Archive | July, 2012

Bamburg and the great beer experience.

23 Jul


First night on the cruise down. Breakfast has a big variety to choose from. Cereal, fruit, toast, bacon, eggs & the best omelette cooked while you wait. The lot with chilli was my choice quite often. What I was very happy to see was the small jar of Vegemite next to the jams, oh I was in heaven, an Aussie in Germany being able to enjoy your favourite spread on toast, just hope it’s there every day.

Each evening we were given plenty of info on each place we are visiting so I’ll share what I think is relevant.

Bamburg is a city with a 1,000 years of history united in an old town that is a cultural and architectural site of European rank. This is one of the reasons UNESCO added Bamburg to the world heritage list. Back in the 10th century the local ruling family Babenburg gave the town it’s name. It once served as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Heinrich II the towns most famous son was crowned emperor in the great cathedral in 1012. Thanks to his political and economic skill the imperial residence became a powerful ecclesiastical centre. Bamburg also claims fame as the second city to introduce the new process of book printing in 1460.

Very near Bamburg is the Main Danube canal completed in 1992, it joins the main river. This is not the first canal, charlemagne once linked tributaries of the main and Danube rivers back in 793, thus Bamburg is directly on the slow route between the north sea and the black sea.

Today the city’s economy is based on engineering and the production of cotton textiles, leather, carpets and electrical goods. Another important distinction is that beer consumption per head is higher here than in any other city. With ten breweries operating the local brewers call their home a Bierukturstadt. One of the varieties is the smokey Rauchbier, it was first brewed in 1563. It can be sampled at the famous Aecht Schlenkeria Rauchbier ( Heller brewery ). It’s a very dark smokey bottom fermented strong beer with 5.4% alcohol volume.

Today’s adventure is to tour through the old town of Bamburg. The Old Town Hall in Bamberg is quite a curiosity: The frescoes that adorn the facades are as amazing as the story behind the building’s construction.According to legend the bishop of Bamberg did not grant the citizens any land for the construction of a town hall. This prompted the townsfolk to ram stakes into the river Regnitz to create an artificial island, on which they built the town hall they so badly wanted.

The location marks the old border of rule between the espiscopal city on the hills and the bourgeois island city and is a clear demonstration of the bourgeoisie’s thirst for power.
The Old Town Hall’s frescoes never fail to impress as they lend the facades a three-dimensional quality achieved with trompe d’oeil architecture. A special detail is a continual source of mirth among tourists: the leg of a cherub protudes out of the wall as a sculpture. Today the Old Town Hall accommodates the prestigious rococo hall and the Ludwig Collection.

Further up the road and up the hill is the old cathedral St. Peter’s and St. George’s Imperial Cathedral is one of Emperor Heinrich II’s legacies. It contains numerous impressive sights. Emperor Heinrich II. had the Cathedral constructed in Bamberg as early as 1002 and it was completed in 1012 after a building period of just ten years. However, this house of worship fell victim to fire, as did its successor. The third construction which contains stylistic elements of the late romanesque and early gothic periods has survived to the present day. The highlights include the tomb of the holy imperial couple Kunigunde and Heinrich II., created by Tilmann Riemenschneider, the “Bamberg Horseman” who is shrouded in mystery, the altar by Veit Stoß and the papal tomb of Clemens II.

The Rose Garden in the inner court of the New Residence is not only filled with a sea of fragrant flowers but it also reveals a beautiful view of Michaelsberg and the Old Town. Prince-bishop Friedrich Karl von Schönborn had the garden designed by Balthasar Neumann. The symmetrically arranged sections are in keeping with the baroque idea of a modern garden. Every summer, framed by lime trees and an elegant garden pavilion, around 4500 roses burst into bloom. The sculptures were created by the Bamberg court sculptor Ferdinand Tietz in 1760/61; they join the roses to create an impressive orchestration of baroque splendour. Unfortunately for us the roses were a few weeks away from flowering.

As per usual the weather was its awesome self, yes as soon as the tour had finished it started bucketing down rain again. We had an hour or so to fill in so we decided to go and try the famous smokey beer. The brewery was pretty much packed with many tourists as well as locals who seem to be less than amused that their famous beer is so popular. Grumpy old lady filled up some rather large 1 litre steins, and we were lucky enough to be invited to sit down with another tour group visiting and we compared notes on where we had recently been. Smokey beer is something hard to describe, it’s a dark weird smell, after your first sip you get a nice BBQ ham flavour, it’s not something I’d drink a lot of but it was worth trying. I would suggest that you have it with some nice German sausage to finish off the taste.

Back to the boat for another heathen feast, yep it’s time to cut back on the food, there’s just too much if you want to finish off with cheese and crackers. The afternoon we have booked into the optional extra tour, The Bamburg beer experience. We’ve met up with a local guide who seemed to really enjoy showing us round Bamburg whilst telling us about the different beers that are brewed, I can’t remember her name but she was very passionate about one thing… BEER!! I personally think she was already drunk. That or plain crazy, but we all enjoyed the afternoon to the point it was by far my favourite day.

We visited two different breweries, the first one has been in operation for over 450 years, during the visit we were shown through the process of brewing and then the beer sampling begun, half litre steins were the go and we did drink some. We later went down the road to a different brewery for more beer, also many different sausages were sampled.

While we were sampling and guzzling all this beer the ship had left the dock and travelled down the canal for a number of hours, we had to catch the bus to meet up, I am pretty sure everyone tipped our guide before leaving. The bus ride was only about an hour and as luck would have it we beat the boat, a quick phone call to the captain and our tour director took us to a local bier house to have another beer, this time on the captains euro. Like we needed to have our arms twisted for more beer.

Back on the boat and it’s the captains welcome night where he introduces the crew to the new people followed by the welcome dinner. Suit on for the first time and we in for a great night. From here on in I can refer to the menu for what we had each night.

Appetizer – Camarones “River Princess” Prawns sitting on a bed of radicchio with pineapple and Calcados cocktail sauce.

From the soup tureen – Homemade mushroom cappuccino

A warm up in between – Bay scallops gratinated with sauce chorion topped on sautéed baby spinach.

Entree – Whole roasted milk fed veal tenderloin, accompanied by Pinot Noir reduction served on Mikado vegetable and domino potatoes.

Desert – “River Princess symphony” valrhona chocolate slice, Mrs. Tollmans favourite honeycomb ice creme and cheese cake.

Oh man we were so satisfied. So much to eat and presented so nicely. So we’ve left the dock and are now heading to Wurzburg.






Munich to Nuremburg – Start of cruise.

21 Jul

Cruise through Germany

Today marked the last day of our little independent look through the lower parts of Germany on our own steam. Bags are packed and it’s time to checkout from our nice little hotel on the outskirts of Munich. The elevator is still out of order much to our disgust, lugging heavy bags down 3 flights of stairs was made sweeter by the fact we were able to get away with free parking for the duration of our stay. A handy tip when staying somewhere, park in their car park first and worry about it later. Sometimes it pays off most times not.

We have to travel up to Nuremberg this morning to meet up with our cruise through Germany on the main river canal system. Course plotted on the navigator, well sort of, we’ve got what seems like a dodgy address and directions. The road up is mainly autobahn and we travel at decent break neck speeds most of the way, 180kms is the fastest I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching the countryside pass me by. It still amazes me when high end cars overtake us like we were sitting still. Our directions weren’t very clear and as a result we had a few misguided attempts at finding the car park and dock for the boat, after several attempts at missing the turnoff our trusty driver Tony decided to mount the curb and take the footpath entry amid much laughter and strange looks from other people already in the carpark. Quick walk down to the dock to check we’ve located the right boat and we are told to bring our luggage on board, we can’t access our cabins till 2:00pm but lunch will be served for 12 o’clock, in the meantime if we go down below we might be able to sample some pastries and coffee left over from breakfast. First off we drop the hire car back, now if you’ve not travelled in Europe in a hire car before make sure you ask for a car that comes from the country you will finish your driving in, sometimes if you are taking a car back to the country of origin they might waive certain extra fees. Quick cab ride back to the dock & on board we go.

We’ve chosen a Uni-World boutique river romance cruise, and it’s the most expensive part of our holiday. The ship is called the River Princess and we are feeling a little pampered already to the point of thinking we’ve stowed aboard the wrong boat. There are several areas where you can relax and either enjoy the peace & quiet, read a magazine or play board games and use the free Internet. There’s a nice lounge/bar area at the front end, there’s a beautiful dining area at the rear of the boat, on the top is a great sun deck with tables and chairs so that when the weather is nice you can watch the world go by as you slowly cruise down the canal. Also there’s free washing machines & dryers which always had a line up. The cabins themselves are quite small but functional with great views out the windows when you are not going up or down in one of the canal locks. The staff are very friendly and always eager to answer to any request made.

Lunch is the first meal we had to suffer, or not. As we had had just boarded we didn’t realise that it would include lunch every day, and when I say lunch it was always difficult to choose what to have. The variety was mind boggling, it ranged from hot soups and meals to salads, cold meats, breads, fruits, desserts & the one most of us enjoyed was the different cheeses. We’ve already had to devise different ways to cut back on quantities on the plate, the first day I think we all got carried away and walked from the table feeling like a happy gluttons. If lunch is this good look out dinner and breakfast.

Time to kill before our rooms are ready so let’s work off lunch by going for a walk along the docks. As usual we take umbrellas and not 10 minutes go before its once again pouring down rain. Lucky for us there’s a bridge we can stand under and enjoy the wet weather. Along the docks there are a number of other cruise ships from various shipping companies travelling the same canal, ours looks like the nicest ship, it also has a smaller number of people to cater to as well. Back onboard and we have our first meeting with our tour director, a nice lady called Hildegard. All the different goings onboard are explained with a few of the different tours over the coming days we can sign up for. Dinner is for 6 o’clock and we will be departing the dock whilst we are dining. I can’t remember what our first meal was other than It was fantastic, there’s quite a nice variety to choose from the menu with nice wine or beer to go with it. We then head to the lounge for a few drinks and as usual we crash & burn for the night. One thing I was surprised at was the lack of feeling like we were traveling on water, yes we were on a canal going up or down in the locks but even then I didn’t notice it. And we were told we went through several locks through the night. Tomorrow morning we arrive in Bamburg, a place known for good beer.