One day you sit at your desk in Southern England wondering how it is possible to afford living in London. A month later, you find yourself in a small village in Northern Bavaria. Life happens that way sometimes. On a quest to find a shop nearer than a 35 minute walk (unsuccessful, by the way), I have explored most the surrounding countryside. When it is not raining, Bavaria is absolutely stunning in autumn.
Let me introduce you to Franconia first. The Franks went around conquering Europe ca. 8th century CE, and while the name is now more closely associated with current-France, current-Germany was arguably their homeland. The duchy of Franconia was created ca. 10th century CE (see a cool map here), and subsequently divided into Rhenish and Eastern Franconia. In the 12th century the Bishop of Würzburg was formally ceded the ducal rights in Eastern Franconia (so it became more of a geographic term, rather than a national one). The next big thing that happened, was in 1803, when Franconia became part of Bavaria, because of its alliance with Napoleon. In any case, part of Bavaria, Germany, or whatever else – as a result of this direct link to the Franks, the Franconian ethnic identity is still very much tangible in the region. They have an interesting dialect – and while I am not (yet) aware of the subtleties, it apparently requires a dictionary.
Most villages here have their origins somewhere around the 11th-12th century CE, and many of them come with a schloss (castle). One of these is Atzelsberg, first mentioned in 1394. It was destroyed several times, during various wars, and the present building dates to 1705. It was owned by the state for a while, but today it is back in private hands actually (imagine living in the German version of Downton Abbey.) Nowadays it is mainly used for events, like really beautiful weddings – and apparently they are hosting a murder mystery dinner in February haha.
The ‘biggest’ village next to mine is called Langensendelbach (took me a few days, that name; like Eyjafjallajökull). The earliest things ever excavated there were two silver Germanic necklaces from the 5th century CE. The settlement’s name first turns up in 1062 (and its neighbour ‘Bruningeshoven’ in 1158), and it belonged to Bamberg for a long time. The first bakery was opened in 1613. They take their bakeries very seriously around here. Langensendelbach has two at the moment. And no supermarket, or even a corner shop. Just two bakeries. (Not that there can ever be too many bakeries, mind!) Then a series of very sad events follows: the region was devastated by the 30 year war, a large number of witch trials, and the plague(s). Once the village re-organised itself focus was mainly on development of the church, and the school.
On an information board next to the catholic church there is an aereal photo taken just 50 years ago; when the whole village was still made up of wooden houses. A few of them survive, dotted around the place. They only started to really work on things like sanitation and roads around that time too. In 1986 it gets a bank. Things are a little bit behind on times here. Neighbouring Bräuningshof still does not have even one bakery! The crest of Langensendelbach is a key crossed by a sword, with a cherry blossom flower. The first are the attributes of St Peter and Paul, whom the church is dedicated to. The latter is intended to represent the fruit and vegetables grown in the area. It is red and silver, the colours of Bamberg.
Oh fyi: If you ever go on a tour of the villages of Franconia (because why wouldn`t you!) stop at the Langenseldelbach bakeries to pick up lunch. Do a compare and contrast between them. Supermarkets and restaurants are very sparse in the area so do not waste your energy trying to find one of those.
Last but not least: Igelsdorf. Still on the hunt for a shop, we ventured north (again, with little success). While Igelsdorf is big enough to get to belong to the Erlangen municipality, it does not even have a Wikipedia page (not even in German). Maybe I should start one? Sad, because last year its celebrated its 666‘s birthday. I did manage to Googlebook an account of the village dating to 1565, printed in beautiful medieval letters. It has seemingly always been one of those villages in the middle of the countryside; maybe bordering something more important, and a nice stop to feed your horse and have some lunch. Rather worryingly, when you Google Image the place, it comes up with images of car crashes…
Facebook finds no places to recommend for eating, drinking, shopping, sightseeing or hotels. However, I can tell you that the Facebook is wrong! You can forage along the various farms for fresh seasonal foods (at the moment onions, potatoes, apples and eggs). It also seems to have a popular Kerwasburschen – which is… a party club?? I feel like it could do with a Magic Road or St Kevin’s stump something like that though. < Update November 2015 > Behold, on a lovely forest walk, amidst the fire-y red and orange autumn leafs, we did stumble upon a historical rock. Make of it what you will!