Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Only two hours away from Frankfurt by train is the well-preserved medieval city of Rothenburg.  Marisa and I got into town late on a Friday and carried our bags from the train station to the outer city walls.  It was a really cool feeling walking up on this walled city in the dark and passing through this gate over an old moat into the cobblestone streets of Rothenburg.  It honestly made me feel like an old traveler coming into town back in the day and looking for room in the inn.  Luckily we had a reservation!

Our quaint little hotel - there was room in this inn!

View from our room overlooking the valley - there seems to be a lot of greenery in this country

Besides the Middle Ages Crime and Punishment Museum, the intact city wall that spans over a mile around the town, and the gut-busting "Nightwatchman Tour", there weren't so many amazing tourist attractions, but people flock to this town to enjoy the fairytale-esque atmosphere.  I'll let the pictures do the talking, but the whole place felt like you were walking around an amusement park or something......without all of the people in silly costumes.  The weather was chillier than is typical for the Summer, but the Sun was out and there were many a beautiful view to be had.

Market Square equipped with iconic german-style housing

While eating lunch I thought I heard the Southwest Dekalb Marching Band, but it turned out to be a wedding party, dressed up in Middle Age garb parading through the streets with the bride and groom in tow - seemed kinda cool (especially if you like "D and D" i.e. Ben Bodipo-Memba)

Original door for one of the gates, circa 16th century - they closed them down after dark and the only way you could get in was through this "man hole" large enough for a man to enter, but not much else.  People also had to pay a hefty fee to use it, which helped to enforce the curfew.

Outside one of the main gates - all of the entrances had a large central tower with an eagle emblem on it, marking it as an imperial free city of the Holy Roman Empire (only subject to the ruling emperor)

View of Rothenburg from the Castle Gardens

this is the way "to Hell" (zur Hoell) ...........

.........which turned out to not be so bad!  This bar/restaurant, "Hell" is a famous joint with a mean wine selection.

Along one of the main streets in town - felt like an amusement park often, although I couldn't find a frozen lemonade stand anywhere!

Marisa, outside another entrance to the city - very similar to where we walked in late Friday night in the dark. 

A look at the inside of the wall, which many guests choose to climb and walk the mile and a half around to get see the city from a different perspective.  Like the bricks at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, many donors have plaques along the wall every couple of steps stating where they're from and how many meters they've sponsored for conservation (none from Georgia).  

Home of the most famous Christmas Market supplier in all of Germany - they make tons of ornaments, nutcrackers, pyramiden, cuckoo clocks, and other traditional German Christmas decorations (sorry, no discounts in June)

Inside St. Jakob's church

the "Holy Blood Alter" - the most famous piece of artwork in the church by Wurzburg artist Tilman Riemenschneider in 1490

While I'm not a cat lover, it was fun taking pictures of these feral cats in town

The Crime and Punishment Museum turned out to be not as sadistic as it sounds.  It was pretty informative about the laws that governed Medieval times in Germany and the punishments that were carried out.  There were some authentic instruments of torture like the ye olde "rack" for stretching prisoners into confession, the "thumb screws" that put the pressure on poor blokes to confess as well, the cruel racks that locked people into the most uncomfortable postions imaginable, the "drunk tank" barrels that drunkards had to wear around town, lots of crazy mardi gras-looking masks that people had to wear to embarass them for their immoral living, the cages used for the "baker's plunge" where bakers were held under water in public for selling bread either too light or too heavy, and of course.........executioner's blocks, axes, and swords.  They even had a section for schoolhouses, where they had a wooden donkey that the "fools" in class had to ride.  In short, we found that people in the Middle Ages were all about humiliating each other publicly.

Medieval masks worn by townspeople that didn't behave - on the left, rooster feathers adorned this mask for men that acted like cocks;  in the middle, a pig snout represented men that behaved like pigs; and on the right, a protruding tongue meant that this person couldn't keep their mouth shut in public.  They liked to chain people up to posts in the town square, make them wear these masks, and have everyone walk by and make fun of them.

My favorite piece in the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum.......yes, this is a chastity belt!  I thought they were only mythical items, but the proof is in the pudding (or "over the pootang" in this case).  Husbands could lock up their wives with these little wonders while they were away - yes, that is a pee hole in front, and yes, it is lined with small spikes in case someone wanted to play "just the tip".

Another gem of the Middle Ages.........the "Shame Flute", which was to be cuffed to "bad musicians" and displayed for all to see.  Doesn't Kenny G play one of those things?

Outside the museum I was the victim of mockery as well.  My mentioned on the sign beside me "commuter - polluting the environment".  Little did they know that's total bull corn because I took Deutsche Bahn all the way!

The "Nightwatchman" is a guy that dresses up in a cloak and hat with a halberd and lantern and walks people around the town for an hour each night and tells stories of life back in the day in Rothenburg.  Rick Steve's describes him as a medieval Jerry Seinfeld and he was spot on.  This guy was freakin' hilarious.  The photos won't do it justice and we didn't have our flip video, but maybe you can check out this video from another tourist to give you an idea.  We actually bought the dvd just so that we can hear this guy's voice on demand.  So funny.

Hans Georg Baumgartner, aka "the Night Watchman" - the man has a great schtick going.....he's really funny in a sarcastic way and he's been doing this gig for 20 years now!

Normally he has crowds of a dozen or so in the non-Summer season - we went when there were well over a hundred (6 euros per head here for one hour of work...........that's the definition of "living the dream")

Besides wanting to check out this neat town for ourselves, another reason we came to Rothenburg on this certain weekend was because the Georgia Tech Alumni Association had one of their Germany trips passing through there.  Since Marisa worked at the Alumni house she had a co-worker, Chris, and his wife Tracy that were leading a group of 12 Tech alums on the tour.  We met up with them and had a great time hanging out - we even got to drop in on the Georgia Tech reception at their hotel before we bounced out of town.  By the way, the Georgia Tech Alumni Association does a lot of awesome trips every year.  I'd love to crash one of these sometime, but at the moment I would cut the average age of the trip in half so I might have to wait.

Proud to sport our Tech gear in Germany - maybe we'll start a GT Alumni group in Germany!

Marisa's former co-worker at the Alumni Association, Chris, before trying on the German version of the milk moustache!  We had a great time hanging out with him and his wife for a couple of nights.

We hope you enjoy our pictures of Rothenburg and consider making it a stop on your next trip to Germany.

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