G3VGR ALTMÜHLTAL PANORAMAWEG     Treuchtlingen – Solnhofen     

On May 21st, I caught the 09:00 Monday morning flight to Munich, from where 2 trains took me to Treuchtlinghausen, arriving around 3PM. The weather was hot (28C) and sunny. I was booked in for three nights at the Pension Tschernach, conveniently located a short distance from the Bahnhof. After checking in at the pension, I went for a stroll in the nearby Kurpark before dinner at the Grüner Baum. Treuchtlingen used to host quite a few breweries in bygone times. Now only the Brauerei Strauss in the nearby village of Wettlesheim remains. Oddly, their beer seems difficult to find in Treuchtlingen. The Grüner Baum is no exception and instead sells Felsenbräu Bier, from a solar powered brewery in Thalmannsfeld, about 25Km away. After a few glasses of Hefeweizen and a substantial Schäufele, I felt very pleased at having chosen the Altmühltal Panoramaweg for this year's walk.

Next morning, I walked back through the Kurpark and along the Altmühl riverbank to join the Panoramaweg. The weather was again hot and sunny. I still felt bloated from last night's enormous meal - a large amount of pork and potato dumplings certainly take a lot of digesting. After crossing the river, I saw my first signs of the trail and followed it uphill through some forest, over the Weinberg and down through some fields to the village of Dietfurt. From Dietfurt, the trail led me steeply back uphill through a forest to the Galgenberg and I continued on a forest trail along the plateau with occasional glimpses of the Altmühltal through gaps in the trees. I reached a crossroads the end of the Hollerstein plateau from where I had a great view of the picturesque town of Pappenheim, which is overlooked by the ruins of Burg Pappenheim. The town of Pappenheim was originally a statelet of the Holy Roman Empire and sits in a loop of the Altmühl. Pappenheim's Altstadt has survived the last few centuries quite unscathed and has been well preserved. It is still surrounded by parts of the medieval defensive wall. I made my way down the Adam & Eve Weg and crossed a bridge into Pappenheim. Unfortunately, the town wasn't looking its best as many of the streets were dug up for works to the sewage system. I stopped for coffee at the Solnhofer Klosterbrot Café and sat in the hot sunshine admiring the old buildings around the Marktplatz. After my short break in the Altstadt, I left the town over the Stadtparkbrücke to cross the Altmühl again, then another steep climb through a forest was rewarded by a fine view over the Altmühltal. A high, narrow trail, following the arch of the Altmühl, led me along the Zimmerner slope heading towards the village of Zimmern.

This was my first experience of walking along a Wacholderheide (Juniper heath) Centuries of grazing have caused the natural tree population to disappear and allow semi-arid grasslands and juniper heaths to grow on the slopes along the Altmühltal. Since 1974, traditional sheep farming has been practiced in the area again to preserve the landscape and the resulting biodiversity. The sheep are of great importance: as well as cultivating the landscape, they provide gourmets with the famed "Altmühltaler Lamm".  I enjoyed some good views across the valley from the ridge between Pappenheim and Zimmern. The trail bypasses Zimmern, but I was hungry by now, so stopped off in Zimmern for lunch at the Gasthof Zum Hollerstein, located next to the river. I was impressed to find that such a tiny village has a brewery, located just a stone's throw away. Even more impressive is the Hecht Brewery's mission statement "Wir lieben Bier und so brauen wir es auch" (We love beer, so we also brew it). The Zum Hollerstein's biergarten has a landing stage for canoeists. As I sat there drinking a beer, it occurred to me that paddling down the Altmühl would also be an attractive proposition and I'd seen a canoe rental place nearby. Maybe an idea for another visit, but now it was time to walk on to Solnhofen. From Zimmern, the trail led into forest until breaking out onto another short section of Wacholderheide and I could now see Solnhofen before me.

Although the village of Solnhofen isn't very scenic, despite being located in a nice setting, it is world-famous for its limestone plates from the nearby quarries. There is a valuable natural heritage in the plates: these lime deposits of the Jurassic sea preserved animals that formed 150 million-year-old fossils. I walked through the town and crossed the bridge over the Altmühl to Bahnhofstraße, where I first visited the ancient ruins of the church Sola-Basilika. A little further along the Bahnhofstrasse, my second stop was in the Mayor-Müller-Museum to admire the impressive "World of Stones" collection. The museum houses many fossils of sea creatures, small dinosaurs and much else. Some exhibits are from the collection of the former mayor. Particular highlights were a fossil of Xaveropterus, a recently discovered juvenile dinosaur, and also the primeval bird Archeopteryx. As well as fossils, the upstairs room of the museum houses limestone plates used for lithography. I found my museum visit to be absolutely fascinating and was completely enthralled by the magnificent preserved fossils. After the museum closed, I made my way to the nearby Solnhofen Bahnhof, from where it was just an eleven minute train ride back to my base at Treuchtlingen.

After a shower and change of clothes, I went for another stroll through the Kurpark before dinner and stumbled across an Imbiss at the crazy golf course. I was delighted to find they had Wettlesheimer Bier, so I tried the excellent Märzenbier. Today was the Grüner Baum's Ruhetag and as I couldn't face another enormous portion of another Bavarian Schmankerl, I settled instead for a Tagliatelle at the Pizzeria San Marco.

Ready to go - My trusty Deuter 30L backpack and contents
Starting off along the Altmühl riverbank at Treuchtlingen
Through the forest from Dietfurt
View across to Pappenheim
Pappenheim - Altes Schloss
Daran erkenn’ ich meine Pappenheimer
The Zimmerner Hang
Wacholderheide near Solnhofen
Altmühl at Solnhofen
Sola Basilika
Fossils from the Jurassic lagoon
Archeopterix - sixth specimen
Treuchtlingen - Schloss

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