Blick durch das Bamberger Tor auf den Marktplatz von Lichtenfels in Franken
There’s more than meets the eye!

Lichtenfels is located along the Obermain River, north of Bamberg. The town was once the epicentre of the basket trade. Craftsmanship can be experienced everywhere – at markets, in various exhibitions and through street art. The city also stands for innovation and high-tech

Reading time: 15 minutes

Lichtenfels – Famous for its Basket Weaving

The future is taking root at Marktplatz, or market square. Gold-coloured and made of steel, willow branches rise upwards and intertwine to form a dense tangle. The branches glisten in the morning sun, preparing to completely overrun the glass cubes of an office building.

The futuristic willow grove was the brainchild of renowned architect Peter Haimerl. It was constructed using an algorithm simulating the natural growth of willows. The steel willows were also to be produced using an innovative 3D-printing process. As this kind of technology has not yet been fully developed, traditional technology is being used. The future has long since arrived in Lichtenfels.

Baustelle des Archivs der Zukunft in der Korbstadt Lichtenfels

Basket Weaving Meets High-tech

Over the past few years, technology companies have emerged around the town of 20,000 inhabitants that are market leaders in their fields, particularly in 3D printing for metal. The spectacular willow sculpture serves as a reminder of what high-tech and traditional basket weaving, for which Lichtenfels is known, have in common: their complex spatial design.

“Here, at Marktplatz, the ‘Archive of the Future’ is being built, the private project of a business family from Lichtenfels,” explains city archivist Christine Wittenbauer, who is giving a tour of the city. “It is intended to get people excited about the topics of the future. The building will serve as an office building, but will also be a town for exhibitions, workshops, lectures and more. And it should become a town where people come together and bring new life to the city centre.”

Marktplatz 10: Urban Gardening and Reading Books!

The city guide, who is also the director of the city library, expects the same from another building project. Diagonally opposite, at Marktplatz 10, the new municipal library and tourist information centre is being constructed.

It is a modern building with all kinds of innovative bells and whistles: a sustainable energy concept, a roof garden with urban gardening, a large reading staircase as a place to meet and socialise, a reading café, a creative workshop and the “Library of Things”, a lending exchange.

“We will adopt the concept of an open library. This means you can use your library card to check out books after opening hours,” says Christine Wittenbauer about “her” library of tomorrow.

Blick auf den Oberer Torturm in Lichtenfels, im Vordergrund der Florianbrunnen
Besucher in Lichtenfels am Main in Franken

Upper Gate Tower: Fossils, Views and Vows

Lichtenfels is a Franconian town par excellence. With a charming mix of ornate half-timbered houses, sandstone town houses, modern buildings and the mandatory “Bratwurst-Häusla” food stand at Marktplatz.

You can enjoy a good overview from the Upper Gate Tower at the eastern end of the old town. As a bonus on the way up, the mezzanine floors offer a glimpse back millions of years – of fossils from the Jurassic period, plants, snails, corals, shells and (small) dinosaur bones.

The city’s must-see attractions can be seen through the windows of the former watchman's flat: the Parish Church with its five-pointed tower, the City Palace, the Red Tower and its parapet, Marktplatz and the Rathaus, or town hall, as well as the Lower Gate in the west. And those looking for more than just a view can also have their civil wedding up here.

Cheers Start-up! Franconian Beer from a Workshop Setting

A tour of the city is also likely to make you thirsty – luckily, Upper Franconia is the home of good beer. Thanks to Markus Lippert’s brewery, Lichtenfels once again has its own brewery. The self-made brewer is originally from the software industry and started brewing beer more by chance: in a garden shed with a mulled wine kettle. It quickly became more than that.

“We roll the malt in through the back and the drunkards out the front”

As you would expect from a start-up, production takes place in a garage, a former car repair shop. It is a brewery and pub in one, with a shiny stainless steel brewing kettle, lagering and fermentation tanks, a bar, tables and chairs.

“We roll the malt in through the back and the drunkards out the front,” jokes the brewer with the stately stature with a laugh. Of course, we don’t recommend excessive consumption, but you should try Fränkisch Hell with its hoppy flavour and the subtly smoky Räucherla beer!

Blick in die Lippert Braumanufaktur in Lichtenfels
Basilika und Wallfahrtskirche Vierzehnheiligen in Lichtenfels
Innenansicht der Basilika und Wallfahrtskirche Vierzehnheiligen

The Church of the Fourteen Saints: Organ Music in June and July

A change of scenery. The Basilica and Pilgrimage Church of the Fourteen Saints is located two kilometres south on a hillside. A couple wearing brightly coloured jerseys pedal uphill on racing bikes. She: “Hold on, I want to take another picture.” He, slightly annoyed: “You've already taken a picture of everything.” She: “But not of the front of the basilica.” And it would be a real shame to miss. The basilica with its imposing façade, constructed according to the plans of Würzburg architect Balthasar Neumann and consecrated in 1772, is one of the most important Baroque structures in Bavaria.

A short time later, the picture has most likely been taken and the two return. Cycling past, she can be heard exclaiming: “I bet an organ concert here would be awesome...” Her words would certainly be music to Georg Hagel’s ears.

The friendly basilica organist and regional cantor, whom the reporters are meeting in the basilica, invites us up to the gallery. “Our organ was completely renovated in 1999. It has 5,000 pipes, seventy stops and four manuals. It’s a great symphonic organ,” says the musician happily. You can hear the heavenly sounds at concerts every Friday in June and July.

Das Dorf Klosterlangheim bei Lichtenfels in Franken

From a Baroque Monastery to a Monastery Village

The basilica is dedicated to the Fourteen Holy Helpers, which were three women and eleven men from late antiquity who died as martyrs. They serve as patron saints and are invoked by the faithful for help. A sign on the altar, which is situated in the centre of the church and is populated by the saints in the form of baroque figures, reveals their areas of expertise. St Catherine helps “when wisdom is lacking in study”, and St Eustace is deployed to “ward off affliction in marriage”. The work to be done is unlikely to dry up any time soon...

The basilica was built by the Cistercian Abbey of Langheim. The Nothelferweg, or the Trail of Helpers, where steel columns provide information about the saints, runs five kilometres to the east into Leuchsenbach Valley, to the once magnificent monastery complex.

In the course of secularisation, it was abandoned in 1803 and largely demolished. Even the helpers were powerless. Langheim Monastery then became the village of Klosterlangheim. Baroque building remains are reminiscent of the glorious past.

Lichtenfels: The Boomtown of the Basket Trade

The weaving trade in Lichtenfels is glorious, but by no means forgotten. Weaving is an ancient craft and has long been the economic foundation for the people living along the Obermain River. The willows from the Main valley provided the raw material that was later imported.

“Business really took off from 1846, when Lichtenfels was connected to the railway network,” says Christine Wittenbauer. “Many basket traders moved to Lichtenfels, and the products travelled all over the world by rail. We have sold our wicker goods as far away as the USA,” says the city guide proudly.

Today, basket weaving is an intangible cultural heritage in Bavaria

At the peak, fourteen trading houses were active and thousands of craftsmen were “working from home”. They would deliver their baskets to the traders on Saturdays, and there were special trains.

At the beginning of the 20th century, almost 4,000 carriages of wickerwork left the station every year! By the middle of the century, basketry began to lose its importance. Today, basket weaving is an intangible cultural heritage in Bavaria and Lichtenfels is home to the only vocational school for basket weaving in Germany.

Korbwarenhersteller Augustin Friedrich flechtet einen Weidenkorb auf dem Flechthandwerkermarkt
Körbe auf dem Flechthandwerkermarkt in Lichtenfels

From the Giant Ant to a Crazy Costume

The people of Lichtenfels also  like to celebrate their heritage: the many baskets hanging from ropes above the alleyways are impossible to miss. Wickerwork encases flower pots and lamp posts, while benches are woven from specially developed, robust plastic.

Elaborate woven figures and objects are sure to catch the eye, such as fairytale characters like the girl from The Star Money or Rapunzel. Even a giant ant can be seen crawling across the ground. And the crazy wicker costumes by artist Berit Ida, which are on display in the City Palace, prove that wickerwork can also be rather wacky.

Every year on the third weekend in September, the city hosts the International Basket Market, a huge festival with a great accompanying programme. And on one weekend in May, the regional wickerwork market welcomes visitors. Today we are here for that very weekend. Artisans have set up their booths at the Marktplatz, offering baskets, as well as other garden and art pieces.

A weaver is showing how a basket is made, from soaking the reeds, all the way to peeling and arriving at the finished product. A basket weaver demonstrates his skills – the “last of its kind”, as a sign reveals.

Weidenkostüme in einer Ausstellung im Stadtschloss von Lichtenfels in Franken

Today’s Wickerwork is Young, Modern and Practical

The young wickerwork designer Jennifer Rubach is also here today. She is from the Ore Mountains, learnt to weave in Lichtenfels and designs baskets, lampshades and furniture. Together with a colleague, she produces ‘S Körbla: “We have created a modern shopping basket. It’s not bulbous, but cylindrical and with distinct lines.

And instead of fixed handles, we use length-adjustable ones. You can carry the basket on your shoulder or by hand,” says the basket artist, describing the “signature shopping basket” from Lichtenfels. Her next project will be a basket for her bike.

Queen Alexandra I of the basket city holds a farewell audience. The head of the 19-year-old from Lichtenfels is adorned with a wickerwork crown. In her private life, she likes to wear willow bracelets and rings. “I like going to Café Moritz, right here at the Marktplatz. It’s a really nice place to meet friends,” the young monarch reveals her tips for Lichtenfels. “And in the summer, the Karibische Eck [the Caribbean Corner] at Lake Ortswiesen is my favourite!”

Alexandra champions wickerwork: “It’s durable, easy to maintain, you can repair it – and above all it’s sustainable, which is very much in vogue today. Look, here, my queen’s basket has already passed through the hands of ten queens and still looks like new!” If that doesn’t speak for the future of wickerwork and Lichtenfels...

Sights to See in Lichtenfels and the Surrounding Area

Blick auf das Stadtschloss in Lichtenfels

1. City Palace

Towering over the rooftops of the old town. The top floor is home to part of the municipal collections. Highlights: Fine Schneyer porcelain – the porcelain factory near Lichtenfels existed from 1782 to 1928 – and “7 Salix and 7 Pleiades”, the unique costumes made of fabric and wickerwork by artist Berit Ida.
lichtenfels.de/ausstellung-stadtschloss (Only in German)

 

Luftansicht auf das Weidenflechtlabyrinth in Lichtenfels

2. The Basket Weaving Circuit

Along a 14-kilometre adventure circuit, twenty-three information boards tell the story of basket weaving, the basket industry and the basket trade at the Obermain River. The path is lined with wicker objects.
lichtenfels.de/pfad-der-flechtkultur (Only in German)

 

Korbwarenhersteller Augustin Friedrich flechtet einen Weidenkorb auf dem Flechthandwerkermarkt

3. International Basket Market and Basket Weaving Courses

The famous Lichtenfels Basket Market, the “Flecht Kultur Festival”, takes place every year on the third weekend in September. It is a combination of an international speciality market, an old town festival, street performances and exhibitions. Weaving courses at various levels of difficulty are offered from March to October. They take place in the City Palace. Duration: from one hour to two days.
korbmarkt.de | flechtworkshops.de (Only in German)

 

Das Deutsche Korbmuseum in Michelau

4. The German Basket Museum

Featuring exhibits from around the globe, it offers a glimpse into the diverse world of wickerwork – showcasing everything from Japanese temple vases and intricately woven balloon baskets to fruit baskets originating from Zambia and contemporary designer chairs crafted in Germany. In Michelau.
korbmuseum.de (Only in German)

 

Das Klosterdorf Klosterlangheim bei Lichtenfels in Franken

5. Klosterlangheim

The monastery existed for around 670 years and was closed in 1803. Evidence of its former grandeur can be seen in the two chapels, parts of the convent, the farmyard and farm buildings. A small museum documents the history, including a large replica. The tomb slab of Barbara von Schaumberg from 1579 on display is one of the 100 outstanding local treasures in Bavaria. Langheim is a project partner of the “Cistercian Monastery Landscapes as European Cultural Heritage”.
lichtenfels.de/heimatmuseum (Only in German)

 

Ortswiesensee in Lichtenfels

6. Oberwallstadt’s Caribbean Corner at Lake Ortswiesen

Lake Ortswiesen is connected to the Main River, making it ideal for swimming in the summer. Visitors can hire kayaks, pedal boats and SUPs. You can also take a boat trip on the Main directly from the beach. There is also the Karibische Eck, or Caribbean Corner, a section along the river where you can relax and enjoy a drink in a deckchair. As they say in Franconia, “Life is better at the beach”.
lichtenfels.de/badesee (Only in German) | karibischeseck.de (Only in German)

 

Blick auf die Basilika Vierzehnheiligen vom

7. The Viktor von Scheffel Viewpoint

From the Nothelferweg, which leads from the Church of the Fourteen Saints to Klosterlangheim village, a path branches off to the Viktor-von-Scheffel-Blick, or the Viktor von Scheffel Viewpoint. It was named after the poet (1826-1886), who was a fan of Franconia and author of the song Frankenlied. From the edge of a cliff, you can look out over the “Garden of God at the Obermain River” and into the Main valley, where you’ll see the Franconian trio of the Church of the Fourteen Saints, Staffelberg Hill and the Banz Abbey. Information boards provide details about the panorama.
genussregion-oberfranken.de (Only in German)

 

Der Staffelberg im Frankenjura

8. Staffelberg Hill

Staffelberg Hill, which is south of Lichtenfels, carries the “Bavaria’s most beautiful geotopes” seal of approval. Its name is derived from the distinctive terrain steps, or Staffel in German. The 539 metre high hill is considered one of the three “Holy Mountains of Franconia” alongside Kreuzberg Mountain and Walberla Hill. It was repeatedly inhabited from the Neolithic period to the time of the migrations. There are numerous paths leading up to the top, where the Staffelbergklause and its beer garden invite you to take a break.

Die

9. The Tree of Bavaria

In the centre of Isling, located ten kilometres south-east of Lichtenfels, is an impressive linden tree. It is approximately 800 years old, eight metres high and has a trunk circumference of almost three metres. It is surrounded by a wooden structure. Until the end of the 19th century, people are said to have danced on two floors. In 2015, the linden tree was voted the “Tree of Bavaria”.

Großer Felsen im Eichiger Felsengarten bei Lichtenfels

10. The Rock Garden near Eichig

The village of Eichig lies high up in the Franconian Jura region, twelve kilometres south-east of Lichtenfels. The two-and-a-half kilometre circuit through the labyrinth of rock is quite an adventure, especially for families with children. In the forest you will discover many bizarre rocks lying next to one another, piled on top of each other or scattered all over the place.

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