Parts of Germany seem locked in time. Northern Bavaria is a good example. Here were villages and countryside that, for the most part, escaped the ravages of World War II. Once the Allied armies had advanced this far into the Reich, the small towns usually surrendered without a fight.
The tiny hamlet of Lichtenstein, the site of my latest Airbnb, would look the same in old black-and-white photos as it did today. I got up early in the morning since the rain had stopped and walked along the one central street. Seriously, there were maybe ten houses and I could feel people looking out their windows wondering who in the world I was.
It didn’t take me long to drive down to Bamberg, one of my favorite towns in Germany. The central core of Bamberg occupied an island in the River Regnitz and was remarkably preserved. I imagined this is how German cities looked before bombing, reconstruction and modernization.
I passed an unusual door knob and stopped to take a photo. For some reason, door knobs always catch my attention. I read later that this particular knob was special and nicknamed the Apfelweibla (apple lady).
It was described in a story in 1813 by German poet ETA Hoffmann:
“There he stood now and looked at the big, beautiful bronze door knocker; but when, at the last blow of the tower clock on the Kreuzkirche, which was streaming through the air with a powerful sound, he wanted to seize the door knocker, the metallic face twisted in the disgusting play of blue-glowing rays of light into a grinning smile. Oh! it was the apple woman from the Black Gate!”
You never know what you’ll find in Bamberg. All you have to do is amble down a narrow cobblestone alley.
I also noted decorative wreaths on the doors. Mom might have to step it up a notch, some of the German women were really getting with it…
Remember how I mentioned that this part of Germany seemed unscathed by war? Just outside of Bamberg I stopped in the village of Stettfeld. In its cemetery behind a small church was a marker over a mass grave. Twelve victims of a bombing raid on March 31, 1944, were buried together. Last names were listed first; you could see multiple members of families killed.
Many small villages like Stettfeld were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The main Allied targets were cities like Schweinfurt which I visited next.
In 1939 Schweinfurt produced most of Nazi Germany’s ball bearings and no military vehicles could run without ball bearings. Despite the city being deep in the heart of the Reich, Schweinfurt was bombed 22 times.
You could still see old buildings that had obviously been rebuilt from the rubble with exposed brick and stone. I examined a surviving Nazi air raid bunker which withstood every aerial bombing. It still had visible blast marks on the walls from advancing American tanks from 1945.
On the drive back through the countryside, I stopped whenever something caught my eye. The castle complex in the village of Burgpreppach was built in the early 1700s and most of the surrounding buildings seemed suspended in time. I read later that the lord of the estate still gave tours from time to time.