Main Franconia

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Main Franconia

Main Franconia

The Main: a swerve to the south, one to the north and then again to the west. The river strolls through Mainfranken for ages without actually making a stretch. Like a biker.

Sylvia Lischer


The morning fog wafts under the visor, ice cold, and the heated grips are running at full speed. 1. November, All Saints’ Day. The BMW slowly rolls out and I allow myself a short break on the bridge. Below me the Main, which flows majestically from east to west. The church bells ring in Zeil. It already smells of Christmas cookies and gingerbread when I hop across the cobblestones of the Zeil market square. From the surrounding half-timbered houses, people in their Sunday best hurry over to the Church of St. Michael. Such haste is alien to the Main. Instead of taking the shortest route from east to west, he describes a loop to the north, makes a caper to the south, ticks a hook and gurgles further west. The Main may not be the most water-rich, widest, fastest or even longest river in Germany, but the most relaxed: the journey is the destination. Not unknown to motorcyclists. And so I immediately take a detour to the Habberge, which the Main separates from the Steigerwald between Bamberg and Schweinfurt. It goes past grapevines and fruit trees, then dense mixed forest moves close to the edge of the road. The early morning fog is noticeably clearing, the blue sky is emerging, and a strong autumn sun is soon roasting me in my thermal suit. Curve by curve lures deeper into the deciduous forest, whose leaves shine in strong yellow and red tones. Probably the last demonstration of autumnal colors, because with the next wind everything will be down for sure. Exactly the right time to enjoy these lonely forest roads to the full. Between gently rolling hills that almost reach the 500-meter mark, I curve back down to the banks of the Main via Pettstadt. A forest lake flies past and a manor inn with the tempting smell of festive roast pouring out of the kitchen window. At Hassfurt, it goes over the Main and further south into the Steigerwald, a low mountain range with almost 500 meter high peaks that mirror that of the east to the west running Main axis seems to stand opposite the Habbergen. It goes through Falkenstein, past the Zabelstein and then in a wide arc over Fabrikschleichach, Untersteinbach and Michelau to Gerolzhofen. Narrow, clear, little traffic: forest roads that are addictive. At Castell, a good twenty kilometers further south, a much-quoted equation suddenly becomes apparent: “Main Franconia is wine Franconia”. Grapevines displace the forests. The Castell, which has 500 inhabitants, can hardly be made out between the lush vineyards. And this nest is said to have been the capital of an independent dwarf state until 1806! Past the baroque palace of the Prince of Castell, I chug through the medieval streets to the rather inconspicuous-looking village church, take a look inside and am almost overwhelmed by the unexpected splendor: princely mansions, stucco ceilings and an alabaster altar with gilded decorations. As tiny as the place is, the princely winery is evidently so rich. Castell is one of the most renowned Franconians, with vineyards following each other towards the southwest. To keep an overview, I drive on a tiny forest road to the viewing terrace of the 472 meter high Schwanberg. The view is phenomenal ?? and even the good Main suddenly appears again, which I had completely lost sight of for a long time. One last dangling through the Steigerwald is still possible. On the way down to the river, I roll through the sunny southern locations of »Iphofen«, »Kronsberg« and »Julius-Echter-Berg«, where the best Riesling grapes in Franconia are supposed to thrive. At least the “Julius-Echter-Berg” provided the coronation wine for Elizabeth II. It was a while ago, but it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, the harvest is already over and the slopes are quiet again. Time to go on a discovery tour on the extensive network of trails. Down in the valley is Iphofen, a picture-perfect town with a city wall, turrets, gates and half-timbered ensembles at its best. What you can’t see from a bird’s eye view are the stone-old vaulted cellars, in which the region’s finest wines are stored. A little later, when I am humping through the medieval streets to the rather vegetarian-sounding vineyard Wirsching, I have doubts as to whether I will even be allowed in this elevator. At the entrance there is also a notice board for the select group of customers: Pope John Paul II, ex-Federal President Roman Herzog …. The only thing that keeps me from doing the U-turn is the black BMW RS 1100 K, which – as it turns out later – belongs to Wirsching’s viticulture engineer Armin. And then it is very easy, petrol talks make the beginning, a small tour of the estate is the continuation. In every corner there are bulbous wine digests that are so typical of Franconia: Bocksbeutel. Nobody knows where the expression comes from, explains Armin. “Some believe that the male insignia of the billy goat was a model, others think that the Booksbudel – an old Hanseatic prayer book pouch – was a model.” Whatever the case, the bottle shape, which the Celts already knew, has become a symbol of Franconian wine. Its noblest representatives are stored in the farthest corner of the medieval vaulted cellar – in the “treasure chamber”, covered with the dust of centuries. Although Armin objects that the oldest rarities at best come from the 1930s. In 1945 the house would have been occupied by Americans, and they would have had a lot of drinking. After the fermented cellar air, I let my head blow free in the wind and sweep non-stop to Marktbreit, where the Main hugs the street again. This also seems to submit to the Bocksbeuteldictat and describes prombt a bulbous, bottle-shaped curl in the landscape. Here, at the rounded tip of the Main Triangle, one half-timbered town follows the next. Leaning walls, turrets, gables, beams ?? that’s how it has to be. The river flows slowly past the small towns. Ochsenfurt – Sommerhausen – Eibelstadt. I leisurely chug north, changing the bank from time to time until I feel the urge to turn the throttle again and experience almost forgotten feelings of banking. I roar on the N 22 to Dettelbach and look for the narrow connection to Neuses am Berg. The landscape changes suddenly. The land consolidation has done a great job on the plateau. No more avenues and solitary trees ?? now boring fields take over the regiment. Not even rabbits can find cover here, unless behind a wall of stacked sugar beets. Between Kohler and Escherndorf the throttle is loosened. It becomes contemplative again, willow-lined oxbow lakes, villages nestled in valleys and the graphic lines of the vineyards spread out again, canoeists appear and a heron stalks along the oxbow lake. Except for a tractor rattling through the vine trellises, there is deep silence. Which is suddenly torn apart by sporadic gunfire from the vineyards. Alarm firing systems that are supposed to drive away the starlings that insist on their share of the last grapes instead of being on the way south. On the main road from Escherndorf I come across a sign for the Main ferry to Nordheim. “There are only eleven ferries left on the Main, including just two cable ferries like this one,” explains ferryman Erich Maiberger proudly and energetically cranks the winch. In addition, he starts the diesel engine and we mumble over to the other bank. “It’s always going on with us, oh well in autumn – it’s always full in the Eisatz”. The retired skipper has been running the Main ferry as a hobby for twelve years. Triumphantly he looks to the approaching shore like Vasco da Gama once did on the Indian coast. Via Nordheim I get to Volkach and from there up to the Vogelsburg. The Mainschleife, Nordheim and the Main Canal spread out below me. Only from this bird’s eye view does it become apparent that an island was created through the construction of the canal between Volkach and Gerlachshausen in connection with the loop of the Main. A wine island, on whose soil the most diverse grapes have been ripening for 1100 years, and which is now the largest wine-growing community in Franconia. Silvaner, Muller-Thurgau, Bacchus, Kerner, Riesling, Rieslaner and Traminer thrive on the “Vogelein” and “Kreuzberg” sites. Wine over wine. Even in Wurzburg the vines grow into the city center and shimmy up to the walls of the Marienberg Fortress. Accompanied by the screaming of the seagulls, I roll to the Old Main Bridge, under which the river gurgles, while Christmas stalls are already being set up above. To the right and left stone missionaries, bishops and the two Franconian kings Charlemagne and his father Pippin. If they turned their heads a little to the side, they could look at the city skyline, where no fewer than 39 church towers soar into the sky. I follow the Main northwards. The courtyard garden of Veithochstheim, one of the most magnificent pleasure gardens of the Rococo, remains on the right – the more profane pleasure dominates ?? finally bring full torque to the rear wheel again. It’s a shame that the pretty red and yellow leaves not only adorn the lush mixed forests all around, but also the road surface in the curves. But what the heck, the track is far too beautiful to be sacrificed to the rush of speed without being seen. Karlstadt und Gemunden appears where the Scherenburg, high above the city, is already part of the Spessart – the dark Spessart forests. While the Wurzburg prince-bishops strolled through their pleasure gardens like sun kings, the little people in the rough Spessart had serious difficulties in feeding their families and defending themselves from the marauding bands of robbers. The picturesque town of Lohr on the Main, however, does not seem to fit into the gloomy Spessart cliche with its humped cobblestones and half-timbered houses adorned with geraniums. While I am slowly rolling through the narrow streets, I instead come across traces of Snow White, who is said to have lived here as the daughter of a mirror manufacturer from Lohr before she fled to the seven dwarfs in the woods. A 33-kilometer-long Snow White hiking trail marks the supposed escape route over the Spessart Mountains. Behind Lohr, the forest is getting thicker and the road is becoming noticeably narrower. Most of the time, the road is lush, untrimmed green. The romantic forest houses in the Hafenlohr valley, the idyllic hamlets and forest lakes and the mysterious ravines reserved for hikers go well with this. Back in the Main Valley, the view falls on the defiant Rothenfels Castle. Fairytale. There is only no trace of the seven dwarfs. At Marktheidenfeld I cross the Main again and follow the Uferstrabe to the south via Homburg. Before the river meets the Tauber estuary near Wertheim, it winds like a snake. A prehistoric snake, its skin scaly roughened by the icy November wind. I turn the heated grips on again, snuggle into the thermal suit and roll to the autobahn. On the way I stop at a shop and buy another goat bag. One with the rare red that also grows on the red sandstone of the Spessart slopes. Kreuzwertheimer Kaffelstein Pinot Noir, vintage 97. As dry as it is expensive. I jokingly ask the salesman whether one can make a decent mulled wine with that, who can barely hold back a horrified outcry.


Motorcycle tours in autumn have their own charm. When you drive warmly wrapped up through gold-colored forest or brightly colored vineyards on a sunny day, saying goodbye to summer is not that difficult.

Getting there The fastest way to get to the Wurzburg area is from the south via the A 81, from the north via the A 7 via Kassel, from the west and east you can get to the Franconian part of the Main via Frankfurt or Nuremberg You sleep well in Weinhaus Dull, Maingasse 5 in Sommerhausen, phone 09333/220. An overnight stay in a double room including breakfast costs from around 28 euros per person. In the Steigerwaldstuble restaurant in Falkenstein, phone 09528/233, an overnight stay per person in a double room with breakfast costs around 18 euros. Similarly cheap: Pension Sauer, Heidingsfeld / Klosterstrasse 12 in Wurzburg, phone 0931/65536. Further room records and all other information are available from the Tourist Information Frankisches Weinland, Am Congress Centrum, 97070 Wurzburg, phone 0931/372335, e-mail: Worth seeing You should definitely see the Prince-Bishop’s Residence in Wurzburg, which is one of the most important baroque castles in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the historic cellar vault of the Wurzburg Residence (Staatlicher Hofkeller Wurzburg) you can take part in a wine tasting, which is mandatory for the Franconian wine region. Contact person for making appointments: Bernd van Elten, phone 0931/3050931. Those who prefer a small sample can contact the traditional Hans Wirsching winery in Iphofen, Ludwigstrasse 16. Telephone 09323/87330, email: LiteratureThe HB Bildatlas No. 137 »Mainfranken ?? Steigerwald ?? Mountains of Hatred «for xy euros. Extensive background information and practical tips can be found in the volume “Mainfranken” from Michael Muller Verlag, XYXY Euro. Sheet nine (Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Hesse South) and sheet ten (Bavaria North) of the large-scale edition of the general map by Mairs Geographical Verlag on a scale of 1: 200,000 are recommended as good road maps. Or: The ADAC leisure map Germany, sheet 20 “Mainfranken, Steigerwald, Bavarian Rhon”. Of course, you can also work out your route very well on your home PC. Or better: take over an already created tour. The current MOTORRAD tour planner offers both of these options as well as many other functions that make traveling in Germany and the Alpine countries easier for 39.95 euros. To be ordered in the MOTORRAD Shop at or by phone 0711 / 182-2424. Time required two days, route length approx. 300 kilometers

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