Franconia - January 2012
10.01.2012 - 16.01.2012 0 °C
It was a strange feeling heading to Erlangen on holiday...in a nutshell, Erlangen for me represents work, work work. I spent years living and working here. It's one of the world centres for Siemens. For non Engineering people..this means trains, planes, and automobiles (ok...no planes but airport automation and cars...well the electronics)...add in a few power stations, mining equipment, hearing aids, light globes (pretty much all of them), white goods, previously telephones, medical equipment (take note next time you go to the dentist or get a CAT scan)...they have their finger in pretty much everything...but it all started with trains and Erlangen is the headquarters for this.
True, I've always found the place somewhat stifling over the years...mostly due to the overwhelming presence of the company breathing from every pore of the city...but I also have to admit that the place simply grows on you over time...and when you look for it, you can find quite a few special and interesting things. Some of my oldest friends come from here and that's what brought me back this time.
Something you may or may not know about Germans...they love bicycles. They really feel uncomfortable with having to travel too far to University or work, so everything has to be within cycling distant at the most. If you live more than 30 minutes from your daily destination, there is already grounds for moving house...now we may chuckle at all of this with a completely different perception of distance, time and travel in Australia..but this is Germany. So watch out when you're a pedestrian, because cyclists are plenty and hold on to their bike path rights strongly. Drivers have a heightened cyclist awareness too, no doubt riding themselves (YIPEE!! cry the Australians!!)
And work places must provide sufficient parking spaces for bicycles.
This was the first time I was there as a tourist and I did what i could to look at the city with fresh eyes.
I met a girlfriend, Jasmin for lunch a an old favourite chinse restaurant. We had so much to catch up on I forgot to get a photo of us together...but I did get her hand....right next to their famous giant spring rolls!
Germans also like order and organisation...especially in this region..so even the new residential buildings have that leggoland look about them. I don't thinkI'll ever get used to that. They're perfectly good homes, but everything is organised and identical...the more organised the better.
Even one freezing morning owners were out training their dogs in force!
And as commendable as it is, Germany is probably the leader is sorting rubbish and god forbid your don't.
In the more dated parts of town the buildings look like the commission flats spotted around Melburne, and I simply couldn't ever get used to that.
Whilst Siemens is responsible for about half the population of the city, the other half is made up of students and is a major Medical Centre for Germany. Of course the family Frankenstein does come from Franconia...and one of them was a grave digger, so maybe that's the origin of medicine in this region!
With the city being made up of mostly Engineers and Doctors, you can imagine just how educated and affluent the place is.
But once you wander away from Siemens working and living, you enter the old french quarter with stunning old buildings.
The city started out with the French moving into town. It was a glove making zone.
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The boutiques are really lovely once you get away from the main street in town. Artists of all sorts have their shops set up and you can spend a nice afternoon poking about in all these shops.
Should you get thirsty, the the Steinbachbraeu is a great place to stop. Especially in spring and summer when the resident storks take up home on the roof. I sat there one summer watching the happy couple try to raise their chicks. Amazingly they had 3 that year, which is really unusual...well as the chicks got bigger there wasn't enough room for all, so Mum kept chasing Dad away, and the poor sod had to sit on a neighbouring roof, and wait until the chicks could be thrown out of home! But now there are two perches...just in case it happens again!
My girlfriend Betty and I took a day to drive around some of my favourite old haunts in the area. These places are especially pretty in summer and being Franconia, the place is riddled with breweries and beer gardens.
In fact Erlangen has one of Germany's best beer festivals each year... It's called the Bergkirchweih and definitely worth a visit.
We headed off through a town called Marloffstein. From here you have a beautiful view across the fields and far into the distance.
Something you often find in Germany is closed mines that have been turned into water reserves or swimming holes... Some pretty than others, but here's an example.
After a nice walk we headed to Effeltrich...this little village is famous in the area for a couple of things...
One being the thousand year old tree!
And the other being the forted church!
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The church is really quaint. Everything is medieval and it seems to have withheld a number of wars over time.
I loved the Nativity set, with the figures in traditional franconian costume!
Of course the grave yard surrounds the church still and it is filled with typical modern head stones that you see all over Germany.
But...there are some of the traditional franconian ones were there too.
From here we did a flying visit through Herzogenaurach.
This name might not sound familiar....but maybe Adidas and Puma do...
Well in the 40's two brothers had a falling out. They'd been making shoes for years but one left to start Puma on the other side of the river and the other stayed and started Adidas. For generations a shoe war split the folk of this town...to the extent that loyalties had to be clear and intermarriage between the factions was condemned...No Kidding. Although the founders have long passed away and attempts at reconcilliations have been attempted, the wounds are deep...so pick your side!
For us the beauty of it is, all the factory outlets.
Nuremberg, was of course on the cards for me. It would have to be one of my favourite German cities.
I lived there for years just so I could take a break from Erlangen each day. The Nordstadt area, just north of the forted castle, is where I lived.
It's such a fantastic part of town. Although Nuremberg was bombed heavily and practically flattened during the war, some of the original buildings can still be found and amongst them are those from the 50's. My old place above the Apotheke (Chemist) wasn't the prettiest from the outsied, but I had the nicest view over the square.
On each corners you often find boutiques, or restaurants...it's just lovely. Whilst I was gone the government even built a subway. Wow...right outside my old door.
I wanted to walk and soak in the the place though, so I wandered from from my old place up along my old route to the castle, admiring the architecture as I went.
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Then the castle stood before me.
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I was surprised by the houses below in the moat...
Just kidding...that's what I thgouht they were when I first came to Germany in the 90's...ghetto like housing....but no.
Every good German that doesn't have a garden at home can purchase a lot in some odd spot (usually next to train lines) and grow their own vegetbles or simply use the lot as a summer escape...
Certainly no Sorrento or Portsea and you might want to chemical test the health of the vegies, but nice all the same.
The old city is just gorgeous.
You can weave down to the main square....even meeting up with a dog club on route...yep out in force this cold day.
You pass by the famous Nuremberg Bratwurst house...these are the pinky fingers sized bratwurst. Franconian's are proud of their sausages!
The beautiful Sebald Church stand proudly.
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And then when you get to the main square, you can even make a wish... BUT be sure not to be tricked.
The blacksmith who made the fence entwined a ring into the frame, so you have to look hard to find it...or you would if there wasn't always such a huge queue of people waiting for their wish. Now...one other thing...nobody knows how he did it because it seems there is no join...neither on the ring, nor the fence....oohhh...
Also, the gold coloured ring is the fake.
On the opposite sid of the fence up a little higher is a black ring..and that's the one you want to close your eyes and wish really really hard againast as you turn it 3 times!
I was fascinated to see that the some people had attached locks here....flashbacks of the Brooklyne bridge...yes I know....but this time, the locks were coverd in love messages and "true commitment" messages...yeah...wonder how long it'll take for those bubble to burst! Sorry being synical...but really. Love locked, or locked love! Nothing like controlling a relationship to kill it quickly, eh.
Well, they were put there with a sweet and romantic spirit so you've got to give them that....the things is, no matter where I went in Nuremebrg the locks were attached to any old bit of railing they could find...a it of fad I'm thinking. The Brooklyn bridge experience was somehow nicer.
Anyway, a quick wander passed the Frauenchurch
Took me to a little square where my favourite breakfast cafe was still to be found. Although i didn't eat the breakfast here this time, it has been great over the years.
I did have the soup though...nice but way over salted...that's another special thing about Franconia...food is often waaayyy over salted. So careful what you choose. Don't let this put you off though..it's the region...maybe so much salt helps people buy more beer, I don't know..but it is a great cafe with plenty of other good things to choose from, and no tourists!
From here, I had fun crossing the many bridges that criss cross the river from one side of town to the others. It's such a pretty route to take.
First I wandered over the Heubruecke
Then the Museumsbruecke
Maxbruecke brought back fond memories
And I couldn;t help but admire the Untere und Obere Karlsbruecke
The Lorenz Church stood proud.
I even enjoyed a bunch of Statues and fountains along the way... Welthandel (International Business) one of my favourites.
Further up on the hill you are confronted with loads of antique shops...although I did notice that a couple of my favourites had disappeared. These are great to have sift through.
There are a lot of originals buldings in the old town and I can't help but admire the wonky fachwerk building beams.
Nuremberg is also known for it's box windows...usually made of wood
But in one special case it is stone
The streets of Nuremberg are just beautiful...with eery inch telling tale.
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It's all quite magical and I guess this is why Nuremberg also became the world centre for toy making.
There's a toy museum in town that I have never managed to get to, but I'm sure it would be well worth a visit.
But one of my favourite things to show people in Nuremberg is the cellar tour...it's great. I didn't actually check, but I'm guessing they now do it in English. It's great... you get to drop down to 4 levels of the catacombs. In old times when the river was too filthy to drink from people of the region only drank beer. It was also considered a food at the time ad the purest water to make it from came from the filtered water sources in the catacombs.
One thing that struck me in Tulum Mexico, is that the people have that same stockiness that Franconian's do...and I can't help but wonder if it comes from generations of drinking calcified water...food for thought.
Anyway, these catacombs were also used in the war to save the towns people when it was getting bombed. They'd already learned from deaths that occurred in the north of Germany that they shouldn't block the air shafts. In the north the people ended up dying, not from the bombing but from the fires that started and consumed what air they had availble. In the case on Nuremebrg there was little human loss, despite the city being flattened.
The tour is fantastic and you even pop out at a brewery at the end where you can enjoy a nice cold beer!
Back in Erlangen I set about contacting a caving club.
You see, I had my heart set on going caving. Since I'd started the sport a few years ago now, I was checking out pretty much everywhere I went to see what possibilities were available. I knew that the Fraenkischeschweiz(Franconian Switzerland) , as the mountainous region here is called, is riddled with caves. There's even cave diving in a handful of places in Germany. Man...I'd lved in this little mecca for years and never ever known.
So I promotly contacted the FHKF caving and karst club to see if I would be able to join a trip. The club meeting was on a Wednesday night and from here we agreed to a trip on the coming Satuday. Woohoo for me!
So come Saturday I was picked up a driven north to a town called Burggaillenreuth.
The caves are usually found at the tops of hills in the area and over time the earth has eroded leaving the rock exposed in places.
It occured to me that I'd never really had a good drive through Franconia either...such a pretty part of Germany, I must say.
Of course I know the places closer to Erlangen, but there's a lot more to Franconia than that.
It was such a wonderful day and I learned so much.
We visited Zoolithenhoehle (Zoolihen Cave).
This cave is considered one of the most significant caves in terms of paleantology world wide. You see it was first discovered in 1600's...or at least the first records of it are known to be from then. The records describe the first cave section where you enter. Then in 1760 Esper and priest who was wandering through the area and documenting everything he discovered along the way, wrote a book about his travels and attempted to provide a detailed description on the cave and it's contents..but it took another 60 years to a time around 1820 when Goldfuss made the first real connection about the bones found in the cave.
Up until then they were thought to be bears perhaps, but Goldfuss called them Ursospeleos or as we know them now....Cave bear.
Now this doesn't mean any old bear that lives in a cave. The Cave Bear is the predecessor to the Ice Bear...yep a predecessor to the ice age bear.
It was a bear that also was a....wait for it...vegetarian! Can you beleve that?! And what makes it so interesting is that it is believed it was the first animal to die out when the Ice Age started...I knew there was something wrong with being vegetarian...there's a lesson for you!
The bear was about 3.5m long, 60cm high and weighed about a tonne.
Just to make matter a bit more interesting in this cave....other bones were found...those of Cave Lions and Hyenas!
Well the continents were all a bit closer together back then weren't they...
Anyway, in the history of this cave, scientest from around the world (including the university of Erlangen) documented, dug up and collected samples of every type.
About a thousand bear remains were taken from the cave at this time and are found in museums around the world.
What those people didn't realise though, is that they were only scratching at the surface...you see it is estimated that about another 2000 bear remains are still within the cave!
And the reason you find Lion and hyena remains in the cave is that they used to come into the cave to hunt the baby cave bears whilst the parents were sleeping!
Yep..in the 70's a small group decided to search some more. They had already worked out that there were 3 shafts that had been filled with bones, they also discovered that the bones had been distributed another 45m in and 30m lower into the cave.
So with a litltle bit of digging, they were able to open up another section of cave.....that is the remaining 90% of it! What a discovery!
Sections of this are completely locked off to preserve the bones that lie in piles in their still.
It's filled with hand fulls of slippery holes you can pop through!
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And ladders that were installed years ago, so that you don't have to use Single Rope Technique..this of course is assiting in the ongoing maintenance and studies of the cave.
From the time of this last discovery the cave has been protected, and any further discoveries are carefully managed. Infact the club itself is going out of it's way to clean the cave and restore it to it's previously untouched form as best they can.
In order to do this, cave water is required so as not to disolve the formations.
Tap water or rain water is too acidic.
You might wonder about this, but what happens in a cave literally stays in a cave. The environment is perfect, so it can easily be trashed and never recover from this. With so many poeple coming in over the years, mud has been spread all over the place...
Calcite pool are clumps of mud
And other cave decoration, previously black, has been touched and covered in mud, so that new calcite has started to form upon this. So the club is carefully gathering the cave water and using this to clean down the formations.
Before you enter from one section to another, boots are cleaned, so that nothing new it treked into a different section. And literally spoonfuls of mud are being collected and taken out of the cave.
For the passed 40 years the cave has been managed with Michael, his family and the club doing what they can to recuperate it.
It was such a privilege to join the group this day and no doubt my recollection of everything is a bit grey...but you more or less get the idea.
And Franconia has another 3000 cave systems of all sorts and double this when you take in all of Bavaria. Impressive.
One was enough for now and we were hungry...so we headed off to the local pub and I continued my culinary journey, eating a whole bunch of old favourites.
OK..not them..but this is the crowd I got to enjoy the day with.
Liver dumpling soup
But my time in Franconia was up and I had to race on down to Munich on a speedy ICE train.
A bit different from the busses of South America, eh!
So with this I wish you all well until we meet again!