The Franconian Forest, or Frankenwald in German, is more than just an extensive network of hiking trails; more than just beech and fir trees; more than just a small mountain range that runs from the Fichtelgebirge to the Thuringian Forest covering 925 square kilometers of northern Bavaria (more specifically Franconia, hence its name) going right up into Thuringia.
How much more? Forty-something towns and villages on top of everything else; making the Franconian Forest a way of life.
That’s not a bad thing.
Ever been to Marktleugast? No? It’s found within the Franconian Forest Nature Park. Pretty, right? Even better that Marktleugast has a “Pilgrimage Season” that runs from May to October, to see its 12th century church.
Did you know this is one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in Germany? I didn’t either, until just now.
Without even leaving the Franconian Forest Nature Park you’ll find yourself in Wirsberg. It’s easy to get lost (in your own head — not in the middle of nowhere) as you walk along the ruins of the Heilingskirche.
Another little charmer in the Frankenwald is Stadtsteinach, sitting right along the Steinach Gorge, and has a charming historic city center with its own Local History Museum.
Just to the east of Kronach (which we’ll be hitting up next) is Marktrodach with its Flößermuseum (Rafting Museum).
Don’t be so shocked, the Franconian Forest isn’t a desert — the Saale River flows through it (and others), so rafting is not unheard of, ya know.
Our next town of Kronach lies on a number of scenic routes — the Bier- und Burgenstraße, the Burgenweg, and the Frankenweg for starters. Everyone wants to see all of the town’s framework houses, its Fortress Rosenberg, or play along the Toboggan Runs (one for summer and one for winter, nice!). And for the tired muscles walk through the Kneipp area to get it all freshen up.
Another town with yet another scenic route meeting up with the Franconian Forest is Steinbach am Wald on the Rennsteig trail. Which is not to be confused with Schwarzenbach am Wald, where you’ll find the Döbraberg, the highest part of the Frankenwald at like 794 meters above sea level.
I digress, Steinbach is one of those towns that really flourished in the Middle Ages. Its fortified church of St. John the Baptist dates to around the 12th century — and today it is known for its Fair that takes place on the 2nd weekend of every July.
This “second to last” town of Ludwigsstadt is one of my favorites. And not just because it’s got a medieval castle (Burg Lauenstein that’s now a museum), and a Castle Festival (every two years on the 4th weekend of June).
But because… well, OK it’s the castle. Don’t you just stop there though — visit Ludwigsstadt’s Slate Museum, Villa Falkenstein, and party at its Village Festival every September at the town located on the Thuringian border.
On the northwestern edge of the Frankenwald is Wurzbach, home to the Nature Park Tourist Office. Wait… maybe I should have done this town first instead of last?
Nevermind, the Franconian Forest is wonderful no matter how you do it . Thank Heaven they’ve replanted so many trees after all the deforestation back in the 19th and 20th centuries, huh? Otherwise, I’d have had to write this as the Former Franconian Forest or talk about the “Once Fabulous” Frankenwald Hochstraße.
No, it’s no laughing matter. Thankfully, Germany loves its forests — and we all get to enjoy great, healthy places like the Franconian Forest.