Off the beaten track – Travelling in Franconia

Pretzel
Eating a pretzel with butter and chives

Last week I took a trip to Franconia (the north-eastern part of Bavaria) in Germany to visit my dad. I’d promised to visit for ages and with only 3 days of my annual leave entitlement left, I had to bite the bullet and book the trip. I was dreading it for various reasons (you can read more about those in a previous post) but I was determined to enjoy myself and have a more active holiday that I’ve had this year. This is a recap of what I got up to. Berlin, Munich and Cologne currently seem to have all the appeal when it comes to booking a holiday to Germany. So I hope this post will inspire you to visit parts of Germany that are beautiful but often overlooked, and maybe even take the time out from your city break to head into the countryside!

Day 1 – Bamberg sightseeing

After flying to Munich (using the new Flybe route, which gets the spidermonkey seal of approval), we took the airport bus to Freising and hopped on a train to Bamberg (a comfortable 3 hour journey with a change in Nuremberg).

Bamberg
Statues on the Bamberg Rathaus bridge

Bamberg is a medieval town with UNESCO World Heritage status. I’d been there loads when I was younger, but my boyfriend had never seen it. We walked around the old city centre, showing him the old Rathaus, the Cathedral, and stopping for a drink in the Schlenkerla pub. Schlenkerla is famous for its dark smoked beer – it’s almost like drinking bacon. Afterwards we got peckish and headed off the busy tourist route (all the traditional German restaurants were packed) to a quiet little Japanese place. The food was amazing, but I understand it’s not what people come to Bamberg or Bavaria to eat! If you’re looking for authentic food, you can eat in the Schlenkerla pub or one of the many other typical Bavarian restaurants that abound in the city centre. In the summer, you could also try one of the three famous beer gardens on the hills of Bamberg town.

Finally, we headed back to Coburg, 30 minutes’ drive north of Bamberg, where we would be staying during the trip.

Coburg Rathaus
Coburg’s old Rathaus (City Hall)

Day 2 – Spidermonkey climbing practice

After an extensive breakfast buffet, we headed off to Kloster Banz (near Bad Staffelstein, a town with a great spa if you’re so inclined) to test our monkey climbing skills at the “Waldkletterpark” (forest climbing park). At the park, you pick up a helmet and harness and, after a short demonstration, you click yourself into strong ropes and climb across rope bridges and other obstacles suspended in the trees above Kloster Banz. It was partly hair-raising and scary, also rather hard on the hands and arm muscles, but it’s really good fun. You could easily spend half a day here, depending on how fast you complete the obstacles and the size of your group. I gave up half way (to my inner spidermonkey’s shame) but my boyfriend completed all of the courses – he must be more of a monkey than I am!

After resting our sore hands and some refreshments in the form of a pretzel and a fizzy apple juice (Apfelschorle), we built some culture into our day by driving up to the other large church in the area with adjoining monastery, Vierzehnheiligen. It’s a rococo dream (or nightmare, depending on your point of view) and is a pilgrimage site for a lot of Catholics. Seeing as we’re not religious, we didn’t tarry for long. Instead, we decided to walk up the Staffelberg, a small but iconic mountain near Staffelstein, where remains of Iron Age settlements were found. One we got to the top, we had a late lunch in the self-service restaurant. After the climb, a radler (beer with lemonade) and some bratwurst and sauerkraut were very welcome.

For a laugh and because we had some time to kill before going home, we played some mini-golf in Burgkunstadt. I came last, but that didn’t matter because I had an excellent time. Surprisingly, as I’d protested for the longest time that I hated mini-golf. Afterwards we headed off to have a German cold buffet style dinner at my dad’s house with some board games (another activity I used to dislike intensely…but really enjoyed).

Day 3 – Visiting relatives

We got up early and settled into the car for a 3 ½ hour long journey to the Odenwald to visit my grandma. I won’t bore you with details of the visit, but needless to say the Odenwald is another beautiful, but overlooked part of Germany, for foreign tourists. So make like a German and visit. There’s lots of snow in the winter for cross-country skiing (something that’s on my bucket list to learn) and in the summer you should definitely visit a Sommerrodelbahn (a bit like a metal bobsleigh track without the ice).

Coburg

When we came back, my boyfriend and I decided to branch off on our own and explore Coburg. We ended up in a little bar that looked like it was the only place open and celebrated being on holiday with a couple of beers. On the way home we took some photos of the beautifully illuminated buildings in the market square of Coburg.

Day 4 – Like a fish to water

Sailing boats

One of the reasons we’d wanted to come visit (other than seeing my dad) was to practice the sailing skills we’d acquired last year on our RYA Level 1 Sailing course. You can’t sail without wind and we’d been monitoring the weather every day. On our last day it picked up and we were in luck! We took a little sailing boat out onto a lake near Coburg with my dad (who is quite an experienced sailor) where we took turns steering and practised different ways of docking at the pontoon. After a very shaky start, it was great to get some confidence back in the boat and to cement some of the skills we’d learnt on the course.

A few hours later after packing up the boat, our team of hungry landlubbers went to a restaurant to sample some proper Bavarian food (roast beef in a creamy sauce with dumplings and pickled red cabbage, a schnitzel with potato salad, and pork shoulder with dumplings and sauerkraut).

Later in the day, we hit the road again – this time to Thuringia, where we took a long walk in the woodlands near Eisberg. It was wet, but still beautiful. We ended our trip in a tiny little restaurant and bar in Coburg that served beautifully fresh and modern German cuisine with an Italian bent (the creamed beetroot soup being particularly good).

Day 5 – Homeward bound

After a good nights sleep and a plentiful breakfast, we made our way back to Munich airport the same way we’d come (via train and then the airport bus). To my surprise, my mum and brother were waiting for us there and treated us to a late lunch and a few beers in Munich airport’s own brewery Airbräu. With full stomachs and smiling faces, we made our way to the gate and back to Cardiff.

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All in all, this holiday was a departure from our usual holidays which tend to be sightseeing-heavy city trips with lots of walking. Trying out things we’d never done before (like the climbing park) and really getting into activities I used to dislike (mini golf and board games) made the whole holiday really positive. The weather, when it did rain, certainly didn’t put us off any of our activities. I wish we’d been able to stay for longer to get outside even more! Maybe next time we will go kayaking on the river Wiesent, and there will definitely be more sailing.

If you prefer sightseeing, there are loads of castles around Coburg. Schloss Rosenau, Ehrenburg, Schloss Callenberg, the Veste Coburg (where Martin Luther stayed for a while) and sights further afield like Eisenach are always worth a visit for the castle- and history-hungry travellers!

Are you an active traveller or more of a culture hound? Have you ever visited or considered going to Germany? What are your favourite German cities and sights?

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