A rucksack full of riches: memories of Bamberg

Anna, Tim and Max have known each other since kindergarten. Now they regularly tour their home state of Bavaria together by train. When their trip is done, they always have souvenirs to remind them of the place they've visited, the journey and the things they did that day. Their latest destination: Bamberg.


Whenever Anna, Tim and Max return from a trip, it's not just their heads that are full of memories: their bags and rucksacks are as well, in the form of mementos and souvenirs. Some big, some small, some expensive, some unusual – but all of them special. The three friends are currently on the train back from Bamberg.

Located in the Franconia region of northern Bavaria, the town is on UNESCO's World Heritage list. With its medieval cathedral and enchanting old town, it is the kind of place every traveller dreams of seeing. All of Bamberg's historic, cultural and culinary highlights are located within a 15-minute walk of its railway station. Visitors can go time-travelling back to the Middle Ages when they take part in a tour to explore the perfectly preserved alleyways of the old town. Another option is a nostalgic, leisurely boat trip on the Regnitz, complete with a view of the delightful houses that line the riverbanks in what is known as "little Venice". The three friends' purchases in "Franconia's Rome" are just as varied:

1.       A Bamberg croissant from traditional bakery Kerling

A train trip without provisions? Perish the thought! Max knows that food is an essential part of every journey, so he popped into the Kerling bakery and picked up a few of the local croissants, called "Bamberger Hörnla" in German. Non-Bambergers should take note, however: the same term is used to describe a variety of small, curved potato. This is a regional cultivar that was developed in the late 19th century. The Hörnla pastry first appeared in the town in the 14th century, and no local person would ever think of demeaning it by calling it a croissant. Its special feature is that it tastes good even in the evening – when the trio is going home, in other words. Max munches on the soft, buttery snack while the train leaves Bamberg behind, winding its way past the villages and little towns of Franconia on its way to Nuremberg. Anna isn't hungry, but she is happy: when the friends were making their way back to the station, they had enough time for food at Spezial on Obere Königsstrasse. An inn and brewery in one, it has a splendid half-timbered facade and a dining room with dark wood panelling.

2.       Smoked beer from the Spezial brewery

Max's souvenir is Bamberg's most celebrated specialty beverage: smoked beer, a bottom-fermented variety with a unique, smoky flavour thanks to the use of smoked malt.  Originally made in the month of March, it is served exclusively in a half-litre tankard called a "Seidla". If you'd only like to find out what smoked beer tastes like, just use the word "Schnitt" in your order – this way, your Seidla won't be full to the brim. Also, don't worry if you can't really warm to this whisky among beers: the region around Bamberg has hundreds of other varieties to offer you. Within the town itself, there are no less than 11 active breweries, such as Klosterbräu right on the river, or Schlenkerla in Sandstrasse, a street famous for its picturesque half-timbered houses from the Middle Ages.

3.       Ticket for the tourist boat Christl

Tickets, postcards, personal notes – when travelling, Tim collects a variety of small mementos that most people would probably throw away instantly. They mean a lot to him, however. On this trip, Tim pocketed his ticket for the tourist boat Christl that carried him and his friends on the Regnitz river through Bamberg's "little Venice" neighbourhood. Now folded and safely stored in a side pocket of his rucksack, this small slip of paper will always remind him of the little houses that were once the homes of fishermen and their families. Their colourful wooden facades aren't the only thing he'll remember – the boat also went past Bamberg's modern concert and congress hall, also built by the river and home of the town's internationally famous symphony orchestra.      

4.       Old curios from Bamberg's antiques quarter

Anna's souvenir is carefully packed because it is a small treasure from a filled-to-overflowing antique shop beside Obere Brücke, one of the two bridges crossing the river at the old town hall. The architecture student discovered half a dozen small, original engravings of Bamberg houses from the 19th century. The buildings were easy to spot when walking around – but that's hardly surprising, because the old town is one of Germany's best-preserved architectural ensembles. It was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1993. The many churches, palaces, patricians' houses and labourers' homes bear witness to Bamberg's rich history ever since the diocese was founded in 1007. The cathedral towers over romantic alleys that served as the setting for the 2011 film "The Three Musketeers", starring Orlando Bloom.

5.       Liquorice roots from Bamberg's gardens

Tim's second Bamberg souvenir is a healthy choice. He fishes a small bag out of his rucksack and gives it to his friends so they can smell its contents. Liquorice? Yes and no. The people of Bamberg started growing Glycyrrhiza glabra in the Middle Ages. Simply called "liquorice" by botanists, it is the basic ingredient for the sweets of the same name. Considered to be a medicinal plant in Germany, it is also sold for infusions in grated form. This usage is popular in Bamberg, and grated liquorice is what's in the packet that Tim bought. No matter how many times you come back to the town, there is always something new to discover.