Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Bayreuth, an introduction

From the Hofgarten to the Wagner Museum
While I have been in Bayreuth now for more than five weeks, I have only got a very superficial feeling for the city so far. In part because I am working, which means my weekdays are spent at the University, but also because since Sara arrived I think we've only spent a single weekend here.

So, where to begin? The weather? In May, awful; grey skies and heaps of rain, in a month where people fight to get married, as the weather's apparently so nice. The last week or so has been a different story though, with temperatures ranging through the twenties (if not higher, it's been stinking hot at times), calm, clear skies in the day time and rain in the evenings (thunderstorms tonight) - practically tropical! Sadly though not a beach in sight - we're a long, long way from the coast here.

Approximately 75,000 people live here in Bayreuth, give or take, and it's a relatively wealthy and relatively prospering city (unemployment is at about 6%, much lower than the country as a whole). Despite being a University city, apparently it's got a fairly poor nightlife, but having an eight month year old daughter means such details are trifling. We don't pickup our bicycles until tomorrow (Wednesday), so we've been confined to the city centre, which is pleasant enough, centred about a traditional Bavarian market-place (long and open), and within walking distance of the University (2 km to the south), at least one brewery, and several grand parks (one with live flamingos!?). To our shame we're yet to get to the farmers markets (Wednesdays and Saturdays), which are apparently really, really good, and only about 5 minutes walk from our apartment, but we will redeem ourselves this weekend.

Wagner's purpose-built Opera House - pretty on the outside anyways
The big thing here is the Wagner festival. In July/August, tens of thousands of people flock here to sit on uncomfortable seats in spartan surroundings (inside) and be subjected to opera at its most intense. Apparently it is awesome, but I suspect we might not get a chance to experience it firsthand, given the festival's seven year waiting list. The Wagner Opera House gardens are beautiful though, and hopefully there will be some open air (free) stuff during the month long festival - reports as they come to hand. Wagner Opera House because the city actually has two Opera houses. The other is in the city and is meant to have a much more beautiful interior - again, we are yet to visit.

Strolling into downtown Bayreuth
The beer here is great as well, and we've only been drinking the major breweries' stuff (Maisel and Aktien). Apparently the smaller microbreweries, of which there are allegedly dozens, brew much better beer, and based on how good Maisel's Kristal is (a filtered wheat-beer), I'm hyped for a few pilgrimages I have to say. The local wine isn't too shabby either, in tear shaped bottles that take their name originally from old German for ox testicles, the expensive (10+ euros) stuff anyway. Silvaner's not a grape I'd been previously acquainted with, but I'm glad to have made its company.

Anyway, as we explore the place more I"ll get back into the tour guide side of things - backlog to clear first: our second trip to M√ľnchen and our first to Coburg need a mention before I forget 'em eh.

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