Germany wasn’t initially on our list of places we really just HAD to get to.
Sounds great, but, eh, there’s also Italy and Russia and all that.
However, we have a friend in Stuttgart and Jimmy found some ridiculously affordable flights to Frankfurt over his long Easter weekend. So, why not?
As I started investigating things we would want to do -other than visit our friend, Sam- I came across this darling little town along Germany’s “Romantic Road”- a stretch of country with quintessential Germanic towns for the nostalgic tourist. Turns out, it was the same cute little town that we had wanted to go to this winter. As I continued to search I discovered -thanks to Pinterest- that it is included in almost every list of “Tops” that you must do before you die: “Top Medieval Villages” “Top Places in Europe” “Best Preserved Town” etc etc.
Obviously, we had to go. Just a 2 hour train ride from Frankfurt, we made it our first destination on our Bavarian tour. So ladies and gents, I give you Rothenburg ob der Tauber. (Plus, its fun to say!)
But first, let me give you a quick run down of the ridiculous journey we took to get to this amazing little town:
Approximately 20 minutes before our on-time landing, the captain comes on to tell us that there are massively high winds that are delaying landings, so we get to circle around the stormy clouds for a while. Which he proceeds to do, up and down, in and out of the clouds, for the next 45 minutes or so. Neither Jimmy or I have ever felt sick on a plane before, but we both checked the position of our barf-bags. I swear, if one person had lost it, the whole plane would have.
By the time we made our very exciting landing, we had missed our first train. Most trains in Germany are open fares for whatever train in that region for the day, except those from the airport. So we purchased new tickets, grabbed some snacks to settle our stomachs, and boarded the next train to Würzburg.
The plan was to stop there for lunch before continuing on. We had to switch trains here anyway and it is considered the start of the Romantic Road. But about 20 minutes before we were due in Würzburg, our train stopped at a small station and never continued. An announcement was made in German over the intercom, and people began to get off the train. Fortunately, the Germans we as confused as we were. We waited in line at the info desk, the woman was able to explain that the high winds were preventing the train from continuing on.
“…but how do we get to Würzburg?”
She sent us to the next, slower speed train. After some platform confusion, we were back in business and still on schedule to be in Würzburg for lunch.
We arrived in Würzburg, checked our small luggage in a locker at the station, and made our way out towards the river, which was supposed to have a lovely old bridge. I had read that this was the best place to grab a bite to eat. However, not ten minutes into our walk through the town, the skies opened up and it started to pour buckets. And our umbrellas were in our luggage. In the station. We hastily searched for a non-tourist trap looking place to grab a beer and landed inside a burger joint.
Not exactly the riverside lunch with German wine that I had in mind, but it would do.
I looked at my map on my phone and realized that the river was actually not as close as I had thought, so we decided to cut our losses and take the next train to Rothenburg, so we could explore there some more. We slammed our beers and burgers, walked with the quickness back to the station, unlocked our luggage and just barely made the train.
But the fun wasn’t over then. When we were nearing our next transfer station, just outside Rothenburg, I went to pull out my phone to look up the best route to our hotel.
“…where’s my phone? Its not in my purse… (empty purse) Its not in my pockets (empty pockets)… Jimmy where is my phone?! Where is it?!”
Panic ensued, we determined it must have been left at the restaurant in our haste to get back to the station. Then we debated trying to go back for it. It would, most likely, be a futile effort; not everywhere is Finland. But could we go on without even trying? Jimmy talked to the conductors, who were very nice and sympathetic, even in the very little English they knew. They said we could use our fare to get back, but we had to wait until we hit the transfer to catch the next train going back.
So 40 minutes out, 40 minutes back, I sat at the Würzburg station with the luggage while Jimmy went in search of the phone. Miraculously, he came back victorious! (naturally, the phrase of the week became “Do you have your phone?” and I had to show it to him every time) By which time we had, of course, missed the next train back to where we were before. So we wandered again and gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the station.
…where we sat for an extra 20 minutes while we waited for our train that was delayed, again, by the storm. Turns out, it was blowing massive trees down onto the tracks. We were beginning to get nervous that we would never make it to our adorable little town at all. We even discussed a rental car.
Finally the train showed up, we took the trip for the third time, sprinted across the platform to our next connection into Rothenburg ob der Tauber (which was waiting for our train anyway, since it was empty otherwise) and eventually made it to town. (Don’t worry that, the next day, we had a security alert on our credit cards, which we then had to cancel. Rothenburg really tried to get us down.)
Now let me get on with describing the wonderful time we had in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Despite the hellacious travel day before and the continuing wind storms, our first day was amazing. After we had arrived, we grabbed beers and hearty meals at one of the last places open in town, and crashed for the night. We had checked into Hotel Spitzweg, a tiny, quaint little inn run by a jolly Santa Claus of a man who makes your breakfast and sits down to your table to chat -about clocks or solar energy or the insulation in the old inn. (I was interested and he told me I was smart with my head! Aw thanks Santa!) There were boar skins and skis on the walls, along with original and rare black forest clocks, copper pots, illuminated manuscripts, and old maps. The rooms were furnished with old, painted wooden furniture and complimented by gloriously modern bathrooms (yay big showers!). It could not have been a more ideal place to stay for our first night in Germany. The next day, he let us store our bags at the hotel until we left, when he graciously asked if we needed anything else, and forced us to take tangerines with us as we went.
We told him we were leaving, but we were actually just checking into another place. We extended our stay in Rothenburg last minute, by which time Spitzweg was booked. So we went for an entirely different experience and stayed in a modern rehab apartment in one of the city’s oldest buildings, just off the main square, Am Hoffbrunnen.
This place was also amazing. The building could not have been more central and the apartments could not have been more comfortable. There are 4 apartments available, and two have little balconies that open to an interior atrium, with deck chairs and tables.
And, my favorite part, the bath tub and a rain shower (with really awesome fixtures). I took advantage of the bath with a bottle of wine we bought from a vendor in the square. It was glorious.
So more about what we did: Wander. And then wander some more.
We wandered ourselves to the city walls, which we walked around most of the morning. Then we wandered ourselves through some of the stores in town, with Steiff teddy bears and Easter goodies. We wandered our way to the big, beautiful Gothic church, and then to the lovely restaurant next store for lunch beers and garlic soup. Then we wandered our way into a lederhosen shop and made the single greatest purchases of our trip.
Feeling very proud of ourselves, we continued wandering through stores with bottomless steins and chattering cuckoo clocks, passed buildings with quirky rain spouts and unique iron signs. And eventually up into one of the town’s tall towers to look out over the country. In here, we learned more about the history of the city: towards the end of WWII, the allies bombed Rothenburg in an attempt to break the German morale, as it was a key cultural city. 40% of the city was nearly destroyed. However, they rebuilt the city in its original form and made massive strides to preserve all original buildings. The medieval city walls were badly damaged as well, but were repaired with the aid of donations that came in from around the world. Today, as you walk the massive circumference of the city wall, stone plaques honor the thousands of donors.
We followed a TripAdvisor tip for dinner that night and landed in a building that we had both separately pointed out during our wanderings (I liked the sign out front, Jimmy liked the biergarten in the back, and we didn’t know they were the same building until we walked in for dinner). It was here at Gastof Butz that we had one of the best meals of the trip.
We both ordered a beer and the sausages plate with sauerkraut and potatoes. Nothing particularly special, but it was the best hot potato salad and the best sausages in the country. And so satisfying after that long day of wandering and drinking. Whew! Touring is rough!
We ended the night with a touch more wandering, which led us to an Italian ice cream shop, where we were beckoned in by the shop owner standing just inside the door way. I cannot remember what we ate, but I know that we refused to split a sundae and each of us went home full and fat and happy.
Early the next morning, we made our way to the station and headed to Füssen.
At the end of our trip, we both voted Rothenburg our favorite stop. It was charming, we stayed in two incredible places, we had a slow day of exploring the city and shops, we bought wine from a vendor, and we left with lederhosen, because why not? Plus, we just have so much fun exploring together! We were on vacation so we said yes to dessert every day, and took mid-day beer breaks. We decided we would have to return again to rent bikes and ride through the countryside with a picnic- maybe Jimmy will even wear his lederhosen!
Rothenburg has recently received a lot of publicity and, subsequently, visitors. Fortunately, most come in as a stop on a tour bus in the late morning and early afternoon. I recommend staying at least one night here to get the feel for the town when it is not teeming with oblivious people following an umbrella. It is nearly empty at night and in the mornings.
Fall is supposed to be the best time to experience Bavaria. We saw many biergartens tucked into over-grown stone walls that were not yet open. Also, many places have bikes available for rent to explore the green country side. We intend to go back in the fall sometime to get the full experience.