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It was one of those sunny days spring broke all loose thrilling in light. Not the grayest street was resistant to the long forgotten colors showing up. Yet I worked indoors, into the evening, like a desk horse on the loose. The next day it was friday. Very early I started to do the same again.

But by noon my time had come. I solemnized my announced resignation and pulled a door behind me that, strangely, I would not open again. I went into the sun and with my partner in crime I got ready for a few jobless weeks. Tent, climbing gear, books, music, food..! All the rest may be forgotten home! Here comes the sun!

 

Weismainer is locally quite present

 

After celebrating Easter and almost winning a chicken, my roadtrip touched ground in Upper-Franconia, in the very north of the administrative confines of Bayern. This could be the start of five days of climbing and exploring Frankenjura, which is as far from the orginal Jura's as it is from Frankreich*.

Companion for this plan? Lady Rockmaster 3000 speaking the local natives' language and keeping me from local cannibal tribes. But what started as a southward exploration of the whole region, became a visit to the northern part of the northern half of the most northern book of the two Northern Frankenjura topos.

Moments before writing this, my field of view was taken in by a typing girl's title popping up on a MacBook screen. 'GO THERE! EAT THAT!' it read as she sat on a terrace in front of me. The intro announced a review of Portuguese food, following up a weekend citytrip to a few restaurants in some touristic neighbourhood of Porto.

I felt less ready to review the nation state, the whole region or the northerly north places where we actually passed by. All that me and my partner could figure is that we didn't climb one shitty route in any of the ten-something crags we went to, and we were so much not ready to go on already, explaining our northernness.

 

Rabenstein where we climbed a crack on the right of Alex here, as seen on a summer photo in a Climbing Magazine article about Canada-based Sonnie Trotter visiting Frankenjura with Alex Megos

 

I remember us sitting at a table in the early shiny morning. There we were. We had climbed yesterday at Rolandfels and Alt Babawand, where on arrival kids shouted and the climber parents said (in German) "shhh.. the rock sleeps". This first encounter had been shockingly different from the climbing crowds I was used to.

Besides these climbers yesterday and besides the woman of the quiet joint that we found ourselves in (she talked to us without sounding like we were new here and for the first time) we morningheads hadn't met people in the Frankenjura yet.

From the dark wooden corner a few interested questions rose. An older man drinking tea with his teenage daughter remarked my map. I showed him. He was interested if we had a hikeplan. I told him we were going for a climb. Oooh he smiled, Have you heared of Kurt?.

Well... he visited our small uni clubhouse in 2000 and besides that he also happens to be one of the founding saints of sports climbing ehm yeah.. Oh nice, he teached physics in the village next to mine (near Nürnberg) and I got to know him as he asked me about seacanoeing... and he was learning Spanish...

 

Left Kurt Albert climbs Sautanz near Gößweinstein. Right, three villages to the west near Morschreuth, he soloes Devil's Crack, also opened by him, and reportedly sandbagged (i.e. it's harder than the relatively accessible grade suggests). He died suddenly in 2010, guiding on a Via Ferrata close to Nürnberg and home, after a night driving from Hamburg and allegedly sleeping 1 hour.

 

We went to a bunch of campings, some crowded with hundreds of the most stereotypical tourists, another one totally unfindable on top of a terribly windy hill where only one other couple was, offering my partner an engineering job in Munich.

Some campings dissapointed massively. One got our standards very high up, namely the camping/inn where we first slept, where I met Albert's friend. Not only was the food way cheaper than it should be, the beer better tapped than it ever could be, but somehow I also slept like a rose here both first two nights, and a later comeback night in the pouring rain. This place cannot be published around, sorry.

Another thing you have to know about Frankenjura is the omnivalent presence of "kuche", sweet baked food. And gasthofs like Frankenhöhe and Zoellner which were helpful on our arrival. And "kellerbier", literally meaning basement beer, actually being unpasteurized beer or basically just often times a hell of a refreshing drink.

Only at the place itself some worker will proudly haul a barrel from the brewery. Most probably though you didn't find us with a Hoppendorf, Heldbrau or Kathi-brau in our hands, but rather clamping on to sharp steep rock, with pockets (Apocketalypse Now!) or a number six cam (also possible).

I ordered a tea and didn't get talked to like a to-be pampered customer who needs a standardized token of subservience as a pledge of allegiance to the market, which is common for me. Not only because of that something's very different for me here. Education? I don't know.

Oberfranken is not very populated. Somehow it feels like a thriving place and at the same time you can watch the stars here above wild forest. It's nothing like some turned around squeezed out landscape. It felt like a contradiction to me, a surprise that a place like this can be, I may have spend too long in the old city.

 

Down Under is the sole route at the crag of Kainachtaler Torbogen

 

Before I got too lyrical I contemplated a macro-economical hypothesis that this 'perifery' benefits from political redistribution of larger administrative entities. Or the hypothesis that the Franconians are not massively scratching out the bottom of the earth to survive.. maybe because they import troublesome stuff and export smart stuff.. Then again it's not like there's an overpopulation or that people act decadent.

Franconia shows quite the agricultural yielding. Just the inciting of energy (and petrol of course) seems lacking. Then I will not say everyone was nice: a double couple of German speaking tourists, sounding like Die Hard Hans Grubers dressed in a bunch of plain fluorescent brand climbing clothes, were pretentiously talking down some of their climbing acquaintances while dining next to us, also eating cheap superfresh trout, potatoes and local vegetables, all from near the inn.

At the market square of Hollfeld we bumped into the umpteenth colorful celebratory construction for Easter. Two lime trees stood naked next to the blinding white and the vanilla yellow vertical bands of the Catholic church (they're mostly late, but in autumn they keep very long). Hazels unfolded their leaves, beaming in the sun and surrounding the Ostern construction.

We went on to follow the bends of the Wiesent river, on to the source, and then turned to follow it in the direction to where it, one day, will reach the Main river with its vines around Würzburg. A beaverrat trappled by.. the whole flatland of the river thrilled in the sun and glowed yellow with new Löwenzahne flowers. The valley was alive.

 

Burg Rabeneck in early autumn, south of Waischenfeld (notice the Himalayan Balsam flowers)

 

One moment a remarkable articulated tsjirp sounded over a river plain in the soft morning sun. Loud and clear, articulated short, it returned on regular moments. Trampling down the fresh grass it barely sticked out of, a fluffy ducklet rushed towards me. The culprit.

It seemed to have just made it out of the water in one of the bends, couldn't make it over a rapid, so now it turned and jumped back in at the next bend. The newcomer in the world, mainly yellow, desperately sounded its tsjirp, then was silent, everytime just long enough for us to wishfully assume the ducklet had meanwhile found what it is looking for, so it had been its last desperate call.

But every time then there was a tsjirp again. The little bird swam up the water, upstream. I saw it paddle and skim the banks arduously, I had to see it fight against the current, from the top of my climb at the Tritzmann Gedenkwand.

Several climbs later the sun had changed its position noticeably and we heared the ducklet again. Soon after we saw it take back its trace, its peddles, tsjirpingly racing downstream with the water flow, fast as lightning and heartbreaking.

 

Fränkische Schweiz

 

Few trees near the basilica of Gößweinstein* still looked the way they did last month and the month before. But most trees had already pulled out gleaming leaves with which they seemed just as lit as the sun itself.

The last Frankenjura day it rained. We made it to steep forests near Burgaillenreuth, slept in a cave, and eventually went to a thermal spring where we saw the early evening storm come up to us like a stampede of wildebeests, while we left the dirt of the last days in a cloud of dust behind us.

The roadtrip continued..

It was one day untill I had to finally commit to the new job, for which I undertook several missions and elaborate preperations earlier this year. Walking over a structure aside a field of a city renewal project, as I turned down my eyes from the bright morning light, I received a telephone call and took up. Out of the blue I got another job offer of which I hadn't heared since years. This job left me no doubt. I said yes. As a side effect the rushy scheme we had for the last days just vanished.

 

 

 

--- *: The basilica is Balthasar Neumann's work. He is responsible for the building (or teaching the builders) of a series of remarkable buildings in the neighbourhood.