As I walked to the bakery to pick up the bread to bring back to our flat, I knew I’d made the right decision. I’d booked this flat to use while running two tours, one out of Bamberg and the other out of Nürnberg. Forchheim lies pretty much in the middle of these two much more popular destinations. COVID-19 had put a new spin on the world and though way down the line in importance, my tours were not going to happen. Even if Bavaria had allowed them, my clients were coming in from the US and travel between the two countries, flying in general, was out of the question. I’d come to grips with that but what to do with the rental? Cancelling it was the financially reasonable move but reason and wisdom are not the same thing.
early morning stroll to bakery in Forchheim
I’d come up alone the previous morning as my wife had to work and she understood that not only would her idle husband be better off beer wandering in Forchheim but she’d also not have to endure my quiet but obvious suffering of wasting the day waiting. It was my first trip on public transport in the time of the Corona virus so I’ll not lie and say it didn’t start off on an odd note. But mask on, I entered the train and wiped down my area with a disinfectant wipe for good measure. The train was empty for a Friday before a holiday weekend but this was the first weekend that hotels would be open and travel had just been opened up to visit family in other parts of Germany.
Forchheim is full of charm
Though I’d been to Forchheim a few times and even spent the night when I went to the town’s annual Annafest, the walk from the station to our flat on this glorious day was enthralling. Of course, the fact that this was the first thing I’d really seen aside from my street in Munich for two months might have had something to do with it but there was no denying that Forchheim was really a beautiful place. I guess it should have been little wonder that a town first mentioned in 805 and recognized as a city around 1200, that lies in between Nürnberg and Bamberg on a major river, would be special.
early morning scenes from a bakery excursion
I was met at my lodging by my radiant host. I’m sure she’s always welcoming but seeing how I was the first post COVID-19 lock down guest, she was beyond happy to see me. One thing often lost in the talk of the Corona virus is how the restrictions have affected small business owners. With its key river front location, Zum Alten Zollhaus was the former customs house and the young couple who renovated it have been running this noted restaurant since 2007. I was lucky to find they had rooms upstairs too.
Zum Alten Zollhaus makes a great base
After checking in, I set off for some lunch. I’d made plans to meet a friend from Bamberg up at one of the Bierkellers in the Kellerwald, a sprawling complex of Kellers set in a shady forest on a hill in Forchheim. It’s the setting for the town’s annual Folks Fest, the Annafest and though I’d been to it a few times, I hadn’t ever ventured up there just to enjoy a meal. It was also a chance to finally do the Walk of Beer, an ingenious idea by the town to create a walk that passes the town’s remaining four breweries (down from around 20 in its heyday) and culminating with an uphill slog to the Kellerwald.
some of the sights on the Walk of Beer
I began on the main square at town favorite Brauerei Neder. Just next door was Brauerei Hebendanz. It had been closed for few months even prior to the COVID-19 restrictions and I was happy to see a notice on the door saying it would reopen the following week. Wrapping around the back of the breweries revealed a very charming route. On the way, I spotted Brauerei Eichhorn was open and I couldn’t just walk by. I’d been up a few months prior to reacquaint myself with it, after nearly 20 years from my sole visit, only to find it closed. With COVID-19, you never know what will happen with these little places so I decided to pop in for a quick beer and meal, figuring it was bound to be better value than up on the hill. Though I knew he was coming, I hadn’t heard from my friend and I was hungry.
half-timbered Brauerei Eichhorn & their marvelous Vollbier
I’ll have to admit that walking into a timeless old brewpub like this wearing a surgical mask was otherworldly and I’m sure it was even stranger for my hosts, who had just reopened that day. I had to sign in and was led to a table, amongst all the empty ones. The owner explained only the Vollbier Hell was on tap since they were very unsure how busy it would be. Though a bit disappointed, I happily ordered it and a Sauerbraten. She returned with the beer and and said it would take about 20-30 minutes for lunch as she had to make the homemade dumplings fresh. I explained I was meeting a friend up at the Kellers and couldn’t wait that long. I asked if they were open that evening and promised to return with my wife. She said to call first as she wasn’t sure she’d be open even though that was the plan. I understood and said I hoped to see her later. Well, after my perfectly poured beer and a winner it was. Before I left, I checked for an outside seating area since my lone time there had been in winter. I was happy to find one in case we were lucky enough to find it open for dinner.
three of over twenty Bierkellers in the Kellerwald
The walk up to the Kellerwald passed Brauerei Greif, which I managed to pass without another stop. From there, it went gently uphill until you got to the Bierkellers. Thankfully it was shady as it had become fairly warm and certainly sunny. It was odd to see it so empty, especially compared to Annafest. My friend was at Brauerei Neder in town so I had time for a beer at the Hebendanz Keller. I was beyond hunger at this point and opted to have a few Bratwursts to tide me over.
a beer worth the walk
My friend arrived with his girlfriend and after a quick beer, we headed up to the Neder Keller, and then back down to the Greif Keller to finish up. The time passed quickly but that’s how it goes with friends in a Bierkeller on a nice day. Before I knew it, it was time to go fetch my wife from the train station. I found a direct route on my phone, bid my beery comrades farewell and walked quickly. I managed to not get lost and even arrive before the train. She was ecstatic to be there and free of work for a long weekend. I led her to the flat along the same route and she was equally enchanted.
the walk back
She fell in love with the flat but we had little time to linger. We decided there wasn’t really enough time to head up to the Kellerwald so I took her on the quaint backstreet route to Brauerei Eichhorn only to find it closed. It didn’t matter. We were enchanted.
the stroll to dinner was enchanting
We returned to Zum Alten Zollhaus and after seeing its beautiful location on the river, we had a fantastic meal there. It was still fairly early so we sauntered over to Vogelgässler, a pub my friend had suggested, for a Först Lagerbier as a nightcap.
Vogelgässler for a nightcap
The next morning when I got back from my stroll to the bakery and supermarket, I made a much deserved breakfast for my wife who was sleeping in. The weekend would be filled with beer hikes and my wife was not only willing but looking forward to them. To say I’m a lucky guy is to understate. There were restrictions in place but overall it was an enjoyable experience. I’ll describe them in future blogs but here are a few shots to wet your beer hiking appetite.
beer hiking to the Kreuzberg & Senftenberg Kellers
Though the hikes weren’t particularly strenuous, we hadn’t hiked all spring due to the restrictions and our legs were tired. So, we wisely chose to just have lunch our last day in town before heading home. Besides, we still had a date at Brauerei Eichhorn to bring this fable full circle. It wasn’t only open but the outside seating area I’d seen wasn’t the nice part. When the owner proudly marched us to our shady paradise just out of view, I knew I’d made the right decision. Sure, keeping the apartment was a a good move but marrying this woman was an early sign of wisdom from an otherwise kind of lost at the time soul.
my wife enjoying Brauerei Eichhorn quite possibly more than me
Up now: The Hallerndorfer-Bierkeller Express, which describes a great hike to an amazing Biekeller Nirvana just outside Forchheim and On cutting the mustard en route to the Senftenberger Felsenkeller, which describes another great hike past present and former breweries on the way to one of the top Bierkellers in Franconia.