On the Saturday of our recent holiday in Franconia, we decided that a visit to a country Keller or two would be a good idea, and a nice way of spending the afternoon. As it happened we only had time to visit the one Keller, due to a late start. My son, like many lads of the same age (early 20’s), is not particularly good at getting up in the morning. He’s ok when he absolutely has to get up on time, like when he’s going to work, but on days off, and particularly on holiday, trying to prise him out of his pit is like pulling teeth! I feel this is a real shame, especially on holiday when there’s so much to see and do, but this particular Saturday he was even more stubborn than usual about getting out of bed.
In the end I left him lying there and took a short walk into Forchheim town centre, (literally just around the corner from our apartment). I bought some cigarettes for my wife, plus a present or two for myself, and then called in at the local tourist information centre, handily situated in the town hall. Here I was able to pick up a handful of timetables for the local bus routes in Forchheim, as I had it in my mind that we would head out into the countryside to the west of the town and visit a Keller or two.Café Abseits in Bamberg. Comparing notes, as beer hunters invariably do, the group told us about the Kreuzberg Keller complex situated near the village of Schnaid, and strongly recommended a visit there. I had also read about this group of Kellers in Jon Conen’s Guide to Bamberg & Franconia. Jon recommended taking a bus from Forchheim, alighting at the small village of Stiebarlimbach where a brewery called Roppelt is situated, visiting their Keller first before walking up through the woods to the Kreuzberg Kellers. After spending time here, one then walks a further kilometre or so to the village of Schnaid, in order to pick up the return bus to Forchheim.
This plan would have worked fine, if No. 1 son had been up several hours earlier, but although he was ready by the time I returned from my errands, we still had some further shopping to do, primarily items we wanted to take home with us (beer for me, copious quantities of crisps for Matthew, plus various goodies for our respective work colleagues), before we could go off beer-hunting. This was unfortunate, but we were unable to leave our purchases until the following day, as this was a Sunday, and all shops in Bavaria are closed on the Lord’s Day. We were also unable to leave this task until the Monday either, as that was the day of our departure. Consequently, by the time we had finished it was well passed midday, leaving just the afternoon in which to cram our visit into. The timetable showed that unlike during the week, the last bus back left Stiebarlimbach at just before 4pm. Our visit would have to be confined to just the one Keller, and Roppelt's seemed the obvious choice.
The bus arrived on schedule; we boarded and purchased a return ticket each. The journey took us in a northerly direction out of Forchheim, before turning west, crossing the River Regnitz and then heading off in a north-westerly direction. The bus climbed steadily up towards the Steigerwald, and took us through a succession of unbelievably pretty villages. This really was rural Franconia at its very best. Eventually we reached our destination, the tiny village of Stiebarlimbach. Our driver told us that the return bus would depart from the same stop, which was directly opposite Bräuerei Roppelt, quite a substantial looking affair and obviously THE major source of employment in the village.
Two other people got off the bus at the same time as us. I’d read that the Keller was sited behind the brewery and as this couple seemed to be heading in that direction, we followed them through the brewery yard, before turning off left, passed a pond along the edge of a field and up into the woods. As we drew nearer, we noticed a fair-sized car park, and then a group of yellow painted buildings. A short distance beyond the buildings were numerous wooden tables and benches, most sited under the trees for protection from the fierce afternoon sun. There were quite a few drinkers sat at these tables, most with stoneware half-litre Krug mugs in front of them. We soon discovered that one of the buildings was the Ausschank, where the beer was dispensed, whilst the other was the Küche, or kitchen, where the more solid nourishment was served. We found an empty table and then I wandered over to the Ausschank to grab us each a nice cold beer. Roppelts Kellerbier was the beer on sale, a tasty and well-hopped brew, and at just €1.90 a go, was the bargain of the day. A bit later on I went and ordered us some food to go with the excellent beer; sausages with Sauerkraut and Landbrot (dark rye bread) were the perfect accompaniment to the beer.
The Keller became quite busy as the afternoon wore on and the temperature continued to climb. We managed to put away three mugs each of this tasty country beer before deciding it was time to make a move. After all we did not want to end up stranded in the middle of nowhere, even though there was an excellent Keller there. Before we left, I noticed a path leading further up into the woods. People were heading off in that direction from time to time, so I assumed it was the path leading up to the Kreuzberg. I made a mental note that if we ever returned we would visit mid-week, arrive much earlier and make a whole day of visiting the other Kellers as well!
We arrived back at the bus stop in good time, passing back through the brewery yard en route. It was a stiflingly hot afternoon, but we didn’t wait in the bus shelter, as there were a couple of slightly disreputable looking blokes in there, but instead stood in the shade round the side. After a wait of less than 10 minutes a bus appeared. “Is this ours?” my son asked. “No”, I replied confidently, noting that the destination shown on the front of the bus was Willersdorf, the village at the end of the route. “This bus will return shortly after turning round at the end of the route”, I said, but as we watched it depart an awful thought struck me that perhaps we should still have got on. This thought was reinforced by the bus being more or less on time, and was confirmed when I looked at the timetable, displayed inside the bus shelter, showing the same time for arrival and departure in Stiebarlimbach. It dawned on me that the last section of the bus route was circular, rather than linear, which meant, to our horror, that the bus would not be returning for us and we were stranded!
In the normal run of things this would not have been too much of a problem. We are both fairly fit and quite capable of walking a fair distance when necessary. However, with the sun beating down on us quite mercilessly, and temperatures in the mid 30’s, a long walk was not something either of us relished. I was mindful of a story which had been in the news back home, shortly before we left, where a couple of would-be SAS recruits had collapsed and died from heat exhaustion following an exercise in the Brecon Beacons during a spell of hot weather. Obviously we would not be pushing ourselves to those sorts of extremes, but I was still concerned that we both only had a small bottle of water each and that neither of us had hats. I blame my wife and son for this omission; both had regularly taken the mickey out of the bush hat I wear at home whilst in the garden, to the point of refusing to go out with me if I am wearing it. I was now cursing the lack of suitable headgear!
I have had a dose of sunstroke before, and it was not an experience I would care to repeat, but our options were somewhat limited in this respect. My plan, such as it was, was to walk to the much larger village of Schlammersdorf, which we had passed through on our outward journey. I knew there was a pub there attached to the local brewery, and I was certain we could get details there about taxis which could take us to one of the nearest stations, (either Eggolsheim or Hirschaid). I had been watching our general direction of travel on the outward journey, so I knew roughly which direction we need to proceed in, but I was still kicking myself for not having purchased the local map I had been looking at that morning in a newsagent in Forchheim.
We set off out of the village, and soon came to a T-junction. We turned right and set off up a hill. It was certainly hot and I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of my decision to walk. Matthew was moaning, so when we eventually came to a shady, wooded area I decided to do something I hadn’t done since my student days, namely thumb a lift! There wasn’t that much traffic passing along this quiet country road, but our luck must have been in that day, as the second car to come along stopped to give us a lift. Our “saviour” was a young jobbing builder and, after I had explained our predicament as best as my German would allow, he offered to drive us to the station nearest to his home. This turned out to be Hirschaid, which was absolutely fine so far as we were concerned, as we could get a train back to Forchheim from there.
The journey probably only took about 20 minutes, but it saved us from what would have been an exhausting walk in the crippling heat. During the drive I chatted to our driver, mainly about where we were from and that we had come over for Annafest. He pointed out the brewery in Schlammersdorf, as we passed through, and also the one in Hirschaid as we arrived in the small town. Our driver dropped us off right at the station, and refused all attempts by us to give him some cash for his kindness. He did say though to look out for him at Annafest the following day and buy him a drink then.
From Hirschaid, after a short wait, we were able to catch a train back to Forchheim, and arrived back at our apartment hot, but none the worse for our adventure. On the walk back from the station, Matthew swears he saw a bus being driven by the same driver who was in charge on our outward journey, and that the driver had waved at him. I replied it was a pity he hadn’t been driving the return bus, as he would certainly have beckoned us on board if he had seen us waiting at the stop in Stiebarlimbach.
As for our rescuer, I distinctly heard him say he would be at Greiff Keller on the Sunday, and I think he said he would be there at 7 o’clock. We looked out for him earlier, and were intending to return later for a further look. However, it was around that time that the storm blew up, the sirens started to sound and the authorities closed the festival for the evening, following the severe weather warning. So unfortunately we never got to thank this chap personally in the way we would have liked. If, by some remote chance, he ever gets to read this blog, please accept our sincere thanks for saving us from a long and gruelling walk, and please get in touch so we can meet up and buy you a drink on our next visit to Franconia.