Germany: Medieval Rothenburg
Travel Period : 14th July 2013
Location: Rothenburg Ob Tauber, Bavaria State (German: Bayern)
After Würzburg Residenz, we were excited to reach this preserved medieval town which thrives with tourism. Before, we had only read some information about it as we wanted to keep an element of surprise.
On arrival, we stood there for a moment, looking at the high stone walls which created the walled town. Due to research on the towns along the “Romantic Road“, we wanted to see for ourselves the beautiful architecture and experienced a walk in a real medieval town (It’s a different feeling walking in a real one).We had also heard about a Night Watchman’s tour and wanted to do it for the evening.
Entering the small stony entrance, we came upon a clock tower with stairs. Dar wanted to go up so Vin took him up to the top of the stairs and came back down after. This little action made me took notice of the tower which came in handy later.
The buildings were lovely with a historical feel, especially houses with triangular roofs and wooden planks crisscrossed on the walls of the upper storey. This is a feature of German old houses and you could get them as models in shops. Walking on the cobblestone paths, we enjoyed the feeling of stepping into medieval fantasy.
Except, the people we encountered were all dressed in modern clothes like us so we get a knock back into reality when we see them. *smile.
Coming from BurgFest and having visited several old towns, we were used to medieval architecture. However, Rothenburg is quite unique as the entire town was full of historical buildings and none modern-looking. Churches, Town Halls, Resident Houses, Restaurants, Tavern etc. Residents still live in these historical houses constantly preserved or renovated, so they are not just abandoned displays nor museum.
In fact, this quaint little town was used for filming several times. According to Wikipedia, it was the inspiration for the village in the 1940 Walt Disney movie Pinocchio. Filming was also done in Rothenburg for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011).
Marktplatz (Market Square) Town Hall
Reaching the “Market Square” after asking several people for directions, we found a large square on a sloping ground. Interesting architecture dotted the sides of the street and housed mostly restaurants or cafes.
The huge Town Hall was opposite but under renovation. Hence, we chuckled as we saw the large printed cloth of ‘what-it-was-supposed-to-look-like’ covering the structure.
It’s quite nice of the authorities not to disappoint tourists like us who only have this one day to visit the place and need some photographs. The Square thus look aesthetically pleasing and inviting.
The Rathaus (town hall) is a notable renaissance building. The rear Gothic part of the building dates from 1250, and the attached front Renaissance building was started in 1572. This building served as the seat of government for the city-state during the medieval ages and for the city of Rothenburg since the formation of the federalist government. Source: Wikipedia
It was around 7 plus pm when we reached here after our short exploration. As the Night Watchman’s tour had not started, we decided to get a Gelato to eat. It took a while to queue and we gave up waiting.
There was a pamphlet on display about a watchman tour and on reading it, we discovered we might have mistaken the timing for the tour! It had already started while we were queuing for the ice-cream!
Feeling deeply disappointed, our mood soured. We came for nothing…we told ourselves. Finally, we decided to have dinner but walking along and checking out the restaurants, nothing interested us.
Feeling frustrated, we came back to the Town Hall Square again and it was then, that we noticed many people still waiting on the steps of the Town Hall. Curious, I suggested to go near it. Reading a noticeboard placed right in front of the door, we realised we were mistaken! There were several tours by different people and the real Night Watchman’s tour, the one we were waiting for, is accurately starting at 8pm!
By then, a number of people have gathered in the Square waiting, so we were further convinced.
Eventually, we bought an ice-cream for Dar and shared while sitting on the steps.
Night Watchman Tour
The ‘Night Watchman’ soon appeared with a sharp weapon in his hand and a candle lamp. A large crowd of people gathered in front of him as he introduced his ‘job’ and livened up the atmosphere. He started describing the history of the town and brought us around, pointing to several historical structure and explaining the story behind them. With a booming voice, he interspersed the lively stories with jokes, making the entire group laugh out several times. It was intriguing to us to learn about Rothenburg this way.
He told us about how Rothenburg was closed off for nearly three hundred years to the outside world as tourism and trading ceased, preserving itself in the 17th-century state. It thrived again later when artists and traders came in 1880s. We heard about how the U.S Assistant Secretary of War saved Rothenburg from being aerial bombed and completely destroyed during World War II, because he knew this was a beautiful town worthy to be preserved.
Due to the large group of people, he was not able to bring us around to many places as he had to wait for many people to assemble. That was a small disappointment as I felt I only saw a few places before it turned dark. We paid up the amount for the tour after he ended it as we had enjoyed his talk a lot.
Due to the lack of time, we didn’t have a chance to walk one round of the walls, not go on top of it too. We were quite tired after our dinner and gave up climbing high. However, one could go up the Town Hall Tower which is open daily for visitors to climb. At the top of the tower, there is an admission fee of 2 euros to enter a room with a scenic view of almost the entire town.
It was already 9+ pm when we finished the tour and we settled down to a Bavarian dinner in a restaurant, in the Town Hall Square. Vin ordered Pork Knuckle which wasn’t quite crispy enough and I shared some pasta and chicken dish with Dar.
After dinner, we made our way back to the car to return to our hotel in Würzburg.
As it was a Sunday, many shops were not opened and there were no night activities. Darkness soon descended and the area felt deserted once we left the Town Hall Square.
We took a path and reached a clock tower, only to realised that it was not the right exit!
A moment of panic there as we tried retracing our steps and finding the correct clock tower. I was glad Dar wanted to climb the clock tower earlier because we might have missed the details when we walked past, in our excitement to check out Rothenburg. I took a look at the photo we took of the clock tower we entered (scroll to the top to see the picture) and remembered it had a flight of metal stairs leading up (This one was wooden).
The street was quite dark with dim lamps and I was worried as we were the only three walking. Occasionally, one or two people would be walking towards us or in front as we turned down different paths but we wouldn’t be able to ask them, since we do not know German nor know the name of the entrance we came from.
Fortunately, we kept calm and continued looking. It didn’t take us long before we found the ‘right’ tower and went back to the car. It would be a disaster to walk for long on the dark pathways in unfamiliar territory. The alley ways looked almost the same!
It had been a long day and driving back to Würzburg took quite a while.