At two hours from Munich by road or rail, Amberg pushes the day-trip envelope and in truth you’re probably better off combining it with nearby Nuremberg in an overnight stay. But however you do it, this beautiful quirky town is well worth seeking out.
The history of Amberg (not to be confused with Bamberg, another picturesque Bavarian town) bears indelible traces of a millennium or so of shifting loyalties and changing religions typical of many German towns. Even today maps reveal the pronounced line of the intact city walls, forming a shape said to resemble an egg (though if you ask me it looks like a leaf).
Within that disputed ovoid, the central market square is the obvious focus of attention – stop for a coffee or beer and enjoy the Gothic town hall, St Martin’s church and other perfectly preserved buildings which line the square. Continuing the Ambergian tradition of spurious object comparison, the nearby “Stadtbrille” (city glasses) is a 15th century structure spanning the river which, with its reflection, supposedly resembles a pair of spectacles.
Stroll the fairy-tale cobbled streets and you’ll soon encounter such winningly eccentric surprises as the “Eh’häusl” which, at just 2.5 meters wide, bills itself as the smallest hotel in the world. Dating back to the 18th century, it simultaneously filled a gap between two buildings and took advantage of a loophole in the city’s stipulation that only homeowners could marry. Couples “bought” the hotel (in effect leased it) then gave it back once they were married. You can still rent it for an overnight stay.
Finally, take a deep breath and head for one of Europe’s strangest institutions: the Air Museum, which is based on that invaluable entity all around us, using ingenious exhibits to make the invisible visible and bring the intangible within reach.