Well, this is a musical site! So we can’t help blowing the horn for Bamberg’s booming music scene today and in the past – the Symphony Orchestra is far from the whole story. It goes back a long way: the medieval Bamberg Manuscript preserves 100 vocal pieces of the 14th Century and sacred music is still a mainstay of the city, famous for its church choirs (such as the Oratorienchor, founded in 1835) and Easter passions.
There’s also a thriving early music scene and Bamberg boasts several beautiful historic church organs, which are still played in recitals today, as well as one of Germany’s leading firms of historic keyboard builders, J.C. Neupert. And of course music is everywhere in Bamberg’s schools and University. Brass bands used to play special music in church, including a local speciality, the Tusch or ‘tucket’ (a kind of fanfare) and they still flourish today in Bamberg – as do all kinds of music: in February 2005 Bamberg held its second ‘Klezmer Days’. And music breathes the open air of Bamberg’s pretty streets and gardens – summer sees serenades played in the pretty Rose Garden of the Prince-Bishops’ New Residence and in the grounds of the Seehof Palace 3 km outside the city.
But Bamberg has so much more to offer. The Romantic writer ETA Hoffmann worked at the city’s new theatre from 1808-1813 and, although he famously called his time here ‘the worst of all bad times’, his name lives on in the E.T.A.-Hoffmann-Theater. For a more intimate experience Bamberg boasts Germany’s smallest stage, the Brentano Theater – less than 2m²! – as well as a children’s theatre and puppet theatres. There are cinemas and two yearly film festivals, one devoted to shorts; a poetry ‘slam’ contest; and a rich choice of museums and galleries – from the Franconian Beer Museum to early Islamic art via one of the finest private collections of exquisite 18 th Century German porcelain from Meissen, belonging to the family of the Bamberg chocolate manufacturer Ludwig from Aachen.
And, reflecting Bamberg’s religious past, the Diocesan Museum houses a unique collection of medieval Christian vestments while the City Library preserves some of the most spectacular illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages (now available on CD-ROM, so you can carry on leafing through them at home).
And of course… the Crib Museum, testament to one of Bamberg’s other most famous and traditional crafts. For more than four centuries Bamberg has celebrated Advent and Christmas as well as Easter with elaborate sculpted cribs, the townsfolk competing with one another to produce the finest displays. Now the Society of Bamberger Friends of the Crib watches over the continuation of this popular art-form, now taught in a Crib School, and organizes tours, exhibitions and competitions.
Another popular pastime with religious origins are the parish street-festivals, the most famous being the Sand district’s Sandkerwa, commemorating Bamberg’s medieval hospice, Saint Elizabeth, while the whole city joins in the Corpus Christi procession – not to mention the beer festival and Antiques Weekend: Bamberg’s antique shops and auction houses are a powerful magnet for dealers, collectors and shoppers.