A Journey Through Time: Germany's Rothenburg ob der Tauber


As I stood atop the medieval town wall of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany, squinting through a gap in the stonework, I couldn't help but marvel at the scene before me. On one hand, there was the well-preserved medieval town with its ancient half-timbered buildings, quaint cobblestone streets, and a tower that doubled as a museum of medieval torture devices. On the other hand, there was a flock of selfie-taking tourists armed with selfie sticks, posing in front of every available landmark, and a gaggle of brightly dressed kids on a school trip, high on gummy bears and sugar-laden soft drinks.

"Yep", I thought to myself, "this place is the perfect amalgamation of historic charm and modern day madness."

The Journey Begins

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a small town located in Bavaria, Germany, is pretty much the embodiment of every fairy tale and Disney movie cliché you can imagine. For those of you who haven't brushed up on your German fairy tales lately, Rothenburg is located along the Romantic Road, a winding 410-kilometer route that connects a series of picturesque towns in the area. If you're looking for a journey back in time, then this is the place to be.

I began my day by strolling through Rothenburg's charming streets and narrow alleyways, starting at the town's main square, known as Marktplatz. Here, I was greeted by the sight of half-timbered buildings decorated with flower boxes, a beautiful fountain, and a gaggle of tourists posing for photos while eating oversized Bavarian pretzels.

A Bit of History

Rothenburg ob der Tauber dates back to the 12th century and was once a thriving town that sat at the crossroads of several important trade routes. But what truly sets this town apart from others is its impressive level of preservation. You see, Rothenburg has managed to avoid both natural disasters and war, leaving its medieval architecture largely untouched.

And when I say "untouched," I don't mean that it has sagging roofs, creaking wooden beams, and the ever-present smell of dampness. No, Rothenburg has been lovingly looked after, with bright colors adorning the buildings, flowers overflowing from their window boxes, and nary a cobblestone out of place.

What to See and Do

Rothenburg offers plenty to see and do, and is best explored by foot while meandering through its labyrinth of streets. Some highlights include:
  • The aforementioned town wall, which you can climb and walk along for great views of the town and surrounding countryside.
  • The Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum, which houses a collection of over 1,000 artifacts related to medieval criminal justice and torture. A must-visit for anyone curious to see how a chastity belt actually works, or what a pair of "shame flutes" look like.
  • St. Jakob's Church, which features a stunning wood-carved altar, and offers the chance to climb its tower for even better views.
  • Shopping for authentic Christmas decorations at one of Rothenburg's many quaint shops, because who doesn't need a hand-carved nutcracker or a delicate glass ornament?

Eating and Drinking

As one might expect in a place like Rothenburg, there is a dizzying array of eateries on offer, ranging from cozy cafés to hearty taverns. I started off with a hearty breakfast of Weisswurst (white sausages) and pretzels, which I washed down with a stein of beer because, well, when in Germany...

For lunch, I opted for some traditional Franconian fare at a local tavern, tucking into a plate of juicy roast pork and dumplings, followed by an apple strudel that was so delicious it had me questioning the meaning of life.

And of course, no visit to Rothenburg would be complete without sampling the local treat known as Schneeballen (snowballs) - balls of shortcrust pastry, deep-fried and covered in powdered sugar. If you're wondering what it feels like to eat one, just imagine biting into a chewy, sugary cloud, and then having said cloud stick to every surface of your mouth and teeth.


Rothenburg is home to a variety of accommodation options, from boutique hotels housed in historic buildings to more budget-friendly guesthouses. I opted for a charming bed and breakfast, complete with exposed wooden beams and a host who insisted on starting each day with a hearty rendition of "Guten Morgen!" at the breakfast table.

Final Thoughts

As I packed my bags and bid farewell to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, I couldn't help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the medieval world that had briefly enveloped me. Sure, there were elements of kitsch, and the ever-present throng of tourists may have detracted from the overall ambiance, but there's no denying that Rothenburg offers a unique glimpse into the past.

And hey, where else can you find a town that has managed to perfectly combine medieval charm with the modern-day phenomenon of selfie sticks and gummy bear-fueled school trips?

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