More travel reports from Beyond the Blue Book.
I'm continually fascinated by all the petty royal realms that formerly consituted the country we now know as Germany. Coburg, the former capital of the duchy of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha had long been on my list of towns to explore, mainly for the magnificent Veste Coburg. But it also fascinates me that this little duchy (added on as an appendage to northern Bavarian in the 1920s) was able to punt so far above it's weight in European history. Descendents of the duccal crown sit on the thrones of the United Kingdom (through Albert, Queen Victoria's husband), Belgium (which still maintains the royal house name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to this day, whereas the British crown changed it to Windsor), Sweden, and the former crowns of Portugal, Russia, Prussia and Bulgaria.
We often read inquiries on this website for information about going "off the beaten path". Here's the thing about that- you need to assume some risk. Not every town or region in Europe equally merits a visit. But sometimes, that risk pays off big. With Coburg, I hit the jackpot.
It's happened several times over the past few years. I wake up in the morning, decide to visit "town X" that day, and when I arrive, without knowing anything about it beforehand, there's some kind of fest going on. For Coburg, it was the penultimate day of the Samba Festival. Not so much a dance festival as one in which various rhythm groups from around Germany (and the world) come to perform throughout the city. So, the entire city echoed with the sound of pounding drum rhythms. I assumed the samba fest was connected to the World Cup in Brazil, but it was just a coincidence. It's an annual event. This being Germany, of course, there were plenty of places to buy beer and various types of food. A new discovery for me was the Dresdener Handrollen, freshly baked bread filled with melted cheese and bacon bits. Amazingly delicious, even though my dog managed to steal part of it.
Fest aside, Coburg is simply gorgeous, as befits the capital of such an influential duchy. Even though it's now a part of Bavaria, it's separate history shows in the architecture. Whereas Bavaria as a whole tends to lean Baroque, Coburg looks more like many of the similar towns in the neighboring state of Thüringen- more Neoclassical, more Belle Epoque of the German Empire period, more Gothic, more Fachwerk. Overall, a very bright, colorful, well preserved but historically diverse city.
I wanted to vist the one-time royal palace of Schloss Ehrenburg, but it was closed because of the fest. Plus, the main performance area occupied the Schloss Platz, so even to get a good view of the exterior, I would have needed to pay €12. Ah... no, not going to do that. The cathedral was also closed, but due to renovations.