Franconian Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz) is a marvelous area for hiking with many well-marked trails traversing its fairly spread out area. One of the prettiest sections is that which surrounds the Walberla, a flattish but nonetheless magical hill with a history of pagan worship and one of the longest standing festivals in Germany, the Walberlafest. On my very first trip into the area, I’d finished a one-way hike which passed two Franconian classics, Penning & Drummer to catch the train in Pretzfeld. I’d seen there was a newish brewery pub there called Nikl-Bräu and though another beer was probably the last thing I needed, I stopped in to see what all the fuss was about. I’d found Drummer at the Fränkisches Bierfest in Nürnberg and had noticed the throng around the Nikl-Bräu stand.
the magical Walberla & Walberlafest
It was a converted barn and looked very much the part of a Franconian pub but there were some modern touches and the service was definitely quite a few notches above what you typically get. The flagship Michala was decent but nothing special but I’d had some great beers that day so perhaps an unfair comparison. They had some craft beer offerings and their Rauchbock was certainly tasty. I vowed to return during the day to get a better look but there are so many beery destinations in Franconia, it never came to pass. Meanwhile I had learned of the Pretzfelder Keller and its great view. The problem was they had an uninteresting beer from a large conglomerate brewery on tap so I never managed to get up the motivation to get there until Nikl-Bräu stepped in and took the Keller over. It’s always nice when the little guy, especially a local one, gets a chance at the big show in their own neighborhood.
view of the Walberla from the Pretzfelder Keller
With a new impetus, I looked for a trail near the Keller and so perfectly found the Pretzfelder Kirschenweg. I say perfectly because Kirsche is cherry in German and my wife loves them. We’d noticed tons of cherry trees in the area when we went to the Walberlafest. The route was only 11km but a lot of it looked exposed and the forecast was calling for temps in the mid-30s centigrade. I found an alternative route back and pieced together a similar length hike which would remain largely in what looked like a dense forest.
the Pretzfelder Kirschenweg was the perfect way
The more I looked at the hike, the more interesting it sounded. There was a Jewish cemetery and castle ruin along the way. When I arrived a bit after midday, the heat was blistering. To make matters worse, I had had to leave my backpack (along with my water bottle) at the apartment we’d rented as there was a mishap and we’d been put in a unit on the top floor without air-conditioning. You probably only need the latter ten days a year but the next few days were three of them. To make it easier on them moving us to another unit, I walked with only my camera. The first and steepest part of the trail was mostly sans shade and I questioned my sanity in not saving this for another day.
the circuit to Hetzelsdorf takes in a nice slice of Franconian Switzerland
Needless to say I was beyond thirsty when I got to the Keller despite the very last bit of the route offering a welcome respite from the sun. Appropriately, the Keller features real Bierkellers from back in the day when Kellers had more than just a recreational purpose. There are also some atmospheric seating options for those who are more interested in a cool shady spot than a view of the Walberla.
the entrance path to the Keller area offers shady relief
I’ll not lie, if the Pretzfelder Keller had been open, I surely would have stopped in for a beer. I’d have even killed for an Apfelshorle at that point. To be honest, if the Keller had been open, that might have been the end of the hike for that day but it wasn’t so I pressed on. I had an hour to kill before the beer would be flowing so why not really work up a thirst!
more scenes from the Pretzfelder Kirschenweg
The cemetery was sadly locked and the castle ruin of Dietrichstein was very much in ruins with little to see and more to kindle your imagination. I missed the turn for it and had to backtrack as much delirious from dehydration as in need of seeing what I was hiking towards. The landscape was surely pretty but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I wasn’t mostly fantasizing with every step about the first sip of any beverage I’d get my hands on.
the pretty countryside outside of Pretzfeld
As you can imagine, that first beer at the Keller was about as refreshing as any beer I’d ever drunk. I even got an Apfelshorle to go with it and found the Nikl-Bräu Weiße Eule did the trick better. Thirst semi-quenched, I worked my way through both their Michala Dunkles Kellerbier and Zwickl and found both much improved from five years earlier. Were my impressions affected by my surroundings, the view and my condition? Sure, but that’s how life is. All you can do is enjoy the moment and try to keep things in perspective.
the Nikl-Bräu Eule does the trick with a view of the Walberla
Epilogue: After telling my wife about the Pretzfelder Keller and showing her the photos, we headed up together after our weekend in Forchheim, on the way back to Munich. It was thankfully much cooler and we only had time to hike up to the Keller but a cute little local cat joined us for part of the way.
my wife enjoying the hike & our new friend
The Pretzfelder Keller is one of Franconia’s premier Bierkellers. It’s always had the view and the atmospheric Kellers set in the lush forest. Nikl-Bräu is doing a great job with the food and in offering a good local beer rather than a big brand one from hundreds of miles away. I found everyone quite friendly and customer oriented. They’re trying and it shows. Let’s support David and keep Goliath out of the Pretzfelder Keller.
Pretzfeld lies in Upper Franconia (Oberfranken in German). Please note this particular hike was done after the book was completed but there are three hikes nearby included. There are twenty-five hikes in this region in my book Beer Hiking Bavaria along with another 25 from all over Bavaria. Each includes detailed descriptions of the hikes as well as information on the breweries along the routes plus some tasting notes on my favorite beers at each establishment.