Rich in culture and history (we are in Europe, after all), and located in northern Bavaria, rests the quintessential Franconian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Translation: red fortress above the Tauber. This former fortress town provides an imposing and still enchanting silhouette to the staggering amount of visitors who pass through each year. Why is Rothenburg o.d.t. so wonderful? Here are my top 10 reasons for you to visit, at any time of year!
1. Classic Medieval architecture
Half-timber homes, cobblestone, and prime selfie-taking scenery. How perfect! Picturesque! Post card worthy! Of course with a backdrop this beautiful you have to watch out for selfie sticks but it's worth the risk if you ask me.
2. A town frozen in time
With town history dating back to 970, much has gone on within the stone walls and defensive towers of the town. One of the most impacting times was during the Thirty Years War. In 1631 the (Catholic) Count of Tilly needed shelter for his 40,000 troops in the (Protestant Lutheran) town of Rothenburg. The town denied access and stood to defend themselves but quickly fell to Tilly's troops. After winter ended, Tilly's soldiers left Rothenburg ransacked and in shambles, but spared the lives of the city council and mayor- you'll read more about that later! In 1634 the bubonic plague swept through Europe, killing many more. Without townspeople, resources, or money, Rothenburg stopped growing thus preserving that Medieval style old world charm we all love.
3. Those WALLS, y'all
The most well preserved of the walled towns of Germany. Back in the Middle ages, Rothenburg was Germany's second largest town with a whopping population of 6,000 so naturally to protect its people, a fortified wall peppered with watch towers went up- still standing to this day. To step back in time walk the mile of wall, all above the overwhelmingly adorable cobble stone streets.
4. Preservation during WWII
It's Spring of 1945, and German soldiers are stationed in Rothenburg to defend it. In March bombs were dropped over the town, and responsible for killing 37 people, leveling 300+ houses, 6 public buildings, 9 watchtowers, and 2,000+ feet of the wall. U.S. officials were empathetic about the historic value of Rothenburg, and ordered U.S. troops in the area to not use ammunition in the siege of the town. Instead, six American soldiers marched to the gates of Rothenburg carrying a white flag and a message:
"We are representatives of our division commander. We bring you his offer to spare the city of Rothenburg from shelling and bombing if you agree not to defend it. We have been given three hours to get this message to you. If we haven’t returned to our lines by 1800 hours, the town will be bombed and
shelled to the ground.”
The local military commander Major Thömmes gave up Rothenburg to American occupation, ignoring Hitler's instructions for all towns to fight at all costs which saved the town from total destruction by U.S. artillery. Good thing, because I would be seriously bummed if this national treasure was lost!
5. Gardens and scenic views
During warm months, surround yourself with gorgeous gardens (perfect wedding crashing opportunity) and during the winter, an expansive Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas market). Perfect for an afternoon stroll or watching the sunset, if you choose to stay overnight.
6. Famed Pastry
Rothenburg is home of the "schneeball", comprised of pastry cut into strips, formed into a ball, fried, then dusted with confection sugar. Flaky and just the right amount of sweet, a schneeball is a fun treat to smaple, but I still prefer a slab of apfelstrudel with my mittagessen kaffe!
8. An expansive medieval torture museum
In Rotheburg you'll find one of the most unique museums: The Medieval Crime and Justice Museum. More expansive than the section located within the Tower Of London! One of the most interesting sights to see were the large assortment of shame masks and the infamous iron maiden- basically an upright casket with spikes inside that impaled the occupant as it was closed. In most, the spikes were strategically placed in the most inopportune of places (I won't go into detail) and the device was SO atrocious that it was thought to be a cautionary fable.. but here she is, hiding out in Rothenburg.
8. Stress free planning
Take everything you stress about when planning a trip and completely
forget it. Walkable? Check. Hotel accommodations? Check. Ample parking? Check. Affordable? Check. Rothenburg is it, then! As you arrive in town, follow the frequent signs to the large parking lots, only a few minutes walk from the walls. Did I mention restaurants? Check! We had an amazing traditional German meal in Rothenburg, followed by a slice of apfelstrudel with a view! Hint: if you'd like to be certain that you adhere to the budget friendly restaurants, don't pick the ones with signs in multiple languages that cater specifically to tourists. Though it may make your life a little easier, you will certainly pay for that convenience. Sights to see around town are mostly kostenloss (free) or require only a few euros for entry.
9. Panoramic portraits
220 steep steps separate you and an incredible view of the red rooftops and sprawling surrounding countryside in this corner of Bavaria. In the town square, head to the Town Hall Tower and delight yourself with these panoramic sights for only a few euro. A cautionary tale: if you are plagued with a case of claustrophobia, skip the tight twists and turns of stairs you will find here, you'll also find great selfie backdrops from the wall.
10. A legacy that lasts
Rothenburg has had a rocky past, yet always endured. Remember good ol' Tilly who's soldiers ransacked Rothenburg during the Thirty Years War? Upon arrival, Tilly threatened to eliminate the mayor and city council, but tensions were eased over delicious local wine, resulting a bet: the Mayor and City Council's lives would be spared if the Mayor could drink an entire tankard (large cylindrical cup similar to a stein) of wine in one drink. And just like a frat boy at spring break, the Mayor chugged and chugged until the tankard was empty, all 3.25 liters of wine were gone. Bravery. Courage. Honor. And all of the wine!
By now my love affair with Rothenburg ob der Tauber is no secret. If you've followed my tales for any time now (THANK YOU!) you know there are a few things that make my world go 'round: history, scenery, and last but not least, wine! Rothenburg has all of the above! History spanning through centuries, the cutest of German 'scapes (but seriously, I think Disney's EPCOT park modeled their "Germany" after this place), and the town's livelihood being saved by one courageous man's ability to overcome the challenge of drinking a gallon of wine in one sitting. My hero. Any questions about the town, leave them below, as for me, I'll be training to out-chug that Mayor with my own Rothenburg challenge...
Zum Wohl, y'all!
BON VOYAGE BABES!! XOXO