The Walberla Undressed

The Walberla is a flattish “twin-peaked” hill in Franconian Switzerland, just west of Forchheim. My first encounters were images glanced from afar but they somehow touched me. I’ve already written about the magic of the Walberlafest, a May 1st festival with perhaps the longest history of any spring festival in Germany where I elude to a much more ancient aura, an unmistakable feeling you get when there. As one Franconian friend told me, “there were settlements on the Walberla from the neolithic era. In Protoceltic and Celtic times, the mountain was immensely fortified.” I’m not so eloquent, it just screams Pagan worship as soon as I set foot on it.

the raising of the Maibaum & other scenes from the Walberlafest

The Walberlafest was a great experience and we hope to attend again once it’s back up and running. Sadly, it’s been cancelled the two years following our lone visit due to COVID-19. Still, when there we couldn’t help but imagine how much nicer it would be without the festival crowds. Hiking trails circle and cross it, all offering different perspectives. It took two years but return we did a few weeks ago and the Walberla sans all the trimmings was perhaps even more magical.

the route to Leutenbach & a peek at the top

We stayed in super convenient Forchheim and after a quick train to Kirschehrenbach, we set off towards Leutenbach by taking a low route along the Walberla. We couldn’t resist popping on top for a quick peek of the Walberla Gipfel before continuing along to the pretty hamlet where we had a much deserved beer at Brauerei Drummer.

pretty Leutenbach & Drummer Dunkel

There were some interesting write-up with photos about the Walberla in the village of Leutenbach. The most intriguing for me were photos from the Walberfest from long ago, showing that crazy large gatherings are nothing new. Hopefully, one again things like this is possible.

big gatherings are nothing new

It was pretty busy in the Drummer courtyard and though we had fond memories of our meals there, we made our way to Brauerei Alt in the neighboring village of Diethof. My wife has had strong urges for their Bratkartofeln since our lone visit there during the festival. It would also position us better to be on top of the Walberla near sunset.

 fortification before the climb of the Walberla

About the only thing missing at Brauerei Alt are rooms above the pub. I guess it’s a good thing or we’d have never got to the top of the Walberla before sunset.  It’s a forgiving grade with some lovely views back towards the village.

views as we headed to climb the Walberla

Once on top, we forgot all about comfy pub-top beds, basking instead in the warm rays of the setting sun and enjoying the glow it shed on the rocky outcroppings that make the Walberla so special.

the Walberla undressed was nevertheless aglow

Of course, we weren’t exactly alone. While there was a fraction of the people who attend the Walberfest, it was a gorgeous Saturday evening. People naturally flock to beautiful places and that’s another thing the Walberla is.

Unsurprisingly, people often seek out the same things

Children frolicked near the church we had only seen besieged by throngs during the festival, the sinking sun’s rays setting their light hair aglow. A couple perched atop the most photogenic rocky outcropping were perhaps cursed by those trying to capture it with their phones but probably simultaneously for having the best seat in the house. Only those with a fear of heights wouldn’t have taken the same spot for themselves.

 scenes from the hike down

It would have been nice to stay for sunset but then we’d have missed the last train back to Forchheim. We noticed the Maibaum had been erected behind the church even though there hadn’t been a festival, a nice reminder that traditions can carry on even if the masses can’t view them. We also saw the rhino-like rocky figure we’d seen when walking back from the festival our last morning, a dismal wet day. This time it was glowing red as were the fields. The barley appeared nearing time for harvest, nature’s sign that summer’s time will end before we know it.

one last stop before the train back

Despite the many photo stops, we otherwise walked purposely. We wanted to stop at the Lindenkeller for one more beer before the train and time was tight. That barley nearby will be cut down but there’s a fair chance it will be used to brew beer and we sure don’t want to run out of that. Summer Bierkeller season’s always come to an end so when you have a chance to sit in one, you do it.

Oh, we made our train with ten minutes to spare.

Leutenbach and Dietzhof lie in Upper Franconia (Oberfranken in German). 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.

It’s available in both English and German:

beer hiking bavaria book coverbierwandern bayern buch

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