Rothenburg – the town counts a mere 11.000 inhabitants – certainly may take the credit for being the best known small town in Germany. Visitors from all over the world relish a medieval idyll, discover the town’s romanticism on every step they take and pursue history on the small cobblestoned lanes. A walk through the town, back and forth between old and new: The fascinating appeal of Rothenburg in County Ansbach is made up by the interlace of contrasts between the various periods of history. Strolling along gates, belfries and mighty fortifications, under Renaissance facades, takes the visitor back to times long gone by. Palaces, churches and squares, parks, gardens and museums invite to discovery tours through the past. Vineyards, gently rolling hills and the picturesque landscape of Tauber valley ask to take a time-out from the restless daily business. Rothenburg enjoys a reputation of internationality, open-mindedness and of course the convenience of a well-known tourism oriented town. More than three thousand beds of all categories will meet any requirement. A rich mixture of shops and boutiques invite to a personal shopping spree. Culture and art: For centuries artists found their inspiration in Rothenburg – and nowadays they still do!
Well established in the annual course of events: Traditional festivals like “Der Meistertrunk (The Master Draught)”, the Hans-Sachs-Festival, the historical “Shepherds’ Dance” and the celebration of the Imperial town of Rothenburg. The Toppler Theatre, opened only in 2008 in the idyllic Northern Court of the Imperial Museum, complements the theatre scene with a small yet exclusive program. But – Rothenburg offers a great deal more beyond that: Events in the Korn Hall of Culture, ambitious concerts of sacred music, the Taubertal-Festival presenting the more modern kind of music, and last but not least numerous offers of the local cultural society.
River Tauber Valley: The famous “Romantic Road” and the “Burgenstrasse” (Castle Road) link near Rothenburg, making it an ideal starting point to explore the attractions alongside the routes. The charming Tauber-valley itself attracts visitors from all over the world. Appealing offers suggest a variety of ways to spend a relaxed time – if nothing else a superb network of biking and hiking trails. A regional specialty: The Watermill trail!
Hiking along one of the various pilgrimage routes crossing the area may be an experience out of the ordinary.
Winegrowing and wine culture: Wine growing on the steep slopes of Tauber valley adds to the romantic and picturesque charm of the region. Wine growing and wine cultivation, very ingredients of Rothenburg culture, first mentioned as early as 912. Franconian wines await their discovery during a wine tasting seminar or a guided tour through the vineyards. The annual highlight for wine connoisseurs: Rothenburg wine village, to be held in mid-August.
Cuisine: Traditional inns and Franconian hospitality, a delightful combination! Local inns and restaurants cater for all culinary tastes – from hearty cold platters to exclusive haute cuisine. A very special dessert made from shortcrust: Rothenburg snow balls. By the way, numerous inns are members of the initiative „Regional Buffet“, which aims to boost the typical Franconian kitchen and to use only local foods.
A visit to Rothenburg is worth the effort – any time of the year. There is no “off season” in Rothenburg. Cultural events of all kinds add to Rothenburg’s program throughout the year. Visitors from all over the world travel to the Tauber valley to experience living history, e.g. the “Meistertrunk” festival, the historical “shepherds dance” and the celebration of the Imperial town of Rothenburg. In late summer the focus of attention shifts towards the “Franconian Wine Festival”.
In autumn, and also in spring, locals and guests meet for the Hiking weeks. The year ends with the Rothenburg “Fairy Tales” and the enchanting Christmas market, the so-called “Reiterlesmarkt” on the historical market place
Turrets, bay windows, lovingly restored half-timbered houses, but also splendid Renaissance house fronts characterize the Rothenburg picture and invite to take a leisurely walk through times long since gone. Even on crowded days it is hard to escape the medieval atmosphere. Buildings, town squares, but also churches of special architectural interest witness the creativity of the ancestors, historic stone walls tell old stories about emperors and kings, patricians and craftsmen guilds.
Visitors walking along the surrounding ramparts enjoy a wonderful view over the historic town, nestled into its fortification. A fascinating idea: Many generations, long since gone, held watch, looking out through the same crenels – at the time to protect their town from attackers. As many as up to seven staggered gates were supposed to keep unwanted “guests” from intruding the Imperial Town. 42 towers and belfries aided the Rothenburg defense to keep the surrounding area under surveillance and to spot attackers immediately.The first perimeter fortification had a small circumference only; it ran along “Judengasse”, “Pfarrgasse” and the old moat. During the 14th Century the former surroundings were integrated into the town with a new ring of walls. One can still walk on the crest of the northern and eastern part of the town wall.
An – at the time – rather unfortunate condition helped to preserve the town’s fortification in its original condition: During the Thirty-Years’ War, Rothenburg was so poor and lost in its insignificance that no one bothered to attack the former imperial town, hence it survived unscathed.
A day won’t suffice to explore all of Rothenburg’s museums. The little town gives quite a few perfect examples, how a museum’s visit can be turned from a dreary matter into an exciting experience. Everybody will find just the right entertainment. A nostalgic travel into the past for the whole family: the Christmas Museum. Scientific – yet scary – the Medieval Criminal Museum, which documents a thousand years of history of law. Interesting from both, a historical and an arts’ point of view: The Museum of the Imperial Town. Yet another approach to the imperial past, visitors may find in the Old-Rothenburg Craftsmen House, the historical vaults with the state’s dungeon, and last but not least the little Toppler-Castle.
Hardly any other town lives its traditions and old customs like Rothenburg. The Imperial past is well articulated throughout the year, nonetheless finding its peak between May and autumn. In a credible and authentic manner, the citizens re-live their history and bring back to memory famous historic events, like the Master-Draught-Saga “Meistertrunk”, the Imperial Town Festival or the Shepherds Dance “Schäfertanz” – all staged on the original grounds, rather than merely a facade – and all with full enthusiasm. All Rothenburg generations are united in their affection and identification with their hometown. Hundreds of citizens, young and old, women and men, participate with great fervor in the festival of the “Imperial Town”. A charming habit left from times gone by: Every evening, a real night-watchman starts his patrol along the alleys and lanes. Nowadays though not so much to look after the town’s security, but to guide visitors, to show the town’s gems and to chat about the old, and sometimes quite dismal times.
Activity in and around Rothenburg – its very position in the center of nature park “Frankenhöhe”, as well as its prominent location above Tauber-Valley make it an ideal starting point for all sorts of outdoor activities. Picturesque valleys, little creeks, hill crests, lakes, forests and peaceful villages, in the typical Franconian style with half-timbered houses, invite to discover the environs – walking, bicycling – or, certainly the most exiting version – with a hot air balloon, which will dwarf the landscape to a small fairy tale land. Golfing, tennis courts and a brand new climbing facility attract the sportive, dynamic visitor. The clean waters of Tauber-Valley make it a little paradise for anglers. A day in the open air pools, or a day of “well-being” in the pool and sauna area “Franken-Freizeit” promises even more relaxation. By the way – relaxation and water have been enjoying a long tradition in Rothenburg, going all the way back to the 14th Century. The earth quake gave way to a mineral spring, which was the beginning of “Wildbad”, – the baths, today home of a convention center.
Every night at 8:00 p.m. and 09:30 p.m. the Night-Watchman‘s bugle sends out its signal: Time to join the Night-Watchman on his nocturnal walkabout through Rothenburg.
His nightly routine through Rothenburg’s historical center, from Market Place down to Castle’s Garden and back via Burggasse takes the visitors back into the past, and illustrates in a rather entertaining and amusing fashion a way of life in medieval times, which in reality may have been less romantic than gruesome. The Night-Watchman’s mixture of stories, anecdotes and historical events is accentuated by the romantic mood of dusk settling over Rothenburg.
Rothenburg’s Night-Watchman is almost something like an international celebrity by now – but only few know the person behind the mask. From April until December he dresses up with Night-Watchman’s cloak and paraphernalia and brings the figure back to life. 59-years old Hans Georg Baumgartner has absorbed the character of the Night-Watchman since the late eighties – and credibly represents the profession: Necessary in medieval times, yet socially disregarded and stigmatised.
Rather accidentally Baumgartner picked up the “profession” of a night-watchman. From a newspaper clip Baumann learned, that Rothenburg was in need for a successor for the previous night-watchman. From several hundred applicants, four were called for an interview, amongst them also Baumgartner, till then working as an independent sales representative. Following the successful interview and an examination, he was rewarded the position of the new Rothenburg Night-Watchman, explaining his nightly patrols in German and English language.