It’s a great time of year to enjoy Mother Nature’s palate – bright yellow Colza (a variety of cabbage cultivated for its seeds, which yield an oil) is in full bloom against a backdrop of fresh green leaves and deep blue sky. As we drove from town to town past gently rolling farmland dotted with clusters of trees surrounding farmhouses, I was reminded of how many German immigrants settled in parts of southern Minnesota because it reminded them of the “old country”. Being here reminds me of my ‘”old country”.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the oldest and most historic of the medieval towns along the Romantic Road. Massive towers and the city walls form a ring around Rothenburg that you can walk on for great views of the city and the Tauber valley. The Altstadt (old town) of Rothenburg exists in a time capsule with its patchwork of winding cobbled lanes lined with picturesque half timbered houses.
It is, however, a time capsule well on its way to becoming a “medieval theme park” as one reviewer put it. It has plenty of historic nooks and crannies to explore from churches to the criminal museum and castle gardens. Thankfully we were there before the busy season really ramps up, but tourism is this town’s main industry today.
Like many villages in Germany, Rothenburg has its legend – one of Meistertrunk or Master Draught that was borne out of The Thirty Years War (1618–1648). The town mayor is said to have finished a 3.5 liter goblet of local wine in one drink as part of a bet to save the Protestant town from pillaging by Catholic forces. In fact, the town was forced to pay a massive amount of money and goods as a bribe to pay off the opposing forces after pleas from the children and womenfolk of the town. Legend has it that this was part of the reason for the relative preservation of the town from the destruction experienced by many other places during WWII. Although the town was bombed from the air, ground commanders on both sides hesitated to attack or defend with full force as the war came to an end. The tower clock (circa 1683) portrays mayor Nusch’s legendary drinking in a mechanical scene enjoyed by tourists several times a day in the town square.
We stopped for lunch at the Baumeisterhaus (Master Builder House) built in 1596 which was the home and studio of stonemason Leonhard Weidmann. You can see his handiwork in the two rows of statues on the front of the building depicting the seven virtues and seven vices. We sat in the beautiful center courtyard for lunch and tried to save room for Schneeballen.
Like legends, many German towns have a food specialty and this one is no exception. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is famous for Schneeballen (snowballs) which are strips of noodle pastry, formed into a ball and deep-fried in hot fat, then dusted with powdered sugar (traditionally), or flavored with cinnamon or covered with chocolate. They are served up at several bakeries and just the fortification you need for a walkabout on the city wall to wrap up the day.