Bamberg is an outstanding historical city, its old town is a UNESCO recognised protected zone and it has a great deal to offer the visitor. Like Rome, with which you will see and feel the similarities on visiting, it is built on seven hills - Cathedral Hill, Michaelsberg, Kaulberg/Obere Pfarre, Stefansberg, Jakobsberg, Altenburg and Abtsberg. Once run by Prince Bishops, each hill is crowned with a church.
It seems as though the river is an important part of the life blood of the city. The Regnitz is not a long river but it splits into two thus appearing to be everywhere and it flows into the Main near Bamberg. The Rhine – Main – Danube canal also passes near the city. I left my motorhome at a camp site to the south of the city and cycled in following the river and also using my bicycle to explore the area between the branches of the river and the canal. I was fortunate to visit in June which I suspect could be the best time of the year to visit!
Bamberg was first mentioned in 902CE and its name comes from the Babenberg family. The Holy Roman Emperor Henry II ordered the building of a cathedral, which was consecrated 6 May 1012. The church was enriched with gifts from the pope, and Henry had it dedicated in honor of him. In 1017 Henry also founded Michaelsberg Abbey on the Michaelsberg (another Mount St. Michael like those in Normandy and Cornwall), for the training of the clergy. When Pope While he was here he placed the diocese in direct dependence on the Holy See and personally consecrated some of Bamberg's churches. It would be fair to say that at this time, Bamberg was the centre of the Holy Roman Empire. Both Emperor Henry and his wife Kunigunde were buried in the cathedral.
From the middle of the 13th century onward the bishops ruled the Holy Roman Empire. This benefited Bamberg and left us with some of the magnificent buildings we see today, particularly around the area of the Cathedral.
We also see in Bamberg some of the excesses of the Church. The city is noted for the witch trials of the 17th century which claimed about one thousand victims in Bamberg, reaching a climax between 1626 and 1631, under the rule of Prince-Bishop Johann Georg II Fuchs von Dornheim.
In 1803 the Holy Roman Empire was wound up by Napoleon and Bamberg became part of Bavaria. It had a population then in excess of 200,000.
Bamberg was first connected to the German rail system in 1844, which has been an important part of its infrastructure ever since.
After a communist uprising took control over Bavaria in the years following World War I, the state government fled to Bamberg from Munich The first republican constitution of Bavaria was passed in Bamberg.
In February 1926 Bamberg served as the venue for the Bamberg Conference, convened by Adolf Hitler in his attempt to foster unity and to stifle dissent within the Nazi party. Bamberg was chosen for its location in Upper Franconia, reasonably close to the residences of the members of the dissident northern Nazi faction but still within Bavaria.
Bamberg escaped significant damage during WW2 but it could have been here where German resistance leader Claus von Stauffenberg had the idea to use the Valykire Plan as a means of overthrowing the Nazis. In the film Valkyrie, we see Stauffenberg at home in with his wife taking shelter as bombers pass over head whilst the children play at being Valkyries and Wagner’s music is playing on the record player. Stauffenberg’s home was at Schützenstraße 20 in Bamberg and his widow lived there after the war.
There are also underground tunnels beneath the town. These were originally constructed as mines which supplied sandstone which could be used for construction or as an abrasive cleaner. Mining came to an end in 1920 but a 12km tunnel network remained. The tunnels were used as an air raid shelter during World War II. A part of the network can be visited on a guided tour
The most curious building in Bamberg must be the Obere Brücke which was completed in 1455. Halfway across this, on an island, is the Rathaus or town hall which in its current state largely dates to 1756. The lyceum, formerly a Jesuit college, contains a natural history museum. The old palace (Alte Hofhaltung) was built in 1591 on the site of an old residence of the counts of Babenberg. Monuments include the Maximilian fountain (1880), with statues of King Maximilian I of Bavaria, the emperor Henry II and his wife, Conrad III and Saint Otto, bishop of Bamberg.
Bamberg is known for its beer and is home to nine breweries. And I should mention its lively atmosphere!