Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bayreuth: Additional notes

My latest video is of the city of Bayreuth, not too far from Kulmbach. In fact, the two videos together represent a whole weekend of filming, which was really tiring.

On reflection, I should have gone there a little later in the year, as many of the fountains were still switched off and crated to protect them from the winter frosts; but for various reasons it was convenient to do it that weekend.

Getting there is fairly simple. By car, Bayreuth is directly on the A9 autobahn .

By train, Bayreuth is about an hour away from Nuremberg.

It has a fairly compact historic centre, much of which is pedestrianized, although this is surrounded on about three sides by a busy ring-road which is a bit of a barrier: at some points footbridges and (rather unpleasant) foot tunnels provide pedestrian access.

The Festival Theatre (“Festspielhaus”) is located a little way north of the station; the Hermitage a few miles east of the city, just the other side of the autobahn. The main car park is at the southern end of the village of Sankt Johannis.

There are a few confusing things about Bayreuth. First of all, there are two “Old Palaces”, one in the city and one at the Hermitage; similarly, there are two “New Palaces”. It doesn’t help matters that the New Palace in the city looks older than the Old Palace in the city.

The buses are also nothing if not confusing. There are two systems: one operates in the evenings and on Sunday mornings, while the other operates at other times. If you’re looking at a timetable and it looks as if the bus you want isn’t running for the next few hours, you may need to look for a timetable for a bus with a different number. That said, the buses are pretty good.

Another thing to watch out for is that Bayreuth is notoriously expensive. And it gets very expensive indeed during the annual Bayreuth Festival, which is usually from 25th July to 28th August: if you’re looking for vaguely affordable accommodation, avoid at all costs the end of July and all of August. If you are a Wagner fan and money’s no object, be aware that ten-year waiting lists for tickets to the festival are not unusual.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Kulmbach: Additional notes

The first “Destination” video of 2017 is up on YouTube — and for this one, I was in Kulmbach. It certainly made a change: usually, small towns are full of timber-framed houses, but Kulmbach was rebuilt in the 16th century and so is more Renaissance. “A bit severe” is how my wife describes it, but I liked it.

A visit to the Plassenburg fortress is a must if you go to Kulmbach: I was there in the morning so that I wouldn’t have to shoot into the sun, but there is a fantastic view of the old town, and the fortress itself contains a few museums that I didn’t have time for but are probably very good.

If you’re planning to do what I did and go up the Rehturm watchtower, it’s really tricky to find. There are no signs in town pointing the way, and striking out in the general direction while looking for roads that have “Reh” in their names, while ultimately effective, is not the best way to do it.

Looking at a map, you might think you need to go due east, but in fact you need to go south and find a road called “Am Rehberg” which takes you to a nature trail, and this takes you right to the tower. The tower, by the way, is free to go in.

Central Kulmbach, showing the historic centre,
the Plassenburg fortress and the train and bus stations.

The historic centre of Kulmbach lies at the foot of the hill on which the Plassenburg is built, and is fairly compact. The train and bus stations are very close by, and there is also a bus that shuttles between the old town and the Plassenburg for those who can’t (or don’t want to) walk.

Although Kulmbach is quite a long way from major roads and railways, it’s not too difficult to get to. The nearest major railway hub is Nuremberg. It’s actually slightly quicker to take a train from there to Lichtenfels and change rather than a direct train via Bayreuth, although there’s not much in it. If you’re coming from W├╝rzburg, it’s easier to take a train to Bamberg and get a train direct from there. There are also connections to Hof.

By road, Kulmbach is a few miles off the A70 autobahn: take exit 24 and follow the signs to Kulmbach.