Travel Journal

Searching for Beer in the Land of Hops - Nuremberg and Bamberg

Enroute from Munich to Berlin we would pass through Germany's renown beer region, with the towns of Nuremberg and Bamberg at its center. I had heard that there were actually designated "beer hikes" -- marked trails that connected independent breweries.  We were tired of the big city and the idea of wandering through peaceful forests and farmer's fields, punctuated by stops to sample local beer and food, seemed like the perfect activity for us. 

Nuremberg church
Nuremberg church

Nuremberg was to be the original starting point for a day hike  In my research, many references described the 5-Seidl Trail and I began to explore transportation options to its trailhead. We would arrive on a Sunday and planned to hike Monday. Unfortunately a number of breweries were closed on Monday, and the train and bus options did not work easily to get us to the start of the hike. We made a decision--I had booked a hotel for few nights in the city, so I cancelled one night. We could check out the town, which was highly-recommended for its historical significance (especially WW2 events) and then continue on to Bamberg for "Plan B". Bamberg is known for its numerous in-town breweries as well as many spread throughout the countryside nearby. The Bamberg tourist information website touted a 13 Brewery hike so I  was certain that we could tailor a hike to suit our time and beer-drinking abilities! And the regional trains would easily get us to the trailhead, so it all seemed workable!

Beer and Bratwurst  - everywhere!
Beer and Bratwurst - everywhere!

It was an hour-long train ride from Munich to Nuremberg. We arrived by noon and, with only the afternoon to explore, decided to wander the old town. Nuremberg held great significance during Nazi Germany in WW2, being the headquarters of the military and center for Nazi party rallies. It is most remembered as the site of the Nuremberg trials, when officials involved in crimes against humanity were brought before an international tribunal. During the war, 90% of the city was bombed and destroyed in one hour, so much of the historic old town has been rebuilt. We followed a long and busy pedestrian street, passing a number of beautiful churches and buildings and ending up at the royal residence.  It was a hot day and I craved a nap in the air-conditioned hotel room, so left Talia to continue to explore.

Nuremberg  Old Town
Nuremberg Old Town

An hour or so, she returned excited to tell me that she had stumbled upon a lively beer festival happening inside the moat of the castle (and out of the general tourist sightline) There were a huge number of tents and people, as well as bands playing on 3 stages. It seems we didn't have to go hiking to experience the local beer and food after all, but rather the beer and food had come to us! 

We happily found a table, filled our glasses and enjoyed the atmosphere. The music was excellent--we found one band that I swear were clones of the Eagles. The lead singer even looked like one of them. For a moment I felt like a local, as I joined in, singing and moving to the music,  enjoying the tasty beer and cuisine while sitting inside the confines of a castle moat as the setting sun cast a golden hue on the historic stone wall towering above us. Priceless memory!  

Bamberg historic building
Bamberg historic building

The next day we arrived in Bamberg, with the plan of leaving our luggage at the hotel and attempting the beer hike (we figured 5 breweries and about 15k would be about right for us). As we made our way to our accommodation, the rain began to fall and it looked like it was going to continue for a while. We were not such die-hard beer aficionados that we were willing to hike in detrimental weather for a pint. Quickly we shed the idea of hiking at all, deciding instead to wander the rainy streets of a beautiful historic town.

Talia did get the chance to try Bamberg's famous Rauchbier or "smoked" beer which is made by drying the malted barley over an open flame. She agreed with the general consensus that it tasted like soot and was definitely an acquired taste. I braved a sip and found it tolerable. 

Bamberg's Rauschbiere--an acquired taste!

Although we did not get to hike among the breweries in land of beer, our rather lazy, uneventful day in the rain in Bamberg turned out to be the respite we needed before once again we tackled the intensity of the big city. Berlin was up next!