The monotonous, flat panorama buckled into a few low, forested hills as we drove across the Franconian wine country towards Bamberg. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bamberg came highly recommended.
There were even a few nice villages en route, which contrasted sharply with Düllstadt, a town near our campsite, which lived up to its name and said everything about the immediate area. Düllstadt’s only feature was a brown, tourist sign which advertised Kartoffeln – potatoes. And that was the most exciting thing about Düllstadt!
Parking in Bamberg was very stressful. As we drove in, we were delighted to happen upon the Tourist Office almost immediately. We spotted a surface car park nearby, but couldn’t get to it. There was plenty of underground parking, but once we pulled up at the entrance of a Parkhaus, we had second thoughts. Although we had removed the SUP boards from the roof of our van, Big Blue, we were very aware of being 1.8m tall and were plagued with roof rack anxiety. Not all Parkhausen make the 2m cut, as we found when we tried to park a van in Heidelberg…
With a parking disc, there was plenty of free on-street parking, but we’d never quite worked out where to get one. After several circumnavigations of the town in horrendous traffic, we eventually found the entrance to the surface parking. It was paid, but looked cheap: €2 for five hours seemed reasonable.
Bamberg dates back to the 9th Century and is built on seven hills, which obviously invites the title ‘The Franconian Rome’. Kiwis annoy Ozzies by referring to Australia as New Zealand’s ‘West Island’. With the same wry humour, residents of Bamberg sometimes label Rome as ‘The Italian Bamberg’.
Our wander over to the Rathaus – the Town Hall built on the bridge over the river Regnitz, a tributary of the Main, offered some impressive views of the surrounding half-timbered houses. The story goes that the Church refused the citizens land to build their town hall, so they built it on the river as a show of defiance. We were ready for a coffee by the time we reached the bridge. €14 earned us a factory-made apple cake and a waitress with no bedside manner. We’ve had overnight stops that cost less.
Our mood did not improve as we wandered around the hill town and old town. It was not just the scaffolding covering the cathedral & monastery which made them difficult to see. The centre is not pedestrianised, so to admire the architecture, you have to take your life in your hands amid a mêlée of traffic. The chaos reminded me of the centre of Kathmandu, with fewer cows and tuk tuks, but more electric scooters.
Despite the draw of its beer museum, we gave up on the monastery. It seemed unlikely that our four pups would be permitted inside and scaffolding obscured the entire exterior.
Instead, we decided to take The Pawsome Foursome on a river walk to the fishermen’s village, known as Little Venice. On the way there, an old man abused us, muttering something pointed about us not speaking Deutsch.
We’re in Bayern – Bavaria, and have been told many times that it is an area with its own distinct identity. However, unlike Alsace, which shows off its uniqueness with welcoming pride, the ‘distinct identity’ seemed to manifest itself more as ‘a massive chip on the shoulder’. Other than our neighbour, Jens, the campsite is very unfriendly, and everyone walks around with faces that sport the joyous look of having hit every branch as they fell out of the angry tree.
Along the riverbank, we gave up on our walk to Little Venice amid showers of tuts and piercing stares directed at our Fur Babies. Speeding bicycles gave pedestrians no quarter. “Get the f*** out of my way!” was the rule of thumb for the shared pedestrian and cycle ways. It was a matter of time before one our precious pups was run over.
Emotion suddenly bubbled up within me. I turned to Mark,
“I hate it here. Let’s get out!”
He needed no further persuasion and even took it one step further; he suggested leaving Germany altogether to make headway towards Poland. We have not warmed to this part of the country. To us, it appears ugly and hostile, and we simply can’t be bothered to brave the inevitable hordes of tourists at the other sights that we had on our plan, such as the famous Neuschwanstein castle.
In six hours, we could be in Hohnstein, a place we adored on our previous German tour. We could even cross into the Czech Republic and the Bohemian Swiss National Park, which we had been forced to bypass on our previous trip because of the weather. Our re-route would mean missing Berlin, but we were both city’d out.
The final kick in the butt was that the parking cost €5, even though a sum of €5 didn’t appear anywhere on the price list. It’s not exactly a king’s ransom, but it’s the principle. We had only been away a couple of hours. I felt robbed!
Even being in a country where I can say “Gute Fahrt!” to people at will could not re-ignite my enthusiasm for Germany.
Small, chilled and with a pedestrianised centre, the capital of Slovenia is one of our favourite cities. Mark and I turned to each other and summed up Bamberg,
“It’s not Ljubljana!”
If you would like to read more about our previous German adventures, they are immortalised in my book, Dog on the Rhine – From Rat Race to Road Trip, which has 5* reviews and has crept occasionally into the Amazon Bestseller list! To purchase from Amazon.co.uk click here, for rest of the world, click here.