Published: September 18th 2010September 16th 2010
The Romantische Straße (Romantic Road) is one of several German tourist routes designated by different themes. This one runs from Würzburg to Füssen in Bavaria through several extremely charming and picturesque towns dating from the Middle Ages. Rob and I visited three of these towns (Rothenburg ob de Tauber, Dinkelsbühl, and Nördlingen), as well as visiting the King Ludwig II castles.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
I had been looking forward to visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber not for its historical significance, but for the Christmas shopping! As soon as I saw the town, however, I was amazed and fascinated - Rothenburg is a genuine medieval walled town with gates and towers and a moat, just like the pictures in storybooks. I didn't know anything like this still existed. It is not like Williamsburg; there were no living history exhibits or costumed actors, and autos are allowed to speed through the narrow, twisting, cobblestone streets.
We entered the town through the wall at the Rödertor gate (see photo) late Thursday afternoon after spending most of the day in Leingarten. Walking past the half-timbered "fachwerk" houses, we stopped in the market place and ate dinner at one of the many
restaurants. We spent the night in Ansbach (about 30 minutes away) and returned to Rothenburg the next morning.
We did "shop till we dropped," but made time to take in some history, too. The highlight of the day was entering the Lutheran church of St. Jacob (St.-Jakobs-Kirche), a Gothic masterpiece built in the 14th century. Please check out our photos of the High Altar, the chancel stained glass windows, and the Altar of the Holy Blood, carved in wood by the famous artist, Tilman Riemenschneider, between 1499 and 1505 to hold a relic contained in a crystal capsule. I was interested in the unusual 14th century stone carving of the Trinity on the left side of the High Altar, which showed God and the baby Jesus connected by a dove (see photo).
Rob also took a one-and-a-half hour guided tour (in English) to hear about the town's history and architecture. I knew I had a limited amount of walking energy (my knee was acting up and there was still some jet lag), so I walked around at my own pace during that time and scoped out some stores. I rejoined Rob by the fountain in the market place
around 3:30 and we finished our Christmas shopping. I especially liked a pottery shop (Topferei Seifert) near the gate where we entered and we made the shop attendant quite happy!
I surprised Rob by making our lodging reservations for that evening in Dinkelsbühl in the Hotel Hezelhof. The old patrician house was 500 years old and had an inner courtyard (see photo). Rob had no idea what to expect. The owners had decorated the interior of the old building in an ultramodern, simplistic manner, which made for a pleasant (and very clean) stay - no carpets and no clutter. It is the oldest building I have ever stayed in. No ghosts showed up that night, however!
Dinkelsbühl had escaped damage during World War II and still had its entire town wall and 16 towers. We took the time the next morning to explore the town center, and visited the Münster St. Georg church, a vaulted late-Gothic Roman Catholic church in use today. There was a town market just outside of the church and I bought some jams from a German woman who had made them herself.
Our goal was to leave town by noon, as
we had a long drive to Farchant in southern Bavaria planned for that day. We took a few more minutes to walk in the other direction and wound up staying much longer, as I found a crystal shop where the the crystal is cut right on the premises. Knowing that we would not have time on this trip to drive to the eastern side of Bavaria to the "crystal towns" near the Czech border, I was delighted to purchase wedding gifts here. We then raced to Nördlingen.
For us, Nördlingen was the unexpected gem along The Romantic Road. We had read that the tower of the town church, another St. Georg's, would give us a 360-degree view of this, yet another, walled medieval city. From the outskirts of town, we followed the tower and were fortunate to find a parking spot right next to it. Quasimodo would have felt at home here. We climbed the 350 steps to the top, where we could see the entire city with its five gates (Tors). The climb was tough on my knee, which filled with water afterwards, but I would do it again without hesitation. It was a wonderful experience
to gaze down upon the tiled rooftops of the old buildings below us.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Nördlingen is built upon the site of a crater created about 15 million years ago by a meteorite that had the impact of 250,000 Hiroshima bombs. The crater, called the "Ries," is one of the best preserved, large craters on Earth. From the top of the tower, Rob and I could see the circular ridged ring around the town created by the impact.
We raced again to the car and continued our journey to Farchant, south of Oberammergau, where we needed to check into Hotel Zugspitze around 6:00 p.m. to prepare for the next day at the Oberammergau Passion Play, which Rob has already blogged about.
There are more photos below