History & Traditions

Revisiting 2011 European Scandinavian Travel – Rothenburg

Day 5

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.

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Rothenburg city wall

 Rothenburg

A house in Rothenburg

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.

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Rothenburg main square Christmas Market

The atmosphere in the markets and city is magical, enchanting, and quite wonderful, even without any snow.

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One of Rothenburg’s city gates

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!  

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Old half timbered German pharmacy in Rothenburg

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.

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A street scene in Rothenburg

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?

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Gate in the city walls

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.

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The covered walk along the city Walls in Rothenburg

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?

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Worn stone path overlooking Rothenburg

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.

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Christmas
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Christmas Shop

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.

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Step into the Middle Ages. Look at the detail on the corner of the building! Marvellous.

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.

Munich, Germany

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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.

Olympic stadium 1980
Olympic Stadium 1980

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:

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Marlene maybe knows?

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.

34 thoughts on “Revisiting 2011 European Scandinavian Travel – Rothenburg”

  1. The German Xmas markets are such a treat! Our favourite is Aachen, not just for the market, but beacuse it is such a beautiful city.
    Most of the Xmas markets have KATHY WOHLFART shops, which invariably is impossible to leave empty handed

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes they are a lot of fun, and I reallly like the atmosphere there. Festive, and jovial, even if I don’t understand the language. Really feels Christmassy. Some markets are better than others, and I went to plenty, however, I have not been to Aachen. Maybe I shall include that on my intinerary next time. Thanks for commenting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree about the gluwein. Have you tried the bottled drink that Ikea sell at Christmas. It is very similar to the taste and if you wish, you can add the raisins and cloves and make up a version of the European Christmas drink yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed the history tidbits and last year I learned a lot about WWI and WWII and so I soaked up more of what you shared about Hitler’s foundational connection to that area.

    Glad this area was not damaged to the war so folks can appreciate it today
    Also – imagining the lady taking so long to wrap and tape reminds me of when we had a clothing store clerk taking super long to fold pour clothes before she put them in the bag.
    We had a dozen items and finally I said – could you please just put them in the bag without folding”
    And things went triply fast after that !!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, your shop assistant/clerk was a bit OCD about clothes and trying so hard to do a great job, but it sounds like he/she learnt something very quickly.
      I studied WWII history so much at school, it was repeated several times, but as I actually found it interesting, I didn’t mind. I was fascinated that such a devastatingly global conflict took place only twenty years before I was born. I found it hard to fathom given that I was living in properity and peace.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes – I felt a little bit that way too – but I remember in 6th grade when my art teacher (a nice lady but could be a bitch at times ) well she was Jewish and one day she yelled at a student because of some comment (never knew what it was but related to WWII and obviously bad enough to piss her off) and then she went off about the horror of what Happened and the entire class got “schooled” on having more reverence for that crime against humanity and what Was done to Jews – I think at this time I also read Anne Frank – so that was my experience and it was in early 80s but to me the war felt like 100 years before my time

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I know – crazy!
            And one thing to consider it that it started slowly and there were always some people who were not duped and eventually that group grew (many attacks on Hitler’s life) also – when I read about one of the first supporters of Hitler was a wealthy guy who helped him early on with the speeches at the small hall. But that man (can’t recall his name right now) saw the danger and evil in hitler and gave warnings before he died –
            And another thing was the depravity many citizens felt and so at first he promised jobs and stability – and appealed to national pride – right ? And a lot of what was done was in secret (and then expanded where many looked the other way)
            And also “propaganda” played a big part in planting ideas and motivating folks – which is why we really need to watch the propaganda today – but won’t get into that – hahaha

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yep – propaganda plays a big part in dictatorships. When you mentioned the attempts on Hitler’s life, it reminded me of going to a location on Berlin. It where the would-be assassins (and Von staffenberg) were executed. Tom Cruise starred in a movie about those events- The Valkyries I think it was called and they filmed the execution scene in the exact spot where we went in Berlin. Apparently the authorities in Berlin were conflicted on whether to permit the filming of the movie, there or not, but in the end consented.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. That was nice of them to consent – and Germany has come a long way to recover some that time and the country has some amazing people and some great business practices – and of course some would say they have the best beer (or used to for a long long time)
                -/
                Enjoyed our comment Chatting Amanda
                😊🙏

                Liked by 1 person

              2. No – but glad she was able to visit again! (and I don’t drink beer or any alcohol anymore – but in the 80s we all agreed German beer was the best – and then in the 90s the craft beer industry exploded)

                Liked by 1 person

      1. Just for my own learning
        And wait – there was a moment that spurred it on.
        I was doing a field trip for a Positive Psychology college class I was teaching and it was an awesome class – field trip was small (pandemic) but we had about ten in our group
        And so we were discussing pieces (and I actually have this on a recording because some of our trip was filmed )
        And one of the guys (older gentleman who drove an hour+ to be with us) said something about WWII and the date of a part of WWII – and I challenged him – but I felt iffy and conceded because I couldn’t remember the timeline – I was not sure and not everyone needs to know history dates – right – but I was puzzled and so that started it (and Amanda – turns out I was correct – I said 1945 and he had a different year)
        -/
        Anyhow – I enjoyed hours or reading and then watched WWII in color and found a documentary about the Ghost army (one of my favorite things to Learn about because the ghost army were actors and stagers to throw off the enemy and they were key to ally success). Of course the studying led to learning about WWI as well because they are so interconnected –
        And so I feel a lot more confident with my timeline (when in reality I never mind saying I am unsure and it is okay to be rusty if one is not a specialist in history – lol)
        Another top takeaway was learning about Captain Rochefort and how his hobby or side interest in The Japanese culture helped him with the code breakers and the battle of Midway’s success was partly because of his astute way of identifying That midway was going to be attacked and then he also pushed in when Washington DC ignored him. He pushed on to get someone to listen and his story is another reminder about how are side areas can sometimes be super helpful for society !
        I continue to see the fruits of my labor – like as noted – I appreciated your post here even more – and during the Twilight Zone marathon over the holidays we recorded about 12 episodes – some are tough to get into – but one episode I watched (S4 E4- highly recommend) is called He’s Alive – and related to the ideology that underpinned the Nazi movement – powerful episode and great acting.
        What about you? Are you knowledgeable about WWI and WWII?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I studied the WW II and I era many times through school. When I went to Europe, and in particular Germany, it was a revelation seeing the bullet holes and scars from bombing still visible in the buildings. I took a walking tour in Berlin which ran for about 4 or 5 hours criss crossing the city with stories of the era. The history in Berlin is SO palpable. The post war era is also interesting with Checkpoint Charlie and the DDR. I would recommend a book if you are interested in that era. Just ask.

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          1. Wow – that walking tour sounds amazing
            And yes – please let me know what book you suggest a I’ll add it to my TBR for times I need more history in my head – it can be so refreshing

            Liked by 1 person

            1. An Australian author called Anna Funder wrote about the DDR citizens and era and the Stasi, or secret police. At one point the Stasi had so many members it was close to a third of the population of the East German state. Neighbour spying on neighbour. Can you imagine? The book is called Stasiland.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Thanks you so much – keep you posted –
                and just saw (during the Steelers KC football game tonight ) that the “60 Minutes” TV show featured some story about Anne Frank and new info to reveal?? wonder what it could be – if I hear anymore I will come by and let you know

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  4. At least, the snowballs don’t give you a hangover … but I’ve never liked them myself.
    One word of warning: do not use “Fräulein” anymore. Similar to the English Miss, the German Fräulein has been on its way out since the 70s. I was still called “Fräulein” when I worked in a restaurant as a server but during the same time at university I was already adressed as Frau. Since Fräulein is literally the diminutive of “Frau” (i.e. woman) it is just not used anymore, not even in a humourous context.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s just not used anymore. But I’m sure it’s easily forgiven if it comes from a non-native speaker. One can possibly hear it when an (older) granddad admonishes a little girl, usually pronounced “Frollein”. But it is also known to be used by English speakers without any malice, somehow with a different meaning to the word.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Once again, I’m amazed at your detail in remembering this trip. I think you mentioned before that you write a travel journal and that points to why it is such a good habit!

    Having both grown up in the ‘New World’, I have similar sense of awe when I visit a place with building that’re hundreds of years old. If walls could talk ….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for re-posting this so I could see it from an earlier POV. Just so you know, we threw our snowballs away too. I am not a fan of the glühwein ever. My mother and I went to Munich to see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel there and my mother remarked rather loudly that she wanted to leave. Where had all these foreigner come from? I just looked at her in disbelief. As we were leaving, we passed Dachau. Every hair on my body stood up straight and I raced to get out of the area as fast as possible. I have never had such a reaction to a place before or since. Ours was not the best sightseeing trip as I had so little energy. It was mostly to build my daughter’s confidence that she can indeed travel on her own and do well. I have suggested strongly that her next trip anywhere be an arranged tour. I think they take a lot of the pressure off novice travelers. P.S. I have never seen that sign before and have no clue as to what it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought the snowballs could be vastly improved on, but maybe it is tradition? I remember the Munich square being chock full of tourists as well and can well understand your reaction to Dachau. That is how I felt when I visited Auschwitz and the infamous railway tracks. Shudder….
      It might be wise for your daughter to join an organized tour – although I travelled alone for years, I developed a liking for the organized but flexible tours. The ones that ferry you and your luggage around but give you plenty of time to do things on your own if you wish ( and rest), or optional tours so that you are not too bored with doing things on your own. It is perfect for single travellers or those insecure with travelling. Just pick them well as some are just taxis taking you from one destination to the next and not offering anything except a drive through of the city. Visiting Rothenburg was a Christmas markets tour of Germany. It was fabulous. We had an excellent guide. But it was tiring – luckily we had two day stops at each location so it wasn’t too much packing and rushing to get to the bus each morning.

      Liked by 1 person

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