I have never studied German and was completely lost when I got to Germany for the first time, but I learned quickly. One of the things I learned was that Rothenburg ob der Tauber means Red Fort on the Tauber River. This is a very appropriate name because red town walls surround the entire town, making it a completely preserved medieval fort. When we climbed to the top of the clock tower in the town scare, we saw that most of the houses also had red roofs.
Rothenburg is a small town of about 10,000 people, near Nuremburg. It’s said that when Walt Disney visited this town many years ago, he fell in love with the town and based the setting of Pinocchio on the town of Rothenburg. It is possibly the most well-preserved historic town in Germany, with cobblestone streets, medieval and gothic style architecture, and even the hotel we stayed in handed us an antique key to check into our room.
Hotel am Weissen Turm
Our hotel, Gästehaus am Weißen Turm, was excellent. It was a perfect location on the main street entering Rothenburg so it was easy to find, just around the corner from the town square, very clean with a medieval feel to it, and there was a nice restaurant and bar just downstairs. As I mentioned above, parking is not available inside the city walls, so we had to park outside the walls and walk in, about a 7-8 minute walk.
The town is so lovely to walk through that it was actually a blessing in disguise to stroll the town on our way to or from the car! Parking is very cheap outside of the village, and the village is so much nicer to look at without the anachronistic cars. The hotel staff spoke excellent English and helped us learn the basics of German. There is no elevator, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have elevators back in medieval times either.
During Christmas, Christmas decorations decorate the town and there’s a very large tree in front of the Town Hall. The year-round Christmas Market is right behind the Town Hall and has an excellent display. The snow-capped houses really make you feel like you stepped back in time about 1000 years!
Interesting Tidbits About Rothenburg
- All of the restaurants close at 9:00 p.m. This was a shock to me coming from Spain where all the restaurants open at 9:00 p.m.! You won’t find any kitchens open in Rothenburg past 9:00, so eat early.
- All restaurants have one type of beer, so you can’t order a wheat beer, then order a different wheat beer. The restaurants consider themselves connoisseurs of a particular beer, so they only have one option of that type (for example, one wheat, one dark, one ale, etc.) Order accordingly.
- Restaurants in Rothenburg close from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Some bars will open at 2 but not the kitchens. It appears Germany follows the siesta idea of Spain.
- Everyone speaks English, even in this small little town. And they speak excellent English, and aren’t insulted when we ask how to say certain words in German. They are happy to help! They also understand “ATM,” which was strange to me again coming from Spain, because Spanish people don’t understand “ATM.” Interesting.
- All music was in English. Maybe this is why everyone speaks English, but 95 percent of all the radio stations were playing English music (even if the DJs were speaking German).
I understand Walt Disney’s fascination with Rothenburg after visiting the village, and I recommend seeing this quaint little town to anyone traveling through Europe! Don’t miss the Night’s Watchman tour at night, as he walks along the dark streets of Rothenburg with a lantern a scythe telling the history of the town; there’s also a puppet show on weekends, a medieval criminal museum, a town museum with the oldest kitchen in Germany, and a doll museum. In the spring, summer, and fall, you can visit the gardens just outside the village, but I think Christmastime is the best time to visit such a cute village!