Beyond its intentions, the 9 Euro Ticket which Germany introduced for the summer of 2022 was a game-changer in many ways. Its breadth and flexibility were inspiring but what it really put in play was spontaneity. Since you’d buy it for the month and in my case, I bought all three months the first day of availability, you just had the ticket and would often do things on a whim.
a 9 Euro Ticket & a crowded train
After two new brewery taps and nine new beers, any sane person would have probably headed home seeing how it was Friday and the trains were sure to be more crowded as the day progressed. I’d had a very successful trip but while the beer was good and food excellent, Crailsheim and Rot am See were fine to see once but didn’t exactly invite a return visit. What I also look for on my solo travels are places which I can talk my wife into going to. You might not believe this but she’d rather go to Rome or Lima than Franconia and though it’s unlikely I’ll find anything to compete with the exotic, there are some more local towns like Bamberg for instance, which she has also fallen in love with. Crailsheim just wasn’t going to fit the bill. If it were on the way to her Mom’s, I’d have a fair chance of getting her to stop for lunch. A picture of a Zwiebelrostbraten does wonders. Driving two hours in the wrong diretion isn’t going to fly.
Lovely enough Rot am See & Crailsheim
No, I needed something better. I needed Schwäbisch Hall. I’d seen photos at least 10 years prior. It looked fabulous and to me, like Franconia with a profusion of half-timbered houses interspersed amongst more formal Baroque and Gothic structures. They even had a brewery but since it wasn’t in Franconia, I not only hadn’t heard of it but wasn’t particularly interested. It was Baden-Württemberg, after all, and to me that was a beer wasteland. The trains were anything but direct or quick. Like many such places, it fell by the wayside along with non-Franconian beers not drunk.
stunning Schwäbisch Hall
While social media gets a lot of flak, it can introduce you to people you most likely would have never met otherwise. I’d read a few beer blogs by a middle Franconian guy named Jürgen but only met him years later via Facebook. His suggestions on his area of Franconia kept me busy for a good year but he then turned my attention to the fringe areas of Franconia which lie in Baden-Württemberg of all places. He took me to Spielbach and Franconia hasn’t looked the same since. He gave me a new list to work my way through and I proceeded to find some he hadn’t mentioned. Wouldn’t you know it, Schwäbisch Hall was one one of them. He said it was indeed Franconia but diplomatically said the brewery there was just a big industrial one and not particularly interesting. He’s a guy that loves small quirky places. That’s my first choice too but when I go to a town, I look for a brewery. I need to eat and I like doing it with a local beer. Even if the beer isn’t amazing, it’s something I haven’t had and generally speaking, there aren’t a lot of really bad beers in Germany. While large breweries might produce run-of-the-mill beers, they aren’t typically flawed.
quirky little Spielbach vs. large industrial Haller
Plotting my way back to Munich in my room in Crailsheim, I couldn’t help looking at trains to Schwäbisch Hall. It was only a half-hour away. Admittedly not on the way home but it was a glorious summer day and if all went according to plan, I could still be home for dinner. In my world, lunch comes before dinner. The nine new-for-me beers were yesterday. Haller Löwenbräu had a nice looking pub conveniently right in the center of town, with five beers on tap. The food looked really good too. The 9 Euro Ticket on my phone made it free to get there. If I have to tell you my decision, you must be new to Beerwanderers.
my first glimpse of Schwäbisch Hall
The station in Schwäbisch Hall is situated above the town. It sounded like another hill to climb after my post beery lunch visit but when I crossed the bridge to descend, I was immediately won over by my first view. It was even more stunning than I’d imagined. When I found an elevator, I really knew I’d made the right choice. I had about 90 minutes before Zum Löwen opened so I did what I always do; I wandered around town and took pictures. Following the light as much as my eyes. Everywhere I turned was another gorgeous sight. Reflections abounded, flowers punctuated the many bridges crossing the mirror-like water of a calm summer day.
a lovely stroll through Schwäbisch Hall
If you need to know the history of Schwäbisch Hall, follow the link for my brief synopsis. I knew absolutely nothing about it before I ventured to this medieval wonder. Hey, I’d just made the decision to go that morning and my choice was as guided by my stomach as anything. I often stumble upon amazing places in my search for beer and food. I enjoyed reading a bit about it once doing the write-up and undoubtedly when I return with my wife, she’ll tell me more. That’s her thing. She loves history. My part of our trips is to find great places to replenish our energy. When I came upon Zum Löwen, it was only befitting that it was also reflected in the Kocher River. That’s just the kind of magical day it was. The brewery chimney was adorned with a stork’s nest for good measure.
a reflected Zum Löwen & stork nest on the brewery chimney
The “red brick castle” as the brewery behind the atmospheric old Inn was first heralded in 1903 was the home to the former Haller Löwenbrauerei. If it were still the case, this wouldn’t be deemed a big industrial brewery. That place is just outside the city walls and thankfully, this lovely old building has been refurbished into another interesting sounding brewpub. Zum Löwen remains as their brewery tap and though modern, it retains a nice old world feel. It’s not a quirky little place run by Mom & Pop but it’s well-run, serves excellent food and has friendly opening hours. It’s also right in town with a great view of the Schwäbisch Hall “skyline.” The beer could suck and it would be worth a visit but the beer, as it turns out, is pretty damn good. A full account of the meal and reviews of the beers are in the Zum Löwen link. Suffice it to say, if you’re in Schwäbisch Hall and like beer, it’s well worth the stop.
a lovely place for lunch & beer (or five)
It was Friday afternoon and in a perfect world, my wife would come and meet me for a weekend in my new Franconian favorite. She did, after all, have a 9 Euro Ticket too. Unfortunaely, that wasn’t in the cards. I was happy to find the elevator working. I’d been carrying the beer I’d bought in Crailsheim all day. I looked back one more time at Schwäbisch Hall and knew I’d be back with my wife. She’d love it and I even had another Franconian brewery to explore.
The trip back didn’t go according to plan. That was one of my first experiences with the horrors of the 9 Euro Ticket. The trains were packed and late. I missed connections. I stood nearly the whole time. A four hour trip took closer to six. It was awful at the time but now when I look back, I mostly just see images of half-timbered houses in reflection, a really good meal in a nice pub and a few beers I’d never had. Chances are if I’d left that morning, I’d have avoided most of the train chaos. Am I glad I didn’t? Yup.The 9 Euro Ticket sure wasn’t perfect but I most likely wouldn’t have gone without it, and I’m glad I did.
More adventures in Franconian Baden-Württemburg: The 9 Euro Ticket to Beer Nirvana in Franconian Baden-Württemberg, On the Slow Train to Franconian Baden-Würtemberg, Beers without Borders and Fishing for a Bock without Borders.