I earmarked our second day for a trip to Bamberg. Lovely town and not far. Just a short hop and jump on the train.
We hit town a bit before eleven. It's already pretty hot.
"Where are we going, dad?"
"Is it far?"
"Half way into town. I've got it all worked out."
Except that I haven't counted on one thing: the popularity of Fässla for early shopping*. There isn't a seat to be had.
"Let's try Spezial."
"Where's that, dad?"
"There," I say, pointing directly over the road. "I told you everything was under control."
Luckily, Spezial doesn't prove me a liar. We can't get a seat outside, but plenty are free inside.
Soon we both had one of these:
"Is this smoky bacon flavoured beer?"
"Yes, how did you guess?"
"From the smoky bacon smell. And the word Rauchbier on the glass. I can read German, you know."
A young Japanese woman enters. The barman pours her a Rauchbier wothout even asking. Most of the other customers are pensioners. Some must have been pensioners for decades. They eat and drink at a slow, steady pace.
Noticing the Stammtisch, I tell Andrew of a game Harry invented: thinking up bad advice for tourists. Like saying that it's polite to stare at people in British pubs.
"I'd say that strangers are expected to sit at the Stammtisch and if it's full you can ask one of the locals to get up to make room for you."
It takes a while to get through the beer. I clearly don't have my drinking head on. When we've finally finished it off we head for our next appointment. With more smoke.
Town is packed. There's some sort of event going on and every 50 metres down the main drag there's a magician performing. Add to that a street market and hordes of tourists and you'll have some idea of the degree of packedness.
"Daaad, what are all these people doing here?" Andrew shares my dislike of crowds.
"Getting in our bloody way."
The hordes reach a crescendo around the, admittedly highly scenic, old town hall bridge. I'd like to take some snaps, but really don't want to look like all the other muppets.
The baroque end of town is almost as full, but fortunately Schlenkerla isn't far. Amazingly we find free seats in the courtyard. Result.
"Do they sell that bacon beer here, dad?"
"I'll have an Apfelschorle."
We've arrived in that funny hole in Schlenkerla's menu - too late (after noon) for the breakfast treats, too early (before 14:30) for the afternoon sarnies. It leaves a fairly limited choice.
"Oh, look, they've got Schäuferle."
"What's that, dad?"
"Like a healthfood version of Schweinshaxe."
"Be serious, dad."
"It is, sort of."
I explain how it's made. I'm an expert, having watched a German programme on Franconian Brauhaus cooking. Andrew looks remarkably unimpressed.
"I'll stick with sausage, if that's OK with you, dad."
It's pretty raucous outside. Large groups of middle-aged Germans are having fun. One bunch of women are smoking their post-prandial fags when one of a gang of men just passing through the courtyard starts picking at their leftovers. The women's response is remarkably good natured and everyone finds it hugely amusing. They just don't know how to get into fights, these Germans.
"Is there anywhere else you want to go, dad?" At least that's what I heard. I think Andrew might have said: "Do you plan dragging me anywhere else?"
"Klosterbräu. It's just around the corner."
As we walk there, I'm reminded how crap I am at navigating my way around Bamberg. I consult my map several times during the 100 metre trek.
"I think it's just around here."
"That's a dead end, dad."
"Ah, right . . . must be this way."
As we stumble around, I try to explain that Klosterbräu used to belong to the Fürstbischof of Bamberg.
"I guess Fürstbischof wasn't an heriditary job, then." Andrew quips.
At Klosterbräu there's a sign saying that the river beer garden is open. Is that new? I can't rememeber ever noticing a garden at the back of the brewery. It's rather pleasnt, placed in the yard between the brewery and the river. We find some shade and order. I get a Kellerbier. I don't remember seeing that before, either. It comes in this rather attractive Stein:
I hope you're not expecting any description of the beer contained within it. Wet and pleasantly cool. A bitter taste, too. I think it might come from hops, but wouldn't swear on it.
Despite being a bit off the beaten track, several large groups arrive. Is no-one in parties of less than eight today?
"Can we walk back a different way?" I told you Andrew dislikes crowds almost as much as me. We work out a route skirting the centre.
Back at the station, there's time to collect a beer and impulse schnapps for the train journey.
"Why do you always buy that Chantré stuff?"
"It's the classic impulse schnapps."
"But does it taste nice?"
Um. Never considered that before.
* Frühschoppen = pissing it up before lunch.
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From the cellar: Williams Brothers (Heather Ales) Kelpie - Williams Brothers Brewery ABV: 4.4% Origin: Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland Website: www.williamsbrosbrew.com First published: 5 February 2001 Another...
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