It was one of those bright days that spring breaks all loose without a knock on the door. Not the grayest street resisted long forgotten colors.
Yet, while in the glowing outside the great awakening reverberated, and while spring gulped people down, and birds sang their epics, I worked indoors under dim colourless lamps into the evening, burning the midnight oil like a desk horse on the loose. Next day, friday, I started off for more of it, rushing to the bureau in the early morning mist.
But noon neared. My time had come. I solemnized my resignation and pulled the door behind me that – strangely – I would not come to open again. Without a job I went out into the sun, and made my way to the awakening home city. Tent, climbing gear, books, music, food! All the rest may be forgotten, I don't care! Here comes the sun!!
Weismainer is easily spotted
<< Wiesent near Gößweinstein.
Near Thuringia we celebrated Easter and almost won a village's chicken. Then, gleaming forest hills rushed past the car window, all to the party. We soon found ourselves sitting in a Franconian village almost thinking we'd even have to take cover from the abundant beams of warmth and light. Lime trees shed their long-maintained shyness and revealed bright green folded leaves, siding the street where two men mountainbiked up.
We expected five days of exploring Frankenjura, a *GEEK ALARM* far-away geological sibling of the Jura, in north-Bayern, far from the near-homonymous Frankreich*. Companion for these Jurassic explorations is Lady Rockmaster 3000 speaking the natives' language so to keep me from unknowingly running into local cannibal tribes.
Yet, what started out as a southward-advancing exploration of the Frankenjura, soon rather proved to be a mission into the northern part of the northern half of the northern book (thus the north-north-north) of the two Frankenjura topo guides (excluding the southern Frankenjura). We had our bivouac at the creek, our gasthof, lots of nearby rocks and plans, a Pfalz friend coming over,..
Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Güllich climb at Donaudurchbruch, just south of the Southern Frankenjura where we never got to.
Fastforward back home, about to write this, I'm on a terrace facing 1) a narrow medieval street, 2) a girl's back and 3) her bright computer screen with fruity logo. Can't really miss the letters popping up in all caps: 'GO THERE! EAT THAT!'. The girl's intro announces a review of the entire Portuguese kitchen, following up her weekend citytrip to a few restaurants in one of Porto's highly touristic quarters.
After Franken I don't feel ready to review a whole nation state concept, nor a smaller region, not even in extremis the northern north that Rockmaster-3000 and me actually reached. But I can say, for sure, that we didn't climb one shitty route in around ten crags, and I can only ascertain that we were not ready to continue south.
Rabenstein where we trad climbed a crack on the right of Alex here, as seen on a summer photo in a Climbing Magazine article on Canada-based Sonnie Trotter visiting Frankenjura with local Alex Megos.
I remember a morning when the sun burst thru the sky earlier than any of the weeks before. We got inside the gasthof and with some bending and turning got behind a massive wooden table. The day before we had discovered Rolandfels and Alt Babawand, upon arrival kids had shouted and the parents responded "shhh.. the rock sleeps" (in German). This first encounter had been shockingly different from climbing crowds I was used to.
But besides this encounter the day before, we hadn't really met frankenpeople. Now we were welcomed by the woman of the quiet joint who talked to us as if we weren't newbees here.
From the dark wooden corner a father – there with his daughter – joined our conversation. He remarked the map I'd gotten. I showed him. He looked for hike ideas. "But, oh, we climbed?". He smiled and was somewhere else for a moment. "Have you heared of Kurt?".
Boy if we know the holy saint of free rock climbing? Who even visited our small uni clubhouse in 2000 (I heared)?
The frankenfather told how Kurt taught physics in the village next to his, near Nürnberg, and how he taught Kurt the intricate art of seacanoeing while Kurt also learned Spanish on his own but was eager to share tips.
Left: Kurt Albert climbs Sautanz near Gößweinstein, 1981.
Right: Three villages to the west of Gößweinstein, near Morschreuth, Kurt 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 spent starry nights on a bunch of campings, some had been crowded with hundreds of the most stereotypical tourists, another one was totally unfindable on top of a terribly windy hill where only one other couple was, offering my partner an engineering job in Munich.
Some official sleeping grounds disappointed. One got our standards very high, namely the northern bivouac with gasthof where we first slept and met Kurt's kayakcontact. Not only was the frankenfood 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 in the pouring rain. The best-kept secret.
Another thing you have to know about Frankenjura is the omnivalent presence of "kuche": sweet pies from the oven. 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 frankenpockets (Apocketalypse Now!) or a number six cam(alot).
I ordered a tea and wasn't pampered, I was not a client who needs a standardized token of subservience as a pledge of allegiance to the market. But that wasn't the only thing that made this place seem so very different for me. I don't know what it was.
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 spent too long in the old city.
Down Under is the sole route at the crag of Kainachtaler Torbogen
At the market square of Hollfeld we bumped yet again into bright colors of a construction celebrating Easter (Öster). Two lime trees stood naked, guarding the blinding white and vanilla of the Catholic church. Hazels on the contrary were beaming in the sun.
We proceeded along the bends of the Wiesent river. One day upstream. Another day slightly downstream, where soon I found myself belaying at the base of a limestone tower. A beaverrat trappled by.. the valley thrilled in the sun.. the plains glowed yellow with new Löwenzahne flowers.. the valley rocks echoed soft stirs and you couldn't help believing something was going to happen soon. The valley came alive.
Burg Rabeneck in early autumn, south of Waischenfeld (notice the Himalayan Balsam flowers)
Not soon after starting the day there was .And one evening we found that the trees near Neumann's Gößweinstein basilica were the last to still look the way they did last month and the month before that. All other trees were already showing leaves with which they seemed lit as the sun itself.
The last Frankenday it rained. We made it to steep forests near Burgaillenreuth, slept in a cave and eventually went to an outdoor thermal spring from which we saw the early evening storm stampede into us, while we left the dirt of the last days in a cloud of dust behind.
The roadtrip continued..
It was one day until I had to commit to my new job and soon start. The planning had gotten tight and hasty. So now I was walking over a green landscape structure of a city renewal project, turning down my eyes from the bright morning light, when my telephone rang. If I wanted a job near my city? Another one? Starting two weeks later? Sure.
The rush vapourized. Obligations sank through the ground.
Days later we sat by a circular volcanic lake where the wind rustled leaves and the spring sun was young. In the fields there they had chickens and vegetable gardens, which just now gave rise to a busy short-chain-food-fair presented by the workers.
The night fell. In the morning we didn't find food. Oooh?! First-Of-May holiday! Moments later, in a castle high on the Rhine river flank, we walked a red carpet, greeted the white-haired man on the grand piano, and walked towards the smell of fresh fruit, bread, cheese,... Thanks local guide!