The city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber has existed since the 900s and no, I didn’t leave a 1 off of that number. In the early 1000s, Rothenburg castle was built on the mountain top high above the River Tauber — which is where “ob der Tauber” comes from. Unfortunately this castle was destroyed in an earthquake a quick 300 years later. The city grew for the next 400 years and, like Munich, is considered part of Bavaria in Germany. Interestingly enough, it was the bubonic plague that wiped out almost all of the people in this town, stopping its growth and preserving its historic appearance.
World War Two
It was also this appearance that led to most of its preservation during WWII. It was beloved by the Nazis, considered to be the most “German” of any German town and ultimately was used for propaganda as the ideal community and purest representation of Nazi ideals. While the US did bomb this city during the war, we only destroyed 6 buildings and a moderate portion of the city’s outer wall. In fact, when our infantrymen arrived to take the city, they spoke with a German solider and told them that if they surrendered the city, we would not use artillery on it and destroy it. The German military commander actually did just that and the city was saved from the destruction that covered most of Germany.
Today the city is very much preserved and maintained as it was back then. The buildings look like gingerbread houses to me and are still the picture-perfect ideal of German buildings. Fortunately or Unfortunately, that picture-perfectness has made this a major tourist attraction. Tour buses are parked along the city on every side and signs are in Chines and Japanese as much as they are in German or English. It is also home to one of the largest and most famous Christmas Markets in Germany (there are several Christmas stores and a museum open year round). It will be at its most beautiful during Christmas but be prepared to fight through a see of tourists. The off-season in the summer is still full but not quite as bad. Be sure to grab a schneeball as you walk around all the shops – the sugar from this deep fried pastry dough dipped in chocolate, sugar, or marzipan is sure to give you the energy to walk along the wall. I wouldn’t buy much else here though, the prices are clearly raised for tourists.
An interesting history for an interesting town. I will probably try and fight the crowds just once more to see it in all of its Christmas glory but otherwise it is a bit too touristy for me! Have you been to Rothenburg?