- For other places with the same name, see Franconia (disambiguation).
Franconia (Franken) is a region of northern Bavaria, a state of Germany, that was formerly a separate kingdom (a duchy) of the Holy Roman Empire. The history of the area stretches back over a thousand years. Franconia encompasses three administrative regions of Bavaria: Lower Franconia (Unterfranken), Middle Franconia (Mittelfranken), and Upper Franconia (Oberfranken). Culturally Franconians identify themselves as being different from Bavarians. Within Franconia are the historically important city of Nuremberg, the UNESCO World Heritage town of Bamberg, and a huge range of outdoor activities in the Franconian Switzerland and Franconian lake district.
- Upper Franconia - hilly region in north east, land of breweries
- Middle Franconia - round Nuremberg
- Lower Franconia - vineyards near river Main
- Bayreuth - is famous as the host of the Richard Wagner Festival, furthermore the Markgräfliches Opernhaus is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- Bamberg - the whole old town of Bamberg is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- Coburg - it has been the household name for some royal dynasties in Europe, notably Queen Victoria was married to one of the Saxe Coburg Gotha-family
- Erlangen — a university and medical centre city that has earned the nickname Franconian Berkeley
- Fürth – medium-sized town, next to Nuremberg in the north, age-old rival of Nuremberg and Henry Kissinger's birthplace
- Nuremberg (Nürnberg) — a city of toys, famous for Christmas markets, the infamous Nazi Party rallies were held there as well as the trials against the main Nazi war criminals
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber — famous for its intact medieval city center (Altstadt) encircled by 13th century town walls one of the best preserved German towns of this era
- Fichtelgebirge — is arranged like a horseshoe around an inner hill-landscape; the highest mountain is the "Schneeberg (Snow Mountain)" with 1053 m above sealevel
- Franconian Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz) — castle ruins, hiking, canoeing, climbing
- Franconian Lake District (Fränkisches Seenland) — the Lake District comprises of 7 lakes; The total expanse of water is about 20 square km
- Franconian Wineland (Fränkisches Weinland) — wine tasting, hiking, biking, and more
Franconia used tp be comprised of many independent principalities and petty dukedoms and knighthoods until it became part of Bavaria around 1806 as a result of the Napoleonic wars. This has two main consequences: first, the dialect and religious composition of two neighboring villages may be notably different (which used to cause tensions but is now of mostly folkloric interest); second, there is still some resentment towards Bavaria and many people do not like to be lumped together with their "colonizers" down south. While you will not encounter open hostility, try to avoid calling Franconians Bavarian. Many people also include part(s) of adjacent Länder in Franconia as they are linguistically, culturally and historically more connected to Franconia than to the Länder to which they belong in terms of administration. Those regions include: Sonneberg and Thüringen south of the Rennsteig (in fact Sonneberg voted to join the Nuremberg metropolregion and there are talks of switching Bundesland) and the region of Baden-Württemberg called Heilbronn-Franken
The local dialect ("Fränkisch") can sometimes be a bit hard for those familiar with standard German to understand, although it is not as different as Bavarian. People have a tendency to pronounce t like d, p like b and sometimes k like g. This is also often noticeable when they speak foreign languages. English prevalence is around the (West)German average with highs in the big cities and university towns like Erlangen. Other foreign languages include French (the most common living second foreign language in high school) and to a lesser degree Italian and Spanish.
Nürnberg Bamberg and Würzburg all have frequent ICE service from most routes in Germany. The Nürnberg-Munich railway is in excellent condition and one of the fastest in the country (even regional trains reach top speeds around 200 km/h without costing extra). The connection to Berlin via Leipzig/Halle and Erfurt is being refurbished right now and scheduled to be fully operational around 2015. Erlangen also has some ICE service which often also stops in Nürnberg. The infrequent ICE service to Bayreuth has been stopped. From Dresden there is regional service to Hof with connecting services (scheduled to wait at the same platform to make changing trains easy) to Nuremberg. As this is regional travel the Ländertickets as well as the Quer durchs Land Ticket (44€ for one person 8€ mor for any additional person up to a group of five) apply.
The only relevant airport within this region from a traveler's point of view is in Nürnberg (IATA: NUE) with service to many destinations around Europe and continuing service via Frankfurt all around the world. While the airport is not directly connected to the railway network, the Nürnberg main station can be reached via subway (U-Bahn) in about twelve minutes.
From Frankfurt airport (IATA: FRA) there are direct ICE connections via Würzburg (1:25 hours, rates starting at 29€ one way) or Nuremberg (2:25 hours) with connecting services to all places in Franconia.
You might also consider flying into Munich airport (IATA: MUC) and take either regional trains or the ICE to Nuremberg. Unfortunately the Munich airport is far away from town and you will have to first get into Munich (roughly half an hour to fourty minutes travel time) before you can change onto a train to Nuremberg, unless you go by car.
While Prague airport (IATA: PRG) is geographically close the worse than average train connection (the bus is actually faster when going to Nuremberg) make this not the best option for most travellers.
Several bus companies operate throughout the region. They are usually slower than the train but often cheaper. An international bus operated by Deutsche Bahn also connects Nürnberg (leaving right in front of the main station) with Prague.
By public transport
A big chunk of Franconia and also some parts of the neighboring regions are covered by the VGN tariff-union, which covers almost all trains, buses and the Nuremberg subway and tram (Straßenbahn). While single local tickets can be comparably expensive, group and day tickets can be a bargain, especially for longer distances.
- Several old towns in Franconia are designated UNESCO world heritage sites, such as that of Bamberg. The opera house of Bayreuth (not Wagner's, another one) was also declared a world heritage site recently.
- Franconian Switzerland got its name when 19th century romanticists compared it to Swiss Switzerland. It has been a major tourist area since then.
- Part of the Romantic road lies within Franconia
- There are several long-distance hiking trails that pass through Franconia or are entirely within its borders.
- Climbing in the Franconian Switzerland, along with the Saxonian Switzerland it is one of Germany's top destinations for mountain climbing with many famous climbers either coming from here or having their "training-grounds" here
- The Wagner festival in Bayreuth draws the rich and famous of Germany and some other European countries every year. Tickets sell out years in advance and actually getting one requires connections, patience or money, but there are efforts to "popularize" the event through screenings of the show on big screens in town.
Schäufele is a traditional dish in Franconia. It is made from the pork's shoulder meat. Normally it is then served with potato dumbling (Kartoffelklöße), sauerkraut (or red cabbage, or savoy cabbage) and gravy.
Bratwurst most notably the small Nuremberg variety commonly served as drei im Weggla (three Bratwursts in a small bread roll) or sechs auf Graud (six Bratwursts with Sauerkraut and a slice of bread) and the various "Franconian" varieties that are usually bigger. Traditionally almost every city had its own slight variation on the basic recipe or how to prepare them, and Coburg is notable for roasting them on an open fire with conifer cones added to the fire for taste.
While Blaue Zipfel could be described as just another way to cook Bratwurst it is notably different in taste, as the sausages are cooked in an acidic liquid rather than fried.
Karpfen or carp is produced mainly around Höchstadt (Aisch) and several villages in that region have a carp in their coat of arms due to its historic (and continuing) importance as a foodstock and export-article. It is commonly eaten in the months "with r" (literally speaking that would be September-April) either blau (blue, that is cooked) or gebacken (that is fried, thus making even part of the fins edible) Legend has it that the Franconian carps owe there peculiar round shape to a medieval decree deeming anything "beyond the plate" to be the bishop's property, thus prompting medieval monks (than the principal producers and consumers of the fish) to breed for rounder carps. Make of that what you want.
Lebkuchen Nuremberg is justifiedly famous for its gingerbread-like sweet Lebkuchen and in fact the "echt Nürnberg Elisen-Lebkuchen" are a geographically protected speciality that may only be produced in or close to Nuremberg under a special recipe. They are traditionally eaten around Christmas, but nowadays ćan be found by mid-September and don't be surprised to find specialized stores in Nuremberg, selling them year-round. Many ice-cream parlors sell Lebkuchen instead during the winter "off-season".
Spargel (asparagus) is harvested from mid-April (depending on weather) until (traditionally) June 24th. It is commonly eaten white with sauce holondaise and ham, but there are variations and green asparagus, that used to be almost unheard of is gaining popularity. During the Spargel-season almost every self-respecting restaurant has at least one Spargel dish on offer and the devotion with which Spargel is consumed if not to say venerated might seem quasi-religious to outsiders.
Franconia is world renowned for beer and is actually the region with the highest brewery density in the world. Many small breweries, especially in Oberfranken only produce small amounts for consumption in their attached brewery-restaurants. Even small rural villages often still have their own breweries, although the declining demand and increased competion with bigger brands and their marketing budgets have taken their toll especially in the 70s and 80s. There is a slight resurgence with some craft-beer like start-ups reviving names and traditons of long gone brands as well as starting anew from scratch.
Many Franconians like to point out that there is Bierfranken (beer-franconia, especially Oberfranken and big parts of Mittelfranken) and Weinfranken (mostly Unterfranken and the area close to the Main river) while it is a comparatively smart region the wine of this region can certainly compete with most other German wines and the famous Bocksbeutel (a special form of bottle, that looks like a goats... bag, hence the name) is an excelent souvenir.
Less of a souvenir is Federweißer , wine in various states of fermentation that is available only seasonally. Shortly after harvest it is very similar in taste and alcohol content to simple grape juice but the older it gets, the more alcohol it will contain. Be careful when storing the bottles as they are more or less open and will leak when not put with the tap facing upwards.
Apart from some neighborhoods of Nuremberg that deal with the common big-city issues of all German towns that size, Franconia should not concern you security-wise.
When climbing in Franconian Switzerland make sure that your equipment is in a good state and of good quality and make sure you or your guides now what you are doing as accidents happen from time to time.
- Bavaria proper, locally known as Altbayern
- Saxony either with the ICE to Leipzig or with regional transport from Hof to Dresden
- The Czech republic
- Baden Württemberg