Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Time to Rediscover Rothenburg
Rothenburg ob der Tauber - Germany's most Famous, Romantic Medieval City Offers Far More than Meets the Eye
Just say "Rothenburg ob der Tauber" and it seems that everyone is well aware of its fame as an architectural gem on Germany's "Romantic Road," or as the home of the "Mother of All Christmas Shops" - Kathe Wohlfahrt's interactive Christmas Village. Foreign tourists and German visitors alike know and have also enjoyed Rothenburg's entertaining, nocturnal tours with the town's Night Watchman, and devoured its "Snowballs" throughout the year over the years.
But these are only a few of the best-known aspects of this small town which continuously invests vast sums in retaining its historical buildings and structure in order to preserve for posterity Rothenburg's singular identity as being a perfect sample of Germany's finest buildings from both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
View of Rothenburg ob der Tauber from the west. The well-known medieval, walled city on Germany's Romantic Road, has been one of Germany's top ten tourist destinations for more than 60 years. Credit: ©Rothenburg Tourismus Service, W. Pfitzingerl
Simply and succinctly stated, "The entire city is itself a monument," according to words of "DEHIO," the German standard reference work cataloguing all of the country's artistic monuments. A city like Rothenburg ob der Tauber may reflect history. However history needs to be felt and experienced sensuously - with all the senses: taste, touch, sound, as well as sight. And, Rothenburg richly offers plentiful activities in order to plunge into its rich, vibrant history.
Twice a year more than 20 historical groups participate in activities that recreate Rothenburg's exciting times as a privileged "Reichstadt" -an Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire.
Every spring at Whitsun, Pentecost, the city becomes a stage reflecting the events of the devastating 30 Years War (1618 -1648) between Catholic and Reformation Protestant forces which ravaged central Europe. Visitors to Rothenburg can experience the tumult and turmoil of the warring factions' reenactments. One can visit the encampments and sit by the campfires of besieging Croatian mounted forces, experience massive attacking armies, and hear the echoing cannon fire reverberating in Rothenburg's narrow alleys and streets.
This big undertaking is produced by the Meistertrunk Historical Society presenting its theatrical take on the legendary salvation of Rothenburg back in 1631 and is an annual event. The fine quality production was honored in 2015 being recognized an integral part of the State of Bavaria's "Immaterial Cultural Heritage".
For those who would like to learn more and attend this production, go to: www.meistertrunk.de.
Late Summer Festival
Every first September weekend of the year, 24 historical associations participate in the Rothenburg's Imperial City Festival. The Festival recreates 500 years of Rothenburg's historical past from 1274 - 1802.
Highlights not to be missed are the knights' encampment in front of the City's gates, the "fahrendes Volk" (camp followers), tradesmen and merchants, hordes of peasants and simple folk, and the royal court all in their colorful attire complete with lively presentations that are equally authentic and entertaining. Rounding out the impressive program are two evenings of large fireworks and public theatrical productions on the Marktplatz.
Rothenburg's Refined Gastronomy and Wine Culture
Rothenburg ob der Tauber breathes history with every step taken on its cobble-stoned streets, steps reverberating in its narrow passageways and quaint alleys.
Rothenburg's past - and present - includes winemaking history as well. Since the early Middle Ages, grapes have been cultivated for wine here. This continues to this day. There is a winery that in addition to offering tastings also conducts vineyard tours along the Tauber River's vine-planted slopes.
As the southernmost growth of Germany's Franken or Franconian appellation, Rothenburg hosts a five-day annual Wine Festival in mid-August. The Rothenburger Wine Village is certified for its quality under the motto "Wein. Schoener. Land".
As a direct outgrowth of the high quality requirements demanded of the Weindorf, a wine-culinary initiative was founded in 2015 by 10 of Rothenburg's top gastronomic establishments. Named "Geniessen ob der Tauber" (Taste of the Tauber), the initiative celebrates regional products and sourcing of wine and locally grown ingredients. Preparations featuring fresh, seasonal dishes paired with Franconian wines give Rothenburg visitors delicious insights into the city's historical, regional cuisine.
One special taste treat is the "Fraenkische Versucherle" - the "Franconian Temptation." It is an amuse-bouche consisting of three appetizers paired with three sample pourings of different Franken wines. Cost is only 20 Euros at partnering restaurants. These are to be had at each of the 11 participating establishments; truly a delicious introduction and overview of Rothenburg wines and food.
For advance bookings and registration, go to: www.facebook.com/geniessenobdertauber
Rothenburg 2017: the 500th Celebration of the Reformation
In keeping with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the 95 Theses that marked the beginning of the Reformation being celebrated throughout 2017, Rothenburg has already opened two Special Exhibitions in its museums, which will continue through September 2017.
The Reichstadt Museum's presentation focuses on the invention of movable type and the printing press and their use in high volume printing. Gutenberg's invention enabled Luther's doctrines to be spread cheaply, effectively and massively. In effect, his ideas "went viral" throughout Europe much as social media today can have explosive repercussions. During the 1520's innumerable tracts were printed furthering the Wittenberg Reformers' beliefs and were hotly contradicted by the Roman Catholic Church. The furious passion, insults and pictorial content on both sides accompanying theological arguments, would baffle us today given their ferocity.
The exhibition "The Media of the Reformation - The Struggle of the Faiths" presents this conflict in one of the greatest collections of published items to be had in South Germany.
For details visit. www.reichsstadtmuseum.rothenburg.de
Thanks to an annual Hollywood blockbuster in the witch hunt film genre, this topic is this year's theme for Rothenburg's Medieval Criminal Museum, tying into the Reformation year with a Special Exhibition entitled, "Luther and the Witches."
The Exhibition has already attracted more than 50,000 visitors during the past six months since its opening. Witches were a red-hot topic for Luther who fulminated against magic and witchcraft with fiery determination. Nevertheless, as a pastor and keeper of souls, there also was a softer, reconciling side to him, which was not infrequently expressed.
The Exhibition delves into the judicial and societal repercussions of witch-hunts in Franconia and Rothenburg based on numerous, unusual artifacts, modern museum practices and utterances. The Exhibition continues through the end of 2018. Details are found at: www.kriminalmuseum.eu.
Rothenburg's Additional Reformation Theme Year Activities
In addition to the major museum exhibitions, the Renaissance and Reformation in Rothenburg theme, the City is offering rich program of events and tours. Of particular interest is the Rothenburg Tourist Services hour-and-a-half group tour, "Encountering the Renaissance and Reformation on Foot." This will also be given in English. Cost for groups of 20 is 120 Euros. For details write: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Equally informative and entertaining is the brochure: Rothenburg Tower Trail, edited by Rick Steves, which is an introduction into Rothenburg City history and the Reformation Jubilee Year. This costs 5 Euros and will be available April 2017, through the Rothenburg Tourist Service.
After savoring so much history and art perhaps a pause for do-it-yourself refreshment is welcome. How about making your very own pretzels or "Snowballs!" Visitors can take a crash course in the art of baking, kneading, rolling out and decorating dough. Two Rothenburg traditional bakeries, Bakery Friedel, and Bakery Striffler, invite participation. This is a virtual hands-on, fun activity for smaller groups. Check out the details at: www.original-rothenburger-schneeballen.de or www.baecker-striffler.de.
Rothenburg - A Pilgrim's Way Station on the Path to Piety
Rothenburg is also a pilgrimage town on the ancient route from Stade (near Hamburg) to the Holy City Rome (the Via Romea,) as well as on six Jacobean pilgrimage routes to Compostella in far-distant Spain. No wonder Rothenburg's main church is dedicated to St. Jacob / St James. Its principal altar, created by Herlin in 1466, portrays the Legend of Jacob. The aforementioned baked goods known as "Snowballs" were traditional fasting and pilgrimage fare and are contemporary edible evidence of Rothenburg's role for pilgrims and wayfarers.
Beginning in 2016, Rothenburg ob der Tauber became Germany's representative in the first European culture route, the Fédération européenne du Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. Rothenburg's pastor at St. Jakob's for guests and tourists offers regular programs for would-be or "Schnupper" Pilgrims". For information and contact: www.rothenburgtauber-evangelisch.de/tourismus or within Germany, call 09861-700625.
Rothenburg, a year 'round destination
Rothenburg is always a fine place to visit throughout the year. There is always something going on even during the darker Fall and Winter months, such as the first week of November - the Fairytale Magic-Maerchenzauber "romantic triad," or the pre-Christmas/Advent Reitlesmarkt from the end of November until December 23rd; and, the Romanze an Valentin Valentine's Day for contemplative, touching, romantic experiences.
Come visit and see for yourself. Discover Rothenburg ob der Tauber a-new. There's so much more than first meets the eye.
You can learn more about Rothenburg here.