The next stage of our journey along the Romantic Road was the 41 Km from Bad Mergentheim to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Literally, ‘Red Castle above the Tauber’ river). It was a very different type of town from the previous German towns we had stayed at, particularly its geographic setting. It sits on a plateau overlooking the winding river below and the views over the valley from the western side of town are spectacular. It is also one of the three towns in Germany that still have their city walls intact. Burgh in German often refers to a town’s history as a medieval, fortified settlement. The image below is from outside the walls on the western side, looking back at the walls and towers of Rothenburg
It was reasonably early in the afternoon when we arrived at our hotel for the next two days; it was called Hotel Prinz and was inside the walled city on the east side of town. It was right next to the medieval walls so all we had to do when we had settled in was to walk outside, find the nearest tower and climb the stairs on to the walls. The map below shows with purple arrows the direction of our walking on our first afternoon. I have to admit that high walls are not my favourite thing, I prefer looking up at them from ground level. However on this first afternoon I was able to make it to a stairwell on the north side of the town and I was then able to escape down to earth at the start of Schrannang, a street that led directly to the centre of the town.
The photo on the left below is taken with nervous hands from the pavement that runs on top of the wall, revealing great views of the city and out into the green suburbs surrounding the old town. The photo on the right below is where the wall turns left and proceeds along the north side of the old town. This is the tower that can be seen in the distance in the photo on the left below.
The images below are of houses that sit beside the eastern wall so have the sorry burden of being daily examined and analysed by tourists from all over the world.
Before we wandered down off the wall, the view of the old centre of Rothenburg opened up before us. The spires we could see (below left) belong to the St James Church; as its name suggests, it is a church on the pilgrimage route that leads all the way to Santiago de Compestela in Northern Spain.
We climbed down from the walls via the Powder Tower and we made our way towards the spires of St James. This huge church was built over the 15/16th centuries. The area that surrounds the church appears to have been a complex area for a number of centuries with another large church (St Michael’s Chapel) having stood just over the road. Whilst there was plenty of information about these buildings nearby, I was still left confused as I walked on as to whether the beautiful building with the outdoor staircase (below left) was connected to the original chapel that stood here at the end of the 18th century.
We continued on down to the Market Platz, the centre of Rothenburg and a site with an amazing collection of historic buildings. The square is dominated by the huge Rathaus that takes up a large frontage of the platz. The Rathaus buildings were built over a period starting around 1240 and continuing on into the 16th century with Renaissance additions.
The photo to the right was taken from the top of the white tower and gives a good view of the square and the panorama beyond the city walls. The tops of the gothic towers above the oldest section of the Rathaus can be also seen in this photo and to the right of these towers is the area of the platz where the Fountain of St George and the Dragon sits.
There are apparently still 40 wells in Rothenburg and presumably they can still be accessed by fire-fighters if fire breaks out; a disaster in this town of many wooden buildings. Opposite the side of the Rathaus is Herteriches Well which is 8 metres deep and the largest well in this city. Standing above it is a highly decorated pillar which dates to 1608 with the figure of St George on horse-back, killing off the fire-breathing dragon. I presume St George is the patron saint of fire-fighters in Rothenburg.
On the right above is the white Councilor’s Hall that attracts a lot of interest from visitors on the hour between 10am and 10pm. Three levels down from the tower of this building can be seen a clock and on either side are two windows that flip open to reveal the two characters that tell probably an apocryphal tale from the time of the Thirty Years War (1618-48) when Rothenburg was surrounded by enemy forces. The invading General challenges the local Burgermeister to drink a huge tankard of beer, which he successfully does and the town is saved!
There is a lot to take in around the market square and we would return here the next door to participate in a guided tour of the town. But the afternoon was getting away from us and we decided we would continue to explore the main street (Schmiedgasse) off the Market Platz which led down to the most photographed area of Rothenburg, the Plonlein area with its tower, Siebersturm. Along the way was a street designed to attract the many tourists wandering the town but I had to admit that their signs and decorations were particularly attractive. They apparently arose in medieval times when most people couldn’t read so shop signs had to illustrate the ‘wares’ of the sellers.
The tower that dominates the left-hand fork in the road is called in German, Siebersturm (Sifter Maker’s Tower) and was added in 1385 as part of new fortification surrounding Rothenburg. The right hand lane leads to a tower in the outer wall called Kobazeller Tor.
We chose to stop our walk at this point knowing that we could check out more of this area tomorrow. In the meantime we wer getting very hungry and it was time to look for somewhere to eat!