The International Writers Magazine
: Bavaria

Rothenburg ob der Tauber
A Medieval Jewel
Susan Fogwell

Rothenburg will captivate you with half-timbered houses, colorful gabled buildings and shop windows decorated with beer steins and wooden nutcrackers. A plethora of year round Christmas Shops will dazzle you with brightly lit trees dripping with ornaments.

Hand carved Bavarian Cuckoo clocks come alive hourly, and the clopping of horses’ hooves on the cobbled streets will entice you into a carriage ride.This walled in city is an exceptional jewel from the middle Ages. It all began with the founding of a castle in the 10th century. Today, it inhabits 12,500 people inside and outside the walls. Arriving by car, it will be apparent that there is no need for one within the confines of the walls. I parked mine during my sojourn. What I found most enjoyable about Rothenburg is the leisurely pace wondering the ancient streets. There’s no need to rush with the fear of missing out on any of the sights. Rothenburg is compact and you can see it in its entirety in two full days. It’s also one of the most popular destinations for German day-trippers. The storybook town lies on a plateau at the intersection of the "Romantic Road," which travels south to Bavaria. A fortified wall surrounds it, and entry is gained via the Kobolzeller Gate.

Images © S Fogwell

The gate’s outside wall is decorated with coats of arms of the imperial city, including the imperial eagle. In the 12th century, the first city walls were built, however, in 1356; an earthquake struck the city and destroyed all of the fortifications. The walls were rebuilt, and were partially destroyed again by bombs in World War II.
Fortunately, an American general hindered total destruction of the city. After the war, the town was rebuilt in the old style and fortifications were restored with the support of friends and well-wishers from all parts of the world. Walking along the wall, you can view the names of people who donated money for the restoration.
Encompassing the town, the wall is approximately one mile and a half long, it took me about an hour to walk around it. It’s an entertaining walk and a good way to get your bearings of the city.Marketplatz, the main cobbled square, is an inviting area surrounded by Patricians’ houses and the City Councillors Tavern. The focus of the town’s life is viewed here.

After meandering around the town’s streets and alleyways, the gothic Town Hall’s steps provide a perfect resting and people watching spot. If you look up from the steps, to your left, you will see three clocks on the face of the tavern’s baroque gable. For a fun diversion, at various times throughout the day, figures appear representing the principal parties in the "Drinking feat," which took place during The Thirty Years’ War.

The shutters open, and figures appear drinking beer from steins. This scene always gets a chuckle from the crowd congregating below. The Town Hall’s interior is well worth seeing as well. As you head for the staircase tower, coats of arms of Rothenberg’s noble families grace the walls. Climb the 214 narrow steps up the tower where you’ll be treated to a shocking aerial view of the entire town. With it’s sea of red roofs and innumerable turrets, towers and fortifications, it’s the highest and best view in all of Rothenburg. Each patrician house in the square has a fascinating tale behind it. A favorite, which happens to be one of the finest houses in town, is the Master Builder’s House (Baumeisterhaus) built in 1596 in the Renaissance style. The ‘steps’ of the gable are ornamented by ‘S’- shaped dragons and particularly noticeable are the supporting figures in the windows of both upper stories of men and women alternately representing the seven virtues and vices. In the lower row, standing next to one another, you’ll see Compassion, Gluttony, Motherly Love and Treachery. It is also worth having a look at the delightful inner courtyard, which is exactly as it was in the 13th century, and which today boasts a café. In addition to the abundance of shops, there are several small, intriguing museums. Don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum. With more than a 1000 years of history, it’s the only museum of law in Europe. Your visit will be enhanced by learning past traditions about the town. Kurt, a volunteer at the museum pointed out an assortment of fascinating contraptions- such as the masks of shame worn by women and men. A metal made mask with a long tongue and big ears, which symbolized gossip and nosiness, was reserved for the women, and for the men, a mask with a long nose, and no cutouts for the eyes. Taking it to the next level, a metal gag was used on nags, and a wooden chair filled with hundreds of spikes was a torture instrument for witches. Kurt explained, "People blamed mysterious witches for such things as bad weather causing crop failures, famine and the plague." "And between 1628 and 1630, witch-hunts broke out and then shortly thereafter petered out." The last legal witch execution took place in 1775.One of the most photographed spots in Germany is the "Plonlein." A half timbered Hansel and Gretel style house is situated in the center of a tiny intersection, and is framed by the Sieber’s Tower and gate." It’s an enchanting square, which looks like a setting in a fairytale. The 13th century Sieber Tower was built out of huge square stones to protect the confines of the city walls. Toward the end of the day, this picturesque spot is drenched in golden sunlight- an ideal time for a perfect photo. Steps away and through the tower’s archway, is a 500-year-old building, which is home to the charming Hotel Gerberhaus. The small romantic rooms with goose down comforters and nutmeg wood floors are bright and airy. Whether you are in a stenciled room with a canopy bed overlooking cobbled Spitalgasse, or overlooking the peaceful courtyard, the hotel is a real gem in the heart of town. In the cozy dining room, the innkeepers turn out a traditional German buffet breakfast. And their homemade apple strudel is to die for.

Whatever the season, winter or summer, Rothenburg is a must see, which will be sure to enchant and enthrall you time and time again, as it does with me.

If You Go: United, Lufthansa, Delta and American service Frankfurt International.
Getting to Rothenburg: Driving: It’s 111 miles/180km southeast of Frankfurt. The drive will take approximately an hour and a half. Take the A3 on the Autobahn, at Wurzburg take the A7 to exit Rothenburg o.d.t .
Train: Trains run frequently from Frankfurt International to Rothenburg. It’s a ten-minute walk from the Rothenburg train station to Market square/Marketplatz.
Hotel Gerberhaus
Spitalgasse 25
91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Tel +49-9861-94900
Fax +49-9861-86555

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