Let me preface today’s post by stating just how amazing it is that so many people in Europe can speak excellent English, even though it may be their second, third or even fourth language. We English speakers love to pride ourselves on being able to speak some French, or some German, but to be able to walk into a shop in a foreign country and be able to order food or purchase goods while conversing in English, I find absolutely astonishing.
One thing that a lot of English speakers fail to realise though, is that while it’s one thing to learn a foreign language, it’s another thing to learn all of the nuances that go along with it. Which is why I think so many people find German people in the service industry ‘rude’, when in reality they’re actually trying to be helpful, it’s just that they don’t understand the hidden meanings behind certain phrases. Rather than rude, they’re actually just matter-of-fact, which on the face of it can seem quite abrupt at times. It’s only when you strike an actual rude bastard that you really notice the difference. Which brings me to today’s guide.
Stefan – or, sorry “Sht-efan” (because he won’t answer you if you call him St-efan), was an out-and-out, bona fide, 100% card-carrying rude prick. An arrogant son-of-a-bitch who thought himself so far above the rest of the common English speaking muck that he was reluctantly guiding, that he had no hesitation in pissing off absolutely everybody he spoke to today. If you don’t believe me, or you think I might be exaggerating slightly, the simple fact that by the end of a 15 minute walk along the river into the old town centre of Bamberg, his group had dwindled from around a dozen people to a mere four, speaks volumes.
This miserable streak of bird shit on the windscreen of tour guiding, wise-cracked his way through the start of the tour, and to give him his due, some of his jokes were actually amusing (like the picture of a briefcase full of sausages, which he explained was a “German wurst-case scenario”), but interspersed with this were little snide remarks about tourists, which left little doubt that he thought the majority of us weren’t worth the price of his bus fare. It’s the same all over the world I’m afraid, there are always some people that you just think to yourself, “why the hell are you even in the service industry?”
The pictures above are a classic case in point – to take them, I had to cross to the left-hand side of the shared walking/bike path that we were on, which frequently drew the ire of Captain Personality, as he insisted everybody must keep to the right. I couldn’t help thinking of another German who insisted everyone keep to the right, and look how well THAT turned out for them.
Anyway, as we passed the garage of an ex-US servicemen that drew some sort of diatribe about Americans and their love for big engines, Vanessa and I decided to switch off the headset and make our own way into town.
We briefly crossed to the left of the path again to get some shots of an area that I believe is referred to locally as “little Venice” (I’d well and truly stopped listening by this stage), and as we heard the gibbering lunatic behind us start up again about which side of the path we should be on, we hightailed it out of there.
It was a real shame to start the day with such negativity too, as Bamberg is really a lovely city. Our previous trip here had been curtailed somewhat due to a rushed evening visit, as a result of a faulty lock, so we were really looking forward to having some time to explore on our own.
We’d already done the whole “when in Bamberg you have to try the smokey beer” thing on our previous trip (here’s a hint: you actually don’t have to – if you want to try the same experience at home, throw a couple of rashers of double-smoked bacon into a blender, blitz them, and pour into some warm Victoria Bitter. It’s far cheaper, and less socially awkward to have to clean the vomit from your own toilet). So this time in Bamberg we just wanted to wander around the streets, pop into a few of the more interesting shops, and grab a coffee somewhere.
Our first mission though was to find a public toilet (which, ever since our time with our guide Pavlina in Prague, we will forever more refer to as “going to make a pee-pee”). Public toilets in much of Europe are often not free, so it was a refreshing change to walk in to find no-one demanding money. It was slightly alarming however to walk out and find a woman standing between me and the exit now demanding 50 cents, and with my smallest change being a €5 note, I paid for both Vanessa and I and she reluctantly handed over €4 change, which she made a great effort of showing me was very difficult to find. I then walked out and discovered that Vanessa had just done the same thing. I felt like going back in there, but then thought the better of it, and we walked on. Just around the corner, Vanessa found two €5 notes at a bus stop that some poor schmuck had obviously dropped as they were digging around in their pockets for their ticket. Sometimes the karma bus is, quite literally, a bus.
There are a couple of pretty iconic buildings in Bamberg, but none more so than the Altes Rathouse (the old town hall), which sits on wooden stilts in the middle of the Regnitz River. Convention demands that it be photographed from every perceivable angle, so we complied, crisscrossing our way backwards and forwards across multiple bridges to get just the right shots.
There is also quite an iconic blue house along the river, which was apparently owned by a Russian jeweller, and not by a smurf as I first suspected. (I really should do some proper research on this – but that can wait until I get home).
All jokes aside though, it really is a beautiful city, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We stopped in at an art supply store and picked up a couple of things, then made our way to a little café where we sat and watched several tour groups go by from one of those other brand boats – all coughing, sneezing, sniffing and wheezing in a way we’d become all too familiar with on our own boat.
We even found some time to visit yet another Kathie Wolfhart Christmas store, although in the end we actually ended up buying some hand-made glass ornaments from a different store nearby.
For the rest of the time we just wandered about, checking out a beautiful old church along the way, before we decided we’d start heading back to where the bus would pick us up outside of the old town. Our guide during the morning walk had assured us that it was impossible to get lost in Bamberg (actually, his exact words were “believe me, you might think you’re special, but you’re not THAT special”).
Anyway, as it turns out, we are rather special after all, but thankfully when we emerged on the outside of the town at the completely wrong bus stop, we still had time to make our way back across town to catch up with the gang waiting at the right one. Sadly, Sht-efan had already departed, so we didn’t get to wish him goodbye.