Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany

By Claire
We found our campsite by determination and desperation. Following Susannah's instructions, "turn right here," we found ourselves on a road just under the town with huge construction equipment. There was no way we could make it through. Reversing and turning around (very carefully) we tried working our way around the valley to approach the campsite from another direction. Tired and frustrated from our long drive today from Berlin, we weren't sure what we would do if we couldn't find it. It takes a lot of energy determining each stop. But, we found it! Camping Tauber Idyll, €18.25, which included electricity, charged by kw hour and determined at checkout. This is common in German campgrounds. It is a 15 minute walk to the town square on a nice walking path. We made our way there last night for the Night Watchman tour. This was after a much needed lounging day--Chuck even took a nap--in the perfect setting with birds singing and the church bell dinging the correct number for the hour, followed by the same number of dongs, in case you missed the count the first time. add to this, fresh rolls in the morning.

First on the evening agenda was to find and taste-test a Schneeballen. This is a Rothenburg creation of pie crust dough wrapped into a ball and baked. Rick Steves recommends trying other pastries over this but Chuck wanted to give it a try. I needed a WC so we found a café/bakery with a restroom. I'd say it was mildly good, based on the bite I took. Chuck was glad he tried it; somebody's got to do it.

Those big round things in the back are bread

The Night Watchman tour was really fun. Once again, Rick Steves came through with this recommendation. Irreverent and very funny,we enjoyed the entire hour as he led us through the town, filling us in on its history. We met at the Market Square where about 100 people came out of nowhere just before the tour began. But, it didn't matter. Chuck and I stayed up front and I even forgot they were behind us. What a spectacle we must have been. €6 each and a very good bargain. He started out giving those who wanted to, a chance to take pictures. He gives these tours every night at 8 pm from April 1 to October 1. In the winter, he travels to Thailand where he buys things for his girlfriend to sell in her shop. Not a bad life: work an hour a day for six months, wintering in Thailand; I figure he brought in €600 last night and this is off season. You do the math.

Hans-Georg Baumgartner, a.k.a. The Night Watchman (and friends)

Market Square in the evening

By some miracle, we found our way back to Homer in the gathering dark. In fact, I was impressed with how quickly we maneuvered through the town, zigging this way and zagging that way back to the walking path that led directly to our campground.

We woke this morning to birds singing, blue sky and the assurance of another beautiful day. We took our time, finally heading in at 9:30. We decided on the Rick Steves' walking tour and spent 90 minutes strolling from sight to sight. We were quite delighted with the small number of tourists, today; 2.5 million visit each year! We even had some streets to ourselves.

Town Hall

Clock Tower; sun dial, calendar, clock

Our first stop was St. Jakob's Church, €2, to see the glorious 500-year-old, 35-foot-high Altar of the Holy Blood. I'm so glad we went inside. This church was built in the 14th century and the altar was carved from 1499-1504.

Way up high, protected inside a rock-crystal capsule, is a scrap of table cloth miraculously stained in the shape of a cross by a drop of communion wine. The altar was carved to hold this precious relic.

What fascinated me was the carving below, way ahead of its time, showing a scene from the Last Supper. Jesus gives Judas a piece of bread, marking him as the traitor, while John lays his head on Christ's lap. But here's the special effects part: the Judas figure, with his big bag of cash, can be removed from the scene, as was the tradition for the four days leading up to Easter. The artist thought of this back in 1499!

Downstairs, we found the main alter, equally impressive. But, ever see St. Peter with spectacles?

Our next stop was down a street with a view of a cliff tower which was Rothenburg's water reservoir. From 1595 until 1910, a copper tank high in the tower provided clean spring water, pumped up by river power, to the privileged. We were instructed to find the shell decorating a building on the street corner next to us. Huh? We looked and looked. It is a symbol of St. James--pilgrims commemorated their visit to Santiago de Compostela with a shell--indicating that this building is associated with the church. Chuck finally spotted it by looking up. We thought it would be imbedded in the wall of one of the buildings.

We came to the Imperial City Museum which used to be a former Dominican convent. Cloistered nuns used the lazy Susan embedded in the wall (just behind the bike in the photo below) to give food to the poor without being seen.

We walked through the town wall where we found the tiny manhole cut into the big door. If you missed the curfew, you could try to bribe your way back into the city through this door which was small enough to keep out any fully armed attackers.

Just outside this gate was a mask above the entrance used to send boiling oil down on the enemy.

My favorite spot was the castle garden. The original castle was destroyed in the 14th century but today it's a wonderful park with views of the surrounding hillsides and valleys.

We ended the walk back at the Market Square, deciding to visit the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum, €4. It was interesting and we spent about an hour inside. Those definitely were not the good old days.

Chastity belts were used to force a wife to remain faithful to husband while he was away. They were also used while a woman was traveling alone or when she was in an area where rape was possible.

This is a Mask of Shame from the 17th and 18th centuries--the glasses show the wearer seeing everything and the tongue shows he talked about everything. I don't get it but apparently this was a crime and they had to stand at the pillory wearing this mask. From Wikipedia: The pillory is a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal. This is just one of many different shame masks.

Enough of this stuff! It was time for lunch. We picked a place we had seen the night before, outside under umbrellas--perfect for this almost hot sunny day. We both had a dark draft beer and sausages and potato salad. This was to be our traditional German meal. We've done this often, trying out the food typical of each country.

All was delicious and we lingered for awhile, trying to get up the energy to walk the ramparts. As we sat there, the postman pulled up. I love his color coordinated uniform of yellow tank top and yellow Crocks, designed, no doubt, to go with his yellow postal truck.

The ramparts were fun, and under cover--I can't believe I'm now trying to stay cool! Unfortunately, they kept coming to an end and we'd have to climb back down and find another place to start again. We did enjoy looking out the stone openings to the beautiful landscape bursting with spring. It's so fresh, the green is almost neon.

We ended our walk with coffee on the square. I sat in a seat set by an open door onto the square. A gentle breeze wafted in. Ahhhhh.

I'm back outside at the campground writing this blog post. I can't say enough about our Internet USB stick. It became apparent almost from the start of this trip just how important having this connection is. Much of our planning is done online as we go along and I check the weather reports daily and we change our plans often based on that information. In fact, we left Berlin a day early because rain is predicted for Thursday and we wanted to see Rothenburg outside in the sunshine. We just made another change of direction due to the coming rain, hoping we can outsmart it and spend our time in the Alps under the sun. So far, this has worked for us all along the way.

Just walking around the campground, I saw one couple eating dinner outside, another having a glass of wine, while in another area, a family was playing ball on the grass. This is a great way to travel.

Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer. ~ Geoffrey B. Charlesworth


Karin said...

This is bizarre! I almost suggested (when you mentioned wanting to head towards smaller villages) that Rothenburg might be a nice place, but wondered if you might be thinking of smaller villages. So I said nothing! And where did you go? Rothenburg!

On one of our "long ago" whirlwind" trips to Germany, we took a bus tour up the Romantic Road and Rothenburg was one of the quick stops. I told Michael IF I EVER come back to Germany, I want to come here, spend more time looking a round because it looked to be a fantastic old medievel town! Well, bless heart, he surprised me on one of our wedding anniversaries, about 1997, when we were living in Ireland, with a trip to Rothenburg! We both loved it, in spite of it being April and snowing! It is a place I will NEVER forget and am glad you went there also.

Love the blog,
Karin on Paros

Chuck and Claire said...

Great minds think alike. Would you believe this was my FOURTH visit? I loved it even more this time. Must be the company I keep.