In the Frankenjura (or, Franconian Switzerland, if you will) the state of bucolic bliss is occasionally interrupted with grunts and squeals. You would be forgiven for wondering what had upset the wild boar, but in fact this is the ritual call of the ascending (or rapidly descending) sport climber.
The last time we visited we had stayed in Egloffstein, which is a gorgeous little village, complete with tiny castle. As we had the van, this trip we stayed in forests and tucked away meadows. I love the area, it is just so incredibly pretty: there are sweet little farms, fields of ripening wheat and barley, lowing fat cattle, dripping fruit trees, forests of beech, steep valleys and spires of rock.
There is a ridiculous amount of rock to choose from in the Frankenjura and there are grades to suit all levels. The Climber enjoyed the cave at Wolfsberg (which was handy because we needed to visit the mechanic there anyway) and I loved all the easy grades around Barnfels. In Barnfels village we made a lovely friend, who offered us water (German villages lack the village drinking fountains that are ubiquitous throughout France and Spain). The crag at Wolfstein had something for both of us. Kuhlochfelsen was beautifully situated in a forest of tall beeches and had some harder routes that the Climber approved of. We visited a bunch of other crags but I’ve forgotten the names of them (!). The climbing is usually on sharpish pocketty limestone (no tufas here) and single pitch sport climbs are the norm. Belaying is awesome because you are almost always standing on flat ground with nice soft leaf litter and plenty of shade (although, having said that, you need extra layers even on sunny days because of the shade).
Of course Frankenjura isn’t just about the climbing, it’s also home to some quirky customs and lovely people.
We were passing through one little village and saw that they were erecting a Maibaum (which was a bit odd, considering it was July). Of course we decided to stop and watch their efforts and have a delicious German beer in the little festival area. Their Maibaum was basically an enormous pine tree that had been stripped off all of its branches, save about 6 feet worth at the top – a little Christmas tree perched on a big stick. It was decorated by three hanging rings, encircling the trunk. Sadly, the top part (the Christmas tree bit) had half snapped off and was dangling dramatically on the half hoisted Maibaum. An elderly man, wearing a proper Bavarian hat, filled us in on the action. The top part had been insufficiently reinforced having suffered a crack in the felling process and had, predictably enough, snapped. He was deeply unimpressed by the shoddy workmanship of the youth of today but seemed resigned to the shame that would fall upon the village when these young fools completely failed to erect the Maibaum.
The young men (well, young-ish) weren’t having a bar of it and called in reinforcements. A gigantic front loader crawled its way over from the far meadow and was greeted enthusiastically. After much discussion, and a complete disregard for occupational health and safety, one of the men jumped into the bucket with a chainsaw attached to a pole (not just sticky-taped on, it’s a proper attachment for pruning trees). He was hoisted into the air and bravely sawed away until the Christmas tree crashed to the ground. It did look quite a bit like cheating. In any event, they were then able to continue the process of hoisting the Maibaum upright using the traditional long poles. Our elderly friend was hugely amused.