During our morning sail to Bamberg , we were treated to an onboard demonstration of glasswork by master craftsman and 7th generation glassmaker Karl Ittig (“Kalle”) from Wertheim. Wertheim Glaskunst
Karl told us about learning his craft from his father, initially making “boring” Pyrex glassware, and eventually working alongside Dale Chihuly and teaching glass-making in both Europe and the United States. His work is unique not only for being one-of-a-kind handmade items, but for being made from Pyrex glass. Even his Christmas tree icicles are incredibly strong and shatter-resistant.
His demonstration involved a torch flame operating at up to 3500°F, which liquifies glass in 15 seconds. He joked (we hope!) that he wasn’t worried about setting off the ship’s smoke/heat alarms because he knew the manufacturer of their glass solenoids and “they’re not that good”.
Then it was off for Ted’s and my second visit to Bamberg, where our knowledgeable young guide Victoria gave us lots of extra insight into the city, including the fact that one of the major industries here is a large Bosch appliance factory.
While the city dates back to the Middle Ages, unlike Rothenburg it is not all half-timbered construction. The wealthy Prince-Bishops liked to keep up to date, so most of the city was reconstructed in the Baroque style, and even those buildings which weren’t completely changed were embellished with Baroque elements. It makes for a very beautiful place.
It may seem that each of these picturesque towns are much the same, but they’re really not. first of all, Bamberg has a “Gabelmann” (“fork man”) fountain – the locals’ irreverent moniker for Neptune.
Also, Bamberg has the distinction of having won basketball’s German Championship title nine times and the German Cup five times after the sport became popular during the many years that there was a U.S. military base here. The fans are so enthusiastic that the arena is referred to as “Franconian Hell”.
Bamberg is also notable for having the highest concentration of breweries per square kilometre in the world. in an area of Germany noted for its wine production, that’s especially significant. Bamberg’s signature beer is “Rauchbier” (smoked beer), which has a distinctively bacony taste. We tried it on our last visit, so didn’t feel the need to do it again; it’s okay, but probably best drunk with food. Attesting to its popularity, though, are the crowds of local folks drinking it in the streets.
The Bamberg city hall (Rathaus) is a work of art.
We were interested to see that commemorative plaques on the city hall recognize both the evils of the second world war and the German losses. It’s easy in North America to forget that German families lost hundreds of thousands of fathers, brothers, and sons too.
Looming over the city is the Church of Saints Peter and George, and the residences of the Prince Bishops. The church’s foundation is Romanesque, its upper towers Gothic, the attached residence Renaissance and Baroque. What a great place to compare architectural styles.
Our guide pointed out elements of the 12th and 13th century architecture that encouraged and reinforced the prejudice against the Jewish citizenry. On the right side of the church entrance is a female figure representing Judaism, blindfolded because she cannot see Christ as the son of God, with a broken staff in one hand and the 10 commandments dropping from her other. Victoria reminded us that historically Jews were prohibited from joining trade guilds, and Christians prohibited from lending money – and yet Jews were resented if their money lending professions made them rich. The Prince Bishops who borrowed money and then didn’t want to pay it back were particularly instrumental in perpetuating negative stereotypes about Jews.
We were only able to pop into the cathedral briefly because there was a mass scheduled, but Ted did manage to get a few pictures. The interior remains Romanesque, which means it is not as ornate as many other churches we’ve visited.
It was dark (5:30) as we stopped for a quick cappuccino and glühwein before boarding the bus back to our ship.
Off to bed. Tomorrow we visit Nuremberg and transfer to our new ship, the Viking Baldur.