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Fichtel Mountains / Franconian Forest
Fichtel Mountains / Franconian Forest
Gentle border area
Two forest mountains meet in the northeast corner of Bavaria: Fichtelgebirge and Franconian Forest. Once the border area, they now form the green heart of Europe.
The terminator comes from Hollywood, the culminator from Franconia.
What unites them? They cut down anyone who gets in their clutches. Kulmbach flies past on the right hand? this is the home of the culminator, the strongest beer in the world with an alcohol content of eight percent. A really high-percentage region for starting a tour! Flanked by beer gardens and breweries, I roll north on the »Beer and Castle Road«. Kulmbach soon disappears in the rearview mirror. Four large and countless small breweries there ensure the world’s highest beer output in relation to the population: 6667 liters per capita per year, making more than 18 liters per inhabitant daily. Which corresponds to a full tank of fuel for the Norton Single C 652. On this damn hot summer day, the thought of a cold beer only disappears when I leave the main road with the thirst-inducing leitmotif and branch off onto shady side roads through the woods. Grafendobrach – Wartenfels – Presseck. The needles of the spruce trees are getting closer, the valleys are getting narrower, the hills with almost 700 meters of altitude are more prominent. With the exception of a racing bike, I’m completely alone in the Schmolztal. The region is so remote that the few houses along the Kostenbach stream were only recently connected to the public power grid. And although this ingenious forest road is legally passable, I almost feel guilty on the pounding single cylinder. On the way to Wallenfels you come across the Wilde Rodach, on the banks of which the traditional wooden rafts still lie. Today they transport tourists across the river instead of tree trunks. A lot of fun that has developed from the remains of what was once the region’s most important source of income. From the Middle Ages to the late 1950s, the timber cleared in the Franconian Forest was rafted to Holland in all weathers. Of course, beer was also an integral part of it? five liters (!) were part of the daily food ration in the rafting industry. Kronach appears and suddenly replaces the silence of the Franconian Forest. Staggered in the upper and lower town, the medieval town rests at the foot of the defiant Rosenberg fortress. Soon the Norton hops over coarse cobblestones past half-timbered houses, turrets, gates and fountains and, as a real Englishwoman, finds her way to one of the beer gardens, which are also obligatory here. A judgment from God. I surrender and now let myself be carried away. For a hearty snack with Franconian beer and a liter of apple spritzer. Right behind the old town I come across the now familiar B 85, follow it north to Pressig and then turn onto the narrower route towards Welitsch and Heinersdorf. The tranquil connection route between Bavaria and Thuringia ended in a dead end until twelve years ago. Shortly before Heinersdorf was the end of the line. Today there is still a freshly whitewashed wall remnant as a monument to a once 640 meter long concrete wall, which was supposed to prevent any eye contact between the people in Heinersdorf in Thuringia and those in Welitsch in Bavaria. On top of that there were electric fences, light lines, barrage trenches and a stream barrier. Houses that were too close to the zone border, says Mr. Zenkel, once a GDR border police officer and now the caretaker of the memorial, would have been completely dismantled overnight and transported to the »rear area«. And because he could hardly believe this madness even then, he captured everything with the camera. Since the Franconian Forest protruded far into the terrain of the former GDR, the border surrounded it on three sides. Only in the south was the iron curtain open. Back on the B 85, near Lauenstein, I just catch the panoramic circular road between the Thuringian Forest and the Franconian Forest, which is barely a thread-thin on the map. A cool wind blows through the trees in the higher elevations and drives away the oppressive heat of this summer day, which is in full swing. With a sigh of relief, I throw my helmet and motorcycle jacket on the grass and enjoy the view of the medieval Lauenstein Castle, which towers high above the Loquitztal like a fairytale castle. Behind it, to the south, the whole range of the Franconian Forest presents itself with its velvet green hills and deeply indented valleys. Two bends further and 117 steps higher, the viewing platform of the Thuringer Warte welcomes me with a boundless view of the Thuringian Forest and the Franconian Forest. The narrow and winding route leads over the Fischbachsmuhle to Falkenstein. The Norton is in its element, because the manoeuvrable machine with the Rotax engine is made for exuberant maneuvers. Sometimes the view falls on orchards, sometimes on spruce forests, sometimes on a colorful field mosaic. A tractor chugs through the valley, a few ravens streak up, otherwise nothing stirs. When I think I have reached the end of civilization, I am greeted by a sign saying “Welcome to the Golden Village”, and immediately afterwards I am surrounded by perfectly restored slate houses that are grouped around a gigantic farm garden in the center of the village. It is hard to believe that in Steinbach an der Haide the village square has been dug up and planted with flowering bushes and flowers. What an idea! In a zigzag course, it goes down to Teuschnitz and from there on the Frankenwaldhochstrabe in the direction of Nordhalben. The landscape, just now tightly compressed with river valleys and hidden forest clearings, now spreads generously in front of me. Like a grandiose mountain-and-valley railway, the route leads in wide, clear arcs over a never-ending, green, crested sea. To top it off, the turquoise-blue Mauthaus reservoir lies like a fjord in the Franconian Forest at the end of the stage. As I leisurely chugged north via Geroldsgrun, Bad Steben and the medieval town of Lichtenberg, I enjoy streets that are now rare: no median, no crash barriers and no traffic. South of Blankenberg I come across the Saale, whose busily winding course of the river is hidden for long stretches behind a sea of pink flowers. The fact that the border with Thuringia runs in the midst of this natural idyll only becomes apparent later. On the way from Hirschberg to Modlareuth, it’s as if the pink idyllic glasses are falling off your face. There is a Red Army tank on the roadside, an observation tower on the next hill, then it comes together: concrete wall, barrier ditch, metal mesh fence, light path. In Modlareuth ?? once called Little Berlin – the former zone border presents itself in an almost grotesque way. For 40 years the Iron Curtain, parts of which have been preserved as an open-air museum, ran through the middle of the 250-strong village. The inn stood in the east, the church in the west. If someone wanted to go over there, they would shoot him. I have long since ceased to see whether I am actually in Thuringia, Bavaria or Saxony. Deeply comforting ?? it just didn’t matter, the boundaries were broken down. In a flying ride it goes over Hof and Rehau down to Selb. Porcelain floors in the pedestrian zone, porcelain fountains in the side streets, small porcelain figurines in the shop windows – it quickly becomes clear who is at home in Selb: famous companies such as Hutschenreuther, Rosenthal and Co. In the futuristically styled Rosenthalfabrik, which is better not to enter without liability insurance , the finest designer porcelain is stacked. The small Versace vase that I carefully lift from the shelf seems to be a real bargain for a mere 300 euros. At least if you don’t compare it with what’s on sale over in Bohemia. Behind the German-Czech border, just a stone’s throw from Selb, the competition from the Far East is countering with ceramics instead of porcelain. The garden gnome colonies set up by Vietnamese traders greet me shortly after the ID check and follow my path with a fixed gaze through the adjoining ceramic mushroom houses, ceramic frogs and ceramic ducks. The forest of signs with the bargain offers from all branches of business does not want to end. Clothes, cigarettes, alcohol, gasoline – all cheap. Just as cheap as the inevitable socialist prefabricated housing estates with which the old town of As (Asch) has been spoiled. When I finally come across pastel-colored villas adorned with stucco ornaments in the center of the village, I have a faint inkling of how beautiful this city must once have been. In the north behind her rises the 757 meter high Hainberg, the local mountain of As and after all the highest elevation of the Fichtelgebirge on Bohemian soil. Back in Selb, I follow the “Porzellanstrabe” via Hohenberg an der Eger to the south, turn onto the B 303 at Schirnding and rush straight towards the highest peaks of the Fichtelgebirge. There is no wind and even the wind is hardly able to provide any cooling. I am grateful for the dense conifers that cool down on the road behind Marktredwitz. Even on this bright summer day, the wooded peaks of the Fichtelgebirge look dark and mysterious. In the middle of it and only a few hundred meters away from the road there is also a very special myth hidden: the Luisenlabyrinth. Huge granite balls, jumbled together as if the titans had played marbles here. On claustrophobically narrow paths through the wedged granite masses, the labyrinth leads to caves and passages in which the full-face helmet prevents fat dents with the slightest careless movement. At some point at the top, I feel like I’m on a pile of potatoes stacked on top of each other and look out over large parts of the Fichtelgebirge with shaky knees. On the way to Schneeberg and Ochsenkopf, the highest mountains in Franconia at over 1000 meters, I make a detour via Fichtelberg and the Fichtelsee, which is 750 meters above sea level. Lonely stretches embedded between forests, meadow valleys and raised bogs lead there. Unfortunately, at the foot of the Schneeberg I have to recognize that the summit road marked on the map is only allowed for military and forestry use. Damn! But still better than before the turning point, when the Schneeberg was just as closely guarded as the zone boundary. Nobody was allowed to come near him because there was a western spy transmitter upstairs, which was used to closely monitor activities in the east. One last dangling leads me over Bischofsgrun around the Ochsenkopf. The designated panorama road is unfortunately flanked on both sides by full-grown spruce trees, so that the hoped-for view does not appear until the beginning of the main road to Bayreuth. Real tourist mishap! Instead, there are views and splendor in abundance in the festival city: baroque flourishes, gold capitals, stucco. To make matters worse, a thunderstorm suitable for Wagner rises at the Festspielhaus at three thirty in the afternoon, and people in their Sunday best rush to the Gotterdammerung with umbrellas. Since the Wagner performance will certainly not work in my elevator, I calmly wait for the pouring in a cafe. In the evening I make my way home and finally find the right ambience on the freeway, in which it can be divinely hammered for the Norton.
If you are still looking for lonely stretches in Germany, endless forests and lively medieval cities in the middle, you will get your money’s worth in the large forest areas in northeast Bavaria.
The fastest journey from the north and south is via the A 9 from Berlin or Nuremberg to Bayreuth. From the northwest via the A 4 from Dresden, from the west via the A 70 and N 85 to Kulmbach. Sights / activities The offer is almost unlimited. Be sure to request information material and view it before you start your journey! We recommend a visit to the Modlareuth open-air museum and the Heinersdorf-Welitsch memorial (in the former customs house), which impressively illustrate the topic of the inner-German border. In the Bavarian Brewery Museum in Kulmbach (Hofer Strabe 20) you can learn a lot about brewing technology and brewing culture. It gets more humid at the Unterrodach rafting museum in Marktrodach (open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., on weekends only 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) If you want to go on a raft trip on the Wilder Rodach, contact the Wallenfels Tourist Office, phone 09262 / 94521. A hike through the rock formations of the Luisenlabyrinth is also exciting. Literature If you want to get a rough overview, you can use HB-Bildatlas No. 64 »Fichtelgebirge, Frankenwald, Coburger Land«, 8.30 euros. Practical tips and background information can be found in the “Franken” travel guide from Michael Muller Verlag, 16.40 euros. Cards: The “Extra” general card No. 10 for 6.90 euros or the “Pocket” general card No. 14 for 4.90 Euro. Both on a scale of 1: 200,000. The Marco Polo Allianz Leisure Card No. 21 “Fichtelgebirge / Franconian Forest” is available in 1: 100,000 for 4.90 euros. The respective tourist offices (see information) send an extensive list of accommodation (from campsites to pensions to luxury hostels). Both in the Franconian Forest and in the Fichtelgebirge there is a pleasantly good price-performance ratio. Recommended: Gasthof Fels in Schwarzenbach / Wald, phone 09289/369, overnight stay with breakfast from 25 euros. Gasthaus Goldener Lowe in Lauenstein, phone 09263/250. Overnight stay with breakfast from 20 euros. Hotel Schonblick in Fichtelberg, Gustav-Leutelt-Strabe 18, Telephone 09272/97800, Internet: www.hotel-schoenblick.de. Overnight stay including breakfast buffet from 30 euros. There are also holiday homes made of natural wood for two to six guests. Prices on request. Information Tourist Information Frankenwald, Adolf-Kolping-Strabe 1, 96317 Kronach, phone 09261/60150, Internet www.btl.de/frankenwald. Tourist Information Fichtelgebirge, Gablonzer Strabe 11, 95686 Fichtelberg, phone 09272/6255, Internet www.btl.de/fichtelgebirge. Distance covered: around 350 kilometers, time required: one to two days
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