Sunday, September 8, 2019
Ain't Europe Grand (Tour) with Chryss and George (Day 12)
Shedding a Tir
So the water levels never lowered and Viking came up with an ingenious solution--we are to switch ships with the cruise doing our route coming the other way. They will continue on to Budapest on our boat, while we sail on to Amsterdam on theirs. We are told this the night before, as we must pack up and get our suitcases labeled and in the hallway by 7 am so they can be trucked to the Vali, our new ship (and I mean new--the Tir was the second newest in the Viking fleet, the Vali the newest by a couple of days). We also spend a sad night saying goodbye to the crew that has taken such good care of us--bye bye, Harris, fine bartender! Luckily we get to keep Stein. (I hope he felt the same way.)
That photo above is across the Main-Donau Kanal from where we board the Vali, just a bit of evidence not every moment of the cruise is a scenic snapshot. Or is a different kind, if you get tired of villages and churches and vineyards, but still want a few goats chomping along the banks. Yawn to all that pastoral beauty! Give me this stuff.
Which for my Euros still looks sort of composed. I mean, something had to influence Gerhard Richter. The good news is that this transfer goes as smoothly as possible, given the ships are of the same design--you end up in the same stateroom and everything.
We board a bus, and are off to Bamberg, but get a couple last fascinating glimpses of Regensburg. Like this tower that perspective makes look as if its face is melting.
Promise that is before the beer to come in Bamberg. And speaking of melty faces, spot the photographer's in this one, a last river shot of Regensburg, our longer home than we had expected.
Wham, Bam, Thank You Berg
It's Day 12 of this, folks, written three-and-a-half-months after the day actually happened. The jokes aren't going to get better. But Bamberg does have the distinction of largely surviving WW II unscathed, so that makes it postcard precious. Take what gets called Little Venice, on the Regnitz that flows through town.
So cute brushing up against gorgeous, no? The funny thing is, these used to be the fishermen's houses, and were thought of as sort of the town's slum, because you know what also happened to rivers in the middle ages? Let's put it this way--you can't spell pre-17th century sewer system without r-i-v-e-r. Today we think living near the water is charming; back in the day, cholera was calling. Of course real estate is all about timing. Take Hellerhaus, which was the birthplace of Josef Heller, and that's not a Catch-22. It's a different Heller, and since the house is not yell-er, let's call it a Wedgewood come to life.
Bamberg is quite famous for its Old Town Hall, ye olde Alte Rathaus, that straddles the river on a bridge. You can see lots of photos of that. Somehow, I did not take that angle, but the place is wonderfully muraled and a pleasant view from other sides, too.
And then there are buildings with frescoes like this one, that I thought I remembered had once been some kind of hospital/sanitarium, but I can't find a name even using all my internety powers.
Some sections of town were house-to-house....
but then this photo shows it's a mighty green town.
Just don't steal anything, as the penalties are harsh. (Look closely to the left of the stations of the cross image.)
Dom, Dom, Dom, Platz
Cathedrals are doms, platz are squares, and Bamberg does their better than most. Of course I might be a bit partial as the official name of the church is Dom St Peter und St Georg. While it's the third cathedral on the site, it still dates from the 13th century. (I made that a short sentence so you could think about that for a second.) It gets to be both Romanesque and Gothic, as it got built through both architectural periods. And they're still keeping it up today, as you can see.
Not being royalty, we didn't get to use the Fürstenportal (princes' portal), but we were allowed to snaps photographs.
Inside there are all sort of fun finds, like the Bamberg horseman. Nobody is sure who he is, or why he's in the cathedral, on a horse, and not a saint or anything.
But there is a statue of St. Denis, and I bet you can guess his untimely earthly end (no, it's not being slightly out out of focus, sorry about that).
Here's your word for the day--statues that carry their own heads are cephalophores. There are out and out tombs, too, like the one for beloved rulers Heinrich-II and Kunigunde, the folks in power when the cathedral was founded.
Next to the cathedral, you can wander into the Alte Hofhaltung, which just sounds like a Jethro Tull classic. Inside the courtyards it loks like the Globe Theater almost (partially as it is set up for a performance the day we're there), but the gate into the courtyard was what I want to share with you.
And across the way is the Neue Residenz, as it's a mere 400 years old. (Europe is good at making Americans feel very immature.) Despite being beautifully baroque, I will instead show you the view from its rose garden, as the whole Domplatz is at the town's top point, of course, being all powerfully religious and imperial.
Signs of Those Times
While many of the German towns have had great building signs--clearly they lack a draconian sign committee like the oneSanta Barbara has, keeping our town free from, well, anything interesting--Bamberg had many of the best, so here's just a sampling, starting with a shot down one street so you can realize how much sign-festation there is.
Smoke Gets in Your Beer
Of course, Bamberg is quite famous for rauchbier, or smoke beer, and we had to have some at the source as we're are smoke-loving fools. That meant running to Schlenkerla in the brief time we had after our tour and before getting to our new boat. They have a great sign, too, as you might expect given they've been brewing this stuff since the 14th century.
Inside even on a bright day it's almost as dark as the beer--oh, who am I kidding, nothing is as dark as they beer--plus the light fixtures are bare-bulbed and walk a fine charming-creepy line.
Here's your beer menu, all we have time for, and Chryss is more than pleased to see what the more traditional one is like, because if you can go session when having beer at noon, why not. Do note that while the marzen is a powerfully flavored beer, it's still under 6% alcohol itself. Plus they quote Ben Franklin, of course that might just be only on the English language menus.
Is it amazing? Yes, it is. Smoky as Satan's lapels, but a clean smoke, rich and satisfying and clean and dry, so you can down a .5 l no problem and not get tired of it, as is the case with so many flavored beers. A once in a lifetime worth it drink, especially in the tavern.
Nothing Rude about the Vali
That's a bad pun for four seasons, I know. But we get to our new boat, much like our old boat, and the food just keeps coming. Like here's a quick shot of some of lunch, with the chef's station carbonara foreground and a tortilla espanola toward the back. All as yummy as what we had on the Tir. Consistency seems strong with Viking.
Then lets jump ahead dinner, even if that was hours later, following a toast to our guests from Captain Georgi and Hotel Manager Eddy. Have I said one of the best moments on the cruise was sitting in the cocktail lounge, sipping a happy hour martini, reading a good book (finally read the terrific, encompassing, inspiring Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, which I recommend to all my music friends), and watching Europe sail by?
Heck, even the blandest of bridges might float into art.
So, then, dinner. The soup hit parade continued on the Vali, and even better, something a bit different scwarzwurzelsuppe mit krautercroutons, or, if you prefer, creamy salsify soup with her croutons.
That spell check doesn't recognize salsify simply makes it like most people--looks like a parsnip, related to the dandelion, tastes vaguely oyster-esque with less brine. It makes, like most of the weird root vegetables, a fine soup. I passed up a goat cheese souffle for it, and don't regret my decision.
Chryss had the regional entree this night, a lentil ragout with a bread dumpling, as it's against the law to serve a dinner in Germany without one dumpling on each menu. Plus, really good, too!
I went very non-German, with a faux filet (a roasted NY) au Roquefort, despite the sauce looking more gravy-brown than cheesy white.
It was good, but not the best of all my cruise meals. Of course I'm mighty picky about steak when I choose to eat some, so there's that too. (All of you who have had my grilled tri-tip raise your hands.) Then I ran against my usual taste, as I'm not a bread pudding fan, and opted for the scheiterhaufen for dessert. If you know some German, or how to Google, that word actually translates to wood piled for a pyre, but luckily no witches stopped by the table and I just got to enjoy its apple-y richness, especially with that red current compote giving it a tangy zip.
Go back and read Day 11 of Ain't Europe Grand (Tour) with Chryss and George
Go ahead and read Day 13 of Ain't Europe Grand (Tour) with Chryss and George