Sunday 6 September 2020

fränkische schweiz

Located in the uppermost pocket of the Franconian Jura and originally bearing the name the Muggendorfer Hills, we had the privilege of touring the region previously “rediscovered” and romantically marketed at the end of the eighteenth century by a couple of law students from the University of Erlangen who wrote about enthusiastically, followed by a 1820 volume by a local historian who coined the new endonym die kleine Schweiz and now had the chance to see it again for a few fresh impressions over the weekend.
First we entered in County Kulmbach the market town of Wonsees with its medieval Felsenburg (rock castle) Fortress Zwernitz, hewn into the dolomite stone, originally the family seat of elevated peasants called the Walpoten—a so-called ministerialis line, that is serfs raised up as servitors and agents into positions of responsibility within the class system of the Middle Ages.
While not technically free and independent, these families held social power and could cultivate their estates and pass along their wealth to the next generation, with equal status accorded to men and women.
Beneath the tower and keep is a seventeenth century cliff garden called Sanspareil landscaped around some strange rock formations and with oriental follies—reminding H and I of the gardens at Veitshöchsheim or Schwetzingen.

Next, following the Burgen- und the Fränkischen Bierstraße (the region having the one of the highest concentrations of traditional breweries in Europe) we came to a village called Aufseß, named for the stream that flows through it, dominated by a castle and chapel with a clutch of some pretty fancy chickens in the property opposite the courtyard who were eager to have their pictures taken by us paparazzi.

With a few detours through Plankenfels and Waischenfeld, we stopped at Burg Rabenstein—a well-preserved Spornburg, a spur castle which is constructed where natural topography aides in its defences that also featured a quite good restaurant, a dripstone cavern and a bird-of-prey demonstration. The intact castle is one of the best conserved—most are ruins but romantic ones—along the route and was originally also in the capable hands of the Rabenstein ministerialis family, who were eventually able to buy the property and ennoble themselves. The castle appears as the main stage for the 1995 wildly popular PC game Gabriel Ritter sequel “The Beast Within”—I was not familiar but I think it was like the equivalent of the King’s Quest saga.
After securing a campsite (we had miscalculated a little and instead of the season’s end like we thought it was busier than expected) in the Veldensteiner Forest outside of Pottenstein, we returned to Gößweinstein with its Burg and basilica minor designed by Balthasar Neumann as a pilgrimage destination.
Our last stop on the way back to the campsite, we drove back through Pottenstein and visited the town, crisscrossed by canals, more fowl not shy of the camera and a row of sleeping ducks (I did not know they did this) and dominated by towering karst towers.
The town is absolutely awash with roses of all sorts; learn more of the story behind that and Saint Elizabeth of Thüringen at the link up top.
We looked at the rock formations from another perspective in the Tüchersfeld neighbourhood of Pottenstein on the way out of Little Switzerland and on our way home.
While not on the itinerary, our last impression for this visit was of the ruin of Burg Neideck, towering above the Wiesen river valley and considered the icon of the region, just outside of the town of Muggendorf