It takes a beer to laugh, it takes missing the bus to cry

A lot of people ask me how I got into beer hiking and I joke, I missed the bus. As with most jokes, there’s some truth to it. I’m one of the biggest proponents of public transportation in Franconia. I’m not sure there’s a more extensive network anywhere and generally speaking, it is pretty damn reliable but there are times when I curse it just the same. First off, you can’t check things before setting off enough. With the amazing VGN App, it’s easy not to but I’ve been stranded enough to know that just because the App says it’s so doesn’t mean it’s so. You can print out schedules on their website but deciphering them isn’t as easy. While the App and website are available in English, some of the most important information like construction work and whether a bus is a school bus (and hence only running when school is in session), aren’t and even if you’re German is passable, the format is confusing and the print is beyond small. My wife is German and she has a hard time reading them. So, it pays to print them out ahead of time and really try to sort out if your chosen escape route is going to fly.

strolling down memory lane in Eggolsheim

Once upon a time, I didn’t know about this school bus thing and nearly ruined a weekend trip for my wife, which was to embark from Eggolsheim. We were on our first trip to the Hallerndorf Bierkeller paradise and decided to stop back at one of our very first Franconian brewpub stops since we had an hour to spare. Sadly, the Schwarzes Kreuz had stopped brewing in the interim between 2003 and 2012. Back at the stop, the bus never came as it was a school holiday and as chance would have it, it was a school bus. We tried to walk out to the area and were ready to turn back when a bus whizzed by us. We waved frantically and he miraculously stopped to pick us up. Boy, did we run.

 the pretty route to Weigelshofen

Weigelshofen is just up the road from Eggolsheim and unsurprisingly there’s brewpub there and it was another place my wife had brought me before we were married. Some years later, we’d made it back to Pfister with better luck but had missed out on doing an excursion to Brauerei Först in the next village further from civilization. Buses into this area are sparse to say the least, hence my searching for a trail to get to both on my most recent foray there. Walking through Eggolsheim brought back lots of memories, some bittersweet but the route out of town was pretty as it passed through a cemetery before opening out into the Franconian countryside.

 more views from the route to Weigelshofen

It was nice to walk into Weigelshofen and return to Pfister on a warm summer day. Our previous visits had been in cooler months so it was a chance now to finally enjoy their lovely Biergarten.

nice to finally enjoy the Pfister Biergarten

Since Brauerei Först wouldn’t open until four, it made sense to eat here and both the Karpfenfilet and Kellerbier were excellent. I’d made good time getting there but probably rewarded myself one more time than necessary in killing the time I’d garnered. I really wished I’d reserved a room at Pfister but I didn’t realize how much yet how much so. Still, the route to Drügendorf was perhaps even nicer than the one I’d walked in on.

the route to Drügendorf has its charms

It was a relatively quick walk and I arrived just in time for what turned out my reservation. I’d called a few days prior to make sure I’d have a spot. In COVID-19 times, it can be essential, especially in small places. Brauerei Först, which already had fairly restrictive opening hours, had shaved off a day so were now only open three evenings a week. It was a Friday and the owner said he was already full, at which point I broke into English and pleaded I’d been trying to get there for a few years. He took pity on me and said if I got there right at opening, he was sure there would be enough time for me to have a beer or two.

charming Brauerei Först

When I got there, it was fairly empty but you could see people starting to arrive. I grabbed an empty small table by the entrance to ensure speedy service and after ordering a beer, I noticed a server putting reservation signs on the tables. She came up to me with one that said Carbonara for one person on it, smiled and asked if this was me. Admittedly, I was the only person there on my own but I was also the only one who looked like their name would be Carbonara too. The only beer on tap was their marvelously malty Lagerbier so, rarely for me, decided to try some of their bottled products too. Since I’d eaten a fair-sized lunch, a meal was out of the question but I got a order of really great Apfelküchle. These are sliced apples, battered and deep-fried with sprinked sugar. If you’ve never had them, they should be on your list.

don’t forget the Apfelküchle

Everything had gone so well, I kind of forgot about the last bit of the puzzle; I still had to get back to Eggolsheim station, some 8 km away. I’d looked extensively at the bus schedule and there was a regular bus scheduled. It was about a half hour later than I’d have liked and possibly an hour later than I really needed at the pub. The prudent move would have been to leave after an hour, a couple beers and my dessert but the forbidden apple is often too enticing. I bit the bullet and decided to wait for the bus. For good measure, I asked my server about the bus and she said she’d ask inside. As is the case with most people in rural Franconia not too old or young to drive, she didn’t use the bus. She came back and said there wasn’t a bus. It was already too close to the scheduled departure to change course so I got one more beer and headed over to my bus stop. I’d checked out all the potential bus stops before going to the pub. This is one of the most important aspects of using the bus. I’d found what seemed THE bus stop. It had a current schedule and it had the same time I had on my schedule AND the App said it was coming. I got out there 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure and waited in the little shelter. If I remotely heard a vehicle, I got up and waited outside to make sure I’d be seen. I waited for 15 minutes after that time. I did everything I could do and I still wound up walking the 8km back, mostly in the dark.

It would have been nice to catch a lift but alas, I’d missed my window

Despite walking quickly, I missed my train connection in Eggolsheim by five minutes and had to wait there for an hour for the next one going my way. My wife ate alone in Forchheim, where we had a room for the weekend. She’d come up on her own after work. She was almost too understanding. Maybe she was just happy she hadn’t had to walk back too. Perhaps understandably, she isn’t a big fan of buses. If I say we’re going somewhere on a bus, she cringes but relents. Things like this happen less often than before but I learned the bus ropes, but they still happen. So, be prepared and follow some basic rules:

1. Print out bus schedule before trip.
2. Extensively read schedule/get a German to read schedule.
3. Use VGN App.
4. If you bus in, ask driver where the return bus stop is!
5. If you walk in, look for bus stops and ascertain which is the one you will use.
6. Inquire at the brewpub about the bus/bus stop.
7. Go to bus stop at least 10 minutes prior to departure time. Remain visible.
8. Wait for at least 10 minutes after scheduled departure time.
9. Know your walking route back in case there is no bus.
10. Get ready to wave frantically if you see a bus, you never know, they just might stop.

Now find some breweries to explore at Where the are.

Did those Apfelküchle sound good? Check out The ABCs of Franconian Food.

4 thoughts on “It takes a beer to laugh, it takes missing the bus to cry

  1. I’ve fallen into that same school bus trap in Italy. I took Chris to visit Gubbio, as I’d loved it so much on my visits with Ingrid. There is no station there so you need to get a train from Rome (or Ancona) to a nearby town, Fossato di Vico, and then a bus to Gubbio. I’d carefully checked the timetable and ensured our train from Rome would arrive there about 20 minutes before the bus left. But when we got to Fossato di Vico we learned that the bus I’d planned to catch only ran in school time, so we had over an hour to wait until the next one. There isn’t much to do in Fossato di Vico 😆

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