Friday 16 March 2012

Bamberg Historic Hills Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.8 km (3 miles), terrain hilly

For more Bamberg routes, see Route List

Bamberg is a medieval jewel, so count yourself lucky if you get to spend some time there. The town has everything that any ancient city needs to be interesting to visitors: beautiful stone churches, medieval statuary, lots of half-timbered houses lining rivers and streams, narrow alleys winding their way along hillsides, market squares, monasteries, ancient breweries and vineyards, palaces, fountains, parks and crooked old inns.

Bamberg's old town hall
The whole place has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of the few mid-sized German towns that wasn't bombed flat in the war.

Bamberg actually has 3 old-towns: the Inselstadt (Island Town) which is the main old-town on the big island in the Regnitz river, the Bergstadt (Hill Town) going up the hillsides to the west of the island, and the Gärtnerstadt (Gardener Town) to the east. The Gärtnerstadt has louder streets, so I left it out of this route, concentrating on the other two sections.

This route will first head up the hills of the Bergstadt and then do a loop through the Inselstadt. The Bergstadt is the clerical part of town, tradionally ruled by the Bamberg bishop. It's full of churches, monasteries and antique shops. The Inselstadt is tradionally the citizen-ruled town, formerly run by the patrician families. This is where the main market squares and shopping areas are.

Bamberg shop front: is something crooked here?
That's why they built the old Rathaus (town hall) on a tiny island between the two parts of town, a neutral spot that binds both halves together.

The Historic Hills Run
So, ready to go? We'll start at the Obstmarkt (fruit market) on Lange Straße in the Inselstadt, close to the old town hall. Head westwards uphill along Obere Brücke, past the old shops and pubs to cross the stone bridge to the town hall. The sculptures and the baroque facade on the building are pretty amazing.

Obstmarkt, heading for the town hall
Run through the archway in the Rathaus and straight up Karolinenstraße with its stone houses. Most are full of antique shops with very high-quality furnishings, looking like everything was once owned by a king.

Rathaus, Obere Brücke
This is, as I mentioned, the clerical side of town, traditionally full of churches, monasteries, theology schools and religious artifacts everywhere. Very Catholic.

The street curves upwards to the right, going up the hill to the cathedral and the bishop's palace. You will come up to a paved cobble-stone plaza with the 700-year-old, 4-towered cathedral (Dom) to your left. 

Bamberg cathedral
Go up to the main entrance and look at the old carvings, including ancient lions, and Adam and Eve flanking the doorway.
This is one mighty old lion
Inside the cathedral are some of the best medieval sculptures in the world, and it's well worth coming back again later to go inside.

Across the square is the bishop-prince's palace. Back then, the bishops' offices were often hereditary, with an aristocratic lord filling the double role of bishop and local prince.

On the north side of the square is the older kaiser's court, with its really archaic carvings. Take a close look. There is another Adam and Eve, but here they are hairy. Back then, the German king/kaisers had no fixed capital city, they travelled from one castle to another, always on the move, with a court of 400 people in their caravan. This was their Bamberg castle. Kaiser Heinrich II also built the cathedral.
Entrance to Kaiserhof, reclining hairy Eve in upper right
Now follow the street up past the palace as it curves past other palace-like buildings. Off to the right, on the next hill, you'll see Michaelsberg, the huge former Benedictine monastery crowning the next hill. That's where we are heading next.

The street gets very narrow, and comes to an intersection in front of St. Jakob's church. Turn right and run downhill on Michaelsberger Straße, then back uphill again (sorry about that!).

At the front of the monastery, turn right to go through the gate and then head to the left side of the huge open courtyard, where you can get a great view towards the north.

In Michaelsberg courtyard
Now turn around and go back out the front gate again, turning left and then turning right again after just a few steps, going down Storchsgasse.

NOTE: To turn this into a REAL Historic Hills Run, you could head straight out from the monastery, running uphill along St.-Getreu-Straße, past the palace-like psychiatric institute (those lucky, crazy Bambergers) until you reach the wooded hilltop, where you can keep going for kilometers. You can either curve southwest to scenic little Altenburg Castle, on its own hilltop, or just follow the ridge westwards through the Steigerwald. I've been out that way a few times, and it's nice!
The Steigerwald begins here!
At the end of this short street, turn left on Jakobsberg to run back towards St. Jakob's. But at the back end of the church, turn right to run downhill on Sutte.

After a few blocks, the street comes to a square where several streets come together, at the Koi Asian restaurant. Turn left here to run down the pedestrian/bike-way through the Domgrund, a park-like valley to the south of the cathedral hill.
In the Domgrund
At the end of the path, turn right and go up the steps to Unterer Kaulberg, right in front of the Our Lady church.

Now turn left and run downhill, where you cross the next square diagonally to the left and run down the little alley called Lugbank. The street ends at Dominikanerstraße, where you'll see the old Dominican monastery buildings on the right, now used as the "Aula", or lecture hall for the university.
Turn left and run down Dominikanerstraße (called Sandstraße soon). This street is full of Bamberg's most popular pubs and clubs in the evening. The street turns to the right, then left again, going past St. Elisabeth's chapel on the right.

Turn right on the first street after the chapel, Elisabethenstraße, at the fountain with the saint. In 2 blocks you've reached the river. Directly across the water is Kleinvenedig (Little Venice), a row of very picturesque old fishermen's houses lining the river.
Turn left and run northwards along the river, going under the first bridge and onwards. You'll run by another of the bishop's various palaces here at the river, now a 5-star hotel.

Cross the river at the modern pedestrian bridge to the new concert hall on the other side. The Bamberg Symphony now plays here, famous for their many classical recordings.

Head straight into the street called Weide, with the line of trees in the middle. This street curves to the right and hits the old town again after a busy intersection at Markusplatz.

Run straight on Kapuzinerstraße for one block, then turn left to run up Hinterer Graben. This street follows the line of the old city walls, which were right behind the houses on the left. The street becomes Vorderer Graben, curving around to the right.
Pedestrian street in Inselstadt
It ends at the old town guardhouse on Bamberg's main pedestrian shopping street. Turn right and run down this street straight back to the Obstmarkt.

You'll pass a square in front of the newer town hall (looks about 100 years old), then the main church, St. Martin's, built by the Jesuits, where another square begins. This second square is called the Grüner Markt (Green Market) and the street is often full of market stands. There is a Neptune fountain just before you get to the end, at Obstmarkt. Another nice hangout!
The Neptune fountain

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