Once upon a time . . . of course an article about Rothenburg would have to start this way, considering how much the place reminds one of fairy tales . . . once upon a time, many German towns looked like this: cosy half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, all this surrounded by a wall with many towers. Unfortunately, many towns tore down their medieval fortifications to make way for progress. Not Rothenburg, though. In this former “Free Imperial City", time seems to have stopped.
Rothenburg is located in southern Germany, about 110 miles southeast of Frankfurt. The old town is situated on a hill overlooking the Tauber river, and it is very compact. You can walk around the entire town in half a day, though you better bring comfortable shoes, as the cobblestones and the steps leading to the battlements can be hard to navigate, particularly in rainy weather.
The town became a “Free Imperial City" in the 13th century and developed into a major regional trading center. During the Thirty Years War (1618-48), it escaped being sacked by enemy troops, when ex-mayor Nusch accepted a challenge by the enemy general and downed almost a gallon of wine in a single draught, an event that is being re-enacted during a festival every spring.
You could say that all of Rothenburg is a time capsule, with numerous historical buildings at every corner, but some buildings stand out. There is the imposing townhall, St. Jacob's church with its famous altar by Riemenschneider, and the Crime Museum, which documents ancient (and often barbaric) forms of punishment.
If you are travelling in Southern Germany, Rothenburg is an ideal destination for a day trip. Don't forget to try the local cuisine and the excellent Franconian wine. A local dessert specialty are “snowballs", made of deep-fried dough strips sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
Summer is the main tourist season, and Rothenburg can get extremely crowded then, so it would be a good idea to go in spring or fall, even though the weather might be cool and rainy.
Pamela Bruce lives in Austin, TX. She is the owner of Love Beads Unlimited and sells the sterling silver and Swarovski crystal bead jewelry she designs and creates both in her eBay store (http://stores.ebay.com/LOVE-BEADS-UNLIMITED ) and on her website at http://www.lovebeadsunlimited.com , where you can also download the free e-book “A Consumer's Guide to Buying Bead Jewelry Online".