Bamberg, where the Gardener became a World Heritage Site

The old town of Bamberg was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as early as 1993. The World Heritage Site includes the mountain town with the Cathedral Hill and the former Benedictine Monastery of St. Michael, as well as the Island Town and the Gardener’s Town. But it was not only the high density of historic sites, such as the famous Imperial Cathedral or the Old Town Hall, that earned Bamberg UNESCO World Heritage status almost 30 years ago. Without the Garden City, with its late medieval character, Bamberg would not have become a World Heritage Site. Since 2014, Bamberg’s gardening tradition has also been included in the intangible cultural heritage.

Um 1900 gab es noch über 500 Gärtnerbetriebe in der Stadt. Heute sind es nur noch 18 Gärtnereien, die sich unter der Marke "Gutes aus Bamberg" zusammengeschlossen haben / © Foto: Georg Berg
Around 1900, there were still over 500 gardening businesses in the city. Today, there are only 18 nurseries that have joined forces under the brand “Gutes aus Bamberg” / © Photo: Georg Berg

Behind the gardener’s city is a centuries-old tradition. Bamberg families cultivate historic growing areas in the middle of the city. The Gardener’s Town has always served to supply Bamberg. Today, you can learn a lot about the historical and cultural connections by following a circular route. The gardener families who have been producing vegetables, herbs, fruit, flowers and seeds in their neighborhood for centuries continue to do so.

Gemüseanbau mitten in der Stadt. Im Vordergrund sieht man eine Erdmiete, die über den Winter als Lagerraum für Wurzelgemüse dient. Im Hintergrund werden Feldsalat und Winterpostelein als Salat-Varianten für die kalten Monate im Jahr angebaut / © Foto: Georg Berg
Growing vegetables in the middle of the city. In the foreground, you can see a dirt pile that serves as a storage area for root vegetables over the winter. In the background, lamb’s lettuce and winter postelein are grown as salad varieties for the cold months of the year / © Photo: Georg Berg

The neighborhood is not a museum, but a living and working quarter to this day, even though the number of gardening businesses has been greatly reduced. While there were more than 500 farms around 1900, today there are still 18 nurseries that have united under the brand Gutes aus Bamberg. In addition to the many tourist attractions that Bamberg’s old town has to offer city visitors, the historic growing area and the horticultural tradition must vie for attention.

Das Gärtner- und Häcker-Musuem liefert den geschichtlichen Hintergrund. Häcker ist übrigens der fränkische Ausdruck für Winzer. Der Weinanbau in Bamberg fand durch die Kleine Eiszeit im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert sein Ende. Der Wein der Region wurde so sauer, dass man ihn Magenbeißer nannte / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Gärtner- und Häcker-Musuem provides the historical background. Häcker, by the way, is the Franconian term for vintner. Wine growing in Bamberg came to an end due to the Little Ice Age in the 16th and 17th centuries. The wine of the region became so sour that it was called Magenbeißer / © Photo: Georg Berg

In Bamberg’s gardening town, what has long disappeared elsewhere has been preserved. Most people drive to the Green Meadow – which disguises its desolation in its name – to shop. Huge parking lots and soulless industrial buildings packed to the ceiling with goods from everywhere. If you want to experience how people used to live, work and shop, you should definitely stroll through the Bamberg Gardeners’ Quarter.

In der Hofstadt-Gärtnerei bei Carmen Dechant bekommt man neben einer fundierten Beratung auch viele Pflanzenraritäten und seltene Kräuter. Carmen Dechant bietet auch Kräuter-Workshops an / © Foto: Georg Berg
In the Hofstadt nursery at Carmen Dechant’s, you can get expert advice as well as many plant rarities and rare herbs. Carmen Dechant also offers herb workshops / © Photo: Georg Berg

The circular route links the gardeners’ and crocheters’ museum with real shopping opportunities in the gardeners’ farm stores and invites you to the Gärtnerstadt viewing platform. From here you can see the long narrow plots. Behind each of these plots, which form a large field, is the story of a different gardener family.

Bamberger Wirsing in direkter Nachbarschaft zu Bamberger Ingwer und Bamberger Kurkuma / © Foto: Georg Berg
Bamberg savoy cabbage in direct proximity to Bamberg ginger and Bamberg turmeric / © Photo: Georg Berg

The blessing of home varieties

For centuries, gardeners in Bamberg had grown only those vegetables that they had propagated themselves in their home gardens. Each gardener had his own individual home varieties. In this way, genetically independent local varieties developed over the course of time, which were optimally adapted to the local conditions of the city. Some of these varieties have survived to this day and, like the Bamberger Hörnla, are known far beyond the region.

Die Kartoffelsorte Bamberger Hörnla ist länglich und leicht gekrümmt. Sie kann ihre Abstammung von alten südamerikanischen Kartoffelsorten nicht verheimlichen. Geschätzt wird sie wegen des nussigen Geschmacks / © Foto: Georg Berg
The potato variety Bamberger Hörnla is elongated and slightly curved. It cannot hide its descent from old South American potato varieties. It is appreciated for its nutty taste / © Photo: Georg Berg

Far less well known are almost exotic-looking crops that are once again available fresh and locally thanks to dedicated vegetable farms: Bamberg ginger, turmeric or licorice. Bamberg savoy cabbage and radish as well as the pear-shaped Bamberg onion.

Authentische Souvenirs, die sich zu Hause verbrauchen und keinen Staub ansetzen: Bamberger Knoblauch sowie Kurkuma- und Ingwerknollen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Authentic souvenirs that can be consumed at home and won’t collect dust: Bamberg garlic and turmeric and ginger bulbs / © Photo: Georg Berg.

On board the ark – Bamberg garlic and licorice

The ancient vegetables are receiving protection not only from dedicated gardening families, but also through the international Ark of Taste project. The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity protects from oblivion and disappearance around 4,700 regionally valuable foodstuffs, livestock species and cultivated plants worldwide that do not survive on the market under current economic conditions or, like Bamberg licorice, have gone out of fashion. In the past, garlic bulbs were planted and harvested by hand. With the increased use of potato planting and harvesting machines from 1950 onwards, the variety disappeared from field cultivation, as the elongated tubers were hardly suitable for mechanical processing.

Bamberger Knoblauch auf dem Hof von Sebastian Niedermaier. Wie damals wird der Knoblauch in Büscheln verkauft / © Foto: Georg Berg
Bamberg garlic on the farm of Sebastian Niedermaier. As in those days, the garlic is sold in bunches / © Photo: Georg Berg

For a long time, only horticulture and direct marketing contributed to the preservation of garlic. Garlic cultivation had great economic importance in Bamberg in the 19th century. Dried garlic bulbs were sold in bunches of 100 and 30 and were a regular trade item at the autumn markets. After the Second World War, this vegetable crop became less and less important. Around 1995, the marketing of Bamberg garlic ceased altogether. The fact that it has survived in three nurseries, mainly for home consumption, is also due to its flavorful quality.

Sebastian Niedermaier ist Gärtner in 13. Generation. Neben dem Anbau von Bio-Gemüse hat er gemeinsam mit seinem Vater den Erhalt der alten Bamberger Sorten zur Aufgabe gemacht. Hier hält er frisch geerntete Kurkumawurzel in der Hand / © Foto: Georg Berg
Sebastian Niedermaier is a 13th generation gardener. In addition to growing organic vegetables, he and his father have made it their business to preserve the old Bamberg varieties. Here he holds freshly harvested turmeric root in his hand / © Photo: Georg Berg

Carrot on two legs – organic vegetables at Niedermaier

The Sebastian Niedermaier nursery is in its 11th generation. In 2012, Sebastian Niedermaier switched to organic vegetables and has been growing regional vegetables and organic produce ever since. In the Niedermaiers’ courtyard, queues form at the sales stand – not only due to corona. When the yard sale starts at 2 p.m. on Friday, it is the regular customers from the city and the surrounding area who stock up on the organically grown vegetables.

Sebastian Niedermaier konfrontiert seine Kunden auch gerne mit neuen Gemüsesorten. Hier Haferwurzel, die eine Alternative zur Schwarzwurzel darstellt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Sebastian Niedermaier also likes to confront his customers with new varieties of vegetables. Here, oat root, which is an alternative to black salsify / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Niedermaier family has been part of the gardener’s town for 400 years. Deeply rooted in the narrow cultivation areas. Until May, Sebastian Niedermaier serves his clientele with root vegetables from the earthen store. Yellow beet, beet, celery and carrots are stored here over the fall and winter. With Sebastian Niedermaier, carrots can sometimes have two legs. Despite his awareness of tradition, he likes to confront his customers with new varieties. Like the sugar loaf, which, contrary to its name, is a very bitter salad. He calls the sweet corn on the cob a power bar, and the Franconians were initially a little hesitant about kale. Here in Bamberg, savoy cabbage is the king of cabbages. He has newly cultivated oat root as an alternative to salsify.

Auf dem Stadtacker umgeben von Wirsing, Kurkuma und Ingwer erzählt Sebastian Niedermaier von einigen der über 60 Gemüsesorten, die sein Betrieb anbietet / © Foto: Georg Berg
In the city field surrounded by savoy cabbage, turmeric and ginger, Sebastian Niedermaier talks about some of the more than 60 varieties of vegetables his farm offers / © Photo: Georg Berg

During his apprenticeship, Sebastian Niedermaier traveled a lot: On Tenerife he grew organic vegetables, in Switzerland he cultivated areas as large as those of all Bamberg gardeners’ farms combined. Six months in the U.S. gave him an insight into the breeding of genetically modified fruit and vegetable varieties. He did not want this path for his farm. His vegetables are locally produced and of good quality. Lamb’s lettuce and winter postelein, tomatoes, radishes, savoy cabbage, carrots, and yellow and red beets are among the vegetables on offer, which include a total of around 60 varieties. In addition, the Niedermaiers grow old local varieties that are so exclusive that they are now only owned by the Niedermaiers family! For example, you can find the family’s own varieties of Bamberger Spitzwirsing, Bamberger Knoblauch and Bamberger Rettich in his farm nursery.

Wirrwarr an Süßholzwurzeln. Auch oberirdisch ist das Süßholz eine struppige Erscheinung. Im Mittelalter war das Süßholz für Bamberg sehr bedeutend und sogar Bestandteil des Stadtwappens / © Foto: Georg Berg
Tangle of licorice roots. Above ground, licorice is also a shaggy apparition. In the Middle Ages, the licorice was very important for Bamberg and was even part of the city’s coat of arms / © Photo: Georg Berg

The old Bamberg tradition of growing licorice, also an archetype, is also carried on here. Licorice is a rather shaggy plant. The three- to four-year-old lateral roots have flavor and are harvested. The taproot, on the other hand, always remains standing. In his master’s examination, Sebastian Niedermaier recounts, he had to dig up a three-meter-long lateral root unharmed. The old knowledge should not be lost. In 1604, the liquorice was even included in the coat of arms of the city of Bamberg.
The Niedermaiers undertake propagation and seed cultivation themselves every year, thus preserving the diversity of varieties and the unique taste of their own Bamberg varieties.

Kurkuma und Ingwer aus Bamberg. Sie reifen zwar nicht so durch wie die Sorten aus Peru oder China, sind etwas milder, aber unglaublich frisch / © Foto: Georg Berg
Turmeric and ginger from Bamberg. They do not ripen as much as the varieties from Peru or China, are somewhat milder, but incredibly fresh / © Photo: Georg Berg

It is precisely because in is not an open-air museum, but a living tradition, that it is so advisable to include the Gardener’s City in a city tour, with all the concentrated culture as well as gastronomic temptations that Bamberg has to offer. Every gardener in Bamberg has his own specialties. Fruits and vegetables, herbs as well as perennials and flowers. You can hardly bring back better souvenirs from a trip.

Historische Anbauflächen inmitten der Stadt. Im Hintergrund St. Otto, die 1911 - 1914 von Orlando Kurz erbaute Pfarrkirche des Gärtnerviertels / © Foto: Georg Berg
Historic cultivated areas in the middle of the city. In the background, St. Otto, the parish church of the gardeners’ quarter built by Orlando Kurz in 1911 – 1914 / © Photo: Georg Berg

The city of Bamberg offers guided tours of the Gärtnerviertel every Friday. But the quarter can also be easily discovered on your own. The tourist office provides visitors with handy brochures describing the circular route and its stops.

Wall calendar with photos by Georg Berg available in bookstores (also online) in various sizes: World Heritage Garden City Bamberg / also as family planner (*)

The research trip was supported by Bamberg Tourismus

(*) This post contains advertising links (also called affiliate or commission links) that lead to

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