With COVID-19 side-lining more exotic travel by air, we’ve turned our attention to where we live and thankfully Bavaria’s not such a bad place. Though we’ve largely used public transportation with the proper precautions, longer trips have proven easier and less stressful by car and while we don’t own a car, renting one sometimes just makes sense. This becomes particularly true when we drive up to my wife’s family in Saxony. With no fast trains heading to her particular area, it’s a good 6.5-7 hours by train and doing that with a mask and without an apple isn’t much fun.
sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses or at least take a photo of one
While I love traveling by train and it remains my go to mode of transportation, the joy of a road trip is you can make your own it itinerary, stop in places otherwise not so easily reached and do it when you want. You can get out of your car and stretch your legs in scenic spots. Hell, you can get out and do a hike. You can even do a beer hike if you have a wife like mine, who selflessly does the driving after a beery lunch she only gets to half enjoy. It used to be that I merely looked for brewpubs I’d not been to but since writing Beer Hiking Bavaria, I’ve more often than not been looking for breweries that are linked to trails. It’s surprising what you find when you look.
the pleasant surprises of exploration
You can drive basically two routes through Bavaria to get to Saxony. One goes via Nürnberg and passes tons of breweries. You can continue north, somewhat out of your way to pass Bamberg, That’s my favorite but as you might imagine, it’s also the worst traffic-wise. It’s not so bad on the way up when you’re full of energy and your trip is just beginning but on the return when you just want to get home, I’ll have to admit it not only doesn’t make much sense but is actually a bit on the crazy side. That said, my wife has indulged me more than a few times, often to go to Huppendorfer for lunch. She loves me and knows going there is a big deal for me but thankfully, she also loves their food. It’s always good fun until you get back in the car and the GPS says three hours to home. Then it says three and a half, then four. The GPS is a funny device, it likes to break bad news slowly. Obviously, I find myself saying I’m sorry a lot even if they say love means not having to do so.
worth the walk yes but worth the traffic?
The second route goes up via Regensburg and once I discovered Zoigl, it became not only the best for avoiding traffic but also for exploring new beer places. I pretty much went to all the ones on my list and we haven’t been back since they were particularly hit hard by COVID-19. So, I’ve been scouring sites and maps in search of brewpub/hiking combinations and the Fichtelgebirge looked promising. We’d passed the sign for it countless times when driving this route and I always thought it sounded like mountains shaped like fish. The spelling was all wrong but I’m a romantic, what can I say? It turns our it’s a horseshoe-shaped mountain range and the looming rounded “peak” I’d often noticed is its highest at a little over 1000 meters: the Schneeberg. The nature park named after the range turns out to be a paradise for those who like hiking and biking. Of course, I’d never have investigated all this if I hadn’t found a fair-sounding brewpub in the vicinity.
the mesh of brewery and nature is a beautiful mix for the beerwanderer
The small village of Schönbrunn sits right in the middle of the horseshoe and though unremarkable in itself, in addition to its scenic setting, it is home to Lang-Bräu. Though this is Upper Franconia, the area feels more like the Upper Palatinate to me and the the Lang Bräustüberl has a Lower Bavarian flair to it. Of course, their website resplendent with Dirndl-clad servers might have predisposed me to this impression but the food and beer later confirmed my intuition. Like so many such discoveries, it started with a bottle. In this case, it was a couple bottles but their Burggraf Dunkel got me studying a map to find out its location. The place looked to have good food and I found a hiking circuit that passed right by it called the Vordorfer 5. Sounded ideal. Of course, ideally we’d do the hike before lunch but with a couple hour drive and a not so early departure from wife’s family, we were ready to eat when we got there. Of course, I just had to try three of their beers during lunch and the cake sounded wonderful.
the Bräustüberl turned out to be quite a find
The beer may have been anything but Franconian but it was quite good nonetheless and my wife loved the food. This was definitely a no apologies stop and that was before the cake, which had even non-cake person me singing praises. It would have been all to easy to forego the hike but I’d spent a lot of time researching it and the weather was stunning. Thankfully, I’d chosen a fairly short 6.5 km route with minimal elevation gain. To make it even better, it went right by the actual brewery with their shining copper kettles.
a nice beginning to the hike
Sometimes the walk to the actual trail is less than scenic but this one started off pretty right off the bat. Once in the countryside, it meandered up and down between neighboring villages with touches of rolling hills and rural life intermingled to form a patchwork of life in a simpler time. Ok, maybe I shouldn’t have had that third beer but I couldn’t help but feel happy and content in my enjoyment of a beautiful landscape after enjoying a beer made by the people who lived there.
a delightful trail
The route nicely traversed open expanses; often skirting fields of grain, tree-lined with rolling mountains in the not so far distance.
a wonderful post lunch stroll
The profusion of wildflowers was well-timed, adding color to an often unending sea of green. Butterflies fluttered, bees did their thing. While lacking the spectacle of alpine hiking, a countryside stroll like this allows for more attention to the simple details that make the world, as they say, go round.
life goes on without you but does it go on without them?
The walk was over before we knew it. We were so glad we’d persevered rather than abort it. It turned an excellent lunch into a great day. Since we had to walk back to the Bräutüberl to get the car, I had my usual daydream of going in for a beer. I rarely voice them and certainly not this time since I’d already had three beers with lunch and my wife was about to drive another three hours home. Then I heard it, “do you want to go in for another beer?” I actually thought I was still daydreaming and doing one hell of a job of it but it was, in fact, my wife saying those magical words. Well, of course I did. She wanted a cold beverage and knew there wasn’t anything but some warm water in the car but hey, I’ll take what I can get. In this case, it was their Weißbier, the only beer on tap I’d not had earlier. It was a perfect after hike quencher.
some guys have all the luck
I love happy endings, don’t you? I certainly wasn’t going to have to say I was sorry after this day. In fact, I knew it would be easy to get my wife to return to Schönbrunn. She loved the area and food and the latter was available all day according to their menu. That is often not the case in Bavaria, where hot lunches often stop at 2-2:30. So, we returned about a month later. We had left later than usual but our ace up the sleeve was this fact. We waltzed in around 3:00, happy to find a table but no servers. Well, there were plenty but none came up to us. Finally, we flagged one down and she explained there wasn’t any food. When pressed, she admitted they’d been so busy there wasn’t anything left. She alluded to their possibly having something “soon,” but not when that soon time would be. We waited and another couple sat at our table and experienced the same thing with an even longer wait. I had a beer while we waited but I’ll admit I didn’t really enjoy it. This was looking like an I’m sorry situation but in reality, it was the server who should have offered up a rather simple if perfunctory apology. If she’d just said, “I’m sorry, this never happens but we got hit really hard. I don’t think you should wait as I have no idea even if there will be food before dinner,” we’d have just left feeling unlucky rather than treated poorly. I teach English and students often say English speakers are always saying they’re sorry but they don’t really mean it. I explain that it’s like using the formal Sie rather than du. You might not really respect a person who you use Sie with but it shows respect. They smile knowing I’m right but they never get the idea that sorry is a softener and to not use it shows a lack of respect. Sometimes you just have to say you’re sorry. I was just glad this time it wasn’t me.
Will we return? Sure, this isn’t the first time we’ve had bad service in Bavaria and I’m sure it won’t be the last. They have a great food and good beer. Oh, and the cake is pretty good too.
Epilogue: We finally got back even though we’d planned to eat in nearby Wunsiedel. Our first choice was closed due to family vacation so we decided to give Lang another shot. Well, they came through with flying colors. Excellent food, a new for me beer and of course, some damn fine cake!