Under a fierce Bavarian sun, I was glad that it didn’t take long to wander around the medieval streets of Nabburg. I was even happier when we ended our stroll in the local ice cream parlour, a slice of homemade apple strudel with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream on its way. At that very moment a ferocious downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning swept across Nabburg – uncanny timing that made the apple strudel taste all the sweeter.
We hadn’t intended to stop in Nabburg, so it would have been bitter justice to be caught out in the open during the storm. We were on our way from Regensburg to Bamberg, when the spires of Nabburg on top of a small hill along the River Naab lured us off the autobahn. The weather had been building to a cataclysmic summer storm and we counted ourselves lucky that we didn’t get wet.
Could the storm have been the work of supernatural forces though? Nabburg’s medieval walls are home to a stone imprinted with the shape of a boot. It’s said the Devil was angry at a new chapel in the town so threw his boot at it, only to miss and hit the town wall. This is one of many myths associated with the town’s thousand-year history. Another legend states there’s a thousand year-old fish in the River Naab with a golden key in its mouth, the key opens a box filled with gold coins.
Nabburg sits on top of a steep ridge that provides fantastic views over the river valley below. The 10th century castle that once dominated the town has long gone, but you can still enter the town through one of the three original medieval-era gates to have survived the centuries along with large sections of the old town wall. We entered not through a gate but up a steep set of stairs that deposited us in a town empty of people.
It was Sunday and most things were closed, but this peaceful place was fabulous to wander around. There’s a footpath around the old wall that you can follow. We made our way up the main street towards the 13th and 14th century Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. We were stopped in our tracks by the sight of the highly decorated Schmidt-Haus, former home of artist Karl Schmidt-Wolfratshausen, and the neighbouring Gasthof Zum Stern.
We passed the 1417 Rathaus, with 16th century gothic additions, and a row of colourful town houses to the 1412 Bürgerspital, Nabburg’s former medieval hospital. This stands next to the City Museum which is housed in an old Tithe Barn from the 1540s. Close-by is the pretty 1489 Laurentiuskirche on the site of the original chapel that is said to have so displeased the Devil. After a period as a wood and coal store, it’s now a Lutheran chapel.
This is the town’s most ancient district, and the modest looking Schloss Nabburg (now government offices) marks the site of the original castle built in 930 AD. One of the remaining city gates, the Obertor, is nearby. We walked through the Pulverturm and around the outside of the walls for great views over an area known as the Venice District on the other side of the river. It looks nothing like Venice.
The name is from a myth involving a knife being thrown by a local farmer into a ‘vortex’, the same farmer being transported by the vortex from a field in Nabburg to Venice where he learns the knife hit a Venice resident in the eye. After apologising, he’s forgiven and then vortexed back to Nabburg. I’m not sure this is any less plausible than the story of the Devil’s boot.