My companions picked me up at my Frankfurt hotel in style: driving an Alfa Romeo SUV. I’m traveling with my sister Cindy and her husband John, and their granddaughter Eden who has taken three years of German. John was tickled the rental company upgraded the car because he refused a standard transmission. We jetted to the Autobahn where John soon set a personal record of 180 km/hour. Our destination was Rothenburg.
Rothenburg is a phenomenally preserved village that reached its heyday in the 1400’s, with over 6,000 inhabitants. If you have a chance to visit this medieval jewel, I recommend spending the night so you can lose yourself for an entire day in another century. We got settled in for the evening and happily fell into jet-lag induced sleep.
How else do you start a morning in Europe other than with pastries?!? And the advantage of having companions is that you can buy multiple pastries and try them all! I was fascinated by what appeared to be an enormous nest atop a nearby tower and verified that it was, in fact, a stork’s nest. The size of the nest was staggering and it appeared to be built on a large metal framework. I was intrigued that instead of wire barriers to prevent birds from nesting, Rothenburg is apparently enticing storks with a foundation for their home.
After our carb-loading, we hit the cobblestone streets and headed to town square to view the “Rathaus” or town hall and adjacent clock tower. Every street showcases half-timbered houses and shades of paint colors ranging from powder blue to rose petal pink. We shopped in Christmas stores reminiscent of Disneyland with animated scenes of teddy bears. We explored the history of St. James Church and the gardens edging the village with breathtaking views of the countryside. And we walked along the fortification wall of the entire city–studded with 42 towers–relishing the sight of staggered red-tiled rooftops. Touristy? Yes. Magical? Absolutely. We wore the day and ourselves out, and enjoyed every minute.
We ended the day where we began, in the Town Square waiting for the clock to chime 10 o’clock. We watched the mechanical puppets poke their heads out of bay windows at the hour, celebrating the legendary drinking of long-gone Mayor Nusch.
Before we left town the next morning, we had unfinished business. The town boasts a famous pastry, “schneeballs” or snowballs. The schneeball is a snowball shaped shortcrust pastry rolled in powdered or cinnamon sugar, chocolate, sometimes nuts. The schneeball shops are ubiquitous, so we grabbed a couple on our way out of town to taste. The consensus? Rick Steves is right. Don’t bother!