TOWN HALL TOWER
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most beautiful towns in Germany. It is on the Romantic Road and a visit here is like a trip back to the Middle Ages. The town invites you to take all kind of pictures, but if you are looking for the best views of this beautiful town, we recommend you to climb the Town Hall tower.
The Town Hall is one of the main monuments of the city and is located on the Market Square or Marktplatz, which has always been the centre of the city life, the place of meeting and celebration of festivals and important events, such as the weekly or the Christmas market.
In ancient times it witnessed wars and even the beheading of 17 agitators during the German
Peasants´ War, but also it was visited by several monarchs and illustrious personalities.
The town hall (Rathaus) consists of two buildings, the newer part is the Renaissance façade which can be seen from the Marktplatz itself. This part was built during the XVI century after the previous building here was destroyed by fire in 1501. Under this beautiful façade, decorated with a balcony full of flowers, are the stairs that serve as a meeting point for tourists and locals. You can spend hours sitting on them just watching the bustle of tourists in this city.
While we are on these stairs, you will see in front of us the famous artistic clock of the Council Tavern (Ratstrikstube).
The carillon from 1623 represents the city´s best-known historical event, whereby Mayor Nush accepted the challenge of Count Tilly, who had taken the city during the Thirty Years’ War, by drinking a 31/4 litre of wine in one gulp, to save his city from the sacking of enemy troops.
Let´s talk again about the Town Hall. Just behind this first Renaissance building, there is another, older, original XIII century building in Gothic style.
It is in this second building that you will find, in addition to a beautiful Imperial Hall, the 65-metre high tower that offers the most spectacular and complete views of the city.
To get to the observation deck you have to climb about 200 steps. The spiral staircase will become steeper and narrower.
Despite the number of steps, it is not too complicated until the last stretch, as you will have to exit through a small door that forces you to get down on your knees.
If after climbing those 200 steps you can still breathe, the views will take the last breath away. You´ll have the whole town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber at your feet.
The viewpoint costs 3 euros.
SCHNEEBALLEN OR SNOW BALLS.
When you first hear about Schneeballen or snowballs, the first thing you think is that it is some kind of cold dish or dessert. A kind of ice cream, perhaps? Well, no, you will be totally surprised, because despite being called snowballs, it has nothing to do with snow or cold. It is one of the most typical German sweets and originates from the small town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Schneeballen are made from shortcrust pastry which is rolled into strips to form a ball the size of a fist. The dough is placed in a special iron container, similar to a round metal tea strainer, which helps it to keep its shape, while it is fried in plenty of hot oil.
One of the best-kept secrets of how Schneeballen are made, and what gives them their characteristic taste, is that the oil in which they are fried is not butter or sunflower oil, but Bizkit. Biskit is a vegetable fat made from hydrogenated coconut oil, which is widely used in German cuisine. These balls are then coated with the traditional icing sugar. The round shape of the pastry and the white colour given by the sugar is what makes it known as a "snowball".
In the past, these sweets were eaten mainly at big events such as baptism and weddings, but today they can be found in almost every bakery in the Bavarian region. It is also a very characteristic sweet for the Christmas season and is easy to find at most Christmas markets throughout the country.
The streets of Rothenburg are full of bakeries selling Schneeballen, and some of them even offer tours to show tourists how to make these typical sweets.
They have become a popular souvenir to buy in Rothenburg and the best thing is that they last up to 8 weeks once they have been made. You will have a problem to choose as you will find them covered in dark chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate with almonds, filled with marzipan, etc. If it helps you to decide, the traditional Schneeballen are the ones covered in white sugar. Be sure to try them, they are delicious. But be careful, they are also very addictive.
OUT-OF-SEASON CHRISTMAS SHOPPING
Walking down Rothenburg´s main street, you´ll see many shops focused on selling Christmas items, regardless of the time of year. It´s a town that lives for Christmas.
The best Christmas shop in Rothenburg is, by far, Käthe Wohlfahrt. It is a chain with several branches all over Germany, but its origin and the largest in the whole country is in this charming town. It is open all year round and has become a tourist attraction.
It is located next to the Market Square and you can clearly identify it by a beautiful red van full of gifts parked right outside its door.
As we enter, we are welcomed into the world of Christmas by a large nutcracker doll a symbol of good luck and is used to drive away evil spirits.
Inside you can hear the sound of Christmas carols and find a wide range of Christmas decorations: coloured balls, wooden nativity scenes, trees, candles, glass ornaments, tablecloths and trays, calendars, cards... All of them are handmade products, hand painted and very original.
In the centre of the shop, you´ll find one of the most spectacular objects, a recreation of a Christmas village with a huge Christmas tree that reaches all the way to the ceiling. Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take photos.
You will also find a spectacular museum dedicated to Christmas which opened in the year 2000 and in its 250 m² of surface we will find an endless number of historical decorations from different states of Germany and from different centuries. You will be surprised to see decorations used to celebrate Christmas 100 or 200 years ago.
There is a fee to visit the museum and the opening hours are from 10 h to 17 h.
If you finally decide to buy some Christmas ornaments, we recommend you one of the most authentic items: the Christmas pyramid or Weihnachtspyramide in German, which you can easily find in any of the shops in the city. It is a small carousel in the shape of a pyramid with Christmas elements (angels, sleighs, nativity scenes...), made of wood. At the top there is a propeller that is moved by the thermal current produced by the heat of candles. It has holes in the lower part to place the candles. The propeller make the rest of the carousel move. It is one of the most special and popular Christmas decorations in German homes. In many cities, giant pyramids are even placed in the streets as street decorations, with figures on a human scale.
Address: Herrengasse 1
Rothenburg ob de Tauber is one of the most beautiful villages in Germany. Walking around is, undoubtedly, the best thing you can do. Take a leisurely, unhurried walk, stop to observe every detail, every corner that seems to be frozen in time. Strolling among its marvellous coloured half-timbered houses, you will find numerous corners where you can take a nice photo. It will surely be the perfect city to play with your camera. But don´t miss the place that has become the most photographed spot in all of Germany. You may have seen it on Instagram a thousand times, it´s a classic and a symbol in Germany. It is the most used image on the covers of tourist brochures and guidebooks in this country.
The most sought-after photo for tourists is a small triangular square, called Plönlein, which means flat square. Here you will find one of the most beautiful images of this charming village. A house that seems to have been taken out of the Grimm brother´s fairy tale, Hänsel and Grettel, flanked by two towers and a fountain in front of it. To the left is the Siebersturm tower, with a clock in the middle of it, and at the end of the street to the right is the Kobol Zeller tower, both dating from the XIV century. All this magical scenery is set against a backdrop of picturesque, carefully restored bourgeois houses and cobbled streets, originally dating from the XVI century.
Have you found the place? Great!
Now there´s only one thing left to do: take the photo without anyone else in it. Rothenburg is a beautiful place, standing still in time and seems to be taken out of a fairy tale. But not everything is perfect and the disadvantage of being so famous is that it is sometimes crowded. Rothenburg has so many tourists that it´s practically impossible to take the picture without the heads of several strangers popping out from behind you.
If you manage to do so, don´t forget to send us your photo. You´ll be the lucky one.
THREE IN THE SAME SQUARE
Due to the majesty of the main square of Rothenburg, sometimes we miss details that we would like to tell you about: the beautiful St. George Fountain and the spectacular building behind.
This fountain is the most important, deepest (8 metres) and largest one in the city (can hold up to 100,000 litres of water). It is also the most beloved fountain by the inhabitants of the city, because thanks to it they were able to overcome fire on numerous occasions,
that has always been one of the main enemies of the city. The houses are made of wood and are all very close together. Therefore, if a fire started in a kitchen, it was very common for it to spread quickly from one house to another. Hence the importance of the fountains. Just behind the fountain of St. George is one of the most gorgeous buildings in the square. A beautiful half-timbered house in red, known as the Fleisch und Tanzhaus. A curious name, isn´t it?
It was built on the foundations of the old town hall, which was completely destroyed by fire in 1240. The name refers to the festivities that were held on the first floor, where the inhabitants came to dance, but also to the city´s butchers who sold their wares on the ground floor.
Although the building needs no further decoration, at Easter the inhabitants’ put flowers and coloured eggs. Today it still retains its festive character, as it houses the storehouse of all the costumes used for the Rothenburg Historical Festival, Historisches Festspiele Meistertrunk.
The Master Draught Festival has been held in the streets of the city every year since 1882. It takes place on Pestecost weekend, when the town is transformed into an open-air theatre. All the inhabitants of Rothenburg take part in this medieval festival by wandering through the town for four days during which they retell the historical event that saved the town from destruction when it was taken in 1631 by Christian troops commanded by Count General Tilly.
And to complete this fabulous artistic ensemble, take a look at the green half-timbered building next door. This is the former mayor´s house, the "Jagstheimerhaus", named after the mayor who had it built in 1448. In addition to being the mayor´s dwelling, it has always been used to accommodate Rothenburg´s most important and prominent visitors, including the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Today there is a pharmacy on the ground floo which is one of the oldest in Europe, and has been open on the same site since 1812. As you can see, it is a place with a lot of history and very picturesque that nobody should miss.
MEDIEVAL CRIME MUSEUM
Do you like horror films? Well, there is nothing more terrifying than the reality that our challenge takes us to, the Medieval Museum of Crime. Would you like to go back in time to the Middle Ages?
In this museum we will learn about the judicial processes of the Middle Ages, the judicial law of this time said that a person could not be condemned to death if there were not two witnesses who had witnessed the facts or, failing that, without the confession of the condemned.
In order to obtain such a confession, various instruments of torture were used to make people confess the unspeakable. At this time, justice and torture were linked. Sometimes, to find out whether or not someone was guilty of a crime, the Ordeal or Trial of God was used.
The accused underwent a test, such as holding a burning iron in his hands or placing his head in buckets of water for a long time. If he did not cry out in pain and came out alive, it was considered that God believed him to be innocent and that he should not be punished.
The museum opened in 1977 in a building that was formerly the cloister of Saint John Monastery. Curious, isn´t it? Especially if we consider that the Holy Inquisition, which belonged to the Church, was one of the institutions that made most use of these torture devices.
The Inquisition was a group of various institutions that were dedicated throughout the Middle Ages to the persecution, detention and punishment of heretics.
Heresy was a very difficult crime to prove and therefore torture was used to obtain the confession of the accused.
Torture was supposed to be carried out whenever there were indications of guilt and in no case could it result in death or mutilation, although this was not the reality.
During the process there was always a notary, a judge to testify to the confession and a doctor to check that it was carried out correctly.
Inside the museum there is a large collection of artefacts:
The iron maiden, believed to be a German invention. It consisted of a kind of sarcophagus with sharp-pointed irons inside. The accused was put inside and the door was closed, and the irons were stuck all over his body, but without touching his vital organs, so he bled to death.
We will also see the shameful masks which were iron masks usually with nails that hurt the tongue of the accused, generally blasphemers, liars or gossiping women. They were put on before taken to the town square, where they would be mistreated by the crowd.
Nail chairs, torture rack, butterfly bolts, baptism cages, anal pears, breast rippers; these are just some of the terrifying instruments you will see in this museum.
The entrance fee is 7€ and it is open from April to October from 10 h to 18 h and from November to
March from 13 h to 16 h.
Address: Burggasse 3-5
Rothenburg was an important Protestant centre and was therefore subdued by General Tilly´s troops in 1631. However, within its walls we find the church of St. James or St. Jakobskirche, a church that was and still is on the Franconian route of the Way of St. James.
The bronze sculpture of the apostle on the outside is clear evidence of the passage of hundreds of Catholic pilgrims through this church, as is the masterpiece inside, one of Germany´s most important gems of late Gothic art.
The main treasure of this church is the altar of the Holy Blood of Christ, carved in the early XV century by one of Germany´s greatest artists, Tilman Riemenschneider.
Tilman Riemenschneider was one of Germany´s most versatile sculptors. He was a great master of sculptures in stone, but above all in wood. He has even been compared to Buonarotti himself for the expressiveness and lively movements with which he enriched his works. He took meticulous care with every detail of the vestments, every fold, in such a way that they appear real and moving. The Altar of the Holy Blood of Christ is the first major work attributed to Tilman Riemenschneider, executed in lime wood in 1490. In the centre we find the representation of the Last Supper, with Judas in the centre of the table, to the right we see the representation of the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and to the left the Mount of Olives. At the top we can see the figures of the Virgin and the archangel Gabriel, recreating the scene of the Assumption.
The altar was designed to hold a reliquary with a drop of Christ´s blood, which is on the cross held by two angels in the centre of the upper structure.
One of Tilman´s main characteristics was that he delivered his sculptures unpolychromed, which was very common at the time. The only touches of colour are the black of the eyes and the red of the lips and wounds. He played with light to enliven the sculpture without the need of paint, taking advantage of the changes in the natural light that passes through the windows of the church and which illuminates the different elements of the work at specific times of the day. If we are lucky enough to visit it on a day when the wind pushes quickly the clouds away from the sun, we can see how the figures seem to come to life as the light changes. Something we would not be able to appreciate if the work were in a museum, where the light is uniform.
The importance of the altar is not only because of the meticulous work carried out, but also because it is in exactly the same place for which it was intended and designed.
Admission to the church costs 2.5€, and it is open Monday to Saturday 9 h to 17 h and Sundays and public holidays from 10:45 h to 17:15 h.
THE SURVEILLANCE ROUND
One of the walks that no one should miss is the one along the city walls that encircle the entire old town.
Rothenburg´s city walls are 3 kilometres long, have 42 towers and several gates. The wall is 9 metres high and extends underground to prevent access to the city through enemy underground tunnels.
It was first built in 1172, took 173 years to complete and has been restored several times. It was last restored after damage suffered during the bombings of World War II.
On 31 March 1945, 40% of the city was destroyed by US air force bombing, but fortunately the historic centre and its main monuments were spared. After the war, the destroyed buildings and the city wall were rebuilt. When you walk along the wall you can see the metal plaques with the names of the people or companies that helped with their donations to restore it.
Most of the wall can be done on foot and you will pass through different gates:
• Burgtor or Castle Gate: rebuilt after the earthquake of 1356. This gate stands out for having a small gap through which only one person can go, known as the Needle´s Eye. It was possible to let someone enter or leave without opening the main gate and avoid unnecessary risks. Today it is the gate that gives access to the Castle gardens.
• Galgentor: gate through which Count Tilly entered when he invaded the city during the Thirty Years’ War. Behind this gate was the gallows until the XIX century.
• Klingentor: this is next to St. Wolfgang´s Church and in the past you could climb the tower from inside the church. There were even casemates under the church to shoot at the enemy in case of danger. The tower is more than 30 metres high and had a copper boiler that served as a water reservoir.
• Spitaltor: the gate leading to the bastion of the Hospital, the newest defence, built in the XVI century. It consisted of a church and a hospital with several courtyards and passages on different levels, it also had 7 consecutive gates, ending with a drawbridge and a large moat. You should read the curious inscription at the entrance, which reads: "Peace to those who enter, health to those who leave".
You can climb the ramparts free of charge from any of the city gates. It´s a spectacular walk, and a good option if it´s a rainy day because the walkway is covered by a wooden canopy.
The city of Rothenburg looks more like a set than a real, living city. Everything is in its place, every corner seems to stand still in time. Only the amount of tourists that visit it every day doesn´t match with the city. It is a tourist attraction, so much so that it is practically impossible to find a place to escape and spend a few minutes without seeing anyone.
The Castle Gardens are perhaps the most peaceful spot in Rothenburg. These gardens are right in the centre of town, but are less frequented by tourists than anywhere else. That´s why we recommend it as the best place to sit and relax for a while. Although there is no longer any trace of the old castle that once defended the city, this park is still called the Castle Gardens, as it was here that the Hohenstaufen Fortress once stood.
The castle was built in the XI century by the Counts of Komburg and was destroyed by an earthquake two centuries later. Although the origins of Rothenburg date back to a small church in the X century and it was located one kilometre from the present town, it was in the XI century, with the construction of this castle, that the population began to grow around it, giving rise to the site we know today as Rothenburg. All that remains of the castle is the Burgtor, the castle tower. If you look closely at this tower, you will find a stone mask from which boiling oil or stones were thrown at an enemy who tried to enter. Inside you can also discover a small door, so narrow that only one person could pass through it, called the Needle´s Eye.
The park is small, but big enough to take a pleasant stroll among trees and plants and to escape from so much stone. There are several paths with benches, where you can sit and rest and forget the present for a few moments. Strolling through it you will discover its geometric garden from the XVII century, where there are four statues alluding to the four seasons of the year. There is also a viewpoint from which you can enjoy incredible views of the city skyline and the Tauber River valley.
And if you´re lucky enough and the sun is shining, don´t hesitate. Grab some bread, sausage, a good beer and prepare your pick-nick in this beautiful park. Admission is free.
Address: Alte Burg
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