Let’s say you’re about to get married and, hypothetically, you like beer. (Use your imagination for the former, if not the latter.) Let’s also suppose, hypothetically, that your beloved enjoys a good pint as well. The day arrives; you finally say “I do.” Where on earth do you go for your honeymoon?
That is precisely the question that faced us last week. After several years of traveling around Central Europe, taking photographs and writing about travel and food and drink, Nina and I were finally married last week in Libeňský zámek, the chateau in our corner of Prague. After the ceremony, we had lunch with family and witnesses at the neighborhood brewpub, Richter Brewery, then headed home, grabbed our bags and hit the train station for a honeymoon in the region’s most beautiful city for lovers of great beer.
That is to say: Bamberg.
I’m surprised that more hasn’t been written about the connections between Bamberg and Prague. Not only are there historical ties (a house near Bamberg’s Obere Brücke has a sign noting that Albrecht von Wallenstein stayed there; Prague’s Wallenstein Palace is the home of the Czech senate), but the beer culture is similar in both cities, as is the cuisine — we had a very good goulash, for example, at Schlenkerla. Furthermore, the travel connections can be as difficult as falling off a log: a fast train from Prague to Nuremberg (with enough time there to pick up a delicious snack of Nürnberger Rostbratwurst), then a 45-minute regional express to Beerville. Total minimum travel time: 6 hours, 8 minutes.
Of course, there are plenty of hotels in Bamberg, and most zymurgical tourists will want a guest room at a brewery like Spezial or Fässla, both of which have decent lodgings at moderate prices, with both breweries almost directly facing each other on Obere Königsstraße. However, we wanted something a little more memorable, so we took a recommendation for Hotel Sankt Nepomuk, a reconverted mill on its own island in the Regnitz with a panoramic view of the Rathaus, the river, the bridges and the cathedral, and named after the Czech saint who was drowned in Prague in 1393. (Seriously, the connections are practially Swedenborgian.)
We were a few days too early to try Schlenkerla’s Fastenbier, which was only tapped this week, and which I loved last year. Instead, our second bryd-ealu was the pub’s standard Rauchbier, that not-so-far-from-Bohemian goulash and a couple of perfect Schnitzels, followed by a pint of Schlenkerla’s Rauchweizen. (I’ll write more about the beers in a separate post.)
In any case, Bamberg was an excellent choice. Lest you think it’s all about Rauchbier, the city is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its pristine Gothic and Baroque architecture and rich history. It’s also home to great pastries like the Bamberger Hörnchen, reminiscent of the best croissants you’ve ever had, only flakier and more buttery. There’s a lively pedestrian zone with lots of cafés and bakeries along and around the Grüner Markt, with the Bamberger Dom, founded in 1004, overlooking everything from the top of the hill.
If you do go, give yourself enough time to wander the city’s narrow lanes and cross the many small bridges over the Regnitz. Check out Ron Pattinson’s Bamberg Beer Guide online; Fred Waltman’s downloadable Bamberg Beer Guide booklet is very highly recommended. And I would especially suggest contacting the Bamberg tourist office, which is open seven days a week and which offers maps, books and self-guided beer tours to the city’s 10 functioning breweries.
Even if you aren’t crazy about beer, Bamberg is a lovely place to visit. And if you do enjoy a good pint, you’ll probably feel the same way we do.
Best. Honeymoon. Ever.