The "little Switzerland" of Bavaria
Located in the triangle between Bayreuth, Nuremberg and Bamberg is a piece of natural bliss — Franconian Switzerland. Known as Fränkische Schweiz in German, this forested area has numerous caves, castles and hiking trails. Summer is the best time to explore this part of northern Bavaria, so beautiful it’s likened to Switzerland.
There are a few castles in the region where you can visit or stay overnight. Schloss Greifenstein, a palace with an almost thousand-year history, can be visited nearly year round. Schloss Greifenstein has been owned since 1691 by the historically noble von Stauffenberg family. The most famous member of this family was Claus von Stauffenberg (portrayed in the film “Valkyrie”), who attempted to assassinate Hitler. Located on a hill in Heiligenstadt in Oberfranken, the romantic palace has tall towers and a 300-year-old tree-lined avenue. The interior includes a weapon collection and a chapel.
Burg Rabenstein is a 12th century castle that functions as a hotel and restaurant. The castle contains 22 guest rooms and medieval hunting lodge décor. Rabenstein regularly holds special events, like concerts and dinner theater. Directly next to Burg Rabenstein is a falconry with daily flying exhibitions.
The Rodelmekka in Pottenstein is open from April to October, giving thrill seekers an opportunity to ride their own personal rollercoaster. Carts that can hold up to two riders take you up the hill before letting you glide down the track while controlling your speed with a handbrake. This all-weather toboggan run has a 3,900-foot-long track similar to a luge. If you are looking for more fun, the complex also has bungee trampolines.
At Kletterwald Pottenstein, you can climb and zip-line through the forest. You can choose from 13 different courses at Kletterwald based on your preferences. The courses are arranged by height and difficulty. There are age restrictions on some of the higher ropes courses. Kletterwald features courses that have climbing walls, bridges, even a Tarzan jump.
There are more than 1,000 caves in Franconian Switzerland. Located near Pottenstein, Teufelshöhle, also known as the Devil’s Cave, is one of the largest caves in the area. The limestone formations in the cave include stalactites and stalagmites. Inside a section of the cave named the Bear’s Grotto, visitors can view a full cave bear skeleton. Additionally, the cave has a waterfall and formations resembling a tree and a “Pope’s Crown.”
Sophienhöhle is a large stalactite cave open for public viewing. Located near Burg Rabenstein in Ahorntal, this cave was discovered in 1833. The bones of cave bears dating back 25,000 years were discovered in Sophienhöhle. The cave is open at night for live multimedia and music shows.
The Binghöhle Streitberg in Wiesenttal is the largest stalactite cavern in Germany. Tours take you along a 300-meter -long dried-up river to explore the crystalline and limestone structures. Excavations in 1905 uncovered the remains of a human settlement.
Franconian Switzerland is also known for its many breweries. The Fünf Seidla Steig is a brewery hike in Fränkische Schweiz. The full loop is 15 kilometers and includes five stops. Trail signs point the way between breweries Friedmann, Hofmann Hohenschwärz, Lindenbräu, Thuisbrunner Elch-bräu and Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe. More information about the Fünf Seidla Steig can be found at www.vgn.de/en/hiking/seidla.
If you are looking for a mini vacation in Fränkische Schweiz, consider staying at a brewery guesthouse (Brauereigasthof in German). These establishments are true triple threats serving as guesthouse, restaurant and brewery. Brauerei- Gasthof Hartmann in Würgau and Brauereigasthof Rothenbach in Aufseß are two examples in Franconian Switzerland. Brauerei-Gasthof Hartmann boasts four homemade beers and one seasonal strong brew known as Bockbier.
Fränksiche Schweiz has a lot to offer visitors including hiking and biking trails, rock climbing and kayaking on calm rivers. There are abundant activities to experience in this piece of Bavaria. Summer is the perfect time to explore!