CONTRIBUTED BY CALIFORNIA GLOBETROTTER
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a little Medieval town that is still surrounded by its original wall that was built to protect the city in Southern Bavaria. The name translates to “Red fortress above the Tauber”. The Tauber is the small river the flows past the town. My boyfriend and I decided to take a day trip here and it was worth every minute! It is part of the Romantic Road in Bavaria which also leads you to Würzburg and down to Füssen.
The origins of this beautiful Middle Ages town dates back all the way to the 12th Century. It had a lot of prestige and wealth, but was destroyed during the 30 Years War as it was invaded and again during WWII. Both times, the town was rebuilt exactly as it had been. Afterwards, the Black Death came in 1634 and killed many more townspeople, therefore preserving the size of the town as it stopped growing. Little has changed in this town from the times where towns needed to protect themselves from invasion which makes walking through this town more like walking through a story book. Except there were no knights in shining armor…
If arriving by train to Rothenburg, don’t be surprised to find that the train station is incredibly small. From here, follow the people who know their way into the heart of Rothenburg by walking left from the station. Getting to the center takes about a 5-10 minute walk from the station. You will first walk past the outer part of Rothenburg, as over time it has expanded beyond it’s small Medieval wall that still encircle the town, protecting it from any modern day changes.
Immediately upon arriving to the center of Rothenburg, we were greeted by the Röderturm (tower). The main tower is the oldest part of the gate and dates back to the 13th Century! Once passing under the tower and into the city center, immediately to the left are some staircases which you can walk up. We were hesitant because at first we didn’t know if we could walk up them, but then we saw other tourists strolling the walls. Eventually, we would climb up this tower later on our way out of town, as it is the only tower in Rothenburg which can be climbed! This tower has always been an important signaling post should any invaders ever try to breech the town.
One of my favorite little wood timbered houses I saw while walking the walls was the Gerlauchschmiede house which is one of the most famous houses in Rothenburg, near Röderturm. A man named George Gerlauch who was the town blacksmith lived here.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the most perfect idyllic German town. Even Hitler idolized it because he thought it symbolized German perfectionism. Unfortunately, for no other reason other than to bomb a location where many Nazis were, Rothenburg was 80% damaged during the Second World War. Thankfully, many donations were raised in the effort to rebuild the town to its original glory. As you walk along the city walls, plaques are embedded into the walls as a thanks giving gift to those who donated to rebuild this beautiful town.
When we first came into the city center, we stumbled upon Rothenburg’s Volksfest parade. So we stopped and watched it for a few minutes before heading over and checking out the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall).
Before we did too much sightseeing, we decided to blop down at a café just a bit away from the Old Town Hall. There are several small cafes cattycorner from the Rathaus so we sat outside and enjoyed a delicious Schwarzwald kirchen Torte (Black Forest Cherry Cake) with a Café Latte.
The Burgtor, is the tallest tower in the town and was built after an earthquake destroyed the former fortifications. The town then decided that they needed to be better protected and therefore this tower was built. Anyone who wanted to leave generally needed the approval of the Town Council.
Just beyond it the castle gardens which to walk around. The castle gardens was the original site of the Hohenstaufen family castle during the Middle Ages. I highly suggest doing this as it offers a pretty amazing view over the entire town! We could even see where Rothenburg had set up its festival grounds!
There is a Medieval torture museum that I have heard is interesting to visit. I however, did not visit this museum but I did play with this! But that didn’t stop me from letting my inner child out to play for a few minutes! However, should you feel like visiting this Middle Ages Criminal Museum, you will find many blood-curdling exhibits on display for torture and punishment.
All of the buildings look the same with the old wood timbered look that is mostly associated with German architecture. One of the most popular picture tourist destinations is Plönlein with Kobolzeller Steige and Spitalgasse. It felt like we were walking through a fairy tale picture book or like the little Christmas village houses people set up on their tables.
The one thing I loved the most about the whole town was the matching red roofs on every building. You can get a great view of the town if you walk along the entire wall that surrounds the town. Along the way, a few towers will pop up that you can climb to the top of which offer fantastic views of the town. Walking around the wall is completely free, so don’t be shy or unsure if you are allowed to. Climbing the tower however, you must pay a few euros. We climbed up the Röderturm (tower) which gave the best view of the town. As I mentioned before, this tower is the only one that you can climb!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is small enough to visit the entire town in just one day and walk around it twice. That’s what we did before catching the train back home. However, I could have easily stayed a weekend here just to really take it in more. There were plenty of streets lined with adorable knickknack shops and cafes. If there is one thing Germany is really good about, it’s pulling out the tiny chairs and tables and setting them up in front of the cafes so customers can enjoy the sun.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Address: Hans-Sachs-Straße 13, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
GPS Coordinates: 49.3833, 10.183300000000031
Directions: Rothenburg ob der Tauber can be reached by train or by car; for those who drive, there are parking lots within the medieval city’s walls. It’s located in the state of Bavaria, approximately 60km south of Würtzburg.
California Globetrotter originally published this article on her website in May 2013; we are publishing it here with her permission.