Tag Archives: walberla

Insiders guide to Walberlafest

24 Apr

On the first weekend in May the surprisingly positioned and oldest spring festival takes place in the Fränkische Schweiz, combining wonderful beer with some of the best views in the area. Walderlafest is something to be experienced. Walberla is one of the double peaked hills of the the Ehrenbürg (the other is called Rodenstein and whilst similarly lovely doesn’t have it’s own beer festival) which are located in Upper Franconia, about 10km from Forchheim.

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The site has some serious history behind it and there has been archaeological evidence of settlement as far back as the Bronze Age with celtic fortifications still visible today. The festival itself can be dated back to the 9th century and is celebrated yearly on the first weekend in May and it is now a pilgrimage made by both locals and tourists alike. You’ll be surprised with what you find on the top of the hill, I promise. Check out my pictures here.

How to get there

By train – Head for the small village of Kirchehrenbach, if you are travelling from Erlangen/Nürnberg you will most likely have to change trains in Forchheim, from other directions you may change in Ebermannstadt, both trains will take around 10 minutes. These trains generally only run once an hour so be prepared for crowded trains from Forchheim/Ebermannstadt if you are travelling later in the day or travel earlier to avoid the crowds.

By bike – Places to park a bike are easier to find than for a car, just do us all a favour and leave you bike at the bottom of the hill.

By car – There is no official parking for the event so go early to find a legal space. Kirchehrenbach is a small village and doesn’t have very much parking.

Important – However you travel to Walberlafest you can’t get away from the walk to the top (don’t worry that’s where they keep the beer). The walk itself is only about 3km some of it is quite steep (particularly the last 500 metres or so) and whilst most of the paths are in good condition, depending on the weather some parts can be a little rough (that last 500 metres or so again).

What to wear

The event is on a hill in the countryside, there is limited shelter so you are very much at the mercy of the elements, plan accordingly.

Take suncream and a waterproof, hey a coat doubles as something to sit on and it’s a long way down in the rain without one.

Sensible footwear, you can’t get out of the walk up there (it’s totally worth it) but to ensure your feet are happy wear some practical comfortable flats, you don’t have to have hiking boots, a decent pair of trainers or pumps will be just as good.

Whilst I’ve seen tracht at Walberlafest it’s not hugely popular, maybe a day to leave it at home.

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Useful to know

The location is a protected natural landscape, always keep to the marked trails and dogs must be kept on leads at all times.

Pfand still applies, even on the top of a hill, return your mug to get your Pfand (deposit) back

Take money, there is a Sparkasse in Kirchehrenbach but not on the hill (and it’s a long way down), get your cash before you set off.

As with most beer festivals it is family friendly but some of the ground can be uneven and rocky, plan accordingly.

Recommendations

Take a picnic, food is your regular festival stuff, lots of chips and sausages, take your own if you want something different.

Take a blanket to sit on, festival seating is limited so go prepared.

IMGP1624_2Try the Schwarze Anna from the Neder Brauerei, it’s a Schwarz beer (obviously) and looks like Guinness but tastes much much lighter, it’s one of my all time favourites.

If Schwarz beer isn’t your thing head on over to the Eichhorn Brauerei or the Brauerei Greif because they both do wonderful Hell beers, which also make delicious Radlers.

Take a bottle of water for the walk up, a lot of it is in direct sun and if it’s hot you’ll be glad of a drink half way up.

There are two paths up, a steeper incline and a gentler path, both merge near the top anyway but the gentler path is wider and more suitable for pushchairs and has better views for photographers. Both are marked and/or obvious.

The details

The fest begins with the raising of the May tree at 5pm Friday 1st May 2015 and the first barrel is tapped later at 6pm.

Officially the fest opening hours are 10am-11pm Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd May 2015.

There is a church service held at the chapel on Walberla 9am Sunday 3rd May 2015.

Whilst Kirchehrenbach is the closest station many people choose to park in nearby villages and walk the additional distance, the surrounding area is pretty flat so on a nice day that’s definitely an option, the choice is yours.

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Have you heard of Walberla?

24 Apr

Walberla has the history, all of it. They’ve dug up Bronze Age artefacts there, the work of the Celts is still very visible and the May celebration (that we now call Walberlafest) dates back to the 9th century. Add to that the amazing natural beauty of the place, stunning views and the marvellous cardio workout you get making your way to the top and you should be able to understand why this place is one of my happy places.

Walberlafest has all that, and beer. Possibly my most happy of happy places. And since I’m not able to go this year I thought I’d share my photos with you, and maybe convince a few of you to go in my place. Walberla is easily spottable from the train station in Kirchehrenbach, follow everyone else and head for the hill.

When you actually get to the top it’s a little confusing. Oh it’s just a beer festival, like any other. There is beer and food, tents and seating, arcade games and gingerbread hearts, but then it all becomes clear when you see those views. There is actually a lot of space up there on the hill for everyone to enjoy the festivities.

I hope that you get chance to go and experience it for yourself, if you want the lowdown then check out my Insider’s guide. I’ll be there next year rain or shine!

Feeling on top of the world….

25 Apr

….and some other local experiences you won’t want to miss.

On top of a mountain (well maybe just more of a really big hill) in the (middle of crapping nowhere) middle of the Fränkische Schweiz on the first weekend in May, you find a wonderful beer festival with some of the best views (and beers) in the area. It’s called the Walberlafest and I strongly recommend you go.

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Walberlafest 2013, and yes it’s all on the top of a mountain!

It’s origins are seriously ancient, possibly right back to pagan feasts in the 9th century and because of this it’s considered by some to be the oldest Spring festival in Germany. It is quite a hike up Walberla and in places it can be quite steep, wear sensible shoes and take a coat, even if the sun is out in the morning, it is a long way down in the rain.

The best way to get there is by train, one of the most popular paths up Walberla starts in the small village of Kirchehrenbach, incidentally this is the best station to get off at and start your climb to the top. Erlangen-Forchheim-Kirchehrenbach is how your trip would go from Erlangen Hbf, be prepared for the trains to be crowded if you are travelling later in the day. Saturday and Sunday are the main days for visitors 10am-11pm, though the tapping of the first cask takes place on the Friday at about 6pm. There is also a church service at the Chapel on Walberla at 9am on Sunday.

Die Blaue Nacht (The blue night) is Nuremberg’s cultural offering to May, the night of May 3rd to be specific. Now you might be thinking, blue night? what? so everything is blue? Well yes in  German feat of wonderful organisation every bulb in every lamppost in Nuremberg is replaced with a blue one, for a night. That’s not all it is obviously, but it’s a distinct amount of effort that goes into things like this, it really is all in the detail for me.

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A tiny idea of what goes on on Blaue Nacht from 2012

The city centre opens it’s doors, it’s churches, it’s spaces and even it’s castle, to a ‘long night of art and culture’. You can buy a ticket to attend various events around the city but there is such a lot to see for free that I haven’t ever felt the need to buy one. There is usually a light show projected onto the castle once the sun goes down, it is very impressive but it can get very busy so maybe don’t go in a huge group.

The bierkeller of the Forchheimer Kellerwald open this weekend 26 & 27 April, you can sample beers and food so you know where to head for the good stuff when you arrive for Annafest later in the year

Entla’s Keller Erlangen also kick off their musical events for the year this weekend 26 & 27 April with some fabulous Franconian music ‘Fränkisches Gwerch am Berch’. Check out the calendar of events for information on dates and musicians.

Some Osterbrunnen (including Bierberbach) are still dressed and waiting to be photographed and the Volksfest in Nürnberg continues.

A-Z local Edition

16 Mar

I do love a good list, doesn’t everybody? I have various lists of things to see, countries to visit, foods to eat etc which are all part and parcel of trying to make the best of my time in Germany (and mainland Europe). Getting out and exploring is a fabulous way to learn about your new home, practice your German, make new friends and soothe homesickness. Even if you only get endorphins from the bike ride to get somewhere, a little lift is better than none.

My lists are usually very haphazard and probably not easy to read or understand to anyone but me, so I thought I’d try the A-Z format here. Some letters, have more than one idea.

Next weekend, pick a letter (or three), and go exploring…

A  – Arcarden – So I’m starting small, and central, the Arcarden is the only shopping centre in Erlangen, you just can’t miss it. All budgets are catered for and the place is always clean and tidy, the heating however is on at full blast from September to April and whilst the air con only appears about two days a year! Whilst the shops are all shut on Sunday, the cafes are open, brunch, ice cream or just an Aperol Spritz, the people watching is always good.

B – Burgberg – Or Castle Hill is one of the most sought after and expensive places to live in Erlangen, the hill stands to the North of the city and is the location of the Bergkirchweih. The hill provides storage for the beer producers of Erlangen and a tour of the underground tunnels (in English) can be arranged with the owner of Entlas Keller.

Bamberg – Slightly further afield, but not too far away is this beautiful city, the old town is a UNESCO world heritage site and since it was barely touched during the war it has retained it’s historical charm. There is plenty to see here both old and new, and it is a great place to take visitors for that ‘typical Franconian experience’. Famous for it’s special Rauchbier (smoked beer), which smells like bacon, but does not taste like it. I’d recommend trying a smoked Weizen (smoked wheat beer) or a very strong Bockbier (8% min) at Schlenkerla, but take it easy on the later.

C – Christmas Markets – Seasonal yes, but Erlangen hosts two wonderful Christmas Markets, both of which are worth checking out from the end of November to lunchtime on December 24th.

D – Dechsendorf – Is a small village about 8km from Erlangen, when the weather is good people flock here to visit the Dechsendorfer Weiher (the lake) where you can camp, relax at the ‘beach’, bike and explore. There is even an open air music event at the lake every year, get your tickets early. There are also some lovely family run restaurants here, the Forsthaus overlooks the lake , booking is recommended.

E – Effeltrich – A village famous for it’s fortified church and the massive tree opposite. Not the tallest tree ever but it is between 400 and 1000 years old and does have an impressively large circumference, is so big that it has a specialist frame to keep it upright as it’s own weight would cause it to split. In former times the space under the tree would have been used for meeting or dancing, hence it is referred to as the Tanzlinde.

Ebermannstadt – A beautiful village in the Frankische Schweiz, no matter what time of year you visit! Getting there by train is what I recommend so that you can appreciate the scenery on the way. There is also a Dampfbahn (steam train) which runs from here and if you have kids at Christmas they can meet Santa on Steam train.

F – Forchheim – The ‘Gateway to Franconian Switzerland’ and a lovely town too. Check out the leaning houses and the secret passages over the river, it is like stepping back in time, watch your step on the main street if you don’t want to get wet! Famous for the biggest advent calendar in the world, the town hall transforms into one for the whole of December and every night when a window is opened, a Christmas Angel will read part of the Christmas story, Oh and Annafest (See K).

G – Gößweinstein – Check out the castle at the highest point in the village. There are plenty of walking tours in this area and plenty of breweries to try out if the exercise gets too much for you.

H – Huttendorf – A small village with a big secret, Huckepack. Pick your own on a huge scale, pick up a knife, a basket and some bags from the shop when you arrive and then explore their acres of produce, salad to raspberries, potatoes to peppers and the price is unbeatable. Digging up your fresh produce is bound to make you work up an appetite, their onsite shop also sells produce from the fields (albeit for a higher price) as well as cheese, cakes, wine, ice cream etc from local producers. An in depth blog is coming soon, after they open at Easter.

Herzogenaurach – The land of Adidas and Puma, the majority of residents here work for these companies but the old town still retains a village type feel. The town square is always a hive of activity for any fests that pop up throughout the year.

I – Innenstadt – Erlangen town centre just cries out for exploration, go off the beaten track and discover specialist shops and quiet corners for relaxation. For nature and relaxation try the Schlossgarten, Bohlenplatz or the Aroma-Garten, for non standard high street type shopping try Bel Mondo or Contigo (Fair trade shop).

J – Jazz in Erlangen – If you are so inclined this place is the place to go for Jazz happenings in Franconia.

K – Kellerwald – Literally, ‘Cellar forest’ and yes it’s a pretty accurate description of this place, 23 cellars in a forest (on a hill). Located just outside Forchheim its easily accessible from the station at Forchheim by bus or foot, all the cellars are open for the famous Annafest and others open from Easter (or good weather time) to September (or when the good weather leaves). Well worth trying out this place in the non Annafest season, it’s a lovely chilled atmosphere and you’ll get some decent exercise climbing the hills, wear good shoes.

L – Live Webcams – That sounds so dodgy but I assure you it’s not those kind of webcams! Check out the views of the Huegenottenplatz and the Dechsendorfer Weiher, as well as other towns and cities in the area. Here

M – Marloffstein – A beautiful small Franconian town, boasting four castles, due to its high position the views from here can be fabulous.

N – Nürnburg – The place you always tell people from home you live near to, though Erlangen is quite well known especially if you have any connection to Siemens, the University, adidas or Puma! There is so much to do here, my advice is only to try everything, museums, festivals, concerts, beer and sausage can be your spare time staples here. Order a Drei im Weckla and drink coffee like the locals.

O – Osterbrunnen – Franconia being in Catholic Bavaria celebrates Christian festivals with gusto and Easter is one of my favourites. From Good Friday onwards (and for about two weeks after Easter) every Brunnen (well or fountain) will be decorated with chicken egg sized decorated eggs, some are plastic now (more hard wearing and less easy to vandalise) but some are real eggshells and evergreen shaped to form crowns over the fountain. They really are something to behold, especially the biggest in Bieberbach  which draws in bus loads of tourists to the small village, Take a drive through the Frankische Schweiz and see how many you can find, and go hunting to find Erlangens.

P – Pottenstein – A small town in the Frankische Schweiz, great walking, caves to explore and the obligatory castle of course. It does come into it’s own every year on the 6th January, on the Catholic celebration of the Eternal Adoration, as dusk approaches fires are lit on the hills that surround the village, hundreds, if not a thousand are lit and the whole village is filled with the smells of freshly burning wood and the noisy crackle of all the fires in unison. Go early to get a parking space, dress warmly and enjoy some Glühwein to keep out the cold.

Q – Qwirkle – For those long cold nights in the winter you will need a little something to keep those brain cells ticking over. My German friends are avid game players, in our house a game of monopoly usually ends in a full on argument and later sulking, if it even gets finished. So, I wasn’t too keen when Qwirkle turned up at our place, after the rules had been translated (lest we play wrongly) and within one game, I was hooked. It’s suitable for ages 6 and up and way easier than scrabble.

R – Röthelheimbad – Erlangens premier water fun facility, in the summer you can enjoy the outside pools and it’s a pretty safe environment for all the family. It can get very full at peak times of the summer but if you go early you can sometimes get the place to yourself.

S – See (Brombachsee) – Not the sea, but as near as you can get living in Bavaria, a huge lake (or reservoir). Go and relax on the beach, or enter the water for swimming, water skiing, windsurfing and other such exciting pastimes. Sometimes there can be a problem with algae in the lakes, meaning that you shouldn’t use the water, so look out for warning signs.

T – Tennenlohe – A district of Erlangen located to the South of the city. Since it is convenient for the motorway, more and more houses have sprung up here, but parts of it are still covered in forest and woodland, wonderful biking, running and walking. The woodland to the east  is a protected woodland called Tennenlohe Forst, a lovely place to escape the heat of midsummer in.

U – Uttenreuth – Still in the district of Erlangen, but about 5km from the city centre. Mainly a residential development, it still maintains a rural charm whilst still being easily commutable to Erlangen by bike for work. The bike network in and around Erlangen is superb and bikers are respected on the roads here, if you do have a small child riding a bike though, please attach a high flag to their bike, so they are visable.

V – (Fahrrad) Versteigerung – ‘(Bicycle) auction’, every now and then, the Council round up bikes which have been abandoned in and around the town and sell them off. Do not leave your bike around town if you are going to be away for three months and you still want it to be there when you return. On the plus side the bikes that are sold here go cheap, dirt cheap. The auction is in German but as long as you have your numbers straight you can join in, it’s pretty straight forward. You can even check the bikes out in advance and there is an auction at least twice a year, Spring and Autumn. There is one on next weekend

W – Walberla – First Sunday in May, walk up a mountain and enjoy a beer festival at the top. I kid you not, this is one of my top ten things to do in Franconia. Sounds bizarre? it is the oldest spring festival in Germany in honour of St Walburga and dates back to pilgrimages in the 9th century. You have to do it at least once. Wear good walking shoes, take suncream, raincoats and money.

Weisendorf – A lovely little town, about 15km from Erlangen centre populated by mostly families, enjoying the countryside whilst also having a short commute to Adidas, Puma, Siemens etc

Würzburg – Further afield but a city which definitely needs visiting. The historic sights include the Residence, the Marienberg Fortress, the Cathedral, the Old Bridge and the Julius Spital. The place is packed with history, and also wine. Nearly all the towns surrounding Würzburg will host wine festivals, as will the city itself, you can even see vines growing in the fortress gardens. I used to be snobby about German wines, but I’ve made a full U turn and really love this stuff now.

X – (St) Xystus – This beautiful Catholic Franconian church is located in Büchenbach.

Y – Yoghurt bar – Despite being called the yoghurt bar this place does also do delicious homemade, healthy soups, as well as frozen yoghurt, which is pretty damn gorgeous too. It’s pretty close to the University library and pretty cheap so if you want lunch go early or late to avoid the hoards of students, or take away and enjoy your lunch in the Schlossgarten around the corner.

Z – Zirndorf – Not far from Erlangen and famous for two things Beer (what else right?) and Playmobil. Zirndorfer Keller and Landbier are sold in most supermarkets, bars and restaurants in and around Erlangen, try them. Playmobil, well that might interest your younger less beer drinking friends, but their head office is also located there, just incase you are looking for a job.

Keep exploring near and far and make the most of your expat experience.

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