Franconian Switzerland, Pretzfeld

Franconian Switzerland (Heiligenstadt)

Introduction

The global pandemic has thwarted a great deal of my (and probably everyone else’s) scheduled holidays and confined me to my apartment in Nuremberg since mid-March.

Fortunately, solitary outdoor exercises were and are still allowed to date, and so I’ve made the best of the situation and cycled extensively through solitary landscapes in Franconia.

The Franconian Switzerland is an upland in Upper Franconia not far off from Nuremberg (which is situated in Middle Franconia).

I visited the Franconian Switzerland fairly often during my student days with my buddies, mostly for short distance hiking and for consuming the tasty local dark Franconian beer (I admit that the focus was clearly on the latter).

Later in participated in the annually organized Fränkische Schweiz Marathon – but I ran solely the sixteen kilometers from Forchheim to Ebermannstadt, an alternative competition to the actual marathon (just for the records: my best performance was 1 hour, 9 minutes for this distance).

In the following, I want to illustrate one of my recent bike tours and give you some background information about these picturesque and quiet places in the immediate neighborhood of my home town Nuremberg.

The Franconian “Switzerland”: short overview

The label “Switzerland” (Schweiz in German) stems from the distinctive geological composition and cultural backdrop of this region.

Largest cities and simultaneously the boundary points of the Franconian Switzerland are Bamberg (north respectively north-west), Bayreuth (east), Erlangen (south) and Forchheim (west), so the Fränkische Schweiz stretches over a total area of more than two thousand square kilometers.

Franconian Switzerland, near Ebermannstadt (view towards the famous "Ehrenbürg" peak)
Franconian Switzerland, near Ebermannstadt (view towards the famous “Ehrenbürg” peak)

Characteristical owing to the peculiar limestone and dolomite geology are numerous ramified caves and cavities, the bigger of them resorts for rare animals like bats.

Prominent are lots of tall and quite bizarre rock formations scattered all over the Franconian Switzerland, what makes the place a well-known climbing destination as well.

Upper Franconia is also famous for its brewing tradition. Here you will find the highest density of breweries in the world (what makes it highly popular among engineering students, as already mentioned).

Cycling tour Nuremberg-Heiligenstadt

The whole tour from Nuremberg-Erlenstegen to Heiligenstadt (and retour) via Erlangen, Forchheim and Ebermannstadt took me around nine hours, excluding breaks.

The terrain is plane for the most part, so I had only trouble with the distance itself that summed up to more than one hundred kilometers in the end (what was for me a pretty good performance as I was using my MTB).

Rapeseed field in Forchheim (view to the east)
Rapeseed field in Forchheim (view to the east)
Fields near Forchheim (view to the south)
Fields near Forchheim (view to the south)

You can spot ancient mill-wheels and water-wheels here and there during the tour, in the towns of Waischenfeld or Veilbronn for example. Worthwhile targets for taking a photo.

Waterwheel near Egloffstein (not part of the described tour)
Waterwheel near Egloffstein (not part of the described tour)

In Heiligenstadt you can visit one of the countless castles (beside the many castle ruins), and a very splendid one.

It is owned by the Stauffenberg family with its famous son Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a leading figure of the German Widerstand in the 2nd World War.

He attempted to assassinate the dictator Adolf Hitler in July 1944 (Unternehmen Walküre) without success and was shot in the aftermath by a firing squad, along with several other members of his military resistance group.

Schloss Greifenstein near Heiligenstadt in Oberfranken
Schloss Greifenstein in the proximity of Heiligenstadt in Oberfranken
Heiligenstadt in Oberfranken
Heiligenstadt in Oberfranken, after a short downpour

Conclusion

In an era of global pandemics, vacation in local (domestic), quiet and not so easily accessible destinations like the Franconian Switzerland might be the future and will replace the so far predominant urban tourism with low-cost carriers or beach holiday in south-east Asia.

But no one can accurately predict right now where tourism will head for. Time must tell.