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Last Saturday was one of those days that I wish I could get a do-over for. Start from the beginning. Rewind. So on and so forth. From naughty kids we almost gave up for adoption to using up our 15gb of internet data, all culminating in a car accident on the scary autobahn (you'll have to keep reading to get the nitty gritty details). But, even so, we still went on a fun adventure that needs documenting!
In the Middle Ages, when Frankfurt and Munich were just wide spots on the road, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was a "free imperial city" beholden only to the Holy Roman Emperor. With a whopping population of 6000, it was one of Germany's largest. Today, it's the country's best-preserved medieval walled town, enjoying tremendous tourist popularity (which we definitely got a taste of), without losing its charm. **Apparently we were there on one of the only two weekends a year they have a Medieval Festival - the Reichsstadt Festival which celebrates Rothenburg's history - no wonder it was so gosh dang dern busy!** During Rothenburg's heyday from 1150-1400 it was a strategic stop on the trade routes between northern and southern Europe. Today, the great trade is tourism: two-thirds of the townspeople are employed to serve you. While 2.5 million people visit each year, a mere 500,000 spend the night. There are several Rothenburgs in Germany, so we had to make sure we were going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber!
We arrived around 9:30am, parked our car in the P-1 lot, then used the free WC (because you usually have to PAY to use the potty) before venturing inside the walled city. Could this BE any more picturesque?!
I like to call this the "real" Leavenworth! It looks like a painting!
The Plönlein Tower.
We stopped and got a snack to boost our metabolism. We read about schneeballen (snowball in English, a pastry made from shortcrust pastry and covered in sugar or other sugary kinds of goodness) and I got a plain one before I saw all the different the varieties!
Reminds me of caramel apples from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and how I always got the plain ones until Chris introduced me to the Apple Pie Apple and I haven't looked back since!
Market Square. The Councilors' Tavern is currently under construction, boo. But still a cool looking area.
Built in the 14th century, this church has been Lutheran since 1544. The interior was "purified" by Romantics in the 19th-century - cleaned of everything Baroque or not original and refitted in the Neo-Gothic style.
Up the stairs behind the pipe organ in the loft is the artistic highlight of Rothenburg and perhaps the most wonderful wood carving in all of Germany (or Chris thinks, the WORLD!): the glorious 500-year-old, 35-foot-high Altar of the Holy Blood. Tilman Riemenschneider, the Michelangelo of German woodcarvers, carved this from 1499-1504 to hold a precious rock-crystal capsule set in a cross that contains a scrap of tablecloth miraculously stained in the shape of a cross by a drop of communion wine. The altar is a realistic commotion, showing that Riemenschneider - while a High Gothic artist - was ahead of his time. Below, in the scene of the Last Supper, Jesus gives Judas a piece of bread, marking him as a traitor, while John lays his head on Christ's lap. Everything is portrayed exactly as described in the bible.
We noticed the attention to detail - down to the nails on the horseshoes. Chris was absolutely amazed and stunned by this. As was I. I wish I had taken more photos. Since the lighting wasn't quite right, here's a pic from the internet:
Protruding cornerstone - originally made to protect buildings from reckless horse carts. | Fox in a door in St. Jakob's Church.
Continuing on our walk, we passed many-a-flower.
Flowers flowers flowers everywhere I love love love them!
At the end of Klingengasse Street is an entrance to part of the wall that surrounds the city. We went up the old stairs for a nice view of the city.
Looking out to St. Jakob's Church. Notice the clay tile roofs. These "beaver tail" tiles became the standard after thatched roofs were outlawed to prevent fires. Today, all of the town's roofs are made of these. The little fences (far left, middle) keep the snow from falling and catch tiles that blow off during storms.
Not something you see everyday: a horse-drawn carriage prancing through town!
A real moat to keep out the bad guys! And some vines growing like crazy off the city wall.
It's just pretty. That's all.
These cobblestone streets are no joke! We take Jane out of the stroller going over particularly bumpy parts like this so she doesn't get brain damage.
Outside the walls, looking in - I spy a Fox. | The cutest kids I've ever seen! Seriously, look at how they're looking at each other!
The Medieval town of Rothenburg. Too cool for words.
Next we went to the Castle Garden where the castle once stood - it was destroyed in the 14th century, unfortunately. I do love castles! The views of the lush Tauber River Valley below are... I can't even think of an adequate word, they're that spectacular.
More pretty views that I just couldn't not include.
Exiting the gardens and entering back into the city. Notice the "pitch nose" mask - designed to pour boiling oil on anyone attacking.
A quick peek into the Franciscan Church.
Rothenburg's tallest spire is the Town Hall tower. At 200 feet, it stands atop the old Town Hall, a white, Gothic, 13-century building.
The views at the top were sooooo worth it!
We were entertained by the townsfolk all dressed up in their medieval gear and singing merry tunes while eating their lunch.
More pics from the day:
At this point, we'd been walking around for 3 1/2 hours. It was hot, it was crowded, and the kids were falling apart at the seams. Fox got a bad cut on his leg from a jagged stair step protruding into the road and cried louder and longer than I've ever heard. I swear he was about to throw up from crying so hard. So we headed back to the car, through the throngs of people swarming the city.
We pulled off to the side of the road and tried to communicate with the old trio of people, but they were German and didn't speak a lick of English. I found the phone number for the police in my Rick Steves' book and they took about 45 minutes to show up then another 45 minutes to square everything away. I stayed in the car with the kids while Chris sorted it all out. We weren't at fault so we didn't get a ticket or anything. It was just a cherry on top of a not supreme day and now we have to get our car fixed, somehow, somewhere, sometime soon before we're fined for a missing mirror.
I'll just remember this picture from the beginning of our day and how lovely it is. Maybe we can go back some day and sit here with a cuppa hot chocolate.