Monday, April 29, 2013

Eurotrip: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

I'm not sure where I first learned about Rothenburg ob de Tauber, but I'm pretty sure my buddy Rick Steves had something to do with it. We tend to think alike, me and Mr. Steves. So when he claimed that one could try to find a more quintessential German town that overdosed on cuteness, but that person would fail, I knew I had to visit this town. Rick - you were right! This place just ate us up with cuteness!

We spent most of the day traveling across Germany to reach Rothenburg, and I admit that I was a bit nervous about what we would find. Angie trusted me (perhaps skeptically) that we would like this city, so the pressure was on. Upon arriving, we went to our guesthouse and were instantly embraced by the owner, who called himself "Chef" and mapped out a little route for us. We were able to make some calls (yay working internet!) before heading off to dinner at a potato restaurant. Indeed, every dish had a potato component and it was delicious. As we walked into town, we were instantly overcome with cuteness. I didn't know a walled city could be so adorable, but it is!

After dinner, we headed to the town square for the infamous "Night Watchman" tour. Rick recommended this, as well as Chef, as well as countless people on TripAdvisor. We figured it would be a cheesy and fun way to spend our evening. It only took a few seconds of him talking that we realized we were in for a treat. The night watchman told us the history of Rothenburg as we walked around the inner city. He was hilarious and informative, and I am so thankful we did this tour. I'm not quite as thankful for the blurry picture below, but it's the best I have.

Anyway, the night watchman told us how Rothenburg was once one of the most prosperous towns in Germany, and had staved off attacks for nearly 500 years before the Catholic Army took over the city. He then explained how the city was pour, and overcome by diseases and plagues, until the late 19th Century when tourism picked up. He also told us how Rothenburg was saved from Allied destruction during WWII because a US general had grown up with a picture of the city that his mother had purchased during a visit, and he gave the Nazis the opportunity to vacate instead of blowing it up. While the Nazi general was away, a commander risked his life and surrendered to the Allies, therefore saving the city from destruction. However, 40% of the city had been destroyed by Allied bombs days earlier. In order to rebuild the city, people or organizations could "buy" meters of reconstruction. Due to the worldwide love for the city, Rothenburg was rebuilt and is back to being a tourist magnet.

Another funny story was about this little tavern on "Hell" street, marked by the little golden devil in the front. He said that back in old times, this street was called Hell because there was little light. Nowadays, he tells people to "Go to Hell" when they need a good place to relax.

The Night Watchman tour is definitely one of my favorite touristy things yet! Rick had mentioned that Rothenburg is overrun with tourists by day, so if given the opportunity one should stay at night. I'm so glad we followed his advice so we could experience the Night Watchman.

In the morning, Angie and I spent a few hours exploring the city with daylight. We started off exploring the city walls, admiring the views of the city and the stones in honor of those who had donated to the city's reconstruction. Notice the MGM stone!

The bridge below, located outside the city walls, was where the Nazi major surrendered to the Allied general.

We learned all about the city gates during the tour, so it was fun to revisit them in daylight. One of my favorite aspects of the gate doors is the "man door" in which men came back into the city past curfew, after paying a giant fine to the guards. The doors were so tiny because if they opened the larger gates, the city was susceptible to enemy attack.

Let us in!!!

We spent more time exploring the city and found more city walls. Like I said, this town's cuteness just ate us up!

Lastly, we needed to try the famous town snack - schneeballen. Our best guest is that these little balls are made with pie crust, rolled into balls and dipped in chocolate, sugar, or something else delicious. They were good indeed, although I think eating just one was plenty to satisfy my life's schneeballen cravings.

The city map says Rothenburg ob der Tauber is "Romantic but Real." We liked to say it was on cute crack. I am so glad we detoured over to Rothenburg! While we won't visit much of Germany's romantic road, I think we will see the highlights with this city and with our next adventure. Stay tuned!


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