- For other places with the same name, see Franconia (disambiguation).
Franconia (Franken) is a region of northern Bavaria, a state of Germany. 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.
Franconia's history as an entity separate from Bavaria stretches back over a thousand years. It was a duchy in the Holy Roman Empire. This article only covers the parts of Franconia administered by the Bavarian government in Munich as the Regierungsbezirke of Oberfranken (Upper Franconia), Unterfranken (Lower Franconia) and Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia) although the cultural boundary does not coincide with the administrative boundary and parts of the cultural region of Franconia are to be found across state lines. Culturally Franconians identify themselves as being different from Bavarians.
|Upper Franconia |
Hilly region in north east, land of breweries
|Middle Franconia |
|Lower Franconia |
Vineyards near the river Main.
- 1 Bayreuth — is famous as the host of the Richard Wagner Festival, furthermore the Markgräfliches Opernhaus (margavial opera house) is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- 2 Bamberg — the whole old town of Bamberg is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- 3 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
- 4 Erlangen — site of Franconia's oldest university and a major Siemens division also known as a bicycle city
- 5 Fürth — medium-sized town, next to Nuremberg in the north, age-old rival of Nuremberg and Henry Kissinger's birthplace
- 6 Nuremberg (Nürnberg) — a city of toys, famous for its Christmas market, the infamous Nazi Party rallies were held there as well as the trials against the main Nazi war criminals
- 7 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
- 8 Würzburg — former residence of the wealthy and powerful prince-bishops
- 1 Fichtelgebirge — is arranged like a horseshoe around an inner hill-landscape; the highest mountain is the "Schneeberg (Snow Mountain)" with 1053 m above sealevel
- 2 Franconian Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz) — castle ruins, hiking, canoeing, climbing
- 3 Franconian Lake District (Fränkisches Seenland) — the Lake District comprises 7 lakes; The total expanse of water is about 20 square km
- See also: Franks
Franconia used to be comprised of many independent principalities and petty duchies and knighthoods until it became part of Bavaria around 1806 (different territories were annexed by the Wittelsbachs at different times but 1806 is the commonly accepted "overall" date) as a result of the Napoleonic Wars. This has two main consequences: first, the dialect and religious composition of two neighbouring 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 "colonisers" 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. On the other hand places like Aschaffenburg are linguistically close to neighbouring regions. Coburg in turn was one of the several petty states that were considered "Thuringia" prior to its creation in early Weimar times, but decided in a 1920 referendum to join the state of Bavaria rather than Thuringia, in part due to feeling more Franconian than Thuringian. In short, the cultural borders are a bit fuzzy around the edges.
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 a high number of speakers 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. Immigrant languages such as Turkish and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian can be found in some parts of the bigger cities, particularly Nuremberg.
Nuremberg, Bamberg, and Würzburg all have frequent ICE service from most routes in Germany. There is less frequent service to Coburg. The Nuremberg-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 opened for a big upgrade in December 2017 and now Erlangen is only three hours by train from Berlin. Erlangen also has some ICE service which often also stops in Nuremberg. The infrequent ICE service to Bayreuth has been stopped and there isn't any long distance train service forthcoming until the line gets electrified. 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 more for any additional person up to a group of five) apply.
Connections due east to the Czech Republic are unfortunately in a bad state and none of them is electrified. You'll often be faster taking a bus, especially if your final destination is Prague. Cheb is however reachable relatively easily by train.
The only relevant airport within this region from a traveler's point of view is in Nuremberg (NUE IATA) with service to many destinations around Europe and connecting service via Frankfurt Airport all around the world. While the airport is not directly connected to the railway network, the Nuremberg main station can be reached via subway (U-Bahn) in about twelve minutes and there is a direct bus to Fürth and Erlangen main station respectively. The airport has seen a few carriers establish bases there in the mid to late 2010s and low cost carriers offer a pretty wide range of European destinations from NUE.
From Frankfurt airport (FRA IATA) 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. In many cases flying to Frankfurt and connecting by train is less hassle where no direct flight is available.
You might also consider flying into Munich airport (MUC IATA) 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 forty minutes travel time) before you can change onto a train to Nuremberg, unless you go by car or bus.
While Prague airport (PRG IATA) 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 Nuremberg (leaving right in front of the main station) with Prague. For domestic buses within Germany see long distance bus travel in Germany
The Main Donau Kanal runs from Bamberg in the North through Nuremberg and onwards to Bavaria.
By public transport
A big chunk of Franconia and also some parts of the neighbouring 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 declared a world heritage site in 2012.
- 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.
- The Franconian Switzerland (Fränkische Schweiz), along with the Saxonian Switzerland it is one of Germany's top destinations for rock 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. Getting a ticket infamously used to require connections, years of patience or loads money, but has been much easier since the introduction of a web-based system in 2013.
- There are numerous beer- and wine festivals all over Franconia, the most visited among which is the "Bergkirchweih" or simply "Berch" in Erlangen, that starts the Thursday before Pentecost (Pfingsten) and lasts twelve days. But almost every village has its own "Kirchweih" (often locally known as "Kärwa" "Kirwa" or other dialect terms) and Nuremberg (Volksfest) Bamberg (Sandkärwa) or Forchheim (Annafest) also have their well known festivities.
- Spectator sports are popular with big soccer (1.FC Nürnberg and some international matches) and track & field events held in Nuremberg's Max Morlock Stadion. Other popular teams and sports include Basketball's Brose Baskets Bamberg (several times German champion), (team) Handball's HC Erlangen (play their 2016/2017 home games in Nuremberg) and Ice Hockey's Nuremberg Ice Tigers (two times German vice champion). The second most popular team of soccer in Franconia, enjoying a storied rivalry with Nuremberg is SpVgg Greuther Fürth.
- Franconian Switzerland is a karst region and as such has several caves.
Schäufele is a traditional dish in Franconia. It is made from the pork's shoulder meat. Normally it is then served with potato dumpling (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 their peculiar round shape to a medieval decree deeming anything "beyond the plate" to be the bishop's property, thus prompting medieval monks (then 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 specialty that may only be produced in or close to Nuremberg under a special recipe. They are traditionally eaten around Christmas, but nowadays can be found by mid-September and don't be surprised to find specialised 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 Hollandaise 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 competition with bigger brands and their marketing budgets have taken their toll especially in the 1970s and 80s. There is a slight resurgence with some craft-beer like start-ups reviving names and traditions of long gone brands as well as starting anew from scratch. Breweries in Franconia lists breweries, beer cellars, brewery museums.
Many Franconians like to point out that there is Bierfranken (beer-franconia, especially Oberfranken and big parts of Mittelfranken) and Weinfranken (wine-franconia, mostly Unterfranken and the area close to the Main river). While the latter is a comparatively small region in terms of area the wine of Franconia can certainly compete with most other German wines and the famous Bocksbeutel (a special form of bottle, that looks like a male goat's ... bag, hence the name) is an excellent 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 neighbourhoods 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 know what you are doing as accidents happen from time to time.
As everywhere soccer games can get a little out of hand and fans may become hostile when drunk or after a lost game. This is especially true for the Derby (local parlance for a rivalry game between close geographic neighbours) between Nuremberg and Fürth. Of course 99% of Fans are peaceful and only want to support their team, but there are always exceptions.
- 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
- Thuringia; While there is a defined administrative boundary (which for forty years was identical to a section of the "iron curtain"), the cultural border is a lot more fluid with Sonneberg (already in Thüringen) often considering itself Franconian, culturally