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Gössweinstein: A good bet in Bavaria

By DAN BLOTTENBERGER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 18, 2010

Take a trip down the winding roads of Germany’s Fränkische Schweiz region between Bamberg and Bayreuth until you come to Gössweinstein. As you enter the narrow streets of the town, on the left you will see a road leading up to the restored medieval Gössweinstein castle. It is believed to be one of the oldest in the area — from about 1,000 — and although only a small part of its interior is open to visitors, the view from its walls of the surrounding area is worth the trip up the hill.

If you continue toward the town center, you will find Gössweinstein’s main attraction, the Pilgrimage Church of the Holy Trinity. A church on the pilgrimage site dates to the 11th century, although it has been expanded several times. It took on its current form in the 18th century under the direction of the famous German architect and builder Balthasar Neumann. He designed the floor plan, a Latin cross, and created what has come to be considered a baroque masterpiece.

The magnificent art depicting biblical stories on the walls and ceiling inside the church was not complete until 1768 and it is quite breathtaking. When you walk into the church, your sight immediately takes off to the heavens, as was common of the high-ceiling churches of the time. There are also several highly decorated altars around the church.

The basilica is one of the most important pilgrimage churches in Germany and draws droves of people daily. Several people with hiking equipment or Nordic walking gear made the trip by foot — many walk up to 70 miles from surrounding towns — and are joined by busloads of tourists unloading in the city center.

Outside the church, Gössweinstein has plenty of shops that sell stones called Edelsteine that have been rumored to heal ailments such as migraines, and to help babies cope with teething pain. The town also has a toy museum, one of several attractions that will appeal to children.

One of those is for families on a pilgrimage with 18 holes in mind — the Mini-Golf Gössweinstein just outside the town’s center. The course is challenging but child-friendly, offering 18 holes of play for a low price. It is made of smooth concrete so the ball travels quickly, and the extensive layout is quite different from miniature golf courses common in the States.

Next to the mini-golf course is a Pit-Pat course, which charges a small fee. Pit-Pat is a game similar to billiards in which players stand over a table and try to knock their ball into a hole, like mini-golf but played on a billiard table with obstacles.

There are plenty of cafes and restaurants with beer gardens throughout the city to refresh visitors, whether they are pilgrims who have come on foot or families in automobiles looking for a fun place to spend the day.

Directions: From Bamberg, Gössweinstein is about a 25-mile drive via Autobahn 73. Head toward Nuremberg and exit on B470 toward Buttenheim. Follow the road though Ebermannstadt to a T-junction and turn left. Then head straight toward Streitberg, and after going through the town, follow signs into Gössweinstein. There are parking areas throughout the town. To get to the mini-golf course, go straight through the town until you reach a T-junction where a sign will direct you to the course on your left. 

Times: The basilica is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. On Fridays from May to October, guided tours include a short organ recital. The castle is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Easter through the end of October. The mini-golf course is open from 1-5 p.m. daily, closed during rain and snow.

Costs: Entrance to the church is free. Admission to the castle is 2 euros.The mini-golf course costs 3.50 euros for adults and 2.75 euros for players younger than age 6 for the first round, 2.75 euros a person for a second round. The Pit-Pat course is 2.75 euros for everyone. 

Food: There is a large variety of restaurants throughout the city. The castle has a cafe and the mini-golf course has a snack bar that serves cake and beverages. 

Information: See www.goessweinstein.de in German. Call the information office at 09242-456. Find information on the miniature golf course at www.minigolf-goessweinstein.de or by calling 09242-1718 or 09242-92582.

The medieval castle of Gössweinstein has sat above the town in the Farnkische Schweiz for centuries. Now visitors can tour the inside of the castle and enjoy the restaurant and cafe that sit in its courtyard.
DAN BLOTTENBERGER/STARS AND STRIPES

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