Sandkerwa festival flags float high above the cobble stone streets beneath my feet. The August air is rich with German pop songs and jolly hearts with rosy cheeks. Narrow streets are made narrower by wooden stands selling breads and brews. This festival is my first experience walking through the city of Bamberg (map). It was the first time I tasted Bamberger beers, the first time I spoke German and the first time I felt welcomed into my new home.
I arrived at the Bamberg train station a week earlier with an overstuffed suitcase and a phone number. Two urgent looking women picked me up, rushed me through some paperwork and dropped me off at the apartment I’d call home for the next four months, shared with five strangers, now roommates.
Eventually, we would discover not only the beauty of Bamberg’s UNESCO heritage buildings like the immense cathedral, unique Old Town Hall and fishermen’s houses in Klein-Venedig, but the beauty the city’s eight breweries and the 80+ microbreweries in the region as well. We’d go on weekend trips in Bavaria, compete to create ridiculous outfits of H&M sale purchases, and argue over which shop in town makes the best doner. But for now, I’m just trying to keep their names straight and hoping they aren’t prone to hissy fits.
Weekend comes and rumours of a festival in town are spread. I’m anxious to join the merriment, however the fact that someone stole my money in Rome a week earlier and my new bank card had yet to arrive left me in a bind. When the roommates invited me to join them at the festival I stammered out something about how I don’t have money because of this thing in Rome and they convinced me not to worry about it, they’ll cover me.
The six of us leave the apartment and follow a serpentine course until we arrive at the festival square. First, I’m excited by the lights, then by the music, then all out in love when I see the giant pretzels and giant beers. After strolling the grounds we order beers and find a free table to sit. Awkward conversations quickly turn to friendly conversations and eventually we’re chatting with locals, learning German words and developing an appreciation of lederhosen and dirndl.
Eventually, evening turns to night and with heavy eyes and lifted spirits we say goodnight to the festival and meander our way home, walking arm and arm, talking a little too loudly and singing our songs. One week down, four months to go, and I’m beginning to think I’ll like it here.
Read more about Bamberg in my Franconia travel guide.
About this week’s guest writer
After spending four months in Germany, Kelsi George served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand from April 2009 to March 2011. She will be traveling, writing, reading and adventuring for the foreseeable future.
Read other Velvet Escape posts about Germany:
- A weekend in Berlin
- Discovering the origins of Bauhaus in Germany
- Ten things to do in Dresden
- The treasures of Passau
- History and wine in Rheingau
I will be in Bamberg this August but have to be in Innsbruck during Sandkerwa! I would love to attend at some point. However, as I have written in my blog I am really looking forward to tasting the Bamberg beer 🙂
Thank for your comment and the excellent tips. I’m thinking of those pizzas right now. 🙂
Great post! I visited the Sandkerwa for about 3 years straight and found it one of the most fun and authentic experiences imaginable…the “real Bavaria”, a million miles from the tourist crowds of the Oktoberfest (though Bamberg is only about 3 hours by train from Munich) and I’d recommend it to anyone. The beer in Bamberg was so fresh and organic, I never seemed to get hung over on it!
For anyone who goes to check out the Sandkerwa or to Bamberg, I’d recommend tasting the Flammkuchen – Germany’s take on ultra-thin pizza and absolutely delicious.