Archive for January, 2016

Limbach_WeinbergPilgrimage church Maria Limbach

On our way to our next stop Haßfurt we come to the pilgrimage church Maria Limbach. The church was built in fulfilment of vows made by the Archbishop of Würzburg after the miraculous curing of his hip complaint. He had bequeathed a substantial amount of money and even though he died before construction had started, it was completed and consecrated nine years after his death. The church was designed by Johann Balthasar Neumann – one of the most important architects in southern Germany during the Baroque and Rococo period – whose most famous work you will get to see at the end of the tour: The Würzburg Residence.

1280px-Limbach9The pilgrimage church was designed in a late- Baroque or Rococo style which is mainly characterized by asymmetric designs and lighter, more playful decorations. The simple room structure of the church is contrasted by the rich and ornate interior design of the rococo stucco designs by Andreas Lunz. This juxtapositioning of architectural design elements was intended to draw more people back to the church and not alienate them through a display of feudal opulence.



Haßfurt,_Marktplatz_1,_Rathaus,_003The town has been on records since the 13th century when it was given city rights. Having been part of the Churches’ estates, you will find a lot of churches in and around town and other buildings ranging in style from Romanesque city fortifications to Gothic churches and Renaissance private residences.

The road toward today’s destination is lined with vineyards and after discovering some of the sights in Haßfurt you will be able to sample some of the regions produce.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Coming into Bamberg means being on the brink of leaving the beer making region of your cycle tour. The city is not only famous for its historic city center, but also for its huge range of beers. During your guided tour you will be able to discover the historic city centre and taste some of the local specialties.


Bamberg_town_hall_from_opposite_bridgeConflicts in the early Middle Ages meant that the city and its estates changed ownership a lot of times, which in turn meant political unrest and marauding soldiers throughout the rest of the Middle Ages. The one constant power throughout these times was the Catholic Church, which accounts for the higher than average number of churches in the city; around twice compared to the national average. Like Rome it was built on seven hills and sometimes referred to as Frankish Rome.

Bamberg-KleinVenedig1-AsioNot until the late 17th century did the city enjoy relative peace and quiet and was able to culturally blossom during the Baroque period. Right up to the early 1930’s Bamberg and its intellectuals were seen as radical democrats, which reached its peak in the declaration of the Bamberger Verfassung – the first democratic constitution for Bavaria – in 1919. The third Reich and WWII left their marks on the city, even though not physically: only a small percentage of the city fell during attacks, making the historic city center the largest undamaged one in Germany. In 1993 this was made official by its entry into the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Bamberg-Turm-EWThe guided tour will take you to the Imperial Cathedral, which is an excellent example of how architectural styles develop over the time it takes to construct a huge building and how the changes are incorporated into it. The cathedral was started in the Romanesque style which later developed into the Gothic style. The photo of the two towers demonstrates the differences perfectly.

Apart from the churches throughout the city, there are numerous private dwellings and educational institutions to admire. Discover on your tour how the city preserved its historic buildings and encouraged modern architecture to become part of an intriguing cityscape.Konzerthalle_Bamberg_Dämmerung_Peter_Eberts

All this sightseeing can make one very hungry and thirsty: what better way to find out about the local beer brewing traditions and local specialties by stopping for a bite at one of the remaining breweries: there used to be 68 breweries listed with 8 still up and running. A local specialty is ‘smoked beer’ which goes pretty well with a Schäufele, a hearty pork shoulder roast!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens


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Monastery to conference centre

banzThe original Benedictine abbey was founded in 1070 – the “High Middle Age” period in Europe – and thus reflected the change of structure in society: even though a large percentage of the population still lived in the country, they were governed/ ruled by nobility from central locations. The homes and administrative buildings for them were magnificient to reinforce their social and political standing.

Kloster_Banz_-_innenAs abbeys were places of higher education and even enlightenment, they had strict entry criteria: Until the 16th century it was restricted to the sons of the nobility to enter the convent. But huge discussions ensued, as the life in the monastery was less that of a frugal Benedictine monk than of a feudal lord at court. After fights and battles the abbot Georg von Henneberg and his whole convent converted to the Lutheran belief and abandoned the abbey in 1568. After seven years the convent was renewed, but this time excluding nobility, to ensure staying true to their religious principles. Until the 19th century it maintained a reputation for highest educational standards, but had to bow to the secularization and dissolution process in 1803.

After it’s dissolution it was bought by the Duke Wilhelm of Bavaria and has been in private ownership or part of a trust. Nowadays it houses a museum and offers conference facilities. Fortunately the interior and the maintenance of the building have not suffered throughout the centuries and you will be able to enjoy a remarkable view of ‘monastic living’ during your guided tour!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Folklore and politics

Leaving behind impressive Bayreuth at the foot of the Fichtelgebirge (Fichtel Mountains) we cycle north through the peaceful landscape of Oberfranken (Upper Franconia) toward Lichtenfels, our first stop on a tour that will take you from a beer making region to a wine growing and making region. All within a couple of 100 kilometres! This region is not only rich in brewing traditions, but also in legends and folklore. On this part of the tour you will come through three villages that have interesting stories associated with them, each telling about the strifes each village had to conquer in their times. These stories tell about the importance of succession, greed and plain misunderstandings.


1280px-Plassenburg_in_Kulmbach_-_InnenhofThis city is not only known for being the place of confluence for the red and white Main, but also for one of Germany’s more impressive castles – Plassenburg castle – and Bratwurst! During your visit you will have an opportunity to discover both, while pondering one of the legends told about one of their ‘leading ladies’: The White Woman.

In the year 1340 after the death of her husband Otto, the countess of Orlamünde – a mother of two – decided she needed to remarry and had someone special in mind: Albert from the Hohenzollern house. Her husband-to-be supposedly had said, that four eyes were in the way of him marrying her. She interpreted it meaning her two children and killed them! He had meant his parents! When he found out, he was shocked, understandably, and left her. She, wracked with remorse, went on a pilgrimage and founded a monastery where she lived until her death. After her death she continued to appear to and warn Albert’s descendants of impending doom.


Burgkunstadt,_Marktpaltz,_Westteil-003This city has a coloured past starting in the 8th and 10th century when it was designed to be a fortified rural castle village. The following centuries brought war and pestilence, but by the beginning of the 19th century the city and the region began to prosper again, as they adopted the concepts of industrialisation and changed from a rural town to a place of manufacturing of shoes. This was the main industry until the end of the 20th century. The closure of the shoe factories meant having to find new means of supporting the region and they focused on becoming a centre of higher education for the region. You will be able to enjoy the change of lifestyle brought here by the students during your break in the town.

This town’s legend involves a count, his wife, their newborn son and a golden cradle! The short of it: an angry mob of farmers attack the castle to rob the cradle. After suffering heavy losses the count gets captured but refuses to say where the cradle is despite being threatened to be killed in boiling hot oil. The search after his death reveals nothing: neither mother nor child nor cradle to be found. Supposedly they had been hiding in a tunnel, which collapsed during the fighting and buried the lot!


WickerYour final destination will show you a working example of middle class enterprises supporting each other; meaning it has an above average employment rate. Mainly traditional crafts for household items, but also modern businesses in laser technology and tool fabrication create a healthy economic environment.Koerbe “World” famous for its woven baskets, the markets offering those goods for sale are particularly charming. And its fame is such, that they have created a festival and web page celebrating the wonderful art of wicker weaving. Unfortunately the page itself is only in German, you might want to ask your guide to translate for you.


Most regions with a strong craft economy also have legends about their unearthly little helpers. So does Lichtenfels, or rather near-by Bad Staffelstein. Querkele were little friendly and helpful people/dwarves that LOVED to eat the local potato dumplings. Everyone knew about their love, which made them steal the dumplings out of the cooking pot and tolerated it because they were such useful friends. Then one day, a greedy miserly farmer’s wife decided she had had enough and put a stop to it, by counting out loud how many dumplings she put in the pot. Thereby implying she wasn’t going to put up with any going missing. The Querkele noted that and moved on. Sadly they not only left her to her own devices, but they left the whole region never to be seen again. If you hear anyone complaining they wished they hadn’t left, you’ll know why.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens


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Quips and quirky celebrations…

Bleigiessen-Vorgang… abound in Germany on the last day of the year. From do’s and don’ts pertaining to your share of health and fortune in the coming year to predicting your lot through lead-pouring and finally sitting down to watch an old time favourite TV sketch before counting down and chasing away the ghosts with huge fireworks. Germans have indeed developed a huge range of ways of ending the old and starting the New Year. One of them you’re not likely to have heard about unless you have a Germanophile in your circle of friends is the ritual of watching a skit called “Dinner For One”!

Dinner for who?

A Birthday dinner for a dear old lady called Sophie. In this 18 minute clip you will see Miss Sophie celebrating her 90th birthday with her dearly departed four friends and her man-servant James. The four course meal involves rounds of congratulatory toasts and the repetition of the well-known punch lines: “Same procedure as last year?” “Same procedure as VERY year!” Well-known all over central Europe, but not in any English speaking country. One might wonder why.


dinner-for-oneThe sketch was written by the English writer Lauri Wylie in the 1920’s and performed in cabarets in the 40’s. It consists of ‘classic’ British slapstick comedy, the likes of Mr.Bean and Charlie Chaplin, transcending the barriers of language through physical comedy. Even though it was frequently performed throughout Britain, it never garned much attention, until in 1962 a German entertainer saw a performance in Blackpool and was so enamoured with it, that he asked the original actors to give a performance on his live show and record a session in a theatre. They did two recordings and the rest is history. In fact it became such an integral part of German NYE culture that nowadays throughout the German channel maze it will get screened up to 18 times in the hours leading up to the countdown! A time slot for every family/party situation.

Why oh why is it SO popular?

I’m sure many TV producers would love to know the answer to this question, as it would make it a lot easier creating future classics. In the past decades many have tried to understand the phenomenon and failed. Some claim the slap-stick comedy appeals to mankinds’ basic understanding of humour. Others that it taps into our yearnings for the “good old days” when life was simply, predictable and safe in its repetitions.

These explanations, as logical as they may seem, do not explain though, why this kind of humour polarizes people though. If you ask, you will find that people either LOVE it or HATE it with a passion. The same goes for the Mr.Bean series or other equally notorious British comedy series ( Blackadder, Fawlty Towers just to name some of my favourites). If the perception of the comedy were that basic, it should appeal to everyone? Or not?! Either way, you should have a look at the clip and decide for yourself if you will indulge in it next NYE.

Same procedure as last year? Same procedure as EVERY year!

Happy New Year and lots of health, fortune and fun from the Sidetracks team.





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