Franconian Switzerland sounds an odd name for a northern Bavarian region and the triangular area between Bayreuth, Bamberg and Nuremberg actually has no relationship with the Alpine country far to the southwest.
However this kind of description is used in other parts of Europe as well - Saxon Switzerland ("Sächsische Schweiz") in Germany and Norman Switzerland ("Suisse Normande") in France are two examples. The term generally dates from the Romantic era in the 19th century and refers to a hilly area in an otherwise flat region where visitors might be reminded of Alpine landscapes.
Franconian Switzerland is very popular with walkers and mountain bikers - there are a number of long-distance trails winding their way through the valleys and the rock formations.
It also makes an excellent day trip for anyone staying in Bayreuth. The countryside is lovely, the villages and towns are attractive and there are plenty of places of cultural interest to visit. At Easter time (and for a fortnight afterwards) the wells and fountains in the area are decorated with flowers, a historic practice which was revived in the later 20th century and now brings lots of visitors to the region.
A sample route is given below but there are plenty of different options for excursions into the area.
Franconian Switzerland lies to the southwest of Bayreuth and one of the easiest ways to reach the heart of the area is to take the Bamberg road out of Bayreuth and then head south into the Ahorn valley.
The scenery becomes more interesting as a visitor travels further south along the road. One of the principal attractions in the valley is the spectacular Burg Rabenstein hanging above the floor on a cliff face. The castle is used as a hotel but can also be visited, along with the nearby Söphienhöhle cave.
Shortly after Rabenstein Castle a country road heads off to the south-east in the direction of Pottenstein. The descent into the small town, the administrative centre for the immediate area, is impressive and offers great views of Pottenstein's ruined castle on the cliff above the settlement. Down on the valley floor, there is plenty of parking just outside the picturesque old centre with its traditional timbered houses.
Town website: www.pottenstein.de
Driving west from Pottenstein, the road reaches the small town of Tüchersfeld in the few kilometres. The rock spires above the buildings are one of the most photographed features of the area. One of the higher buildings houses a cultural museum. Gössweinstein is situated a little bit further along the valley. Three streams meet at the Behringersmühle area, overlooked by the bustling town with its castle and basilica. The road down to the Trubach valley head south from the town towards Egloffstein.
Town website: www.goessweinstein.de
Egloffstein is yet another town with a castle perched at the top of a rockface and lies in the middle of the Trubach valley. The 20-plus kilometres between Egloffstein and Obertrubach, where the Trubach emerges from a spring, encapsulate much that visitors find most attractive about Franconian Switzerland: steep cliffs, castles, pastoral countryside and a good network of walking trails.
Valley website: trubachtal.com
From Obertrubach, a main road winds through the woods up to Pegnitz and the motorway junction for a quick return to Bayreuth.
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