Walking the Wall

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, or just Rothenburg (ROE-ten-BURG) is a 1000+ year old Medieval city, surrounded by it’s original wall, complete with 24 towers, a dungeon and all the cuteness of a town with legit (ankle rolling) cobblestone roads and competing church bells.  The town was HUGE (one of the 20 biggest in the Roman Empire) back its heyday, when it was RICH, making money off of textile exports (the surrounding fields, now used for wine, were then full of sheep).  For 500 years this town was the perfect stop over place for visitors traveling north to south (Scandanavia to Rome) or east to west from Prague to Paris.  Then of course the plague came, and people died.  Then they started to rebuild a small amount of momentum, which was quickly taken away during the thirty years war, when the Catholics decided they wanted to take refuge from the mud and rain in the nearest town – protestant Rotheburg.  Of course it was a religious war, and they weren’t super excited about this idea, so for 3 days they fought off the army from inside the tower walls – killing over 300 Catholics and taking no casulties….until….according to the night watchman, one of Rothenburgs own went to check, in the dark, on the gun powder supply, in a tower….and of course it was dark….so he took in his torch.  And tower go boom.  According to the night watchman (who recounts the town’s history during a 1 hour walking tour done at night), this blew a whole in the wall right in front of where the Catholic army stood.  And such was the beginning of 17 years of occupation.  And they brought more diseases, and by the time everything was said and done, Rothenburg was no longer a rich giant city, but small and poor and forgotten.  And in the late 1800’s tourists started.  And then came WWI….and then WWII….and then the American’s, in the fog (fortunatly) came to bomb the city – and missed the town center, but did take out a piece of the wall (this was in 1945, near the end of the war).  At the time there was an important American defence/army folk (this is where names have escaped me) who was in the area, and he knew about the town because his MOTHER had been a tourist and he grew up with a picture on the wall.  And he wasn’t inclined to see if blown up.  So he intervened and gave them a chance to surrender.  And the same time, the German troops in the city were without their General, and they didn’t know when he would return. The highest ranking German knew the war was nearing end, and though negotiating was forbidden, he accepted the American’s offer to surrender.  So the German’s met with the Americans on the doppelbrücke (double bridge – pics to come in a later post) and surrendered the towns.  They left, Americans took over, town was spared.  Except the big hole in the wall.  So they asked the world, by an ad in a magazine, to sponsor a meter of the wall.  And they did!

So all this to say we started our first morning in Rothenburg by wandering the wall of the town.  It’s about 1.5 miles long/around and goes in almost a complete circle (it stops around the castle garden – which is beautiful to walk in and of itself).  The wall it full of plaques in honour of those who helped pay to fix the damage done by the war.  The walk is enchanting and gives you a wonderful view of the town.  It is uneven, with steep stairs and some narrow passages.  We got a great view of the church and town tower from all points of view, and saw this weird little house with a snake on the front (I refer to it as the Slytherin house….it looks like it belongs in a Harry Potter book/film!).  Walking the wall is an absolute MUST do experience when visiting Rothenburg (and Rothenburg is a MUST do experience when visiting Bavaria, or Germany in general).  Yes – it does make it’s money off of tourism – but it is still a town with great history and incredible charm.  Which is worth a few extra euros.

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