Let’s visit a medieval town in Germany: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

When you think about medieval times, what town instantly pops into your mind? What does it look like? I am almost sure it is something resembling Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a small gem of a town in Germany, which will forever live in my mind rent-free as one of the best places to visit while spending your holiday in Bavaria.

I was so excited for this weekend! Right before Easter, I decided to spend some time in Bavaria and carve out two days in which I would be visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a small Bavarian town, known for its whimsy and magical atmosphere.

A Unique Holiday Experience in Bavaria

The weather was on our side on Saturday morning while we were on our way to the train station, and with my silly little cappuccino, I settled in for a sunny train ride. Taking the train is not mandatory, but I enjoy reading and listening to podcasts while traveling and I find train rides are the ideal way to merge these fun activities.

Nothing prepares you for what awaits ahead after you step foot on the first cobblestones, and see the first houses that are specific to the region yet, in reality, are hard to find in their original condition and such high density. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a treasure trove of medieval architecture. Its well-preserved buildings, dating back to the Middle Ages, transport visitors back in time. Walking through the town's streets, I had to stop and admire the half-timbered houses adorned with colorful flowers, intricate carvings, and steep gabled roofs. The architecture serves as a testament to the town's prosperous past and its enduring commitment to preserving its heritage.

The Plönlein: A Picturesque Corner in Film and Animation

One of Rothenburg's most photographed spots is The Plönlein, a picturesque square nestled at the intersection of two narrow streets. Flanked by charming half-timbered houses and framed by the iconic Siebers Tower and Kobolzeller Tower, The Plönlein is a quintessential postcard-worthy scene. I couldn’t help but be enchanted by the timeless beauty of this quaint corner of Rothenburg, and I came back three times in two days to take pictures in different lights and from different angles.

If the Plönlein seems a little too familiar, let me explain why! Beyond its status as a beloved landmark in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, The Plönlein has also captured the imagination of filmmakers and animators, gracing the silver screen and small screen alike. The Plönlein's distinctive appearance has made it a popular choice for animated adaptations seeking to capture the essence of a fairytale setting. In the world of animation, this quaint corner has been recreated in various forms, from classic cartoons to modern animated features.

One such example is Disney's "Pinocchio," where The Plönlein's enchanting ambiance is mirrored in the film's whimsical portrayal of the village square. With its charming architecture and idyllic surroundings, The Plönlein serves as the perfect setting for Pinocchio's adventures, adding to the film's magical atmosphere.

So if it all seems like you have seen it in some distant dream already, you might have, because The Plönlein is part of our collective imagination, even if we don’t know it on a conscious level.

Market square and town hall

Rothenburg's Market Square, or Marktplatz, is the vibrant heart of the town. Lined with historic buildings, cafes, and shops, the square buzzes with activity, especially during the lively markets held here. At the center of it all stands the impressive Town Hall, a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Its ornate façade and imposing tower dominate the square, serving as a symbol of the town's civic pride and history.

I was very lucky because I decided to get a nice and refreshing Apfelschorle (apple juice and sparkling water) and as the town clock chimed at exactly 4 o’clock, a mechanical drinking scene emerged on the facade of the clock tower and a merry little monk raised his glass towards the market square. I have a soft spot for these fun little spectacles in old towns so that whole thing made me unreasonably happy.

So take your time, get your favorite drink, and wait for that chime, because life is too short not to watch a mechanical monk drink merrily.

The castle garden of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

For those seeking a moment of tranquility amidst the town's hustle and bustle, the Castle Garden offers a serene escape. This idyllic green space, situated atop the town walls, provides panoramic views of Rothenburg's rooftops and the surrounding countryside. Whether strolling along its pathways, enjoying a picnic, or simply soaking in the scenery, the Castle Garden is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

Rothenburg's Medieval Crime Museum - Europe's largest legal museum

Delving deeper into Rothenburg on der Tabuer’s and Europe’s history, I explored the Medieval Crime Museum. Housed in the former criminal court building, this unique museum offers a glimpse into the darker aspects of medieval life. From torture devices and execution methods to the judicial system of the time, the museum sheds light on the harsh realities of law and order in the Middle Ages.

I especially enjoyed the shame mask collection because I am 10 years old at heart and I inwardly giggled at the thought that for sure at some point I would have been the one wearing the shame mask for talkative women if I lived through the Middle Ages.

The museum is very enjoyable and it disperses a lot of myths about the Iron Maiden for example and even chastity belts and the executioner’s hood, which are all made up by the way, but do visit the museum and learn about the truth behind these objects yourself!

Schneeballen - the dessert of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

No visit to Rothenburg ob der Tauber would be complete without sampling its famous culinary delight – Schneeballen. These delightful treats, resembling snowballs, are made from strips of dough, deep-fried, and dusted with powdered sugar. Available in various flavors and sizes, Schneeballen (Snowballs) are the perfect indulgence to satisfy your sweet tooth while exploring the town's charming streets.

For over four centuries, this particular pastry has been a culinary tradition in the regions of Franconia and Hohenlohe, situated northeast of Baden-Württemberg, where it enjoys widespread popularity. Historically reserved for special occasions like weddings, it has evolved to be a year-round delicacy, readily available in bakeries, pastry shops, and cafes in and around Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The town boasts several establishments dedicated to crafting this pastry, continually innovating with new flavors and variations. Alongside the classic rendition dusted with confectioner's sugar, there are tantalizing options coated in chocolate and nuts or filled with luxurious marzipan. Revered as the town's signature dish, it has become a ubiquitous souvenir for visitors seeking to take home a taste of Rothenburg's culinary heritage.

I have tried many of these sweet pieces of heaven and would recommend Bäckerei Friedel and Bäckerei Striffler with all my heart!

So while spending your holiday in Germany, do hop on a train, or take a leisurely car ride and visit this charming little town of wonders!

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