One of the basic requirements for successful travel is knowing that where you want to go, is in fact, where you’re going. As obvious as this sounds, travel blogs (including ours) are littered with stories of taking the wrong bus, train, road, or street, and ending up in the wrong place.
This is exactly the conundrum we faced at the ticket machine in the Nuremberg train station. The quaint, Medieval village of Rothenburg was where we wanted to go, but as it happens, there are two Rothenburgs. After some quick internet research we discovered that the city we wanted was Rothenburg ob der Tauber or Rothenburg on the Tauber River, not just plain Rothenburg.
But don’t be put off by all this transport confusion, if you want to see what a successful German village looked like in the Middle Ages, Rothenburg is the place to go.
Rothenburg has all the key ingredients for a successful 15th Century village. Their high-ground location enabled them to see if approaching visitors were friend or foe. A thick stone wall ensured that unwelcome guests stayed outside; the trade routes that passed nearby made it easy for the citizens to make a buck.
The heart of old town is the Marktplatz, which hums with gawking, photo-snapping tourists, who are justifiably amazed at the view. A Gothic 13th Century City Hall dominates the plaza, and the 15th Century Councilors’ Tavern – the tallest, most attractive bar you’re likely to see, sits next door.
These large, official buildings are impressive, but Rothenburg is the perfect place to ramble narrow, cobblestone streets and enjoy lovingly restored houses – from Medieval mini-mansions to cute cottages.
There were tons of fun architectural details. This door reminded us of some of our renovation projects. There doesn’t appear to be a 90º cut anywhere on the door, and the trim job on the bottom of the door is classic. Still, not bad for a 524 year-old house.
Terri snapped this photo of me outside Bilbo Baggin’s house.
We’ve visited a few cities in Europe that have excellent Medieval old towns, but Rothenburg is the largest and best restored town we’ve seen. It’s off the beaten track and a bit tricky to get to – the bad news is that it takes 3 trains and 2 connections to get there (with only 4 minutes to change trains) – the good news is that it’s the end of the line, so there’s no confusion about where to get off the train.
Travel guides complain of the summer crowds, so a shoulder-season visit will be more pleasant. But even with the transport hassles and crowds, it’s a fairytale village that’s well worth the effort.
James & Terri