Thursday, 30 May 2013

Meistertrunk: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

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:

One of the doors of the Town Hall.  I do like the door handle:

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:
 I like this photograph because one of the soldiers had a cigarette in one hand and something from the bakers' in the other:


  1. Looking at all this, Kirk,I'm stunned by the skill of the art and craftsmanship, and their continuing cultural relevance.
    It's funny that in an age such as we're in now where we can do whatever we seem to like, our creations turn out to be often ugly, lacking connection or integrity.
    Thus it's re-assuring to see culture alive and kicking, not simply an artefact.

    1. And to think that they did it all with hammers and nails. Mind you, you only have to go into some of the older buildings and churches in Melbourne to see the results of the same building methods.
      Does the fact that they are old influence our views on their perceived beauty? I think not. Functionality seems to be the order for today but then I guess back then these buildings were functional too. I wonder why they appeal to us more than the functional buildings of today.

    2. I feel there's more feeling in what's been built in the past, Kirk. We've become so clever now - constructing whatever is in our head - we've forgotten the necessity of connection. Functionality has its purpose, and functionality is a relief, but it can be cold, as our current age can be.
      I admire cleverness, but only when it's humane.

    3. I agree. Connection is important but I think that in our collective arrogance we have indeed forgotten it. That is why functional buildings from the, say, VIctorian period still have a charm about them that delights us. I think that there was a gentility about them that is often lacking today.

  2. Dear Kirk,

    I'm glad to hear you're on the mend. You've been through quite a taxing winter and spring!

    As always, you are a great tour guide. How wonderful that your visitors could experience Rothenburg as a time warp. The uniforms are marvelous, and it's good to see that all the generations are getting in on the costuming.

    As a graphic designer, I especially enjoy those signs! The bagel shop's looks new, but still has the quality of a very old sign . . .

    1. Dear Mark,
      You are right - it has been a taxing time. Many of us have been fighting the good fight against the 'flu and cold germs that are thriving in this cold grey weather.
      I knew you would like those signs. Interestingly, McDonalds has a shop in Rothenburg but the Town Council stipulated that their sign had to be similar to the others and not their usual plastic colossus!

    2. Good for Rothenburg. In the United States, the state of Vermont long ago outlawed billboards and plasic signage, and it makes such an overall difference! There, McDonald's has carved wooden signs with gilded arches, probably similar to what they've done in Rothenburg.

    3. I like that. It is good to see authorities taking a stand against in-your-face advertising that is out of place with the rest of its surroundings. I seem to remember that a similar rule was in force, in the old town of Toledo (Spain, not Ohio).

  3. Amazing, interesting, beautiful! The Castle is great!



    1. Thanks Marina,
      The castle is wonderful isn't it. It looks as though it has come out of a fairytale!

  4. Burg Eltz - what a romantic looking castle situated in the middle of a forest, even the rain does not dampen its appeal.
    Yes, you need to have your priorities in the right order, fag to the left and bread bun to the right.
    Good that the sun came out in Rothenburg so that everyone could enjoy the fete. I don't know whether this is an historical re-enactment, I suspect it is, but it seems to be something that many people appear to enjoy doing these days.
    Glad you are getting better Kirk.

    1. Dear Rosemary,
      Burg Eltz is literally miles from the nearest town. It is well worth a visit.
      As for Rothenburg it is partly historic reenactment and partly a reconnecting with the past. The people certainly take part with gusto!

  5. Welcome back, Kirk! What wonderful photos!! Rothenburg looks like fairy tale land. (Minus the wars.) Just magical! I like that door knocker, too. Incredible metal work It must be heavy to lift. Sending you my best for a full recovery! x Loi

    1. Thanks Loi,
      Rothenburg is well worth a visit. Next time you are in Europe you should take a couple of days detour and pay it a visit. In the scheme of things it isn't that far from the French border and well worth the experience.
      I took a photo of that door knocker in the hope that one day we will have something like it on our own front door!

  6. I'm so amazed,I can hardly contain myself.It would takr to long to go over every old building and such.The one thing I love the most is the castle.You said you are not allowd to take pics inside.Does that mean you were inside it? How did it make you feel? I got to touch the bell from the Titanic and the feeling wasjust so strange. It really took my breath away.I also loved the Christmas shop.I have a Christmas village.And always lokking for unique pieces.
    Thank you so much for sharing all this with us,
    Marie Antoinette

    1. Dear MA,
      Thank you for your kind comments.
      Yes we did go inside the castle. One has to go on a guided tour and no photographs were allowed. It was lovely inside. I think I could easily live there.
      I know what you mean, being closed to things that are old, that have born witness to significant experiences, somehow links us to them and it can be quite an odd feeling.
      The Christmas Shop is lovely. I think you would like it and I know that they have an online store.

  7. Kirk,
    beautiful costumes, beautiful horses. Nice to see the adults entertain like the kids! They know how to relax!
    I hope you get well soon.
    I am interested in the history of this city, where so much has happened.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Dear Nadezda,
      It was a lot of fun visiting Rothenburg - and the sun came out which was great after so many weeks of grey grey days. I too am looking to learn more about the history of this wonderful town.
      Bye for now

  8. Hello Kirk

    I loved your guided tour of Rothenburg and that door knob is stunning. The festival looked like a lot of fun and what interesting costumes. Again you peaked my historic interest and I found myself researching the Pogrom of 1298. Quite a sobering history.
    May your health be fully restored and have a glorious weekend

    Helen xx

    1. Dear Helen,
      Thank you for your good wishes. I am hoping that June will be a month of sun and blue skies. I think that will fix things up for me!
      Rothenburg is a lovely place. On every corner there is something new to see. A great place for artists to visit too!
      Bye for now

  9. Dear Kirk,
    Rothenburg looks magnificent. That fairy tale castle looks so inviting, pity you were not able to show us the inside, is it beautiful. I am afraid I have not visited this area, but after seeing your tour I will have to add this area to my list, it's beautiful.
    Thank you for the tour, most interesting.
    All the BEST to you.

    1. Dear Di,
      The interior of Burg Eltz was lovely. They had a huge four poster bed with steps to get into it, set in a painted chamber. The nice thing is that it is still owned by the family who built it. I hope that you get to visit it, and Rothenburg, one day!
      I hope you are enjoying your time in Bruges!
      Bye for now

  10. KIRK DALE!

    You have taken my breath away,and I mean it!

    OK, I love France. I have lived there, visited Italy, and have toured Japan as a dancer....but Germany? I have yet to see this fairytale location. Your photos are stunning....beyond beautiful. You have captured the essence and REALITY of many of the images I could only see in books as a child, and as an adult, try to recreate in my home, to the best of my abilities.

    Stunning photography, Kirk, and I also want to thank you for coming to leave a comment! Yes, we gather our home décor inspiration from EUROPE. From the lighting to the interior details, we want to make this simple little home a castle.

    ENJOY YOUR TRAVELS, and are you also a teacher?


    1. Dear Anita,
      Thank you for your kind comments and thank you for joining my blog.
      There are indeed parts of Germany that are just like scenes from a storybook. I find myself taking lots and lots of photographs: the Castles, the old towns, the lovely countryside. It all most inspirational.
      No I am not a teacher. Instead, I am the teacher's best friend and collaborator because I am the school librarian!
      Bye for now

  11. Replies
    1. I do too, Marcus.
      It is a lovely place to visit - at any time of the year.

  12. Thank you for showing us around Kirk. I never knew Germany has such pretty parts. Burg Eltz looks like a fairy tale castle and the town of Rothenburg is lovely too. I think your guests must have enjoyed themselves very much.

    Happy week! Enjoy your cooking and baking :-)


  13. Dear Madeleif,

    Our guests did enjoy themselves.
    I think you would like Rothenburg too!

    I made a lemon-scented Madeira cake this weekend...


  14. Another fascinating post, Kirk. What a peripatetic life you lead. Traveling here and there and everywhere. I am envious. Love those photos of the make-believe soldiers - and horses too!

    That fairy tale castle (even in the rain) is magnificent.

    If I'd gone Christmas shopping with you and your mom I would have been chased off the plane for having too much carry-on. Ha. I love all that stuff.

    Rothenburg. Another site to visit when I win the lottery. :)

    1. Dear Yvette,
      We are making hay while the sun shines! In the not too distant future we will return to Melbourne but then we plan to see more of Australia and Asia.

      When I first went to a Christmas market here in Germany I spent like there was no tomorrow! When you enter the Kathe Wohlfart shop they give you a little wicker basket for you to put your 'stuff' into. Suddenly you see it is full!

      Bye for now


  15. Hello Kirk, Thanks for the tour and lovely photographs of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, so timely as my husband and I will be spending a week in Rothenburg during the Christmas Holidays.

    1. Gina, you will love it!
      Christmas is a special time of year to be in Rothenburg too. It has its own Christmas market as well as the Kathe Wohlfart shop. It is a magical time of year to be in Germany.