Rothenburg ob der Tauber:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber ( not to be confused with other Rothenburg’s in Germany) is your quintessentially picture postcard German town. One of the most popular of the many medieval towns on the so called Romantic Road. The road runs 350 kilometres from Wurzburg to Fussen in Southern Germany. It takes in a good number of castles and medieval villages. In its heyday in the Middle Ages Rothenburg was Germany’s second largest town. Just two thousand people live here now. The half timbered houses are works of art but they had messy beginnings. Clay and horse pee was used to make the plaster and the timber frames were drenched in ox blood to protect against termites. The very beautiful window boxes served a dual purpose …. people didn’t smell so good in the Middle Ages so the abundance of flowers near the open windows helped perfume their homes and cover the human odours.
Rothenburg has a close connection to Germany’s Nazi past. Apparently Hitler thought it the ‘perfect’ German town and as such it was held up as an example for the rest of the country to aspire to. Throughout the 1930’s the Nazi Party would organise regular trips to the town from all over the country. Rothenburg grew to personify the ideal German community and family life. This idealism was taken further with the establishment of the Hitler Youth organisation. The sons of Germany were expected to join and then go on to protect Nazi ideals in the army.
German soldiers were stationed in Rothenburg during the Second World War. It was bombed, but the Allied army was well aware of its historic importance and so sent a group of American soldiers in with a white flag to broker a deal with the Germans. They would halt the bombing of the town, if the German troops surrendered. Despite Hitler’s orders to fight to the last, the German Commander did surrender and the town was saved.
Today it is a picture, straight out of a fairytale. Despite the hoards of tourists who throng there you can still find almost deserted cobblestoned alleyways and enjoy history unhindered. One of my most magical memories of Rothenburg came at the end of a stroll down the main street past the much photographed clock tower. You come face to face with the town wall. To the right of the main street are a small set of stone steps that lead down off the street then up into the fortifications. Here in the covered section of the wall we found an old cannon and a wooden cart. The arrow loopholes in the stonework give glimpses of the forest below. The wooden floors are polished with the footsteps of centuries past, its dark, dusty and deserted and we felt as though we had time travelled.
The main square is the perfect place to sit with a Schneeball and people watch. Schneeballs are made of pastry strips shaped into a kind of snowball and deep fried. They come covered in chocolate or cinnamon or sugar. To be honest they look better than they taste but they are a local tradition ….so take one for the team!
If, like me, you’re keen on all things Christmasy. This is the place for you. The famous Kathe Wohlfhart has a huge Christmas store here, as well as a magical Christmas display. Although its pretty pricey, their decorations are a great reminder of your travels, easy to transport and welcome gifts for your mates.