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Fränkische Pfalz (Franconian Palatinate)

Germany, Nürnberg
Von Jürgen Herda   auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
An author once wrote ‘No province or land in Germany is more fancy and free than that land we call Franconia’. He was called Matthäus Merian and was one of the first writers that ever wrote travel logs for the use of others following in his footsteps. He was referring to the region’s ‘Frank and Free’ nature. Kaiser Charles I promoted Franconia to the centre of his realm. In the following chapter we will be exploring the area beyond the town walls of Nuremberg and the Upper Palatinate. First stop on the road to Prague. Oberpfalz frank und frei zur Fränkischen Pfalz – erste Station auf dem Weg nach Prag.

Today it is part of Nuremberg, but in 1216 Erlenstegen was named as the seat of the Kaiser’s Chancellor Giselher on the old road to Prague. The chapel St. Jobst is worth a visit, having made its name around C.1300 as a pilgrimage church.


Straddling the Pegnitz valley and Schwaig is the start of so-called Franconian-Switzerland. A central feature of the community is the Schwaiger Schloss, a three-story castle in L-form which was the seat of the ruling family of the area and that probably dates back to the 15th Century.


The seat of a Nuremberger Patrician’s family and the neighbouring St Andreas church containing a sacrament house and 12 Apostles as depicted by Adam Kraft is certainly worth a little detour. The castle inn (Schlossplatz 4) is famous for its carp menu and the beautiful beer garden.

Wasserschloss in Malmsbach Of the middle-Aged centre only the outer walls and the gate remain. This one-time important titled family seat on the left bank of the Pegnitz was added to in 1835, and the surrounding timber frame houses are pretty.
Wasserschloss Malmsbach


The centre of the town is dominated by the baroque castle of the Tuchers, which is still in the hands of Lady Hildegard von Schweinichen-Tucher who now lives near Frankfurt. The Maria Magdalena Church (built 1717-1719) with its decorated wooden tower also adds to the picture.

Röthenbach an der Pegnitz

The Röthenbach river which meets the Pegnitz at this point gave this town its name. The community began with the building of a mill here in 1311. Of the grand houses that were built near the paper and powder mills only one remains, the Bachmeierschlösschen (The Little Bachmeier Castle) on Friedrichsplatz with a little stair tower.

The pencil maker Conrad Conradty was responsible for the swift growth of the town in the 19th Century when he built the Conradty Workers Settlement (Arbeitersiedlung) between 1892 -1914 to house 700 workers.

The Himmelgarten (Heavens Garden in Haus 1) truly earned its name. It remained in the possession of Nuremberg’s Katharine Convent for many years…

Detours! Here are a few recommended detours to take from the main route…
Leinburg: Pretty town centre with the Leonard’s Church and the Brewery Bub.
Offenhausen: church of St Nikolaus (14th C) and the chapel on the Keilberg.
Engelthal: the old Dominican monastery was re-inhabited by Benedictine monks in 1962. The ‘new’ building dating from the late baroque period around 1666 is the setting for a love story involving a nun in Andrew Davidson’s novel ‘Trivia’.

… and the two-storey timber frame building with its high façade and roof stand in a beautiful natural setting. The Führerschloss and the Jagdschloss Rockenbrunn in the parish of Haimendorf at the foot of the Moritzbergs are still inhabited today. On top of the hill the Aussichtsturm (viewing tower) offers visitors wonderful views from beside the Mauritius Chapel.

Charles IV awarded Lauf its charter in 1355. The settlement built around a mill which first stood here from around 11th C was the position chosen for the majestic Wenzelschloss (1356-60) which was to become the Kaiser’s residence. 120 coats of arms carved in stone which themselves were overseen by the Bohemian Lion on its plinth reminded of the Kaiser’s power over the region. Nuremberg’s Art College now uses the premises as a creative centre. The historic marketplace with its two gates, timber frame houses, mills, towers and remains of the old town walls are all very good reasons to take a little time to visit.
Top service in Lauf:
Café Brasil and Comfort Club: Flashy design, quick snacks, South American coffee and chill bar, Simonshoferstr.7. Tel. +49 (0)9123 820 25
Gasthaus Altes Rathaus: Good traditional fare and historical feel. Marktplatz 1. Tel. +49 (0)9123 27 00
Gasthaus Hallerschlösschen: 6 guestrooms in the old manor house, D from €50. Hauptstr. 1 in Lauf-Nuschelberg. Tel. +49 (0)9123 33 96.

In the Museum of Industry the river Pegnitz drives an industrial hammer, a grinding mill and generates electricity. Town tours visit the castle, the Spitalkirche (church) and the grinding mill, and also include a visit to the cellar caves.

Nature trail in the Bitterbachschlucht

Bitterbach Gulley.

If you want to spend a few more days exploring Lauf you might like to try out the beautiful scenery surrounding the town and in the ‘Naturlehrpfad’ in the Bitterbach Gorge. As part of a much larger walking and cycle path network the route will take you along the little valley punctuated with information points that tell you how the steep sided cutting was created, while the trail leads you along the moss covered paths and ferny rock faces. (Starting point is in the Hardtstr. next to the bus stop ‘Schule St Kunigund’).


In Ottensoos you will find a restored synagogue, the beautiful St Veit church and pretty wattle and daub houses in the Heckengasse and in the Gartenstraße. The town was home to a large Jewish community who fled here during the pogroms of the Middle Ages, and as terrible history repeated itself, the community was decimated once again during the deportation of 1938.


The town has a wealth of interesting architecture, timber frame houses, the gothic Albanus church and the baroque gates to the cemetery adorned with a swan, the animal seen in the coat of arms of the Furtenbacher. Kaiser Charles IV considered the moated castle as of too little importance to be taken into his network of fortifications. Nowadays this beautiful building houses a hotel with very reasonable prices, having been renovated and now in the possession of the Wöhrl family. (Double room from €79).

Grinding mill in Lauf.

When you are approaching the wooded hills which house the Schloss der Herren von Henfenfeld you cannot help but notice the impressive white castle standing proud over the landscape. This fascinating structure was rebuilt after a fire in 1553 and the tower was added in 1624. Nowadays the grounds are used for exhibitions, concerts and open-air functions. Recently the owners have started producing schnapps and liqueurs that are sold and also served in the castle restaurant, Ristorante al Castello.


Even though this picture postcard town is a little further afield from the Golden Road, it would be a terrible shame not to include the one-time university town in our tour. The walled settlement from the Middle Ages is flanked in the East and West by grand fortified gates and the upper and lower market places which in turn lead up to the magnificent Stadtkirche St Laurentius. The distinguished tower built in the late baroque period has become a trademark of the town.

The Renaissance town hall on the market place from 1565 is a wonderful example of Franconian sand stone architecture. The two story Pflegschloss on the Schlossplatz with its gablet roof now houses the police station.

The baroque university building dating back to 1575 is unique in Germany. Under the wing of Kaiser Ferdinand II the university was upgraded to a college of European standards. In the university museum it is also well documented how certain students, namely Albrecht von Waldstein and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz rioted and vandalized and yet were still allowed to graduate!

In the 17th Century Medicine professor Ludwig Jungermann set up the Doctor’s garden behind the university, the ‘Hortus medicus’. Around 200 plants listed in the ‘Hortus Eystettensis’ are planted here. For over 100 years the residents of the town have been presenting a summer theatre festival in June and July in remembrance of the famous students who once studied here, the Wallenstein Festspiele.
Around Altdorf
Grünsberg: the castle (built 1672-1726) overlooks the gorge of the Schwarzachtal.
Bergsman: the famous castle and grounds dating from 1160 now house a museum
Winkelhaid: the impressive St. Johannes church with its timber frame tower from 1401 and innumerable wattle and daub houses are worth seeing.
Gnadenberg: Monumental ruins of the once Brigitte convent and later Salesian monastery.
Sender Dillberg: the Bavarian Rundfunk has had a broadcasting station on the 595m high hill in the foothills of the Jura mountains since 1955.


The town of Pommelsbrunn has been passed back and forth through the ages. It was part of a marriage deal including Burg Lichtenstein (now a ruin) by the Kaiser and was given over to Charles IV in 1349. A swap returned the town to the Bavarian King in 1373 but did nothing to improve the town’s luck. In the first Margraves War of 1449-1450 it was burnt to the ground. In 1504 during a further war about the inheritance of lands it was taken over by Nuremberg, having been again destroyed by fire during the fighting. The central point of the town is the baroque St Laurentius church with fabulous ceiling decorations from the Amberger Philipp Jakob Schmutzer and fine paintings by Johann Christoph Reich. The ancient bathhouse in the Heimatmuseum is the only example of Middle-Aged bathing culture in the German provinces and was used by travelers and traders on the Golden Road between 1486 and 1867 to break up the journey. Uli Vogel (tel. +49 (0)9154 1207) is available for tours of the museum.

The moated castle (Das Wasserschloss) in the parish of Eschenbach was bought by the noble Nuremberger family, the Ebners, in 1508. In 1552 it was destroyed, but was then rebuilt and the renaissance building still stands today. Its three-storey palace and the keep built in 1554 can be viewed. Of particular interest is the church consecrated in 1059, Kirche St Paulus with its early gothic tower (from 1300), glass paintings including ‘Christ on the Cross’ in the south window date from 14th Century and rococo decorations were also added. The Wengleinpark is also worth a visit- with a 2 km long nature trail and herb garden.
Franconian Borderland
Alfeld: The pride of the town is the St Bartholomäus’ church with its gothic extension from 1450. In the district of Nohndorf there is a spectacular 2 km long dolomite cave. In the area around the town there are many marked routes for ramblers and walkers organized by the Franconian Albverein (Mountain Club).
Heldmannsberg: The baroque pilgrimage church Maria Himmelfahrt stands guard above the beautiful Schottental, a valley protected under the nature conservation scheme.


The ‘Slow City’ as it is known (12,341 inhabitants) was a very important part of the Middle-Aged trade route and owes much of its wealth to that fact. The stretch of the Golden Road through Hersbruck was named Prager Straße and continues through the centre within the town walls. Charles IV declared the town an important stage along the road, and to this end the residents created the upper market (Obere Markt) on the Haderihesprucga (Haderichs Bridge).

In the high-gabled houses on the market square the tradesmen dried hops, which had been lifted up on winches built in to the gable-ends. At the head of the square the Nuremberger Tor (Nuremberger Gate) was well placed to ensure the safety of the town and its inhabitants.
Where Shepherds Watch…
Germany’s one and only shepherding museum displays the tools of the trade and celebrates the history of shepherding worldwide including clothing and art.
Eisenhüttlein 7, Hersbruck. Tues-Sun 10am-4pm. Tel +49 (0)9151 21 61. Groups can also be accommodated outside normal hours.

The timber frame building in Eisenhüttlein 7 houses Germany’s only Shepherding Museum. The Gänseturm (Goose Tower) is an architectural curiosity (Untermühlenweg 21). In 1801 a water tower was built to a height of 5 metres, encased in a square building and crowned with a small timber framed house. Remains of the town defenses can be viewed in Mauerweg 7, which once housed the town prison.

In the Wildzirkelturm in the Mauerweg 17 there is the archive of the Hersbruck concentration camp. In the Hohenstädter Tor dating from 1425 the town’s art collection contains contemporary works on canvas and sculptures. The town symbol is the Wassertor built between 1601 and 1602.

The food club ‘Heimat auf’n Teller’ (Home on a Plate), are dedicated to the concept of slowfood, and practice their trade in several eateries in the town, including Hotel Restaurant Bauer in eth Martin Luther Straße 16, tel. +49 (0)9151 818 80.
Pretty hop kilns give villages like Oberkrumbach their typical Sittenbachtal character.
Velden: The attractive little town with its tower (Stadtturm) and mighty gablet roof was apparently granted its charter by Charles IV because he enjoyed the trout there so much!
Hohenstein: Burg Hohenstein stands proud on a rocky 30 m high podium looking out on the Hersbrucker Schweiz.
Kirchensittenbach: The church dedicated to St Bartholomäus and the renaissance mansion are prominent parts of the town’s image.

This Article is part of the tour "The Golden Road"


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