The landing was definitely a bumpy one, which was surprising given that it wasn’t bad weather. Thankfully it wasn’t snowing because we disembarked the plane onto the tarmac and then were loaded into articulated buses that took us to the terminal.

The passport control was as efficient as ever. I said “Guten Tag” he stamped the passport and that was it. Picking up the luggage was a bit more of a challenge. The ski boot bag came out quickly but we had to wait a while for the skis. Eventually, they appeared, but not before I got to practice my German.

It took Bridget a while to figure out that she was in Germany not Montreal, the last place she was turned off. And I forgot to program it for no major roads that we would start at Wurzburg for the Romantic Road. Instead we’re starting at Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Ironically tonight is the weekly meeting of Der “English Conversation Club”.  It’s motto is “Have fun. Be friendly. Speak English. Meet friends.”

Rothenburg is a walled city, and we walked most of the wall today. Going up the old wooden stairs was a bit scary, but after a while I got used to it. The views from the top were amazing and you could almost feel the guards who would have been protected the city from attacks.

The hub of ancient life centred around the Marktplatz. Here you find the Rathaus (town hall), the Ratstrinkstube (City Councilors’ Tavern) and historic vaults. Now, if you’ve lived through Ottawa’s bus strike, I’m sure you’re reading the irony into the German words for town hall and city councilors — rats they are!

Our hotel, the Meistertrunk

Our hotel, the Meistertrunk

The town’s history is long, beginning in 960, with the first community in Detwang in the Atuber valley. In 1142, the Imperial Castle was erected by the Hohenstaufen King Konrad III. A community, later named Rothenburg, develops on the hill next to the castle. In 1167, after the death of Friedrich, Duke of Rothenburg, the castle was abandoned. Thanks to its geographic location, the city developed over the yers into a commercial centre. In 1274, King Rudolf of Habsburg elevated Rothenburg to a Free Imperial City.
An earthquake later destroyed the entire imperial castle and parts of the city.  In 1400, the city experienced its heyday under mayor Toppler.  With over 6000 inhabitants, Rothenburg was one of the largest cities of the empire.  The city allied itself to the rebels’ leader, Florian Geyer, during the Peasants War and the city’s decline began.  In 1544, the Reformation occured in Rothenburg. During the Thirty Years’ War Protestant Rothenburg was occupied several times.

I’m not usually a history buff, but every now and then, you stumble across a story that makes you remember a place. For Rothenburg, it’s a piece of history in 1631 known as the  “Meisterturnk” (Master Draught), which coincidentally is also the name of our hotel. The Catholics troops attacked and occupied Protestant Rotheburg. The Catholic General Tillly threatened to plunder and destroy the city. On a whim, he promised to spare the town from destruction, if a Councilor managed to empty an enormous tankard containing 3 ¼ liters of wine in one draught. The former mayor Nusch mastered this task and in doing so, he saved his city. Even today Rothenburg celebrates this rescue each year on Whitsun with a festival performance, grand army march and a field camp.

Other than the group of Japanese tourists, we saw few people. Parked cars lined the cobble stone streets, but the  drivers seemed to be in hibernation for the winter. The sense of isolation was in the hotel as well. Although could imagine it bustling in the summer, the winter months are clearly off season. Its restaurant is closed, but the hearty German breakfast for its guests does continue.

For supper, we went with the recommendation of the hotel, and ate at the Glocke, which specializes in Franconian food at reasonable prices. Rob had a pork dish with potato pancakes and carrots. I had rolled beef  with carrots and onions, spatzle and salad. After supper, we walked the not-so-deserted cobble stones back to the hotel, trying to stay awake as long as we could.

Here are some pics