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Bamberg: A Piece of Living History with Italian Flair

| June 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

Smoky beer, half-timbered charm, and tons of history make this city along the Regnitz a must-see for visitors.

By Alevtina Altenhof

If I were asked to describe Bamberg in just one sentence, I would probably write the following: It is a city on the river Regnitz with the best breweries, Italian flair, and an unforgettably idyllic Old Town Center. Like Rome, Bamberg was built on seven hills and is therefore called the “Rome of Franconia”. Due mainly to the well-preserved architectural ensemble reminiscent of Early Medieval structures, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. And while the magic of this city – one of the most beautiful in Europe – is inseparably linked with the history of Bamberg as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Henry II, the array of architectural styles from all ages reflects a plethora of culture while the bustling atmosphere of the Old Town Center contributes to the image of the city as a cultural treasure.

A breath of Venice is in the air when you step into a truly genuine Venetian gondola on the banks of the river Regnitz in the small part of the city known as “Little Venice”. Here, Jürgen Riegel, the manager of a small gondola company, offers an absolutely unforgettable ride on this romantic mode of transport which opens fantastic views of Bamberg from the perspective of the waterfront. Over 15 years ago, Jürgen fulfilled his dream of bringing a real gondola from Venice and learning the basics of the punting technique. This Franconian has transformed himself into the Venetian gondolier “Luigi”, wearing white pants and a striped T-shirt. He organizes unforgettable, romantic river trips on the Regnitz which flows quietly through Bamberg passing the little bridges and canals that offer stunning views of the city—a unique experience, indeed.  What used to be the fishermen’s quarter, known today as “Little Venice”, is one of the most beloved postcard images conveying the city’s magic Mediterranean flair.

It is possible to continue a romantic walking tour in Bamberg by wandering through the cozy streets –  along narrow lanes and amidst Baroque facades of the city –  soaked with history and stories embracing a millennium, while the Medieval flair completes the charm of the Old Town Center. Here you will feel and absorb the history of the “City atop the Hills”. The streets are interspersed with ecclesiastic and bourgeois elements prevalent in Bamberg since the city was founded. Everything began in the age of Ottones, when the fortress “Babenberh” was first mentioned around 902.  A decade later, when Henry II ascended the throne as the German King, he soon decided to found a bishopric here. This event marked the start of Bamberg’s status as a city of bishops and in the course of time, Bamberg even offered a cathedral school education. In 1007, after being decreed by Henry II, the construction of the Imperial Cathedral, standing majestically with its four spires on top of one of Bamberg’s seven hills, was not only meant to make Bamberg a symbolic capital of the Holy Roman Empire (similar to the Church of St. Peter in the eternal city of Rome) but also opened a new chapter in the city’s history. Spanning the 11th to the 19th century, Cathedral Hill exerted a spiritual and influential power in the diocese of Bamberg which, at that period of time, determined the city’s fate. Today Bamberg has retained its reputation as a “city of bishops”, and not just owing to the existence of the venerable cathedral but that religious life determines the everyday life of Bamberg’s inhabitants to a far greater degree than it does elsewhere in Germany.

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