including orchestras, opera and theatre

● Short history of the city and its precincts

● Hyperlinks to websites for Berlin hotels and hostels and further tourist information

Bremen

Bremen travel guide PDF in 6 pages

One of Germany’s oldest cities includes UNESCO world heritage monuments, ornate Renaissance architecture with a regional stamp, the story of world travellers including emigrants to the US and arts precincts with works by some of the most innovative German artists.

● The ancient St Petri cathedral and 11 other sites including the giant Roland figure

17 Bremen museums including art and the remarkable Übersee-Museum, with exhibits of the wonders of the continents touched by Bremen’s worldwide trade interests

Transport links and the city’s complicated transit system explained

● Hyperlink access to websites for accommodation houses and further tourist information

Dresden

Dresden travel guide PDF in 11 pages

Twice over the centuries, Dresden has been an amazing place. The first period was the Baroque magnificence of the 17th and 18th centuries. The second is now, with much of the city’s splendour restored.

Dresden's city palaces with their museums and galleries, highlighted by the two Green Vault museums, are among the most remarkable in Germany

● The exquisite, rebuilt Frauenkirche

● The Saxon ducal and royal summer palaces of Pillnitz and Moritzburg

● In all, 30 museums and galleries of art and culture

● Information on tours, essential services, parks and views, food and performing arts

● Details of excursions to the medieval city of Meissen, centre of European porcelain, and the fortress of Königstein

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Hamburg

Hamburg travel guide PDF in 8 pages

Germany’s mighty port city attracts travellers from all over the world and was the departure point for generations of migrants. ● 25 sites, ships, museums, monuments and churches that reflect Hamburg’s maritime and trading traditions

● The UNESCO world heritage Speicherstadt, centre of Hamburg’s former free port

● Essential services are listed with a choice of tours, including port tours

● Information on transport links and extensive urban transit services including fares

● Listings of essential traveller services

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

● The city’s arts and music scene, including opera

Nuremberg (Nürnberg)

Nuremberg travel guide PDF in 8 pages

Modern Nuremberg has preserved or restored many walled and historic areas. The city’s leading late medieval citizens were some of the best known German personalities. Then came the Nazis.

● Guides to 20 buildings, historic streets and monuments, among them the Kaiserburg, the castle of early imperial German assemblies

● 13 museums, including Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Germany’s leading cultural history museum

● The courts of the post-World War II war crimes trials, now also a museum

Transport links, urban transit, tours and essential services

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Cologne (Köln)

Cologne travel guide PDF in 11 pages

Cologne is Roman, medieval and modern all at once, a city known for piety, carnival and perfume. Travellers can walk the historic centre and the remains of the Roman wall.

Germany’s mightiest cathedral, which took more than 600 years to complete

● Cologne’s Roman and medieval walls and gates picked out for travellers

● 12 precious Romanesque churches with historical background

● In all, 25 sites and 17 museums of art, history and culture including the Römisch-Germanisches Museum and associated archaeological sites

Transport links and urban transit services including fares

Tours, parks, views, food and performing arts

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Stuttgart

Stuttgart travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The Baden-Württemberg capital is one of Germany’s beautiful lifestyle cities, surrounded by hills and some of the country’s most beautiful palaces and pleasure pavilions.

● 10 sites including Stuttgart’s castle complexes, Schloß Solitude and the magnificent palaces of Ludwigsburg nearby

● 10 museums and galleries of art

Tours, walks through the city’s extensive parks and views

● Guide to essential services and hyperlinks to tourist information and accommodation house websites and a guide to performance art

Munich (München)

Munich travel guide PDF in 13 pages

Munich was founded by monks and built up by dukes and kings, but became a centre of revolution as well as a home for arts, industry and travellers enjoying the good life.

● Germany’s largest museum, Deutsches Museum, and some of its richest art museums

● The city’s extensive palaces and palace gardens are featured

● Almost 30 museums of history, art and culture

● 30 historic sites in and around the city

● Information on major performance groups including orchestras and opera

Accommodation, food and a guide to essential services including transport links and urban transit services and fares

● A choice of city tours and some of its finest views

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites