Off to the Franconian Lake District by train! On the hike you combine nature enjoyment, bird watching and the Franconian way of life. A dip in the cool water brings new energy. What are you waiting for?
A hiking tour for explorers and nature lovers
Our tip: Please make sure to check your train connection and the expected capacity before you start your journey.
From the railway station in Gunzenhausen, first follow the signs towards the Altmühlsee. Shortly before the bridge on the main road, the official signs for the "Seenländer" begin.
Water and boats accompany you on the first part of this stage. You turn west and soon stand on the outlet structure. A good place to pause before the big hike begins. With a depth of 4 to 5 metres, the structure is the deepest part of the Altmühlsee. From this vantage point you have a beautiful view of the water fountain, which is about 25 metres high.
Continue on. Past the shepherd's island, "Der Seenländer" follows the western shore of Lake Altmühlsee to the Wald lake centre. The path now runs mostly on level ground through shady forest, along the edge of the forest and through meadows and fields.
The few villages near the route are hardly touched by the trail. With the exception of Gothendorf. You cross the village and have the opportunity to take a look at the pretty local chapel. Behind Gothendorf you reach the Altmühlsee-Zuleiter. You won't be following it for long, however, because the "Monte Gero" is waiting for you. Don't worry, you will be able to climb it without mountain boots.
This vantage point was created almost half a century ago from excavated material during the construction of the Altmühlsee reservoir, the flooding of which began in 1985. Today the elevation is overgrown with grass and trees. The plateau offers a wide view of the Wiesmet, southern Germany's most important meadow breeding area, and of the small town of Ornbau. Its nearby district, the village of Gern, was the inspiration for the name "Monte Gero".
It is a short descent from Monte Gero. Only a few minutes' walk away, the bathing beach on the island directly on the Altmühlsee-Zuleiter with beach house, boat rental and beer garden beckons. But maybe you can't wait, because you've already seen your next destination, Ornbau, from above. Follow the signs in a northerly direction and cross the impressive five-arched bridge over the Altmühl to reach the small medieval town.
In Ornau you can have a snack in the beer garden on the island of Gern. (Am Anger, 91737 Ornbau, Tel.: 09826/655340)
With its gates, towers and walls, Ornbau exudes plenty of historical charm. The town was first mentioned in a document as early as 838. The original fortifications of the medieval dwarf town date back to the 13th century. Still visible today are bastions, gate castles, kennels and walls of rubble and ashlar built in the 15th century.
The vaulted, four-arched Altmühl Bridge is Ornbau's landmark and is two hundred years younger. From here, the mighty river front of the city fortifications, the Lower Gate and the Catholic parish church of St. James are clearly visible. The figure of St. Nepomuk, a sculpture from 1736, is enthroned on the apex of the bridge. The shape of the old town buildings is also predominantly from the 18th century, although many of the core buildings are even older.
On the northern outskirts of Ornbau, "Der Seenländer" first leads you eastwards. It passes the Kappelwasen and Heglauer Wasen nature reserves. The surrounding species-rich wet meadows are adorned with countless flowering plants, especially in summer. For a view over this enchanting landscape, over flowering meadows and bird breeding areas, we recommend another tiny climb to the "Schnepfenbuck" vantage point shortly after Hirschlach. From the "Schnepfenbuck" lookout point, follow the signs in an easterly direction to Heglau.
In this district of Merkendorf, everything revolves around cabbage: every year on the third Sunday in September, Heglau celebrates the cabbage festival with the Merkendorf Cabbage Queen, cabbage chocolates and cabbage cheese. Those who register in advance can take part in a guided tour of the Merkendorfer Kraut GmbH farm. Now in its second generation, the family business grows white cabbage, blue cabbage, savoy cabbage and pointed cabbage on around two hectares. The Merkendorf white cabbage is freshly processed into sauerkraut.
However, the history of cabbage cultivation goes back many generations. At the height of the 18th century, Merkendorf cabbage farmers not only supplied surrounding markets. They were also purveyors to the court in the margrave's palace in Ansbach and in the summer residence in Triesdorf. In the heyday of cabbage cultivation, they even went as far as present-day Württemberg.
Did you pick up some fresh sauerkraut at the farm shop or a packet of cabbage noodles with Merkendorf blue cabbage? Go ahead, your last stage is not long. From Heglau, your path takes you south back to the Altmühlsee. Through the Mönchswald forest you reach Muhr a.See. The town's landmark is its historic half-timbered gatehouse, first built in 1551 and renovated in 1752. But you are drawn to the AIZ and so you walk down Stadelner Straße to Schlossstraße, where you will find the Altmühlsee Information Centre on your right.
Culture and nature come together at the AIZ in Muhr a.See. Since 2004, the Altmühlsee Festival has been held every year on the open-air stage from the end of June to the end of July. The audience can look forward to family theatre, modern interpretations of classical texts and plays critical of the times.
In the environmental station of the Landesbund für Vogelschutz in Bayern e. V. (LBV), a permanent multimedia exhibition provides information about the special habitat of Lake Altmühlsee. Many bird species, some of them highly endangered, can be observed at the lake and the bird island. An overview of current sightings can be found on the internet. The LBV offers guided tours of the Vogelinsel nature reserve on Lake Altmühl. (Tel. 09831 4820)
Muhr am See
Have you been able to make interesting ornithological observations around the Altmühlsee? Then you can help to deepen the knowledge about biodiversity. Simply write an e-mail to the LBV.
Is there still time before your train leaves and you want to fill up your energy stores with Franconian specialities after the long hike? Then you are spoilt for choice: you have already passed the sun terrace of the country inn-café "Zur Jägerluck" (Tel. 09831 2833) on Stadelner Straße. Or would you prefer the inn "Zum Hirschen" (Tel: 09831 3940) in the extension of Bahnhofstraße?
To get to the station, head east from Schlossstraße back onto Kirchenstraße. At Rosenau turn right into Bahnhofstraße and follow it to your departure point.