Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Part 1
After renting a car in Munich and making a stop at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, Mike and I, along with his parents, were off to the next stop on our tour of Germany – Rothenburg Ob der Tauber. Rothenburg is a beautiful and charming medieval town surrounded by an ancient city wall overlooking the Tauber River. When you enter the city gates and make your way along the uneven cobblestone streets, you can’t help but feel like you’ve walked into a German fairy-tale with all the half-timbered houses towering above. Although it did sustain some damage, Rothenburg was spared from a major bombing in World War II and today it is the best preserved walled town in Germany.
We arrived in Rothenburg mid-afternoon and made our way down the one-way streets and narrow alleyways to find our hotel, Hotel Gotisches Haus. This hotel is perfectly located just steps away from the Market Square and Town Hall in the heart of town. Not only did we have stunning views of the city and countryside from our room and private balcony (room 30), we also found mini packages of Haribo gummy bears on our pillows! Gummy candies are always a quick and easy way to my heart….
After quickly settling in and admiring the views, we headed out to explore the town. Rothenburg is a huge destination for day trips, so it’s streets and shops can get fairly crowded during they day. This cute little town is easily one of the best shopping towns in Germany – especially if you enjoy Christmas as much as I do! Käthe Wohlfahrt, the Christmas store of all Christmas stores, is based in Rothenburg and was just a few doors down from our hotel. They have locations in several other towns (and even make an appearance at Chicago’s Christkindlmarket!) but Rothenburg’s shops are the most impressive.
There are numerous bakeries lining the streets of Rothenburg and in most of their windows you’ll be sure to find the interesting confections known as Schneebälle. Schneebälle are a signature pastry of Rothenburg and are basically pie crusts that have been formed into balls, fried, and then covered with various sweet toppings. The original is simply dusted with powdered sugar but others are dipped in chocolate, candies, and nuts. I had heard that these weren’t quite as good as they looked but we wanted to give them a try for ourselves. We stopped in and the man making them proceeded to give us a play-by-play of the Schneeball-making process….in German. Mike understood bits and pieces but I was totally in the dark. Luckily I did manage to document the process in picture form!
I went for a simple Schneeball dusted in cinnamon sugar and butter but Mike went for one of the more decadent balls filled and coated with chocolate. Mike’s chocolate-filled ball definitely won out over my basic choice – the dry pie crust really needs that creamy filling.
After dinner that night we headed back to the Market Square to catch my #1 must-do activity in Rothenburg – the Night Watchman’s Tour. No tickets or any reservation needed up front, you just meet up in front of the Town Hall at 8pm and wait for the “watchman” to arrive. There were probably around 100 people in our group as we walked around town hearing stories and history from the Night Watchman. We were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to hear him with such a large group but that was never a problem. Hearing the history of the town was great and his dry sense of humor kept it interesting. The tour lasts a little under an hour and at the end you’re asked to put 7€ per adult in his hat as a fee – well worth it for this unique tour.
We spent 2 busy days in Rothenburg so stay tuned, there’s more to come in Part 2!