We had only allocated one night for our stay in Wurzburg so we had devoted our last morning there to check out a few more places before rescuing our hire car and hitting the ‘Romantic’ Road. By having a quick look at the notes on the towns between Wurzburg and Rothenburg, we had decided we would stop for lunch in Bad Mergentheim and have a quick look around the town before heading on to Rothenburg.
It was definitely lunch time when we arrived at Bad Mergentheim and we were lucky to find a car-park close to the centre of town. One of the confusions of place names in Norway and Germany is that there are plenty of towns in both countries where names start with the word “Bad”. This is confusing to English speakers but we just needed to replace the “Bad” word with the “Spa” word and names become understandable. It is a small town as Germany towns go of 23,000 citizens so it wasn’t surprising that we could have lunch and a reasonable look around the centre of town before heading on to Rothenburg.
Where we were able to get a park in town was just up the road from the number one tourist site of B.M. called the Mergentheim Palace or Deutschordensschloss. This palace was the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights between 1526 and 1809. They were one of a number of Knightly groups that were generated to protect Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Land in the 12/13th centuries. Presumably by the time they settled in this town in the early 16th century, the crusades were well and truly over and the organisation was by now a religious group who didn’t ride horses or carry lances any more. We passed this huge building on the way to the central piazza.
We strolled down to the Market Place in the Altstadt area of town. We found a café for lunch and spent a lovely half hour dining and admiring the Baroque architecture of the large, four or five storey houses that surrounded this Marktplatz. Not just being happy with one gorgeous building, note the scenario in the image on the left where they decided to build the same design twice; twin houses! There was the usual fountain in the square, the sculpture in the centre appeared to be a knight with his flag and shield, perhaps a Teutonic Knight, referencing the town’s long history. In the background of the twin houses stands St John’s Church.
It was in 1826 when a local shepherd discovered the mineral springs in the area and the town’s fortunes were made as spas were expanding as places for Germans to travel for holidays and to receive the health benefits of the waters. One very positive side-benefit for Bad Mergentheim, is that being a spa town, it became a medical town as well so it became a town during World War II used as a care-centre for wounded soldiers. This meant that the town wasn’t bombed during the war, saving both its inhabitants and the historic buildings of the town from the destruction that so many other towns and cities of Germany suffered during the war years.
As can be seen on the map of Bad Mergentheim early on in this blog, we decided when we finished lunch that we would stroll around one of the main old city blocks and then go and have a quick look at the town’s castle.
As also can be seen on the map of the town, the diagram of the castle shows that it was a large ‘castle’ consisting of a series of smaller edifices built around a significant open space in the centre. The earliest building in the complex was completed in the 12th century and the other sections of the castle were added over the next centuries. The most significant building in the castle is the Palace Church which was completed in 1735 and for the last 200 years it has been a Protestant Church.
We did not have a lot of time to inspect the town’s castle as the pressure was on to continue on to Rothenburg. Overall, we had enjoyed our visit to Bad Mergentheim and enjoyed our lunch and our stroll around the Altstadt with its lovely buildings.