In northern Bavaria you will find an area known as Fränkische Schweiz … or the Franconian Switzerland if you translate it into English. I notice that friends were immediately confused and drew a blank when I told them I was coming here. It’s understandable. Franconia sounds like France and Switzerland … oh well. The origin of the name goes way back more than 200 years when the similarity of the area to mountain/valley/dramatic rock features found in Switzerland was described in a popular book of that day. The Franconia part is named after the Franks, a Germanic tribe who conquered most of Western Europe by the middle of the 8th century (I think they must have had something to do with France as well).
I am here researching possible bases for offering hiking trips to the area, and to do as many hikes as I can to improve my knowledge about the area. I decided to focus on this area because of the multitude of great hikes here … and the large number of cultural sites peppering the landscape … and what a landscape it is: deep valleys, rolling hills, craggy rock formations hidden in the forests, scenic fields, hardwood forests, ancient farms, and small hamlets … and did I mention the highest concentration of breweries anywhere in the world – more than 70 in a county-sized area. The mountains are not high altitude, but there are plenty enough steep grades to keep things interesting.
For this stay, I based at Behringersmühle (pictured above), a small grouping of homes and businesses at a place where multiple valleys and streams come together. This was perfect for hiking options as each watershed offers its own unique hiking opportunities. Each watershed also has a rich history and there are ancient castles and fortresses perched on the the high points of many river bends and religious sites and museums throughout. I found my accommodations for this trip using Air B ‘n B, but that’s another story (read that story here). The place I stayed was above a working bakery that I was able to visit early one morning (read that story here).
During my stay I’ve explored hikes in several areas, made contacts with hotels, services, and tourism organizations that I’ll need to help me with the group trips. Throughout, I’ve been communing with what I’ve come to call “the killer B’s”: bread, butter, beer, brats, bergs, burgs, breweries …. Some of them work to put the pounds on and some of them help to keep them off. The hiking is my only defense. I’ve been averaging 10-15 km per day (6-9 miles). The landscape is reminiscent of the hill country in Switzerland, and local hiking organizations have created a large number of routes that allow hikers to go slow and enjoy. The Frankenweg, one of Germany’s long distance hiking routes passes through and is a hiking connector with other areas to the north and south.
Most routes are a blend of single track trails, forest and farm roads, paved pedestrian ways, and low traffic country roads. When passing through villages the sidewalks and other pedestrian walkways are used. The scenery is outstanding. Most sections are through rolling terrain, although steep grades are not unusual from time-to-time. Idyllic, ancient villages seem to be placed every 3 or 4 kilometers along the way. The food is fairly unusual to the American palette, but extremely tasty and satisfying. It might be improved with the addition of green chile, but I’m not sure. Below is a sampler of images to give a feel for the hikes — captions are at the tops of photos.
The beer deserves its own article … read that here.