Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany (part 1)

(Here goes the first of many recaps — prepare yourselves!)

The Romantic Road
Our flight from State College to Frankfurt through Philadelphia was long but manageable. We landed, located our luggage, and got the keys to our rental car: a 2010 Audi A4 wagon. Nick was like a little boy on Christmas morning. I happily assumed my position as co-pilot — I have never learned to drive manual transmission, which meant I never had to maneuver the Autobahn, and I was more than OK with that.

Unfortunately both the parking garage attendant and our in-car GPS spoke only German. Nick was convinced he could navigate links turns and recht turns, but within ten minutes we had pulled off the highway via an ausfahrt ramp and connected the English GPS so kindly mailed to us by Nick’s brother and sister-in-law.

Our plan was to drive past Würzburg — the first stop along the Romantische Straße — and onto Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The Romantic Road served as a trade route during the Middle Ages and now connects quaint countryside to romantic walled cities to fairytale castles. From a distance we saw the Fortress Marienberg of Würzburg followed shortly after by sloping vineyards of Germany’s best Muller-Thurgaus and Silvaners (one of which I sampled in the states a few weeks ago).

Once we turned off the Autobahn, we climbed short, steep hills through charming villages with biergartens, bakeries, and butcher shops on every corner. After roughly two hours on the road, we arrived at our first destination.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber
We drove the outskirts of the old city, past at least two one-lane gates, until we realized that the only way in was through one of them.

And on the other side we discovered the best preserved medieval city in all of Germany.

The narrow, uneven cobblestone streets were crowded with people, and we made several more wrong turns before we located our accommodations: Gasthof Goldener Greifen.

Gasthof Goldener Greifen
We were directed down an alleyway and into the parking lot by a young woman wearing a navy blue and green dirndl. It was a warm and very appropriate welcome to Bavaria!

The guest house has 15 rooms and is run by a 5th generation family. We entered through the back door and stepped onto the creaky wooden floor of the 600-year-old building. The kitchen to the left was bustling with activity — I caught a glimpse of red radishes and a raw meat.

At the front desk we were handed a rusty skeleton key and led to an arched door on the second floor. Nick had to duck to enter our room which had two twin beds and a toilet in a nook no larger than our coat closet. Hey, we weren’t expecting the Hilton, we were looking for charm, and boy, did we find it.

Rathaus and Marktplatz
The Rathaus (town hall) and Marktplatz (town hall square) were mere meters from our guest house, and so we ignored the creeping feelings of jet lag, zipped up our raincoats, and set out to explore.

The backside Gothic part of the Rathaus dates back to 1250, and the frontside Renaissance part was constructed in 1572. The building served as the government seat during medieval times.

Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village
Historic fountains and alluring shops line the perimeter of the Markplatz, one of which is the very famous Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village. Inside we were overwhelmed by shelves of nutcrackers and smokers and pyramids, while cuckoo clocks and ornaments of every shape, color, and style filled the walls. We walked around in amazement with holiday music and twinkling lights enveloping us.

Metzgerei and Bäckerei
We wondered into a Metzgerei (butcher shop) where links of meat dangled from the ceiling like decoration and various cuts filled the case.

And then we decided we must sample a Schneeball (snowball), even if we hadn’t yet eaten dinner. It’s a locally made donut coated in powdered sugar or chocolate. Every corner Bäckerei (bakery) displayed a tempting arrangement of their own.

It was good, but not great. One to share was more than enough. We were much more looking forward to dinner.

Gasthof zur Sonne
We sat down to dinner inside Gasthof zur Sonne and ordered our first German beers: Kloster Scheyern Dunkel (dark) for Nick and Tucher Weiss (light) for me. To eat we chose very hearty and comforting plates of roasted Schweinefleisch (pork) and Weisswursts with perfectly round potato dumplings on the side.

With full bellies and increasingly heavy raindrops and eyelids, we reluctantly decided to nap for one hour before returning to the Markplatz for the not-to-miss Night Watchman Tour. Happy to report that we did wake up to our alarm, and the tour was one of the highlights of our stay in Rothenburg.

Next up: We explore the deserted streets by moonlight, and the next morning we walk the 1.5-mile wall that surrounds the city.

9 thoughts on “Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany (part 1)

  1. So charming! I’m curious about the food – I’ve heard German eats are nothing to write home about (although this comes from my American friend who lived there for 5 years – she’s vegetarian). Looks like a great trip!

  2. Dahhh this recap is going to be the end of me!!! I am already so jealous. My parents and I went to Rothenburg on our tour of christmas markets right after Thanksgiving the year I was abroad. Amazing! As for Schneeballen, Zimt is the way to go! definitely good for sharing, regardless.

  3. Sounds so wonderful! I would like a Schneeball right about now!
    Adam and I are discussing a honeymoon in Munich. We have friends there and have yet to visit…

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