From our flat in the old town of Bamberg we can see Klosterbrau, and right now there is steam rising from the Schlenkerla brewery as they are deep into another brew day. The rooftops are clustered together densely and irregularly. St. Michael’s Cathedral is also visible from where I’m sitting. And except for when the drunks at the bar downstairs get too loud, all I can hear are the chirping birds and the church bells.

Heaven is definitely calling. After spending the first few days getting ourselves organized (for example, dealing with the sorry state of the apartment espresso machine – this stuff is important, you understand), we went on our first of many, many wanders. We headed out to the Greifenklau, which is up a hill. They have an impressive biergarten in the back and although it was windy the semi-rural landscape and Altenberg hill provided a fine backdrop to a glass of weizen and a kellerbier.

From there, it was up the hill. The castle/fort at the top was essentially the first building in the area, dating from at least the beginning of the 10th century, although the structure today is not quite that old. From the ramparts, the entire valley in which Bamberg is situated is visible. Having already studied my maps, I could point out which villages had breweries. It’s a lot.

We wandered down the hill – footpaths are marked on our city map. This is an aspect of Europe I find very civilized. Footpaths and bike paths are just as reasonable for getting to your destination as roads. Our destination was the Spezial Keller, the hilltop biergarten for the other rauchbier brewery of Bamberg. It is a magnificent setting, overlooking the town. We popped into Klosterbrau on the way home, since it was there.

I was thinking about the markets and the way of life here. It is a lot closer to a reasonable, sustainable model than anything I remember from back home. Half the food is local, and you take advantage of the seasons. Right now there are wild mushrooms, cherries, white asparagus, gorgeous young potatoes and strawberries. Our milk could come from close but I had to get Weihenstephan milk, just because.

I can’t help get the feeling that this is truly a special place. The fact that this part of the world is a little bit cut off from modernity and bustle is part of its charm, but we do not lack for pleasure here either. Delicious beer, beautiful scenery and a relaxed pace of life. Yes, work is already calling me. It’s the reason I haven’t visited all the breweries here yet. But that’s trivial. This is going to be a great summer.

Up next, a road trip to Passau and Regensburg.

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