April 23, 2019
Bayreuth’s Church Organ
Breakfast at Hotel Restaurant Lohmühle was good. The buffet had no bacon, no eggs, and surprisingly no sausage. No problem, we had muesli, yoghurt, and fruit and a couple of cappuccinos.
We checked out, threw our luggage in the car which we left in the hotel’s lot, and walked Bayreuth. The center market and side streets were familiar and similar to most old town centers. We happened on a map of the town, which showed the Neues Schloss and garden courtyard. With a few GPS based false starts, The palace entry is under construction. In fact most of Germany seems to be under construction. “What’s the national bird of Germany? The Crane”. We walked through the rather mundane entry arch to find a huge rectangular tree lined courtyard and reflecting pool that extended hundreds of meters. The courtyard was accented by a freshly planted formal garden, centered and on either side. It was magnificent, tranquil, and even with the formality of the garden, it was unimposing. The huge palace was understated, painted in yellow. It lent to the air of peaceful calm.
Simply Amazing that the Gardens are So Empty
The Lone Cherry
One Side of a Symmetrical Planting
Left Side of a Symmetrical Front Garden
There were a very few people enjoying the gardens. One fellow was taking photos. A family strolled by. An older gentleman relaxed on a bench. Some bicyclists happened by. I could have enjoyed an entire morning sitting, reading, but mostly absorbing the feeling of pleasure this garden evoked.
We were strolling on borrowed time and had to boogie on out to keep to our loosely defined “schedule”. We set goals, achieve some, skip others, or chose to stop early just because. This time we were off to Bamberg by way of Thurnau, Kronach, and Bamberg.
Bamberg Waking Up
Last Look at the Parking Lot, Hotel Restaurant Lohmühle
Typical House, Thurnau
One brochure at the Hotel caught our imagination. Thurnau looked to be an interesting castle and worth a visit. It happened to be along the way (if you stretch the meaning of “along”). GPS took us over hills and into valleys on a narrow winding road with a captivating panorama left and right. Huge fields of yellow canola lined the road in places. As we approached Thurnau, we climbed a hill, dropped down a bit and hit a “T” in the road. GPS was silent. On a whim I turned right, down hill. Typically when you’re looking for a castle, turning up-hill would be the smart move. I commented to Ellen that I just goofed and we’d have to find a place to turn around. Down we went, then left, then up a bit. Here was a perfect place to U-Turn, right in front of Castle Thurnau. The castle sits roadside with a few establishments across the street and very little else. As it typical in Germany for us, the castle was under renovation. There were earth movers hauling dirt, workers moving dirt around. The grounds surrounding the castle were being beautified and probably structurally improved as well.
Thurnau Castle was a surprise. It is a privately owned hotel and restaurant. Based on the lobby, the rooms would be well appointed with a modern bathroom. I assume the rooms would have a rustic feel with original walls and floors. I don’t know because we chose not to look at a room. We took a card, inquired about room rates (moderate), took our share of photos.
We had “just” eaten a healthy breakfast. No reason to sample the Castle’s menu. We headed off.
Castle Entrance, Thuranu
Walkway between the Fortress and the Church, Thuranu
Let’s Check-Out the Hotel
“Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow”
Construction, Everywhere Construction
Easter In Germany, Decorated Eggs are Everywhere
Kronach is about 35 minutes north of Thurnau. We could see a massive hill-top castle complex ahead as we headed north. The further we went the more massive it appeared. Then it was just east of us, then dropping behind us. Humm, I guess that was not Kronach! In fact it was Plassenburg outside Kulmbach. We hah another 20 kilometers to go.
Where Thurnau was easy to find (even if by accident), Kronach was difficult for us. We drove around and around looking for a sign of a castle. There was a cobblestone old town that we drove through more than a few times, there were narrow bridges over the Hasslach river that we visited and re-visited, but there was no sign of a castle: no signs, nothing but a bunch of one way streets. GPS was not helping things along either. Ellen and I had some words about navigation or lack there-of. It was not pretty.
In frustration I simply found public parking stopped, and said we should go forth on foot. We were still on speaking terms (barely) and we set off uphill, on the assumption that a castle would not be built on low ground, Thurnau not withstanding.
As we walked up a very few German couples passed us walking down. We saw practically nobody, but kept going. We turned a corner to find a work crew repairing a road; out with the old cobblestones and in with the new. We walked carefully past the workers in a loosely marked off pathway. I nodded to one fellow who looked up, he smiled and went back to work. I took that to mean it’s ok to continue.
Men at Work
Now we could see the castle walls, and they were impressive. (most castle walls are impressive or they’re ruins, I suppose). There was nobody about. Is the castle closed? We climbed up and up; up the road and up some stairs, then through the main gate. A workman or two and a couple on the ramparts was all we saw.
Quite the Entrance
By now we were hungry. Low blood sugar surely contributed to our earlier meltdown. There was a sign for a terrace restaurant on the battlements. Great, Up a stairway and there was the restaurant with red umbrellas accenting outdoor seating. Let’s sit outdoors and enjoy the view! It was not around 2PM a merrily sunny day. We had a view over the town of Kronach, wonderful.
“Can we sit outside?”, “Of course, sit where you would like.” We chose a table sheltered from the wind, which was blowing. Our table decoration went airborn a number of times. The wind cut the sun’s heat. We sat and chatted, and chatted and sat. Then sat some more. Then more. I was about to give up when the waitress came with menus. “I’d like a lager beer.” Ellen ordered still water with lime or lemon. “I’ll give you some time to look over the menu.” Now that was an understatement. We chatted and waited, and took in the view and chatted, and waited. And waited some more. Eventually our water & beer arrived and our waitress (probably the only one working that day) took our order. “Sorry we are out of sausage!” “All sausage, you’re actually out of all sausages?” “Well no, we have the curry sausage.” Great! “A curry sausage and a salad please.” I nursed my beer and Ellen her water and we chatted, and waited. And waited and chatted. Then waited some more. And more. I wondered if they were slaughtering the pig as we waited. Finally our food arrived. We were hungry and it was good. After we finished we waited for our waitress to appear and I had had enough. Inside our waitress was in a serious discussion on the telephone. I have no idea what she was talking about. It could have been the color of a pair of shoes she liked or that a family member was in the hospital. I just could not tell.
I paid cash for our 17.10 euro meal. She took the 20 and said Danke. What? That’s not how this works! I motioned that I expected change back, which she gave me expressionlessly then turned away. I had considered giving her the benefit of the doubt AND a tip, but no now.
Inside the Castle Walls (Before Lunch)
Expansive Views from the Restaurant’s Terrace
To reach Bamberg at a reasonable hour, we had to leave. Our Kronach experience threatened to make today a disaster. We took a few photos of the Castle, which is very impressive, as we walked to the car.
Here’s a recurring theme. When I parked at Kronach I tried to use a parking app. and failed, I tried to pay by coin in a parking kiosk, and failed. We walked off not paying for parking. For a second time, we did not get a parking ticket. If we were in Germany, I’d think the Czech license plate saved us. Not so in the Czech Republic. Perhaps the Czechs are not so diligent as the Germans?
GPS again: google’s distance from Kronach to Bamberg is 61km or 47 minutes. I have no idea where Google got that idea. Half of the route is on A73, the autobahn. The other half is on B289, which winds through towns with local speed limits that can be as low as 20, and there are trucks. It took abut an hour and a half to reach Bamberg. It is a pleasant drive, or would have been but for Kronach and its waitress.
Not that much Farther
Seen on the Streets of Kronach
Photo of Bamberg’s Rathaus
We had settled down long before we reached Bamberg. IPhone GPS did its typical thing: navigated us to Bamberg without a hitch, then failed miserably within the town limits. I can be trained. Once the GPS started it’s go left, no go right, go straight, make a U-turn, I found a parking garage, parked, and we went on foot. German parking garages are well marked as are no-parking zones. That seems the best approach in small towns. I parked in the garage at the south side of Löwenbrücke
We walked to the old town center of Bamberg, then across the Regnitz river to the island. Here there were tourists; Russian, Italian, British, American, but mostly German. Even Bamberg’s island was not crowded and didn’t ooze “it’s touristy”. It felt “right”.
We stumbled upon the visitor’s center (we “stumble” a lot). “The classic view of the Rathaus is from the foot bridge. You get there by walking just behind the building there (pointing). Here I’ll check accommodations for you. There is availability at Hotel Central no far from here. Where did you park. There’s a parking garage a block from the hotel. You can park there. Is that OK”.
We made the reservation, walked the footbridge with a fantastic view of Altes Rathaus, then back to the car. Surprise, the parking kiosk took cash and coin, but not credit. Surprise, the total for “just a few minutes” (longer actually) was 3 euro! Surprise, I had 70 cents. The nearest ATM was back at the market square, a 30 minute walk back and forth. The fee to park was still 3 euro.
With the GPS targeting Hotel Central, we were off. All would have gone smoothly but for road work. Later we found that the turn onto the hotel’s road was blocked. There was no way to drive to the hotel “the easy way”. The GPS was not having anything but the “easy way”. On the third go-round, we bailed on the hotel. Let’s find the parking garage. Again another three circles around to find the correct parking garage. By now I want my Garmin GPS and a map of Bavaria.
The walk from the parking garage to the hotel was two moderate city blocks. No problem. The room was small with a still smaller bathroom. The price? $78.
Parked and unpacked, we strolled out looking for a bite to eat. First we considered Tivoli, an Italian place we had passed. Then thought we’d walk to the island and find something local. We stopped at a Hoffbrau a block inside the tower. The mango appetizer was superb. I had white asparagus with Wienerschnitzel. Ellen had sauerbraten with sliced boiled potato. We skipped desert and still had ordered too much food. “Next time we’ll eat light.”
You can get the feel of Bamberg’s Old Town in an afternoon and evening. The rathaus’ location and the confluence of the Main and Regnitz rivers makes Bamberg unique.
The Germans love their pork, potato, and spaetzle; but most of all they love their eis and Bäckerei. Their ice cream is quite good (we’ve had just one thus far). German bakeries are superb. Pork & potato, ice cream and pastries what could go wrong?