Germany: Bavaria at Its Best

Germany: Bavaria at Its Best

What pops to your mind when you think of Bavaria? Munich and Oktoberfest? Maybe you would add the Alps and some beautiful lakes in their vicinity. There’s also BMW, of course. But the largest and probably most diverse state of Germany is much more than any of that. Some of the best German white wine is made from grapes growing along the mighty Main River (pronounced like “mine”). The limestone wonderland of Franconian Switzerland or the rolling hills of the Holledau, with their impressive hop fields, create their own landscapes.

Let’s start in the state’s far north, in the mountains of the Franconian Forest where the rivers still flow toward former Eastern Germany. This is the farthest you can get from Munich, the heart of Bavaria. The houses are often covered completely in black slate that came out of the quarries up here. What was back then the cheapest material with best resistance against the harsh winters has become quite an expensive commodity because of the intense labor requirements to produce it. Still, the dark, barren visuals are quite different from the luxurious houses of southern Bavaria, with their wooden balconies that hardly seem to hold their load of flowers. Life up here, close to the former Iron Curtain separating Bavaria from East Germany and then-Czechoslovakia was always a bit harder.

The town of Kallmnünz provides visitors with a picture postcard setting on the river Naab.

In the Lonely Forest

The villages deep in the forest seem very quiet and traffic on the fabulous mountain roads is almost non-existent—something riders living close to the Bavarian Alps dream of. After some 20 miles, I’m across the first range. The town of Kronach sits in the foothills and is too pretty of a sight just to ride by. Cobblestone alleys take me up to the historic part of the town. On top a hill overlooking Kronach sits Rosenberg Fortress, one of the most impressive in Europe. I park the bike just below the main gate and walk up onto the 100-foot-thick wall to have coffee with a great view toward the south, my general direction for the next few days.

Motorcycle & Gear

2015 KTM 1190 Adventure

Helmet: Shoei GT-Air
Jacket: Held Harvey 76
Pants: Held Crackerjack Kevlar Jeans
Gloves: Held Rodney
Boots: Daytona Travel Star GTX

The landscape becomes less rugged and sits at a lower altitude, but it is not boring at all. Kronach is the gateway to Franconian Switzerland. The pretty valleys between the sandstone cliffs and the roads running through them were once an insider location, known to local riders only. I follow the idyllic waters of the rivers Weismain and Wiesent. Old mills and tranquil villages line the way until I arrive in Bamberg. Tranquility is over—the place bursts with superlatives. The best-preserved historic city in Germany, Bamberg carries a UNESCO World Heritage Site title. The nickname Franconian Rome is accurate for the town, built onto seven hills. Seemingly countless church towers stick out of the mass of red roofs. The old town hall sitting in the middle of the river Regnitz might be one of the most photogenic pieces of architecture in Germany.