Saturday, September 19
Saturday, September 19th - our last full day in Germany and, in fact, in Europe. Tomorrow we'd be heading back to Canada.
Our flight back home headed out of Frankfurt - the same city to which we flew almost two weeks before. Roland had planned a day that allowed us to make headway back towards Frankfurt, while at the same time visiting another of Germany's notable medieval cities - Rothenburg.
Final Nuremberg Shot
After another excellent breakfast at our Hotel Avenue in downtown Nuremberg, we checked out and began our journey west towards Rothenburg - but not before returning one final time to the excellent lookout platform of the nearby parking garage's top floor. One more shot of Nuremberg's old center under beautiful morning light.
Once securely esconced in our rental Volkswagen, we headed west, driving just under a hundred kilometres to the small town of Rothenburg.
As mentioned just above, Rothenburg (or, more specifically Rothenburg ob der Tauber) is a very well-preserved medieval town in south-central Germany. Suffering less damage than did Nuremberg in the Second World War, Rothenburg has a high percentage of old original structures and relatively few modern buildings. Founded sometime before the year 1000, Rothenburg slowly grew over the centuries into robust medieval town. A seige and the arrival of the black death stopped the growth of the town in the 17th century, essentially stunting its further development for long enough to be seen as a valuable historical showcase - one to be preserved and not further modernized. I for one am thankful for that 17th-century stunting.
We arrived at a carpark situated just outside of the eastern edge of the old medieval part of town, which is delineated by the very nice, very extensive enclosing fortress wall. The fortress wall was the subject of our attention for the first bit of our tour of the town, for it is possible to walk along its defensive walkway for quite a long distance. We entered via the eastern Würzburger Tor gate and immediately climbed up onto the walkway atop the wall.
The walkway ran behind the stone of the upper wall on the outward-facing side, and was fenced but otherwise open on the city-facing side. The walkway's wood and tile roof meant it would be a comfortable place to stroll even when raining. We walked south, taking many pictures of the multitude of clay roofs stretching away to the west.
The walkway was a superb way to get an overview of the city, allowing us to see down into the tidy gardens and yards of the residents' houses. Essentially we were looking into medieval suburbia. Beyond, over the nearer rooftops, we could see the spires and towers surrounding the heart of the city.
Saggy, historic clay roofs
We walked along the fortress wall all the way to the southern tip of the old town. Here, a combination of tower and curiously figure-eight-shaped fortifications guarded the southern approach to Rothenburg. We spent some time exploring the interior of the fortification part, known as the Spitalbastion.
From the Spital Gate, we stopped walking along the fortification wall and began walking along the main inner streets of the town. Apart from a brief detour to look out west over the Tauber river from the town's western edge, we kept to the main north-south street, the Spitalgasse. There was a lot more touristy development and tourist traffic along this section. Still very pretty, but clearly this stretch of town had been "made-up" to cater to visitors.
The Spitalgasse eventually led us into the very heart of old Rothenburg - the Marktplatz square. Large, beautiful structures lined the square, including several patrician houses, the combo gothic/renaissance town hall, the gabled councillor's tavern (Ratsherrntrinkstube), the beautiful half-timbered house of the Marien Pharmacy (the Marienapotheke) and the intricate George's Fountain (Georgsbrunnen). Many - if not most - of the buildings here dated from the 1200s through to the 1500s.
Rothenburg certainly had an older feel than had either Salzburg or Nuremberg. It was more densely-packed, more consistently historic than either of the other two cities. If you want to feel immersed in the "medievalness" of an old German town, this one probably should be high on your list.