To Munich via Enchanting Rothenburg
Weather: Sunny and up to 9 degrees…
It was sauna-like conditions in the front of the tour bus when I wrote this travelogue back in November 2011.
Today’s highlight started with a pleasant drive along the Romantic road’s Autobahn to Rothenburg, the enchanted walled medieval city in South-Eastern Germany.
Thankfully, this city was untouched during the war, and the Christmas market is found here from the first weekend of Advent onwards, four weekends before December 24.
The atmosphere in the markets and city is magical, enchanting, and quite wonderful, even without any snow.
Foodwise: I was not impressed with the famous “snowballs”…. A baked piece of bland and tightly woven, hard crusty pastry strips with a tiny sprinkle of icing only the top.
What was needed was some way for the sugar or salt even to stick to the whole of this traditional gastronomic disaster, which are about 4 inches in diameter, and about as full of flavour as a sweet biscuit without sugar. Needless to say, I threw it away…. Now if it had been dipped in chocolate maybe, it would have had potential, but the inner layers would still be devoid of flavour anyway. Shame because I had high hopes as it LOOKED so good. The Mulled wine (Glühwein) on the other hand is always good, very good!
You will find both snowballs, glühwein and other sausage delicacies in the main square, where you can witness the Glockenspiel display on the hour at the main clock. A variety of stalls selling overpriced Xmas decorations proliferate.
Wander the narrow cobblestone streets, and you will find all sorts of shops with knickknacks, collectables, and things that ladies like to buy and browse, hidden on every corner. An old-style wooden trivet carved with an edelweiss caught my attention.
Waiting patiently in line to be served for over 20 minutes, in one store full of tourists, I started panicking that I’d be late back to the tour bus, and miss our departure, so politely requested “Bitte” in German, offering the attendant the correct money for the item I was to buy and told her I was happy to take the item without any wrapping.
This attendant had been spending way too long wrapping up each and every sale for the number of people in the shop. She was hell-bent on putting sixteen layers of sticky tape on every layer of wrap for each PERSON in the queue. Perhaps they had seen one too many American tourists pushing in, as she flatly refused my request to give her the money for my purchase, which I offered her in my open hand.
“NO MADAM” was all she said.
I dropped the trivet back a little abruptly on the counter, returned my money to my wallet and left the store. She had just lost a sale and a customer. Such is life. I did make it back to the bus in time, as I found a shortcut through the square which saved another 10-15 minutes. But how long would I have waited in that store?
My encounter with the obsessive shop assistant was quickly forgotten as I discovered I then had another 10-15 minutes to scale and explore the medieval walls for an aerial look at the town before the bus left.
Rothenburg’s walls themselves are incredible. It is medieval history staring you right in the face. Unlike historic locations back home, you ARE allowed to touch and feel these walls, to climb the old stone steps, shaped and so worn down from the treading of thousands of Rothenburg feet over hundreds of years. Whose feet have treaded here?
One can imagine the feeling a Rothenburg citizen may have had when defending the city with a bow and arrow through the narrow slits in the city walls. The walls are intact for a way around the city, and on the entrance side of the city, there is a covered wooden balcony to walk along.
A traditional horse and cart ride is also possible, at least when the Xmas markets are on.
Christmas Stores in Rothenburg
There’s not one, but two, Kathy Wohlfahrt’s Christmas decoration outlets, but beware the attendants in those stores, who perpetually remind and reproach both adults and children, “Do Not touch/ No touching” [blah blah blah], at such frequent intervals it detracts somewhat from the overall experience and the jolly Xmas spirit. I suppose it matters not in the end because their range of products is truly mind-boggling.
If you’re travelling and can’t carry fragile decorations with you, the store will ship purchases home, for an additional fee.
Tourist tip: Window shopping is my best recommendation for the budget-conscious.
Gorgeous, romantic road architecture is everywhere in Rothenburg’s streets. I would have liked to come back and stay within these walls in order to soak up the atmosphere, even given abrupt German Fräulein. I hope all the residents weren’t that obsessive with gift wrap! Haha!
And then it was back on the Autobahn to Munich.
The drive to Munich was uneventful, although I can always find something interesting to view out the window. The brief sight on the city outskirts of the ginormous BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) factory had some male passengers hyper-excited. Not me, though, I summoned a polite yawn.
On entering Munich, it was the unique contemporary architecture, such as the Olympic stadium, which remains entrenched in my memory. If only for the mind-numbingly callous act, by PLO’s Black September group for killing 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team and one West German police officer, way back in 1972. A tragedy etched in early memories as a child growing up in Australia and being excited hearing about the Olympics in a faraway land.
Our tour guide gave us an abridged history lesson of the history of the Nazi party, which was regrettably given life in this part of Germany. We passed by Landsberg Prison, where Adolf Hitler was imprisoned in the 1920s for inciting an uprising. It was there he wrote the infamous, ”My struggle,” or “Mein Kampf”. Munich was the epicentre for the National Socialists and the location for the German concentration camp, Dachau.
Trivia buffs may like to note that the Second Reich dated until 1870, (unification of Germany), the Second Reich with Otto Von Bismarck till 1912 and Hitler was supposed to commence the Third Reich.
Bavaria is still considered, in some quarters, to be a country within Germany. Bavarians are a little different, we were told, and consider themselves to be Bavarians first and Germans second. Historically it was the Royal Bavarian family, the Wittenbachs who controlled the state of Bayern, or Bavaria. The Wittenbachs started the tradition of the now global phenomenon, “Octoberfest”, which was originally a Wedding feast for the Wiitenbachs, but one where the entire population of the city was invited – hence the festive nature which continues today.
I was somewhat puzzled by this street sign in Munich:
Despite the traffic jams, we arrived on time at our hotel in Munich, located near, yet another Xmas market and the English garden. In 2010, the bus took 6 hours to make the same journey, arriving well after dinnertime at around 8.30 pm, due to heavy traffic and snow. We all wanted snow, but were glad for an easy run to the hotel :
Hilton Munich Park Hotel Am Tucherpark 7, Munich
Rooms: Basic, clean, and a nice aspect over the English Garden. Internet is expensive and must be used in the evening as it does not carry over to the next day. Spa and Beauty Salon had a nice special: a 15-minute massage for 15 Euros. A nice way to iron out any knots and tender spots in one’s neck and back.
Breakfast: Absolutely Fabulous. Everything one could think of and more. Quark, pancakes, a variety of breads, eggs done every way thinkable, pretzels, fish, eels, and more. Not even time to take a photograph.