Two emotions strike you upon entering the gates of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Coziness is the first feeling. Beautiful ancient German buildings and cobblestone streets are snugly wrapped by the red walls of the fortress. The second sense is déjà vu. Aside from King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle, this south-central attraction is the most photographed and painted in Deutschland. When traveling in Germany, Rothenburg is a must stop.
The city’s name is translated as the ‘red fortress overlooking the Tauber River.’ The fort was established in 1070, followed by the town a century later.
Inside the gate is Plönberg, the old market. Shoppers will enjoy both German traditional and several familiar international shops. My favorite is Käthe Wohlfahrt, a fabulous toy store with hand-carved dolls and other wonders. Koboldzellersteig and Spitalgasse, two cobblestone streets, intersect in the market before flowing apart, each tunneling through different tall watch towers. Street sides are beautiful half-timber sided houses with steep gables beneath chalky red roofs. You will discover museums, including an interesting dungeon. Be sure to visit Jakob’s Church, established in the 1300’s.
I recommend a stroll on the ramparts of the old fortress walls. Inside there is a bird’s eye view of the bustling neighborhoods away from the market. Outside the walls are beauty and history, especially as you approach the Tauber River. In 1631 a Catholic army of 40,000 marched from the river and conquered the Protestant Lutheran town during the Thirty Year War. In World War II Patton’s troops approached from the same direction with orders to not use artillery on the ancient city. Over 300 buildings and 2,000 feet of the ramparts were destroyed. Fortunately, the architectural plans survived and ‘red fortress’ revived.
Germans love Rothenburg because it preserves images of their past or ‘good old days.’ The feeling is not dissimilar to Americans flocking to Disneyland to enjoy Main Street USA, give or take a few centuries.
One can enjoy Rothenburg in a day. Consider spending the night. Later I will write about the magic of following the night watchman as he declares, ‘all is well’ beneath soft lights that bathe the fortress walls and buildings.
Put the Rothenburg ob der Tauber on the itinerary while planning your tour of Germany.