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Instead of the walking tour of the city of Bamberg, we opted for the optional bus tour of the Franconian countryside. This area is geographically within Bavaria, but Franconians still think of themselves as ethnically different from Bavarians. The two groups speak distinctly different dialects of German.
This tour made three stops.
1. Seehof Palace
Located not far outside of Bamberg, the Seehof Palace, begun in 1686, was built as a summer residence for the Bamberg Prince-Bishops. After the fall of religious rule, the palace and grounds fell into disrepair under private ownership and, by the end of the 20th century, required extensive renovation.
The palace is now owned by the Bavarian State Conservation Office, which has renovated the gardens and restored the original fountain with their waterworks, which work by gravity:
Central to the garden is the cascade created in 1772, which dilapidated increasingly after secularisation and was put back into operation in 1995. Its programme heralds the glory of Hercules, in allegory of the Prince Bishop’s glory.
The nine rooms of the Prince-Bishop’s apartment have been restored and are open to the pubic, including the White Hall with its ceiling painting by Guiseppe Appiani:
Several other rooms are available for rent for events such as marriages, receptions, banquets, and concerts.
2. Drei Kronen (Three Crowns) Brewery
According to our tour guide, all Franconia is divided into two parts: the beer-making part and the wine-making part. We rode through the beer-making part and stopped at a brewery to try the region’s specialty, “smoke beer” or rauchbier.
Smoke beer gets its name and its distinctive taste from malt that has been dried over open fires. All beers were originally smoke beers because of this drying method, but modern brewing procedures no longer dry malt this way. As a result, smoke beers are becoming rare.
The brewery’s name translates as “three crowns,” and groupings of three crowns surrounded the tasting room:
My husband and I both enjoyed the smoky taste, although he’s much more of a beer aficionado than I.
3. Pilgrimage Church
This church must have a real name, but all I remember is that it has been a pilgrimage church since the 18th century, when a peasant girl with an eye disease went there to pray and was, according to tradition, cured. Many groups still make pilgrimages to the church every year.
The interior was still decorated with streamers because of the recent celebration of Corpus Christi.
The church contains a large organ, although we did not get to hear it.