Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a little medieval town that is almost too beautiful to be true. Known for its exhilarating Christmas Markets, it also served as an inspiration for Disney’s Pinocchio and parts of the movie Harry Porter and the Deathly Hallows were filmed there. It’s 1.5 hours away from Nuremburg and easily reached by train.
At the splitting point of Castle Road and Romantic Road, it is one of the rare places that was not completely destroyed during World War II like Nuremburg and Dresden. Rothenburg was only partially destroyed because the U.S Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy, recognized its beauty, offering to not bomb the rest of town in exchange for surrender. The then town mayor Thömmes accepted and the town is now so well preserved that it is reliving the medieval experience from more than 1000 years ago.
This is the Roder Tower; it’s the closest entrance into town if you are coming by train.
Rothenburg is quite small and easily strolled around by foot. If you have a bike, it would have been nice but not necessary. One of the first places you will encounter is Market Square, where boutique stores and cafes flourish.
Notable buildings in this area include the Town Hall with two distinctive architectural styles – Gothic at the rear and Renaissance at the front. The former City Councilors Tavern with the clock is now the Tourist Information Office located right next to the Town Hall.
The Historical Vaults are underneath this building, providing insights to 30 years of war in the dungeons.
The Meat and Dance House (on the left) once held dual fuctions where dances were held on the top floor while meats were sold downstairs by the butcher and hence aptly named. St Mary’s Pharmacy is on the right. Geroge’s Spring is rightin front of the two buildings.
St Jacob’s Church.
Kathe Woflhahrt’s Christmas Store is in the same vicinity with a life-sized wooden nutcracker soldier at the entrance to greet you. I don’t celebrate Christmas yet entering the store, seeing all the glowing ornaments, wooden toys, giant neon Christmas trees, it was quite magical. Some parts of the store are completely dark with flickering light bulbs, and figurines of Santa Claus and his reindeers are sleighing across the ceiling, it is instantly Christmas no matter which time of the year you visit.
Most part of the store does not allow photography, so you’ll have to see the fantasy yourself. The Christmas Museum is adjacent to Kathe Wohlfahrt.
A popular dessert you would find all over town is the “schneeballe”, or snowball. Cafes are selling them at every corner and I just could not resist buying one. It’s a ball of deep-fried pie crust, coated with chocolate that’s just the right size to hold in my palm. As yummy as it looks, I didn’t enjoy it that much as the pie crust was not crisp enough, a tad mushy and the chocolate was way too sweet. It was filling – I couldn’t finish one on my own and what was supposed to be a snack became my lunch.
Another popular snack would be these giant pretzels that are even bigger than my face.
By this point, a lot of people stop exploring further to the spital tower and spital bastion, as there are no shops in that area and it seemed very quiet there. I actually quite liked this part of town without the hustle and bustle.
Designed in a figure of eight with two inner circular courtyards, the Spital Bastion is the strongest fortification the town has.
the Holy Ghost Church,
and the cute yellow building, the Hetereiter House, was where the infirmary kitchen was on the ground floor, and where the infirmary manager stayed on the first floor.
Moving to the castle gate on the west, the area is on high ground with beautiful gardens that overlooks the Tauber Valley, which is also essentially where Rothenburg ob der Tauber got its name from.
It is called the Castle Gate but the castle no longer exists as it was destroyed by earthquake in 1356. The mask the remains on the gate wall is the defense mechanism back in the old days, where hot tar was poured onto the intruders through the mouth.
As charming as Rothenburg is, it also had some terrifying Jewish history even before the times of Nazi Germany. The Jews were brutally burnt to death in 1928. The Jews suffered mostly an ill-fate through out the years, sometimes coexisting with Christians, sometime they were expelled from the city and by the time Hitler came into the picture, the Jews were were completely wiped out in Rothenburg. The square memorial, depicting Jews in flames now stands in front of St Blais Chapel.
Rothenberg ob der Tauber was truly enthralling and I enjoyed every minute of it. Don’t fall asleep while you are on the train getting there or coming back, because the country side with flat plains and yellow flower fields are just as enchanting.
Enjoy more photos below 🙂
Rothenburg Tourism Website
Getting there (from Nuremburg by Train) : Requires at least one transfer at Ansbach. Trains leave Nuremburg to Rothenburg ob der Tauber frequently. Check Deutche Bahn for train details.