Of all Things Medival
Trip Start May 11, 2007
10Trip End May 27, 2007
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Where I stayed
Rothenburg is an amazing town. Since I had to change hotels on this second day I needed to do something with my backpack. I read over Rick's book and he mentions you can leave your stuff at Annaliese Freise's shop for free. Ever on a budget this was good news for me. Since it was early the town and shops had not yet been overcome with day-trippers...those damn tourists, they're everywhere! Annaliese and her son could not have been nicer. Her son helped me put my ever growing backpack in the back and then told me his Mother had a free map to give me (free with Rick's book). I went over to this adorable older lady and she pulled out this beautiful map of Rothenburg, which turns out she drew, it's a bigger and more colorful version of the one in Rick's book. The one in Rick's book happens to be drawn by her as well. I don't know if she does all the maps...I'll have to check when I get home. Then she began to point to pictures of herself and Rick throughout the years. She has known him for over 34 years! Heck now I'm only one degree away from Rick. Damn...maybe soon he'll start taking my calls. Just kidding! I know I go on about Rick, but I really do think he has the best books on the market. I've brought along a Let's Go guide as well and I very rarely crack it...only to find out where to drink. Rick will actually tell you directions to all the sights and which way to turn out of the train station!
From there I decided to take a walk around this lovely town. The town is surrounded entirely by a medieval wall. So good were it's defenses it was not taken until the 30 years war and that was only because of a mistake by one of the tower guards. His one duty was to make sure that no unauthorized personnel was allowed into the tower where the gunpowder was stored. Well, one night he made the fatal mistake of going into the tower with a torchlight! I'm sure that you can imagine what happened next. My walk took me from the town hall to the cloister gardens, where they still grow various poisonous plants (marked with a triple cross is the most poisonous). They even grow the plant that killed Socrates. Through the looming gate, which has a smaller door (an eye of the needle) within the larger one, this was so that those arriving after the gates were closed could gain access, but at a hefty fine...something like a month's worth of wages! Under the glaring face through which boiling pitch would pour down to ward off attackers and into the serene gardens that once belonged to the castle. The castle is long gone now, which is a shame. From the castle gardens you can see the top of the deep green valley and sitting high atop a proud town full of deep orange beaver tail roofs with a gray wall hugging it in an eternal loving embrace.
I decided it was then time to head over to the crime and punishment museum! What a great museum that was. It's a little gory when you stop and really think about the fact that the executioner's sword you're looking at most likely chopped someone's head off...then it becomes disturbing and sad. That have a great collection and do a really good job with describing the various punishments. Such as chaining people up in the town square for a predetermined amount of time to be chided by the townsfolk...but not JUST standing there
-If you were wicked or a gossip you had to wear a huge metal shame mask often times with a bell on it, a pig's nose, or a long tongue
-A shame flute for bad musicians...again a metal mask but also with a flute attached and your hands strapped to the flute.
-A double neck violin for fighting women
There were also the following: A drunk barrel for those who drank to much and huge stones attached to chains that you would have to carry for a predetermined distance. All of this was capped off with a view of an actual Iron Maiden!
After my walk I decided to take a guided group tour through the city. When the tour began we were all crowded around the tour guide so that we could pay, I was trying to get to the front because I was paying in all €1 coins and she needed change since everyone was giving her 20s. Well in my push, I think I've been around Germans too long cuz I'm not respecting lines anymore, I accidentally bumped into this guy...all my fault because I was totally crowding him. So I said excuse me and that started us talking. After the tour we ended up spending the day together, he had been traveling for 3 weeks throughout Europe by himself. I convinced him to go into this house which was built in the 13th century, but alot of the interior was from the 17th-18th century. It gave you a quick look at how family's would live at that time. It was a small house for a lot of people. Jeff, that was his name, even re-walked the wall with me because I hadn't done it yet. The views of the town are absolutely amazing from the wall! You walk under a roof on the wall, so those invaders arrows couldn't get your defenders. From there we hustled over to dinner, of course I had to take him back to the potato place! This time it was pan fried potatoes and white asparagus for me. Then it was time for me to meet the night watchman for a tour of the town, now Jeff had done this the previous night so we arranged to meet afterwords.
Let me say this, if you ever find yourself in Rothenburg be sure to do the night watchman's tour! Before the tour began I was a little leery because the tour had been so hyped up...first by Rick, than the TI, the hotel, Annaliese in the shop and Jeff. I figured at this point it had to disappoint...oh how wrong I was. This guy was funny without being cheesy or corny, but at the same time really pointed a picture of life in the towns in days past. I have to share with you a brief story, told to me by the night watchman, about how the city was saved from destruction during WWII. It appears Rothenburg was a secondary target for bombing and since it was so foggy over their primary target they decided to bomb the second...Rothenburg, this glorious town that time forgot. Now a General in the US Army head about the plans for Rothenburg and quick got on the phone to see if he could stop it. He had never been there, but his Mother had and growing up his Mother would tell him stories about Rothenburg and they had a large painting of the town in the house. This General was successful in stopping the bombing and instead the leader of the forces right outside the city made a deal with those inside. Surrender your town and we will not destroy it. Now luckily for the town of Rothenburg the German Commander was out of town that day. You see Hitler had a command that his officers could not make any type of deal with the opposing forces. Since the next in command was not a Commander he made a deal with the Allies, saying I will have all our troops out by tomorrow morning and will leave quietly as long as you leave the town untouched and the town was saved from destruction. One man and the memory of stories told by his Mother saved this town for us! How moving is that!
After spending a fabulous hour with the night watchman, and using almost all my DVD disc I returned to meet Jeff. We both agreed drinks were in order so we headed over to the WineStubel to do some wine tasting. Now neither of us were very accomplished wine drinkers...drinkers yes but not wine. Jeff was such a nice guy he even put up with my scrapbooking tendencies. I made us both right down our thoughts about the wine after tasting it. Frankly my adjectives were pretty bad at first...but pretty soon I got into the spirit of it and used phrases such as fruity with a hint of bark! After we closed down the wine bar we just spent some time walking the dark streets of Rothenburg. It's an entirely different feeling at night. A hush falls through the night and the stars light up the night sky, you hear your footsteps softly tapping on the cobblestones and voices come to you muffled as though from a far distance. The wall has safely cocooned you into the town for the night and embraces you in a warm blanket of security.
The night ended with goodbyes and promises to e-mail. It was such a nice day and nice to meet someone I felt so instantly comfortable with.
Next up: Onto Baden-Baden...home to naked spa bathing. Hey if the Romans could do it!