How to see the best of Bamberg in one morning
This morning, we had around three hours or so to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bamberg. The whole town is inscribed, for its unique architecture. It is visually very attractive. We vaguely remembered the way to the old town from last night, though it was dark then. Almost every building we passed caught our eyes, with its pleasing architecture, ornate doors, and street sculptures.
The place that we made a beeline for before the crowds hit was the Town Hall. It was seeing a picture of this place that made us want to visit. Not only is the Town Hall an amazing building in its own right, it is built across two bridges, and extends further than the bridge. It looks incredible. As well as this, the sides are hand painted with medieval murals. Some bits are even three-dimensional. A baby/cherub’s leg sticks out from the wall, whilst a curtain that is painted onto the wall actually covers part of the window in another great 3-D effect.
We first saw it from the ‘local’s bridge’, but you can’t see the Town Hall from here, so we hot-footed it to the ‘tourist bridge’ and managed to get some great photos before it became rammed with tour groups. From here, you could see the protruding part face-on, but we figured it would be most picturesque from the next bridge along again. A pleasant walk took us there, to a bridge filled with flowers in baskets. The view from here was immense.
Getting lost in Bamberg is half the fun
Our next stop was a church which contained an amazingly ornate altarpiece, and an exquisite painted ceiling. We were the only people in this amazing place. We got slightly lost trying to find Bamberger Dom, though it wasn’t all that terrible since we wanted to just explore the old town anyway. In the end, a long walk uphill brought us out to an amazing courtyard. It kind of looked Tudor, with hanging baskets all around the balconies.
We were one of the first people inside the famous Bamberger Dom, or cathedral. This meant that we beat the tour groups, which overwhelmed the place only twenty minutes later. Although a beautiful building, there is some scaffolding on the towers, which ruins the scenery a little. It also meant we couldn’t go up the tower to get that great view of Bamberg that it promised, and parts were closed off. Workmen were loudly working away too, which took away the serenity. There was a very old tomb by the entrance, leading down to a crypt which was blocked off.
The Bamberg Horseman is a stunning medieval work of art
The elaborate tomb of a former German Emperor who built the first cathedral here is a highlight. The overall highlight of the visit, however, was the beautifully smooth statue of a young man on a horse, known as the Bamberg Horseman. It dates back to medieval times and is a great work of art, though nobody knows for sure who the man is. It sits high up on one of the columns, so it is easy to miss.
A large painting of Jesus adorns the dome’s roof. The front of the cathedral, to be honest, was underwhelming as that is where the majority of the work is being done.
Our next stop was the Rose Garden of the Neue Residence, which is right opposite Bamberg Cathedral. This is probably the most beautiful rose garden we’ve ever seen, filled with every conceivable type and colour of rose. Most rose gardens we have been in disappoint, maybe due to the time of the year. Therefore, it was nice to see such an impressive one in full bloom. There were nice views and creepy statues of cherubs.
Bamberg’s Little Venice is far more deserving of the name than London’s
Our last activity in Bamberg was a stroll around the Little Venice area. To be honest, it has more claim to the name than its London namesake. The river is much wider, so it looks quite a bit more like the Grand Canal. The architecture is much different, however with fairytale-style German houses along the riverfront. It makes for a very romantic stroll as far as the bridge and back, watching the tourist boats ride on happily by.
Upon returning to our host’s house to collect our bags, we got the chance to see the view from the roof of the house, which we accessed through the attic. The views are incredible from up there.
We took a coach from Bamberg, to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. We were met at the station by our host, Lenka. She was kind enough to give us a tour of the beautiful spa town of Karlovy Vary. The streets of Karlovy Vary are very grand, like Regency London. The first part we approached was the more modern part called TG Masaryk Street, named after the first Czechoslovakian President. There is a statue of him at the end of the street.
Great views from the Hotel Thermal
At the start of the historical town is Hotel Thermal, where the International Film Festival is held. We went up to a viewpoint above the hotel. It was a long uphill climb, but we got great views over the town. They have a very realistic looking owl carving perched up there, which must be to scare other birds away. At the top, you overlook their absolutely huge outdoor swimming pool, which once contained mineral spa water, but is now unfortunately drained.
At the bottom is a typically Eastern European park, full of stalls offering caricatures, portraits, and trinkets. The main street here is where the bulk of the town’s attractions lie, starting with the beautiful Park Colonnade. In the town, there in thirteen springs which offer unlimited spa water, high in specific minerals. They are heated under the ground, so spout up at the surface at various different temperatures, which are displayed by the sources.
Drinking the spa waters is a popular pastime for many tourists
The Main Colonnade is the most grand of all. Its huge Romanesque columns hide an imposing space which has about three or four springs inside. We were lucky enough to catch a performance in there by the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra. They are absolutely amazing, and we’re not normally classical music fans.
A rather ugly modern building contains the hottest of the spa springs. Lenka went off to speak to a man at one of the souvenir stalls, and he happily gave us two of the traditional drinking vessels. This meant that we were able to try the water from the three hot springs inside the building. It isn’t terrible, but certainly you wouldn’t want to drink too much.
Outside the building is the main hot spring which sometimes shoots the water really high in the air. Today though it wasn’t at its most impressive. It was very hot though. We even put our fingers in the water to see just how hot!
Kamzik and Svejk: two well-loved icons of the area
Lenka took us high up to another lookout called the Deer Leap Lookout. It has a small statue of a mountain goat, or kamzik, on the top of a rock at its summit. It was a very steep walk uphill to get to it though. I think this trip is either going to get us very fit or completely wear us out! The views were pretty cool though. We also learned the story of a famous Czech character, a clown called the good soldier Svejk. Have you heard of him?
Our main location for the evening was the Diana Lookout Tower. You can either walk, or take the funicular railway. We chose the funicular, both as something a bit different and to save our legs! We made a beeline for the tower first of all, and climbed many more stairs to the top. Up here, we had by far the best views yet of the town. Karlovy Vary is surrounded by woodland all around, with distinctive tall trees that only have leaves towards the top.
Apart from the tower, there is a mini zoo that contained ponies, goats and a couple of weathered looking peacocks. They are supposed to have some weird miniature pigs too, that had been created in a test tube, but they weren’t on display today.
The markers to get down were like Alice in Wonderland
We decided to walk on the way down. This wasn’t so easy, as the markers on the trees conflicted each other constantly! It was a pretty cool walk through the woods though, with a couple of interesting things like a stone bench on the way down.A slight detour took us inside the Grandhotel Pupp. This is a very exclusive 5 star hotel, that was used as a filming location for the James Bond movie, Casino Royale.
Our evening meal was at Ventura Pub, which has lots of beer themed memorabilia. The Czechs take their beer very seriously indeed, and it is often cheaper than soft drinks! Also, the historic beer town of Pilzen is very nearby. It was a lovely meal that topped off a great day and the start of our thorough exploration of the Czech Republic.
Let us know in the comments if you are planning a trip to Bamberg or Karlovy Vary, and we will be glad to help….