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The Romantic Road - Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
As we continue on the Romantic Road about an hour auto drive south of Wurzburg, Germany we come to the charming walled medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber with its criss cross building facades that look like they belong in Hansel and Gretel or any other famous German fairy tale. This is a completely walled city on all sides with arched towers for an entrance on each side of the city. I always enter the city from the west arch and tower and start my visit there. Rothenburg, which means "red fortress above the Tauber River" is situated also in Franconia in Bavaria in Germany.
The town of Rothenburg ws founded in 1170 at the time the Staufer Castle was built. It has a center marktplaz, that has a daily market and the stores, shops, restaurants and gasthouses are around the edges of the market place. Alas, there is no castle to visit here, as Staufer Castle was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1356. But, the walled medieval town makes up for the fact there is no longer a castle in Rothenburg.
The city was completely walled for protection and safety in the 13th century and today you can walk the walls around the town and climb the towers just as the security soldiers did in medieval times. This is a must do! You don't want to miss your chance to walk the walls of a quaint German walled town. The two towers that you can climb to get a bird's eye view of Rothenburg and the Tauber River are White Tower and Markus Tower with the Roder Arch.
When you enter Rothenburg under the west arch and tower, you want to head first straight ahead to St. Jakob Kirche (St. James Church) to see the magnificent wood carved altar by none other than our Wurzburg wood carver Tilman Riemenschneider. Again, the majestic feel of the altar makes your soul want to soar right out of the church rafters. This is the Holy Blood reredos Riemenschneider carved from 1500-1505. This is a must do! You cannot miss this extraordinary altar in an extraordinary church in an extraordinary German town. It is absolutely beautiful beyond belief, and the photo here really doesn't do it justice.
- Tilman Riemenschneider - German master woodcarver and sculptor
Tilman Riemenschneider, master woodcarver and sculptor from Wurzburg, Germany gives us a glimpse into the Middle Ages through his artistic woodcarvings.
Once you leave the St. James Church, we will walk to the marktplaz to see the Rathaus, or town hall. The Gothic part of the building was built from 1250 and it was the seat of the government during medieval times. Today, the town hall tower is opened and can be climbed for an all city view. Next, you don't want to miss Rothenburg's famous Plonlein corner. Here artists the world over have painted and sketched this famous corner since medieval times. This is the corner you will see artistic renditions of all over Rothenburg and they make great gifts for family and friends. This charming corner never seems to change and I never miss it when I go to Rothenburg, which is getting to about ten times now. I never tire of this enchanting walled city.
There are many museums to see in Rothenburg, but my favorite are The Criminal Museum, which shows reproductions of the torture objects and devices used during the middle ages. The kids usually love this one. And take your children to the Doll and Toy Museum, which is one thing Germany does so well. Toys, usually carved of wood, porcelain dolls dressed immaculately, are the highlight for the kids. And, you cannot miss Katie Wolfort's Christmas stores that display Christmans ornaments and gifts all year round. She has two stores each one across the street fronm the other and they are a Christmas wonderland. If there is one thing Germany knows how to do, it is Christmas. The traditional Christmas we have always had at our home has been the German one with the decorated Christmas tree, the train set and the wooden carved Christmas tree ornaments. All this is found in Katie Wolfort's stores. They are expensive, but worth it to be able to trim your tree in these precious wooden tree ornaments. And, of course, you can purchase any kind and size of Hummel figurines here if you are a collector.
When I lived in Germany in the '80's, Rothenburg was a German tourist stop only, so there were not many tourists in the city at all. Today, however, the city is overrun with tourists from all over the world. Because of this, lines are long everywhere, museums, churches, gasthaus' (guest houses and inns) stores, cafes and shops. The German restaurants are very good, however, they do cater to the tourists and serve cappucino and pizza. The first time I saw a pizza joint in Rothenburg, I nearly keeled over. So be prepared for the typical tourist trinket and trash places. If you stick to the German run stores, shops, restaurants, inns and gasthauses, you will have the total German experience, which is what I like to do.
Getting to Rothenburg
If you are driving a private car, another thing I highly recommend is to take the back roads to Rothenburg from Wurzburg. You can go by autobahn if you wish, but you don't want to miss the lush green and vine covered hills in the countryside between Wurzburg and Rothenburg. Take the main road out of Gerbrunn, the tiny village at the top of the hill in Wurzburg. Take a left out of Wurzburg into Gerbrunn and that is the main road. Take this road through Gerbrunn and out the other end of town and you are on your way to Rothenburg. As you are traveling south you will pass vineyard after vineyard and about halfway to Rothenburg, along the Mainz River, you will come to the the lovely villages of Sommerhausen and Winterhausen. They rest on each side of the Mainz River and there is a bridge to take you from one to the other. These two villages are on the Romantic Road. To miss these is to miss the heart of Germany and the Romantic Road. Sommerhausen has two wine festivals, one in the spring when they plant and begin the grape harvest and also in late September, early October when they harvest the grapes to make the wine. Winterhausen also is a winemaking village, but not as quaint as Sommerhausen. These are villages that literally have been standing since the 11-1200's. All the original buildings are intact and they are small walled villages like Rothenburg from medieval times. The people are so friendly and welcoming and the food at the gasthauses here is wonderful and out of this world. Don't miss these two villages for a feel of real German hospitality and ambiance. These two little villages are not as touristy as Rothenberg has become.