One of the spots we were most excited about visiting during our travels was Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
As it was our second-last stop, the anticipation just kept building and building as we journeyed through the Black Forest, dipped into France, and hopped across to Switzerland.
Our initial plan was to leave Lucerne, travel up through the German border, and then head up the Romantic Road – checking out the tiny towns and old castles. Somewhat like what we did along the Route du Vin.
So, on schedule, we departed Lucerne after another big breakfast, and popped onto the Autobahn – through tunnel after tunnel surrounding Zurich and past Swiss meadows and farm fields. An hour or two in, we realized we were a thirty minute stop from Leichtenstein, so we figured why not head into its capital, Vaduz, and stop for lunch. Besides, it’s only so often that you can tick another country off the list with such minimal effort.
It was a bit of a bore in reality, so we cruised the main pedestrian road and headed onwards – through the Austrian border (stopping to grab a few Milka’s), and then back over and into Germany.
Unfortunately, the signs to the Romantic Road were really quite sub-par, and we found ourselves getting detoured and lost in attempts to follow it. As the night sky hit we found ourselves somewhere in a swarm of dark forest trees, with our GPS failing in its directions, so, we decided to forego the plan and booked it at 160 km/hr to our hotel.
When we finally arrived in Rothenburg, crossed under the old gateway, and parked at our hotel, it was quite the relief. The helpful staff at the Goldener Hirsch gave us the key to our room and we wandered up through the historic maze-like building, unlocked our door, and plunked down on the king sized bed. Again, we were treated to quite the digs, with a modern bathroom and a large seating area, perfect for a few nights stay.
Shortly thereafter, it was time to get up and going, as we had a tour of the town scheduled for 8pm.
We walked out the door and up the cobblestone road, remarking at how quiet the town was and peering into a few shop’s windows decorated in preparation for Christmas.
Before landing smack dab in the town square, where we were meeting our guide.
Now, this wasn’t your usual tour. Instead, it was a walk along the Night Watchman’s route, where in the old days, guards would have patrolled to keep the town safe from harm. When the town’s cuckoo struck 8pm, our guide appeared, clad in traditional gear.
Together, we walked down the road and through the back entrance – where in the old days, latecomers would have knocked on the door past-curfew, crying to get in.
As a group, we walked through the dimly lit streets, learning about Rothenburg’s history and how it was saved from demolition in WWII (which was quite an interesting story). During the war, the first night the town was bombed, the fog was so heavy that the jets could only see the Northwest quarter, saving the majority from destruction. Shortly thereafter, another attack was planned. This time, however, when the US Assistant Secretary of War heard about it, he remembered that his mother had once visited Rothenburg and that she fondly spoke of its beauty and medieval homes. He reached out to the army holed up in Rothenburg, and tried to negotiate a surrender to preserve its historic atmosphere. Luckily, the German war commander was missing that day, and the town’s local military commander agreed to such negotiation and surrendered. This was a big deal because it went against Hitler’s order that all towns must fight to the end, even if it meant total destruction. Had the commander been there that day, the agreement would have never been made and Rothenburg would have been completely destroyed.
By the sheer luck of these two incidents, Rothenburg still stands today. After this story, how can you not believe in fate?
We continued on our journey, past the oldest building in town (with portions dating back to 900), and landed back at the town square. This time, with a new appreciation of Rothenburg’s history.
I highly recommend attending a Night Watchman’s tour during your visit. It’s a lot of laughs, a bit of history, and the chance to get some interesting tidbits from a local. Plus, at 7 Euros, it’s an excellent deal.
Following our tour, we headed into a local bar for some schnitzel before bed.
In the morning, we awoke to the shining of the sun and the perfect warm fall weather for exploring.
We walked back to the town square, this time in the daylight, admiring the colourful houses and wrought-iron signs.
We grabbed a Rothenburg staple – the schneeball, which is basically strings of fried dough, formed into a ball and covered in a variety of toppings. As our trip had morphed into two weeks of chocolate testing, we picked the milk chocolate one and took a bite. Pretty yummy (but heads up, it’s messy).
Afterwards, we picked up where our Night Watchman left off, and walked up and around the fortress wall encompassing the town.
We took turns peering over the red roof tops and into the gardens below, as we walked along the narrow wall, stopping periodically to pick out our favourite homes. Do I see a potential relocation? Perhaps.
Back in the day, the Night Watchman would have walked this wall night after night, protecting the town from danger. As we walked up flights of dark steps and around narrow corners, it was easy to see why this would have been quite the spooky career.
The daytime, however, was a totally different story. The town bustled with tourists and locals and the red roof tops shimmered in the sun.
We walked through the main entrance – a giant stone gateway, peeked into the guard towers, and found ourselves walking along the moat.
Don’t worry though, the water has since been drained and it’s now a beautiful parkway.
Quite romantic, the town was quintessentially German and easy to fall in love with.
Later on, we popped into a few museums and ate the best meal of our entire trip, but I’ll have more on that next post.
The making of this post was sponsored by Tourism Rothenburg ob der Tauber, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. I fell in love with Rothenburg on the first night, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. If you’re visiting Germany, I insist that you make the stop – and if today’s post didn’t convince you, then just wait for the next one! The medieval town is like nothing else, and you’ll never tire of seeing what’s around the next corner. And, if you’re looking for a spot to stay, the Goldener Hirsch couldn’t be in a better location for your exploring needs.