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Monday 19 January 2015

One day in Bamberg, Germany - Schlenkerla smoked beer, traditional foods and the sites of an UNESCO world heritage city! (Part 1)

We started our "day in Bamberg" backwards, as we arrived in the evening and planned to spend a half day the next day after settling in at the hotel, eating and sleeping.  If you get a hotel in the town, bear in mind even with a really good GPS, there are many super narrow alleys (that look like bike paths), pedestrian only streets, oodles of one-ways.. and make sure your hotel provides parking.  The entire city is an UNESCO World Heritage site, so a lot of times, the parking is a good 15-20 min walk away.  We spent about an hour circling our hotel (it was smack dab in a pedestrian street), drove through (yes through) a backyard patio restaurant, only to have our car 10cm too high to go into the hotel parking garage (we had a small SUV).. backed out of restaurant, and drove to another parking lot 10min away... after lugging the minimal stuff we needed for the night back to the hotel, we were very looking forward to drinking some Schlenkerla smoked beer - what Bamberg is known for and noshing at the original one and only Bamberg Schlenkerla Historischer Brauereiausschank (Address Dominikanerstraße 6
96049 Bamberg)!

With all the streets being cobblestone, multitude of one-ways, crazy hills and more interesting fun things that make driving in Bamberg a mind boggling adventure, we were more than happy to ditch the car and explore Bamberg by foot after dinner.  Luckily, the restaurant was super close to the hotel, so we joined plenty of folks heading out for a drink and dinner.  There were lots of people getting off from work and stopping inside to pick up a beer, then head out for a chat and sip with other like minded Germans just outside the picturesque two story brewery and restaurant.

It still boasts the original Der Ausleger am Schlenkerla  or Schlenkerla sign - There's a blue lion symbolising the old house-name, first documented in 1405. There's also a six pointed star, the traditional guild-sign of the franconian brewers, also known as the brewer's star.

Inside, you could either self seat yourself in the Dominikanerklause which used to be a Dominican house chapel in 1310, in the inner court next to a 500-liter wooden-keg, or in the Das "Alte Lokal" or "Old Inn" where the old ceiling wooden beams of the low ceiling used to be painted with ox-blood for protection and darkened over the centuries.  The walls are adorned with several historic engravings of Bamberg, like the 1493 "World Chronicle of Schedel" and even a family tree of the ancestors of the Trum/Graser families that have owned this brewery and restaurant for centuries.

We joined a friendly table of a few businessmen, a German couple travelling around Germany, and an American couple who were planning to bike parts of Germany with their cycling club.  The waitress is super efficient, managing all the multitude of shared tables in the room and gives us a quick run down of their famous smoke beers after she gets us the English translated menu.  We didn't have to wait long after we self-seated before she got us menus and beers! And do they ever go through a lot of their smoke beer - they had to change out one gravity-fed oakwood cask a few minutes after we sat down!

We tried both the Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer Märzen - Maerzen / Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier -  and Original smoked wheat beer  / Schlenkerla Rauchweizen  as you can't claim you've been to Bamberg until you've sipped on their Schlenklerla.  Its name is derived from "Schlenkern" -an expression for walking not straight.  Schlenkerla is a dark, aromatic, bottom fermented beer with 13.5 percent alcoholic content and its smokiness comes from smoking the grains later used to make the malt over breech wood fires.  The original Schlenkerla is a bottom fermented beer that is rich, sweet and malty with a fairly strong smokey flavor.
Original Schlenkerla Smokebeer Märzen on left and Original smoked wheat beer / Schlenkerla Rauchweizen on right
While the original Schlenkerla Wheat smoked wheat beer / Schlenkerla Rauchweizen was a dark amber, unfiltered, lighter and almost pilsner like beer with only a hint of wood fire smokiness.  Both went down deliciously smooth... I enjoyed the sweet and full bodied Märzen more while my fiancée liked the Rauchweizen more as it was less smoky in flavor

We had worked up an appetite lugging luggage back to the hotel and strolling around town, so we did the menu justice and... ordered a ridiculous amount of food! :D  First out was the Bamberger Zwiebel in Rauchbiersoße mit Kartoffelbrei or Bamberg-style onion with Smokebeer sauce and mushed potatoes.  This is a traditional dish where a super sweet onion is hollowed out, stuffed with a seasoned ground meat mixture and slow roasted to perfection.

And yes, there's also bacon in there.. woo!

The onion was super caramelized sweet and tender, which worked really well with the savoriness of the well seasoned meatball within and all swimming in plenty of savory beef gravy and aside of super fluffy buttery mashed potatoes.. Nom!

I nearly polished off the entire Braten Eisbein mit Kartoffelknödel und Soße or Roasted pork knuckle with potato dumpling and gravy which was the special of the night by myself.. it was that good!  The crackling was nice and crisp...

While the meat was super tender and just fell off the bone with a poke of a fork.

 Paired with the delish savory salty pork gravy and a potato dumpling.. it was an epic entree!

Veges came out next in the form of a big bowl of Sauerkraut - tangy, salty, savory and heated to a good texture (not crunchy crisp, not a soggy mess, but just right!), we polished it off pretty quick!

We finished off our meal with an order of Bamberger Bratwürste mit Kraut und Brot or Bamberg-style sausages with Sauerkraut and bread.  The sausages have a wonderful snap to them, juicy and flavorful and disappeared like magic.

After taking time to finish off our beers, we practically rolled out of the restaurant and we meandered around town talking pictures, getting lost over (reading tinny tiny map in the dusk in a foreign language is fun!) as we mixed up a couple of their various bridges, but got a few nice pics out of it... the streets were very pretty at night...

And we amused locals and tourists alike as we attempted to set up our tripod and finicky remote to take this shot of the Obere Brücke bridge, completed in 1455 - which is super cool as it as the Rathaus, or City Hall built in the middle of it!

Bedtime.. and then exploring Bamberg in a day tomorrow!

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