Rothenburg ob der Tauber

One of the best known cities along the German Romantic Road, Rothenburg ob der Tauber has been inspiration for films of fairy stories as diverse as the Walt Disney “Pinocchio” of the 1940’s, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, and as the home of the Japanese Manga “Sugar - a little Snow Fairy”.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber city gateway

Standing in the market square it is easy to see why the place captures the imagination of those creating fantasies.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber market square

The Rathaus or Town Hall spans the whole block.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Rathaus

…it’s side view as stately as that which faces the market square…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Rathaus angle

…and its detail worth the study.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Rathaus detail

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is translated as Red Fortress over the Tauber. As rot in German means “red”, it has been said that this refers to the red rooftops of the walled city.

Looking across from one section of the wall to another, you can see why.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber rooftops over wall

When you look up from the walls from below …

Rothenburg ob der Tauber rooftops

The houses along the wall have magnificent views.

If you wander the backstreets there are some very tiny verandahs attached to small cafés where you can not only buy the famous “Snowballs” (in German “Schneeballs”) that are designed to be smashed into pieces to be eaten, but also sit and eat and look at the views in the privacy of just two or three tables.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber schneeball café

Of the towers that once regularly punctuated the walls, now only a few are left…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber city wall tower

…and they are sturdy bastions – just as those of the city gates.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber city gate and clock

Between them lie hotels that offer modern amenities…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Romantik Hotel internet

… in ancient and timeless ambience.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Romantik Hotel

The name of Rothenburg ob der Tauber may also have some resonance with the retting (in German “rotten”) of flax to make linen – once a mainstay industry of the region.

You can still buy fine linen products particular to the area from one of the many shops that display fine work among their other souvenirs…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber linen lace

…or specialize in the variety of these exquisitely crafted goods that have heirloom qualities – quite suitable for passing down the generations.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber linen shop

Walking its streets, you can see why Rothenburg ob der Tauber lends itself as a suitable backdrop for all sorts of books and stories.

A visit to it is like entering a fairy story yourself.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber city centre

My visit was on the way back from a ball in a beautiful ‘Saal’ or hall in the Kunstlerhaus or Artists House in Munich, and in late March St. George’s Fountain was still within its protective winter casing. It is not removed until the beginning of April to protect the details of St. George, the protective saint of the Bavarian royal family, whose image here was created in 1608.

The well beneath St. George’s fountain is 8 metres deep, and with its capacity of 1,000 litres it is the largest in a city where fountains proliferate, being important not just for drinking water, but for fire fighting.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber fountain

Fountains in Bavaria are usually encased in wooded “houses” or “hats” that sit over the top of them for the winter months.

Not here in Rothenburg ob der Tauber where visitors can enjoy not only St. George, but also the reflections of his surroundings offered by the sides of his protective winter encasement.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber St George’s Fountain

The city was dressed for Easter...

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Easter house decor

…both its private houses…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Easter decor

…and its shops…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Easter gifts

…which reflected the surrounding buildings …

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Easter window

...in a lovely blending of imagery.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Easter gift shop

Rothenburg ob der Tauber was championed by Hitler and the National Socialists as the most German of German cities and people from throughout the country were brought by bus to embed this character in their concept of the future.

As the War drew to its close, the then U.S Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, knew the historical context of the city, it having been in existence since before 950 when the weir was built.

In World War II bombing wrought heavy destruction, but McCloy knew Rothenburg ob der Tauber to be one of the last intact Free Imperial Cities of the Holy Roman Empire and ordered that no artillery should be used in taking it captive.

The German military commander capitulated – against the directive of Hitler that all should fight to the death – revealing the practicality of survival that had the citizens previously supporting the tourist boom of the Third Reich.

Something we nations who did not have National Socialism often forget is what is described well by Sir Winston Churchill

In wartime, truth is so precious

that she should always be attended

by a bodyguard of lies

The citizens of Rothenburg ob der Tauber showed their appreciation for the saving of their city in November 1948 by naming McCloy “Honorable Protectorate of Rothenburg”.

After the War, the damage was quickly repaired with donations from around the world, once again demonstrating that wars are not made by people, but by governments.

For those of us with the good fortune to visit the beautiful medieval city of Rotheburg ob der Tauber, we also can be thankful that both the American Assistant Secretary of War and the German Commanding Officer acted to save this lovely city from total destruction.

As a result, we can now revel in its charm…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Easter street corner

…peer in its windows…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber house window

…explore its back stairs…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber tower stairs

…and discover all the interesting places and corners it offers for the free-roaming curious traveller.

We can savour its delicious food, perhaps enjoyed as we did on a terrace serenaded by the drifting melody of a choral concert in the Music Centre behind St Jakob’s church…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber salmon

…be transported by Bavarian Coach horses…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber horse-drawn coach

… and be captivated by the detail of the building decorations.

This doorway arch from 1596 made me wonder what its figures parodied.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber 1596 doorway arch

Being from a young country, Australia, which was settled by Europeans in 1788, it puts into perspective this building from 1576 ….

Rothenburg ob der Tauber 1576-house

… that was renovated in 1906, and following the war, again in 1954.

Now even allowing for bombs, THAT is what we call “built to last”.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber house renovation dates

The small details are always of interest to me, whether it be the door handles…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber door handle

… the quotation carved above these fine doors that referred to Psalm 145…

Naturally I had to look it up and wondered whether it referred to the fact that within that Psalm generation after generation are to praise the works of the Lord…or, given the bloody times of the past, whether it referred to Verse 19 which says that the Lord will hear the cry of those who fear him and save them.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber ornate doors

… the Griffin in gold outside the guest house of the same name and the shadow patterns of its wrought iron decorative supports…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Griffin

…the reflected clock-tower in an antique shop mirror…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber antique shop

…or the still working forge with its cast goblets, glimpsed through a back-street window.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber forge

The fine facade of the Master Builder’s house was reflected in the florist's window…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Master Builder’s house reflected

…and Steiff teddy bears made an interesting backdrop to this city building reflection.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Steiff bears

Every city has its eccentricities and small details that can be easily missed - and Rothenburg ob der Tauber is no exception.

This delivery vehicle on a back street can literally “ladel” out its deliveries in small amounts, being itself diminutive and quirky.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber tiny delivery van

The cat statue sitting on the crossbeam to the inner courtyard or Hof of this house was perfectly framed between the ornate metal sign as he sat above the blue door.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber house with cat archway

On the way back we passed a shop with local , good German farm-made sausages and delicatessen “smallgoods” displayed as carefully as items in the gift store windows.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber sausages

With typical German efficiency, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, catering to thousands of visitors, has clean, accessible and free public toilets just inside the city wall in a building whose roofline architecture had attracted me on arrival.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber roofline architecture

Emerging, I found myself in what would have been the horse stalls, now a parking lot from which you get a layered view of the city’s roofline.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber city roofline

It was with reluctance that we passed back through the 13th century city wall to resume our homeward trip.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber city wall

On the way this sign invited us back for the traditional Pfingsten (Whitsun) Shepherds Dance.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Shepherd’s Dance poster

Seeing it, I smiled to myself.

Thinking about the many tour groups I had seen during the day, each dutifully following their shepherd, I was reminded of the Russian proverb:

Without a shepherd,

sheep are not a flock

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