What do you do when your family does not want to go for longer hikes? Yes, plan and organise short hikes. In late autumn, we went for two colourful short hikes near Bad Staffelstein.
The last week of this year’s autumn school holidays offered a great opportunity: our kids wanted to stay alone at my parents’ place. This may sound “normal” to lots of folks, for us it isn’t. My parents live something like 550km away.
Less than an hour’s drive from my parents place is Bad Staffelstein, a cute little town in Franconia. The “Bad” in the city name means quite the opposite from the English “bad”, it stands for “spa town”. So, hotel booked, kids taken care of, and off we went.
I had planned and prepared a couple of short hikes, so my better half could choose whichever one she preferred. After a very quick and easy hotel check-in we set off on tour number one. “Susi” gave us very precise information and direction (that’s what I named the female voice of my hiking app from komoot). However, after a while I got a bit annoyed with her talking every other minute, so muted the mobile and used the map and screen instead.
Tour 1 – 12,2 km, 340 m up and down
This tour was the very first one on which I used komoot. I had planned this short hike on my computer, dragged the planned trail back and forth until I was happy with it being mostly in the woods. Laptop and mobile then sync the planned tour automatically. Tour by tour, or by region, you can download offline maps. Hence there is no need to be online all the time. Either GPS (ideal) or your mobile signal (kind of ok) will show you where you are and where you need to go to follow your planned trail.
So, how was this first short hike with an app instead of a map?
The result? Brilliant!
Never ever would I have gone the paths and narrow trails with a paper map only, I’d very likely have stayed with the larger trails. After just twenty minutes my trust in this little app was so confident that I simply followed “Susi” wherever she told me to go. And for someone like me, someone who simply cannot follow any trail signs, this is perfect.
Day 1 brought us quickly from the hotel into colourful woods. On the way we passed Kloster Banz (monastery Banz). Well, look at the aerial picture – I am still amazed by the sheer size of this monastery. Its foundations were laid in 1070, and nowadays it is an educational centre for all sorts of seminars and lectures.
We also had one very lucky chap during our hike – this salamander here! It decided to cross our trail, which was – quite unusual for today’s hike – on tarmac (only 2% of the trail). It was so very well hidden on those leaves that I nearly stepped on it. I think I would not have seen it on forest soil – lucky indeed. Only in the very last moment did I see it, sidestepped and managed to not crush it. The little chap was so surprised that he actually stopped for a brief photo shooting.
Tour 2 – 14,8 km, 470 m up and down
There is one important learning from the breakfast buffet. A good mixture of fruits, yoghurt, juice, full English breakfast plus two cappuccinos will keep you hiking all day long…
Our main goal for this short hike was to get onto the top of a little mountain (well, more of a hill, I’d say) called Staffelberg. Why this one is called “mountain of the Franconians” I do not know. I grew up less than an hour’s drive away and had never heard of it…
It does look quite interesting, though, and its plateau is more than useful for taking interesting pictures (especially for school classes fooling around, as you can imagine – with one or the other small heart attack for the teachers).
Just recently an elderly lady drove her car past the parking lot and onto the plateau. She simply followed her navigation system, she told police later. The reason for the police to turn up was not because she drove onto the plateau, but rather because she fell off it – with her car! And how lucky she had been! She crashed into a couple of trees after a very short fall, firemen rescued her. Sounds like a story right out of Hollywood.
Anyway, on our way to the top we walked past this tree. Amazing. All sorts of plants continuously surprise me with their ability to grow on the tiniest piece of liveable soil. This tree started growing on top of a rock, and its roots simply grew along the rock until they found fertile soil.
For us, after the little climb, the rest of the tour was a nice and cosy hike. komoot, I mean “Susi”, occasionally sent us off the beaten track and onto some very tiny trails – fantastic! Towards the end of our short hike we reached a planned and very interesting way-point: Basilica Vierzehnheiligen. I more or less knew what it was all about, and still found it absolutely amazing what religion can achieve (creating huge buildings in the middle of nowhere, based on miracles, stories told, etc.).
Basilica Vierzehnheiligen (14 Saints or 14 Holy Helpers)
A brief detour on the story of the Vierzehnheiligen:
On 24. September 1445, while bringing sheep back home, young shepherd Hermann Leicht saw a little girl nearby, crying. As he got closer to offer some help, the girl disappeared. A few days later the girl sat there again, crying, and same as before: as soon as he got closer she disappeared. This time, however, two candles were still burning where she had been sitting.
Almost a year later, 28. June 1446, he saw the girl again, this time with a red cross on its chest. The girl was surrounded by smaller kids, and to Hermann it said: “We are the 14 Holy Helpers, build us a chapel, let us rest and we will be of great help.” Shortly afterwards the shepherd and his wife saw two candles burning, at the very same spot where the children had gathered before.
14 Helpers and their miracles
18 days later, after support by the 14 Holy Helpers, a miraculous healing of a very ill woman started the nowadays steady flow of pilgrimages. A chapel got built, the altar consecration took place in 1448. As usual in late mediaeval times, the chapel got bigger and bigger, until it burnt down and got rebuilt as a huge basilica.
Who are the 14 Holy Helpers? Here is the list of names, some of them might sound very familiar to you: Achatius, Aegidius, Barbara, Blasius, Christopherus, Cyriakus, Dionysius, Erasmus, Eustachius, Georg, Katharina, Margareta, Pantaleon, Vitus.
That was it already with my brief excursion to catholic stories in Franconia / Bavaria.
What happened after those two short hikes?
Distance, altitude and temperature were not that challenging. Those two short hikes near Bad Staffelstein had been more like a long, relaxed stroll or walk instead of an exhausting hike.
After each hike we had a very brief rest and a drink. Followed by – yes, off into “wellness land”. Attached to the hotel was a huge area for recreation, including a dozen saunas, steam baths, pools, open fire places and other resting areas for reading a book (or dozing off). Have a look at the picture here – looks great, right?
After all that fresh air, hiking and wellness, we had some very tasty Franconian dinner. And yes, this included one or the other locally brewed beer. And another yes, you can find a lot of breweries in this area… The following day, the last day of this brief holiday I went for a longer hike, all alone. 13 breweries in one day (passing by only!!), what a rush. At the same time, what a joy.
To be improved: taking pictures
One major learning from those two short hikes (plus the 13 breweries trail): I need to improve on taking pictures. With my mobile, an S3 Mini, I am not really happy, be it for quality of pictures or for the battery run-time. My Nikon D3200 is simply fantastic for great shots – and a bit bulky at the same time (at least when hiking for a couple of days).
So, what can I do? Option one, buy a new mobile. Option two, get used to carrying the Nikon D3200 with me. I think I’ll go for number 2.
What would you do, or suggest?