Figure from the the splendor portal created in 1573.

Bamberg in Depth

Jason R. Matheson
6 min readOct 1, 2015


The first day of October 2015 was cool and sunny in northern Bavaria and I had the entire day to explore Bamberg. This was the view looking out my bedroom window as the sun rose over the tumble of peaks and chimneys:

Altstadt Bamberg

Seriously, this four-level apartment is probably the best place I’ve stayed during my time in Germany. I booked it for cheaper than any other hotel I could find and it’s just steps from the middle of the old town. It’s like someone gave you the keys to their place and left for the weekend.

The apartment is located right off Judenstrasse which indicates this was the Jewish quarter. In fact, the old synagogue is right on the corner. During the Nazi regime, it was burned on Kristallnacht (night of broken glass) on Nov. 10, 1938. More than 500 Bamberg Jews fled but the 300 who remained at the end of 1941 were deported to concentration camps.

A view down Judenstrasse (Jew’s street) in Bamberg and what used to be the Synagogue.

As in other German cities, there are numerous memorials to the war, the Holocaust and to its individual victims scattered throughout Bamberg.

Do you see the Swastika in the first memorial? More stumble stones outside homes where individual Jews lived before the Holocaust.

I hiked around town for three hours in the morning, took a break for lunch, then was back at it for another four hours in the afternoon. In addition to hitting all the big sights, I had plenty of time to wander down quieter streets and uncover some surprises.

Bamberg is a maze of tiny streets and jumbled buildings.

For example, I located the old Abattoir, a slaughterhouse situated next to the river Regnitz. The steer sculpture on the facade (Bevo?) lounges peacefully, unaware that its leftovers would be dumped into the water. Aren’t you glad you weren’t drinking from the river downstream? No wonder so many people keeled over during the Dark Ages.

Ah, the old Abattoir. It was a slaughterhouse.

I came across this graceful building from the 1700s that didn’t look like it had been painted in a hundred years. It proudly wore a warm, faded patina that still glowed in the sun after all this time:

I hiked up one of Bamberg’s seven hills and inspected the mighty cathedral that was completed in the 13th century. I’m fascinated by the detailed sculptures and paintings, many of which took years to complete.

Details from the Bamberger Dom St. Peter und St. Georg

For example, this massive marble tomb by sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider took 14 years to finish:

The sculpture dedicated 14 years of his life to create this marble tomb.

Along one wall was the symbol of the city, Der Bamberger Reiter (rider), created around the 1230s. It’s considered the first life-size equestrian statue since classical antiquity and also one of the first to depict a horse shoe.

A poem written about this horseman influenced Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the would-be assassin of Hitler who was a member of a cavalry unit from Bamberg. You remember his memorial I pictured yesterday located inside the pathway of the old Bamberg Rathaus.

The Bamberg rider, the Green Man and a model of the city above his head.

Supporting the base of the horse is a strange face, referred to as the “Green Man”. He seems to be a pagan representation but evidently this type of face appears frequently in ancient Christian cathedrals across Europe. You can read more about this unnervingly eerie tradition here.

Not the warmest welcome under the entrance arch.

To the side of the cathedral was the old court, architectural remains which date from the 1500s. The entrance arch was magnificently detailed with heroic and sometimes frightening characters.

Countering the doom and gloom so often associated with religious iconography is the playful surprise on the exterior of the Bamberg Rathaus. The murals are in a style which appear to be three dimensional. On one side, a cherub sculpture pops out with some of the drapery to highlight the effect:

Bamberg’s old Rathaus (town hall) spanning the river Regnitz and the surprise cherub on the side.

A word about food and drink in Germany: most traditional restaurants are serious on the meat and potatoes. I usually grab a sandwich from a bakery or bratwurst from a stand along the pedestrian walkways. Without fail, about midway through the afternoon, most Germans pause to converse over Kaffee und Kuchen(coffee and cake). What a great tradition.

The exterior of a typical German bakery, one of many wurst stands and Germans enjoying “Kaffee und Kuchen”.

This is my final night in Bamberg. I’ll travel southeast on the train to Regensburg tomorrow. I’ll be back with you then.

In case you forget the traditional greeting in Bavaria.



Jason R. Matheson

I prefer to travel slow. Enjoy history, design, architecture, cars, sports digital. Auburn alum, Sooner born.