It has been an extremely busy few weeks for me with some major projects at work taking up a lot of my time. Added to which I am still not over the bad cold which is making its presence felt in our community. Now however the work is finished and the cold is on the way out, so I can get back to normal and do such pleasant things as cooking, relaxing, and reading my favourite blogs!
One welcome break from all the work was the long weekend that we had a couple of weeks ago. The feast of Pentecost (in German: Pfingsten) is a religious holiday here in Germany and so the Monday (known in English as Whit Monday) is a public holiday. We were doubly fortunate as our school had the Friday off as well which made for a nice four day weekend!
As we had visitors staying with us, we decided to take them to Rothenburg, in southern Germany.
Rothenburg - or to be more precise Rothenburg ob der Tauber - is an ancient town that was once a Free City of the Holy Roman Empire. The Thirty Year War and the Black Death were the end of Rothenburg's once proud and exalted status. Defeated in battle and ravaged by the plague, the impoverished town stopped growing.
Dilapidated and impoverished, the crumbling town was then 'discovered' by 18th and 19th Century tourists and it started to make a comeback, built upon its antiquated appearance.
Its preserved state held a special appeal for the National Socialist Party in the 1930s, who looked upon it as an archetypal medieval German town (which it is) and decided to use it for their own ends.
As World War II drew to an end, the town was ordered to be defended at all costs but despite this, and thanks to some members of the American Military, who recognised it's historical importance, it was not like neighbouring Wurzburg, pounded into submission by aerial and ground bombardement. At the same time. the German Commander, ignored orders and decided to surrender. As a result thetown was saved although it had already received some serious damage resulting in loss of life.
Today Rothenburg is a major tourist destination and well worth a visit.
And so we sallied forth.
En route we stopped off at Burg Eltz, a medieval castle in the middle of a huge forest:
No photographs were allowed inside the castle buildings but these photos give you an idea of what it is like. It really is like a fairy tale castle. The visit was only marred by the fact that it rained - a lot!
Arriving in Rothenburg, the sky cleared up somewhat. We were staying at a hotel called 'Die Goldener Hirsche' and after an early night we went to the breakfast room with its stunning views of the valley, and the town as it curves around the hill that it stands on:
(The above photographs are somewhat yellow due to the lighting as I was taking these through the breakfast room windows.)
We were last in Rothenburg a few years ago when we took my Mother there for the Christmas Market. At that time the town looked like this:
No snow this time:
All sorts of rulers stayed at Rothenburg at one time or another:
These are called 'fachwerk' houses. I guess that our equivalent would be 'Tudor style'
There are a lot of wonderful street signs:
And there is the Kathe Wohlfahrt shop, selling every imaginable thing you could associate with Christmas. We naturally paid a visit:
The town sits on a hill that curves around, almost like am amphitheatre. Surrounded by its town wall, one end has been turned into a park. We went there one evening to take photos and generally stroll about:
The park used to be the castle of Rothenburg but it was destroyed by an earthquake in the middle ages!
This is the memorial to the towns Jewish population who were killed in the pogrom in 1298.
During the Thirty Year War, the area surrounding Rothenburg was the scene of much warfare. The area was attacked by the invading Swedish army of the Protestant King, Gustav Adolf:
Areas changed hands many times as first the invading Protestant forces, and then the defending Catholic forces gained the upper hand. Many legends are told about this time, often centre around the means by which various towns and villages were saved from being pillaged and destroyed by the conquering armies.
Rothenburg is no exception. Count Tilly, the Imperial commander succeeded in taking Rothenburg and entering triumphantly into the town to be unexpectedly confronted by the mayor who offered him a drink. The general accepted and then formulated a plan by which the town would be spared the ravages of his forces. He announced that if someone would agree to drain a 6 pink tankard of beer (or it may have been wine) the town would be saved. This sort of challenge was agreeable to the soliders. The mayor took up the challenge, drained the tankard, and the town was saved!:
This event, known as the Miestertrunk (Really Big Drink) is commemorated on the weekend of Pentecost, and so we were in the middle of it all!
The town was en fete with everyone dressed up in sixteenth century costume.
This might seem overdone to the point of being somewhat kitsch, but it is done in such a natural way that it never seems that way. The event takes place over the entire long weekend and after a while you feel as though you are living in the sixteenth century too! People stroll about doing their shopping, driving their cars, riding horses, eating in the restaurants, enjoying the sun, or just taking time out, but all dressed a la 16th Century.
There was lots of singing, marching, drinking and general bonhomie!
There is a lot of interesting things to see in Rothenburg ( and lots of shopping opportunities too) and perhaps I will write more about it at another time but to end this little tour of Rothenburg I am included some of the photographs I took, to give you an idea of what was 'going on'. I hope you enjoy it!
This lot are just returning from a skirmish outside the town:
There we were enjoying our schweinhaxe (pork knuckle) or Hirschgulash (Venison Gulash) when some of the soldiers marched in and started singing for beer...
Pikemen getting ready to go out and defend the town: