Cycling Bamberg in Avalon’s Magnificent Europe
Monday, September 18, 2017
The rain held off this morning on what has been an unseasonably cold September trip through Germany. This morning, Avalon Waterways ‘ Avalon Expression arrived at our remote docking location near the start of the Main-Danube Canal, which was completed in 1992 and links the Main (pronounced mine) with the River Danube.
While most guests are continuing on this 15-day Magnificent Europe itinerary until Budapest, Hungary, this is my last port of call before disembarking Avalon Expression tomorrow morning in Nuremberg.
I’ve decided that one week on the rivers of Europe is hardly enough; you barely get over the jet-lag before it’s time to head back to the airport and start screwing up your body’s internal clock once again. But before I have to leave here on a jet plane, it’s time to explore Bamberg, Germany – one of the crown jewels on the River Main.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, Bamberg is famous for its spectacularly-preserved medieval town centre. Only about four percent of the town was damaged during World War II and while postwar reconstruction efforts have been amazing (particularly in nearby Nuremberg), Bamberg’s historic town center is the real deal.
In addition to its storybook looks, Bamberg is also where Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the leading members of the July 20, 1944 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, was married in 1933. His wife and their children returned to Bamberg in advance of the plot, which was portrayed in the 2008 movie Valkyrie, with Tom Cruise starring as Stauffenberg.
I’ve been here once before, at the height of summer 2015. On a blistering hot July day, I elbowed my way through the throngs of people that lined the bridge leading to the historic Altes Rathaus, or City Hall. I remember trying (unsuccessfully) to find a seat in a local beer hall. To top it off, it must have been a Sunday; I don’t recall making a single purchase.
September in Bamberg is busy but far more subdued. You can get a decent photo of the Rathaus, and finding a pint of beer isn’t a problem. We’d end up doing that, and much more, during three hours ashore this morning.
Ships dock about 30 minutes outside the town of Bamberg, near the start of the Main-Danube Canal that was completed in 1993. At 8:30am, three coaches set out from Avalon Expression to deliver most guests on their included guided walking tour of the city. The small group I was travelling with did something more active: a 2.5-hour Active Discovery cycling tour of the city and its surroundings.
We started in a relaxing way by cycling the paths that line the rivers and canals that border Bamberg. This is absolutely essential, as six days of good food and pampering onboard Avalon Expression will turn you into a human blob if you don’t stay on top of it.
After we found our cycling legs, we pedaled for about three kilometres through the park, stopping frequently along the way to, as the Germans like to say, “Make a photo.”
Following this, we rode into the historic center of Bamberg, where we locked our bikes and walked on-foot up the hill for a look at the imposing Bamberg Cathedral, which dates to 1002. It is sometimes listed on printed maps as Bamberger Dom St. Peter und St. Georg, but you really can’t miss it thanks to its position looking down over the town like some king surveying his fiefdom.