Wednesday, April 8, 2015

One Night in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Last week, I shared our two nights spent in Würzburg, the beginning of our trip to Germany in December 2014. This week, we're going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber!

We took an early morning train from Würzburg to Rothenburg. In the past, we've booked our train tickets in advance through RailEurope. I'm a worrier and it makes me feel better to know when I head to the train station that I already have a pre-paid ticket on a specific train.

For this trip though, my research revealed the Bayern Ticket. This is a special regional class of ticket offered by Deutsche Bahn at a reduced rate. Tickets start at just 23 euro for one person and cover all regional trains and transfers (within Bavaria) for one day. You can travel in groups of up to 5 with one ticket, paying a just a little extra for each additional person. Day tickets are good for trains Monday - Friday from 9am to 3am the next day, and from midnight to 3am the next day on Saturday and Sunday. There are first class and night travel ticket options, too, if you're interested in that.

Our ticket for two people cost 28 euro. Using this ticket meant we were limited to regional trains, which were slower than other options available and that we could only take trains before 9am on weekends, but the price couldn't be beat. 

Purchasing these tickets was very easy. There were automated machines (with the ability to function in multiple languages) at every station we went to and any ticket counter also sells these tickets. The regional trains weren't fancy, but this is Germany - they were clean, quiet, and on-time. 

I would definitely recommend using this ticket if you're travelling in Bavaria. I think it is totally worth it to save a little money on train tickets so you can allocate your travel funds to more important things like beer and sausage...or souvenirs at the Christmas markets. =)

The train ride from Würzburg to Rothenburg ob der Tauber is only about an hour. We knew we only had one night, so we wanted to get there early to give ourselves plenty of time to explore. 

We took the scenic route to our hotel from the train station (outside the city wall), which sounded like a good idea to maximize our time spent ogling the pretty streets. Well, the cobble stone streets in Rothenburg are no joke. Instead of strolling to our hotel with our bags in tow taking in the beautiful old buildings, we attempted not to make eye-contact with any more people than we had to as we dragged our suitcases over the uneven streets making a ridiculous amount of noise and praying the whole time that we didn't break a wheel. Next time, we'll take the shorter route directly to the hotel and leave the sightseeing for when we've ditched our luggage.

We did make it to our hotel, eventually, and checked our luggage with the front desk. They gave us a map and helped us get acclimated with where we were in the city. Before heading off, we asked the staff if they could help us make dinner reservations at a restaurant we really wanted to try while we were in town. They promised to do their best and would let us know the result when we came back in a few hours when our room would be ready.

We stepped back out into the street, this time delightfully unburdened by our luggage. We followed the crowds toward the main square.

Rothenburg's Christmas market was set up here in the shadow of rathaus (town hall).

We took a lap around the market making note of what was on offer in the various food stalls for lunch later.

Just up the street from the main square is St. Jakobskirche. We stepped inside to see it and enjoy the festive decorations.

This church houses one of Tilman Riemenschneider's famous carvings, the Holy Blood Altar. It is upstairs in the western gallery and on the day we visited we were lucky to have the space to ourselves to admire it.

We headed back to the Christmas market for lunch: half-meter feuerwurst! Not only are they over-sized and fun to say, they are spicy (but not overly so) hence the name feuerwurst, or fire sausage. Very delicious; S and I highly recommend you try one if you get the chance. 

After lunch, we headed toward the city wall and the Klingentor, one of the gates to the city. This tower used to be the water tower for the city, in service from 1595 to 1910. It is a great spot for a photo-op, especially if a charming horse-drawn carriage passes by at the same time you're taking your photo. =)

(As we were taking this photo, the horses stopped and, um, relieved can't see it, but we smiled through the smell and the was quite cold here, even in the middle of the day.)

This spot is also a convenient location to climb the city wall. We walked along the wall for a little, enjoying the view outside the city and over the rooftops inside the wall. Even in chilly December this was a great (free!) way to spend some time walking off lunch. 

Rothenburg is pretty much the epitome of charming, medieval towns. We spent most of the day just walking and marveling. I couldn't stop taking photos.

There are four main gates to the city that allow access in and out of the old town. We headed outside the wall at one of the gates to explore the old moat, now a park. 

Not very green during our visit, but still a nice place to stroll.

It didn't take long though before we wanted to be back inside the old town taking in the festive atmosphere. As the sun began to set, the lights started to come on. It seemed like every building was decorated for Christmas with a little tree (they have these genius wrought-iron stands to hold them onto the sides of the buildings), evergreen boughs, ribbons, and lights. Every window, doorway, light pole - pretty much anything and everything that could be decorated was. 

Yup, our main activity of the day was exploring the city, walking the cobble-stoned streets and taking in the adorable old town with so much Christmas spirit it seemed to be bursting at the seams.

Also, we took lots of photos. Lots and lots of photos. Can you blame me? Look at how dang cute this place is!

Eventually, we ended up back at our hotel to check in, put our luggage in our room, and warm up before heading to dinner and then Christmas market! (They're best enjoyed at night when everything is all lit up, in my opinion.)

We stayed at the Hotel Tilman Riemenschneider and loved it. (TripAdvisor listing here.) It was the most expensive room of our trip (170 euro for one night), but the room was charming and the staff were wonderful. The room was spacious - it had the largest shower and bathroom of our whole trip - and comfortable. It was nice to have the sofa instead of just sitting on the beds. 

We weren't able to get reservations at our preferred restaurant. We got a play-by-play from the staff at the front desk of the whole conversation and the negotiation on our behalf; the restaurant though, was completely booked. After talking us through other restaurants they thought were similar and that they thought we would also enjoy, but that after a few more phone calls also happened to be completely booked, we ended up with a reservation at the hotel's restaurant. (Note: if you're going to be in one of the most festive medieval towns in the middle of Christmas market season on a Saturday...make dinner reservations in advance.)

The hotel's restaurant was fantastic. A little on the pricey side, but well worth the splurge. We had a great table in a quiet corner. On top of being decorated in traditional Bavarian theme, the restaurant was also drenched in Christmas decor and candles. The food was excellent. I had goose and S had duck, and we enjoyed both dishes very much.

After dinner, we joined the Nightwatchman's Tour and loved it! The tour takes you around town and you get to see and hear about the history through the eyes of the nightwatchman. It is informative, but he is also funny and has lots of cheesy punchlines to keep you smiling as you shuffle from site to site (separate tours in English and German). The tour is 7 euro per person, paid in cash at the end of the tour. If you're staying the night in Rothenburg, I highly recommend it.

During our day in Rothenburg we also visited:
Well, its a city museum. This one kind of fits your standard city museum formula: old maps + really detailed descriptions of some buildings + statues that used to be in city churches + art from homes of past city residents + random artifacts from industries within the city + weapons from different time periods. It's not bad; some of the exhibits are better presented than others. The entry fee of 4 euro isn't prohibitive. If you want to get inside for a while and have the time to spare, it is worth stopping here. If you're pressed for time, you should feel free to skip this without worrying about missing much.

This is a fun museum with exhibits that explain many of the Christmas traditions in Germany and the origins of many of the decorations you see for sale at the Christmas markets. The exhibits are a little worn, some of them haven't aged well, but overall it is nicely put together. You enter the museum through the Käthe Wohlfahrt store and it is only a few euro entrance fee. Again, this is not a must-do in my opinion. We enjoyed it, but if you're pressed for time you could skip this.

We loved our one day/night in Rothenburg and hope to visit again. Next week, our trip continues in Nuremberg! 


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