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Things are getting complicated. Getting from Neuhaus an der Pegnitz to today's destination, Hochstahl, is no easy feat. It starts with a train to Pegnitz, then a bus to Ebermannstadt. Where there's a bit of a walk and a wait.

Ebemannstadt has two bus stations. One next to the station for normal people and another really just for schoolkids. Which is over the other side of town from the train station. Just as well Ebermannstadt hadn't quite hit metropolis size yet.

The walk between the two bus stations passes conveniently past a Rewe and (almost) the town's two breweries. I stayed in Sonne a few years back and, having liked the beer, it seems a good enough place to quench my thirst. Or rather would have been, as it's shut. Schwanenbräu, the other brewery may seem a good second choice. But their beer didn't impress me before and it isn't the cheeriest of pubs. I went instead next door to Resengörg.

I go for a Hetzelsdorfer Dunkles Vollbier. At amber, it's not that dark. Doesn't have the nutty goodness I go for in a Dunkles, either. But it's wet and has a cheery sprinkling of spicy German hops. It'll definitely do in the circumstances.

On the way to the kiddie bus stop, I drop by Rewe. I'm imidiately convinced of the justness of my decision. The air conditioning is turned up to twelve and it's pleasantly chilly. I stand a while by a freezer cabinet to take full advantage. I can't shelter long. I've a bus to catch. And what do you need for a bus journey? Impulse schnapps. I grab a couple of beers to wash it down.

It's not that far to the bus station, but I'm still sweating like a pig when I arrive. The assembled teenage hordes jab me some funny looks as a sidle up to a bus stop. Even funnier ones when I spend five minutes struggling with the top of my impulse schnapps. I'm sweating like a whole pig sty by the time I finally get it off.

I only have chance for a couple of soothing gulps before my bus arrives. I'm all but trampled underfoot in the charge that follows. By the time I finally squeeze my way on, all the seats are taken. I can stand. Not quite that aged and infirm yet. Not sure I can stand the heat. The bus has no airco and the only ventilation is from the skylights. That only works when the bus is in motion. And you stand in exactly the right spot. I pray for the bus to move, while standing in that spot.

My eyes are firmly fixed on the woods and field bobbing past the window. Don't want anyone mistaking me for a paediatrician. The bus bounces around the backwood villages of the Fränkische Schweiz, the crowds of kids thinning as they jump off in Somethingdorf and Anotherberg. Most aren't more than a few dozen houses. Some are down a dead end.

When only a few kids remain, Heckenhof comes into view. Or at least the turn off for it. The bus doesn't venture into the village. Just too damn small. Two schoolkids get off with me.

The walk is neither long nor particularly difficult to navigate. I told you: this place is tiny. Barely worth the name village. Or even the Scottish play. Yet I still arrive at Kathi-Bräu's beer garden with sweat running in rivers down my back. Bloody weather.

I sit in the shady garden, picking a spot likely to be untroubled by the sun's rays for the next few hours. I'm not going anywhere soon. Not after the trouble it's taken to here. What to choose?

Piece of piss. They only have one draught beer, a Dunkles. And you've probably learned by now that I'm a Dunkles sort of bloke. Kathi-Bräu's is a fetching mid brown hue, topped by a head like whipped cream. Mmm. Yes. Full of Lager Mild goodness. Some sweetness, an undertow of caramel and more of the magic dust of German hops scattered over the top. Slight hint of sourness, though, lurking like a naughty child at the back. I manage to ignore it. Just as naughty children should be ignored.

Once enough Lagery coolant has flowed over my tongue, it's time to check out my beer garden companions. They're a diverse bunch. Pensioner couples out walking or cycling. Dog walkers. Bikers (the motorbike type). Lots of bikers. Who are also surprisingly diverse, at least in terms of age, ranging from mid-twenties to mid-seventies. Why are oldies out here having fun instead of cowering in a workhouse, eking out their final days in poverty? Bloody welfare state.

The sun slides around the sky, beer slides around my mouth, lumps of pork occasionally following it. The birds do their twittering, rather that the twits into their mobile phones. All is peace, harmony and quiet. Except for the teenage boy that keeps riding past on his bike, goading next door's dog, which goes crazy every time he passes. Not a lot to do for teenagers up here, I guess. The adults doubtless dance naked and perform human sacrifices in the woods when life gets too tedious.

I think of the walk. Though the woods and across the plateau to Hochstahl. I hope no pagans are lurking.

Hauptstrasse 29,
91320 Ebermannstadt.
Tel: 09194-767-480
Fax: 09194-767-4880

Hotel-Gasthof Resengörg
Hauptstraße 36,
91320 Ebermannstadt.
Tel. 09194 / 73930
Fax 09194 / 739373

Am Marktplatz 2
91320 Ebermannstadt
Tel: 09194/209
Fax: 09194/5836

Nr. 1
91347 Heckenhof.