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This post was originally published on May 13, 2012 and updated on February 4, 2020.
Anyway, on a Saturday back in early April, actually before my journey to Bayreuth, I daytripped to a very small town named Forchheim, located just outside Nuremberg and about 20 minutes away from me by train. It has no official website that I could find, but I used this article as my guide. I’ve also heard about their annual beer festival, Annafest. However, that’s not until later in the year.
I was up early and rode my bike, SchwarzeBlitz or Black Flash, to the Bamberg train station. In truth, I was actually more excited about trying out the brand spanking new bicycle parking garage behind the station than I was about going to a Medieval European village. Guess I’ve seen a few too many Medieval European villages, huh?
Beginning with its name, the bike garage is a lean, clean dream. If you’ll follow me, I’ll explain the name. First of all, you should know that the German word for bicycle is Fahrrad, pronounced “Far-raht.” Often the Germans shorten it to just Rad. Now you should know that the German word for “town hall” is Rathaus – pronounced “raht house.”
The name of the new bike garage is Radhaus, pronounced “raht-haus,” just like the word for town hall. In fact, the photo on the bike garage webpage has the old town hall in the background. I just like the wordplay, especially in a country known for its linear thinking and by-the-book behavior. All this reminds me of my friend Bram who figured that the town hall was called Rathaus because all those rat lawyers and politicians work there!
Anyway, I’d seen them building the structure for months, and when it opened I saw posters all over the buses and bus stops advertising it. I visited the website and learned how it worked the night before my trip.
So I rode up on a fresh, sunny spring morning after enjoying a ride along the river with the flowers just beginning to bloom. I stopped at the entrance and, just like an automobile parking garage, pushed the button on the machine to get a ticket. The door unlatched and I walked my bike through.
I selected a top row spot for SchwarzeBlitz and pulled the mechanism down. I rolled the bike onto the narrow bracket until the tires rested against the metal chucks, chained it up and slid the whole thing back up top. Here’s a shot of my handsome bike securely on the top row (black one closest to the camera with the basket on the back).
The Radhaus is monitored by video 24 hours a day and the bike is out of the weather. Also, the racks are positioned so that your handlebars don’t get entangled with other bikes and no one can knock your bike over. Plus you can easily get your bike out when you return, not like some bike lots around town where it gets hemmed in in a big mangle of chained-up bikes. They also have small lockers for your bike raingear and such that don’t cost anything – you get your coin back when you bring back the key – and outlets to charge your electric bike. All this for 50 cents a day! I wish there were more around.
One of the coolest things about the Radhaus is that it is connected directly to the train station platforms. There is a ticket machine just outside the exit where I bought my ticket for Forchheim. The new machines have touchscreens and you can choose to do your transaction in English. Then I just walked downstairs under the train tracks and came up on the platform where my train was waiting. And I didn’t even try to time it like that!
The train trip was so short I barely had time to settle into my seat and double check my camera equipment before they were announcing my stop. I stepped off the train at a fair-sized station that was mostly deserted. Out front was the central bus station, also deserted.
I didn’t really know where I was going, but I decided to just follow the few people who’d gotten off my train at the same time and seemed to know where they were going. It was downhill, which is a good sign, because I knew from my little webguide that there was a stream that runs alongside the main street and I figured water would be at the lowest level.
A couple of blocks from the station I saw a monument dedicated to fallen WWII heroes. It was a bronze lion with really creepy yellow eyes and big teeth:
I always wonder if the German WWII monuments are in memory of Nazis. I guess it doesn’t stop the families from mourning the loss of loved ones, does it?
A little further down I saw a very Dickensian sculpture of men passing coins along in a circle. This artwork was on the plaza in front of a big bank! One of them (on the other side from this shot) looked like Alfred Hitchcock.
Shortly I saw a swift stream alongside which were some old half-timber, or Fachwerk in German, buildings that reminded me of Bruges, Belgium in the way the water seemed to flow under the buildings.
I thought that I was surely on or very near the main street. But I saw nothing touristy, so I kept going.
I rounded a corner and saw the real main drag. I could tell because 1.) there were souvenir shops, 2.) I could hear music, and 3.) I saw people. It was just after Easter, so the Osterbrunnen were still adorning the public fountains:
This fountain was the start point of the “stream” mentioned in my webguide that runs alongside the main drag. Check out their idea of a stream:
Not so very different from a gutter, but it channeled swift and clean water flowing from the fountain in the picture above.
In addition to the souvenir stands along the street were several restaurants, ice cream shops, clothing stores and even some optical shops. Normal stuff and most was open, although there were not many customers.
Along the stream I saw this bronze sculpture of city gates.
The sculpture is called “Porta Vorchheimensis” (Forchheim Gate) done by Harrogate Frey and depicts 12 scenes of local history. It’s been in place only since 2002 and is a gift of the Rotary Club.
I also saw this organ grinder who gladly tipped his hat for the Euro I put in his basket:
At the other end of the main drag, I found the end of the stream, which circled down underground by way of a kinda cool drain.
Just to the side of this reverse fountain was the most well known feature of Forchheim, the town hall. In this shot, it’s the second building from the left with the stone arches on the ground floor. All the buildings here are original Fachwerk from the Middle Ages. Since Forccheim is so small and seemingly insignificant, it escaped being bombed out in WWII and the original architecture still exists.
In the shot above you can see the Osterbrunnen on the big fountain. Here’s a detail I shot inside the framework of the decorations:
On my way back down the main street, I saw a shift change at the organ grinder’s location:
Then I stopped for lunch at a traditional place called Fränkische Gaststube (Franconian Inn) for lunch. I had fairly good fare there, but nothing fantastic. However, the old fashioned décor included some fun stained glass windows:
On my afternoon walk I meandered through the little town. I saw the so-named “Dog Bridge” in the “Little Venice” portion of town. There are SO MANY Little Venices in Europe! Bamberg has one, Amersterdam is called that, on and on. This particular Little Venice had some cool sheds built in the water.
Here’s a shot of the other side of them:
They are for fishermen to keep their live catches in! I wish I could have seen the inside of one of them. They bear witness to the town’s historical dependence on fishing.
I followed an old cobblestone street along the river:
This area was the Jewish quarter before WWII. The monument on the left commemorates the Jewish synagogue that stood on that spot until 1938 when the You-Know-Who’s destroyed it. The Fachwerk building in the middle of the shot is the old mill, built in 1698. And, yes, it does slant toward the water. The millworks were taken out of service in 1910. Today it’s a restaurant with the dining area inside restored to the original style.
A little later I stepped behind the old town hall to an enormous church named St. Martin’s. The big bell in this tower sounded great!
Here are some shots from inside:
These putti look like they are saying, “He did it!” “No, she did it!”
There was an altar in the crypt:
There was an alcove in the back of the sanctuary that listed war dead. Again, Nazis? Kinda creepy little alcove. It was very dark. I had to use a pretty strong flash to get this picture:
Back outside, I wandered around back of the church. There I saw the “Conrad Fountain”. Conrad was a local duke who became Pope in the year 911. I love the pose on this fountain. He appears to be saying, “Just a little bit more.”
On the back of the church I took this picture.
It looks like a homeless guy asleep behind bars. However, there was a big scene of the Garden of Gethsemane and they had fenced it off against vandals. The face was a statue of one of the sleeping apostles.
Here is a shot of the sundial painted onto the side of the church. It was overcast at the time, so I’m not really sure what time I took the picture!
Church sconce detail:
Soon it was time to get back the station to catch my train. I’d seen about all there was to see in Forchheim anyway. On the way back, I shot this sign.
It’s likely a sign pointing towards Forchheim’s sister city in France, which is Le Perreux, 780 kilometers away and you take Autobahn E50 or A4 to get there. Interestingly, Europeans call them “twin cities” not “sister cities.”
So that’s Forchheim, except for the city gates which I didn’t see. If you come to visit me, we can go there in person!
I’ve had a couple more outings recently, including an art exhibit in Frankfurt, so stay tuned for more journals soon!
Photo for No Apparent Reason: