Why Rothenburg is the epitome of German romanticism?

Dollhouse town in Germany…

Factoid: Germany’s second largest city in the middle ages, with 6,000 residents (mammoth for those times) was reduced to poverty during the 30 years war, and virtually faded into oblivion. But life comes full circle. Today it has regained its glory as Germany’s best preserved medieval walled town. Rothenburg ob der Tauber seems like the perfect name for this fairytale place until you translate it into English…red fort on the River Tauber). Mmmm…something less practical, maybe?

It takes four train changes to reach here from Heidelberg, but the journey is cakewalk, considering the precious rewards…rolling hills, sloping valleys, thick forests, quiet villages, huddled half-timbered houses, blending into or breaking the rhythm of the green. A deserted little station, and five minutes to enter the fortress walls of a dreamland. Movie set…nah? Cardboard storybook…nah? Cutest of gabled houses, pointy red slanting roofs, wooden plank surfaces and flower tubs decorating the windows. Pinch yourself. Ouch, you’re awake!

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The fantasy continues if you’ve booked a room at the Hotel Gotisches Haus. Converted from an old bread house, with 700-year old oak floor and ceiling beams, ancient doors and creaky stairs, its medieval splendour shines through exposed old stone-work. Charming room decor…a room heater from the past, a wrought iron bed, brick exposed walls, a cupboard and dainty white lace window curtains. Hold on, which year is this?

Gotisches Haus, Rothenberg ob der Tauber 1

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Explore every inch of the town…yes, its tiny enough for the possibility. Along the popular shopping street of Herrengasse, where once a cattle market flourished, notice the hotels and shops converted out of houses belonging to wealthy families. Upper floors with windows that look like barn doors. At the top of each house, a bar sticking out with a pulley to hoist sacks of grain up to the two top floors. To stock food supplies during war or siege? The houses almost touching together, but with separate walls for the water to drain off and fires to be contained. Innovation of town planning from back then!

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Hop into Käthe Wohlfahrt’s flagship store, Christmas Village, located in several separate buildings, one of which is the Christmas Museum. Learn how many of the Christmas traditions started in Germany, including decorating of Christmas trees. Outside the store, is a parked truck with fake, bright gift packages and at the entrance stands an adorable cuddly six-feet teddy. So, planning to return at Christmas?

Käthe Wohlfahrt, Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Nearby, at the Franciscan Church, the oldest in town, dawdle in the solitude of unpretentious, white interiors, offset by the graceful wooden-slat ceiling. Then head opposite to the imperial family castle of the Hohenstaufens. At the Burgtor gate, pause to study the mask used to pour hot oil onto attackers. Evil or inventive? Explore the huge gardens and the grey stone ruins of the castle left over from the earthquake destruction of 1356, trying to visualise the missing pieces. Gloat over the incredible views into the lush green valley stretch for miles, the calm river Tauber weaving a path, red-roofed houses, steeples, towers, turrets, playing hide and seek with the natural landscape. Wonder…had the town been built to hide behind the trees or had the trees grown over the years hiding the town?

Franciscan Church, Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Hohenstaufens, Rothenberg ob der Tauber

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Change of scene. In the Marktplatz, the bustling center of town, follow the throngs to the Rathaus (Town Hall), a grand building combining Gothic and Renaissance styles. Next to it, at the tall, yellow coloured clock tower, witness the sweet clockwork of the glockenspiel…admiring the precision of the two windows opening and two figures drinking from mugs. Then wander around the medium-sized square, peeping into souvenir shops selling schneeballen, wooden crafts, beer mugs, as well as numerous cafes, gelato shops and restaurants. At one of the typical German taverns, gorge on the Franconian specialty…schnitzel (breaded pork cutlet). Notice familiar faces…the town is so small, you can bump into the same people a few times!

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A little north of Marktplatz, go religious with St Jakobskirche (St. Jakob’s Church), built between 1373 and 1464 or delve into past treasures at the Reichstadtmuseum, a former convent. Close by, in the Mittelalterliches Museum (Middle Ages Museum), impassionately study the torture and punishment instruments, venture into dark dungeons and peep into dingy cells sporting life-size models of prisoners. Too much? Go lighter and livelier at the Doll and Toy Museum.

Jakobskirche, Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Reichstadtmuseum, Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Mittelalterliches Museum, Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Save the best for last. Meander in and out of curved, twisting little alleys, savouring that quintessential old-world charm. Countless gabled doll-houses in pretty pastels…lime, aqua, lemon, ochre, lilac, teal, peach. Window sills alive with bright flowers, an odd cluster of wine grapes hanging from a wall creeper, a tiny family hotel with an outdoor cafe, a toy monkey on a small chair on a window ledge, an ornate iron door knocker, a quaint oil lantern, a dwarf statue guarding a doorstep, a painted white wooden bench with a row of planters, hand-painted signages of specialty shops. Scattering of gems everywhere. Can you see why Walt Disney’s Geppetto village in Pinocchio was inspired by this little fairytale place?

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Search out Gerlachschmiede, the most photographed location in Rothenburg, on the fork of Plönlein (Little Square). A crooked, narrow, half-timbered building in a golden mustard colour making a silent statement against the cloud-scattered blue skies above. Framed by the Kobolzell Gate and Siebers Tower, it marks the entrance to the town. Would you believe that this is a 1951 reconstruction of the original building, destroyed in 1945? Looks like its been here since the beginning of time.

Gerlachschmiede, Rothenberg ob der Tauber

Back in the main square, as the sun dips into the evening, elegant shadows of the Rathaus fall on the little gabled houses resting on the slanting cobbled square, their soft colours sharply contrasting against the still sharp blue of the sky. You can feel it then…Rothenburg ob der Tauber on the Romantic Road is the epitome of German romanticism, inspiring artists through the ages with its unmistakable silhouette created by 42 gates and towers. If you have the time, indulge in the 1.5 mile long walk along the historic centre. Feel the remnants of a thousand-year past seep into your senses.

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When the shops down their shutters and the tour groups melt away into the darkness, the town enchants you even more with its sleepy and peaceful avatar. Honey, they shrunk me, you whisper to yourself…feeling like a miniature figurine in a gigantic doll-house town. But it is no dream…there’s a piece of Rothenburg in your heart and your footsteps are on its old stone streets. A bond. For eternity.

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber is Germany’s best preserved medieval walled town.

78 thoughts on “Why Rothenburg is the epitome of German romanticism?

  1. Wow, what a great place to amble around. Truly, Rothenberg is the epitome of German romanticism because of the stunning building structure and well detailed design. I like how you captured all your photos as it interest me. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Such a beautiful place. I love the way it offers a good mix of old town charm and lush green backdrops. I would love to tour around the city on foot, walking by cobbled streets and beautiful houses. Cheers!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love the architecture here looks like a place I would like to visit so will pin this for future travel plans. I like the hotel that you stayed at looks very traditional. I think I would enjoy strolling around these streets exploring

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  4. I was there 25 years ago, and it was super-popular then, so I can’t imagine what it is now. Crowds? But in your prose, it came through that you still got the romance of the place, so I imagine it’s all bearable. I was blown away by the town then, and neat that you are now.

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  5. Your pictures show how peaceful this place looks, and no I’m definitely not surprised when you talk about Walt Disney Gepetto’s village, it reminds me of it! I also love that the houses are covered with flowers I think that make them very pretty 🙂 Just like in a fairytale

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  6. Wow! These photos are amazing! I really want to go to a place like this for Christmas and feel the fairy tales come to life. The Christmas village sounds amazing, and I never knew Germany started the tradition of decorating pine trees for Christmas. So cool!

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  7. Incredibly beautiful indeed! If you get to have such beautiful views, the 4 train changes is totally worth it! Possibility to stay at a 700 yr old hotel? I’ll take that! The whole town looks like its frozen in time a few centuries back!

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  8. Those brightly colored houses and the lush landscapes definitely make for a fairytale town. Staying in a 700-year old bread house sounds fascinating.

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  9. This is such a beautiful town, thank you for such a comprehensive guide. The photos really bring it to life, I love the colours of these charming buildings and those red tile roofs. Great to learn a little about the town itself too.

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  10. Can’t believe we had never heard of Rothenberg! The architecture looks so charming! Can;t get enough of cobbled streets. Window sills alive with bright flowers make it look so romantic. I can imagine walking around aimlessly around Rothenberg.

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  11. This place is definitely worth a visit! The facades of the little houses and the gardens they have maintained make such wonderful pictures. We drove to this place, but it was a hurried visit.

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  12. I have never heard of this photo, but based on the photos, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Looks like a fairy tale town. Will put it on my bucket list.

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  13. Wow – it looks like you stepped back in time! Rothenberg does look like its worth the 4 train changes to get there, I’ve only ever been to Berlin, Bonn and Cologne but would love to explore more of Germany.

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  14. I must say the place is like a fairyland. It is so beautiful and picturesque and changing 4 trains to reach this place – is total worth. Windows with those flowers look pretty. Staying in a 700 old bread house is just Wow. I need to add this place to my bucket-list. Thanks

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  15. I just love towns like these. It’s like traveling back in times. Simple, small and beautiful. Rothenberg looks like a great place to go to get away from it all and relax. The architecture is amazing as well.

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  16. Rothenburg is such a charming little German town. We had been there w couple of years ago, and your post makes us want to return there! Thank you for sharing your story! 😉

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  17. Wow this is such a lovely place. So beautiful and doesn’t look like from our ages. Perfect mix of serene peace and charm of a bygone era. Love that hotel where you stayed in from the looks and sound of it.

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  18. We love Rothenburg and have been many times, during all seasons. There is so much to see and do for such a small town. If you happen to go at Christmas, they have a wonderful seasonal market that is just charming.

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  19. What a gorgeous part of the country. This is a city I haven’t been to yet but it’s just gorgeous. i just love the architecture there. I just loved your hotel. Gorgeous.

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  20. Oh WOW, Rothenburg truly is a fairytale world in the modern day! I LOVE the quintessential old-world charm, and the pastel hues of the buildings. It’s incredible that this town has stayed so authentic and true to it’s origins – four train connections is a lot, but it’s beautiful scenery along the way, and the town is so charming and unique it sounds definitely worth the trip!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Would definitely love to visit a city like Rothenbug, which has got so much of history. The buildings and architecture give the city a unique charm, and there’s so much to explore within the city too.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Well, it was worth 4 changes on the train to get to wasn’t it? Such an incredibly atmospheric looking place – nothing seems to break the spell there. It’s top of my Germany list, along with the castles. Yours are some of the best photos of Rothenburg that I’ve seen – they are all stunning!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I’ve always wanted to visit Rothenburg, because it is such a stark different to the grey modern world of Berlin – I love finding these little chocolate box towns in Germany, so pretty to walk around!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Rothenburg looks like it is straight out of a fairytale book. I can truly picture myself walking around the quiet street and along the countryside!

    Liked by 2 people

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