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Steph’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 27 Apr 2008

Location: Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany

MapToday we had to catch about 6 trains to get from Bacharach to Rothenburg. Lucky we bought a German rail pass, or we would have had a very stressful day trying to buy all those tickets! On the train from Mainz to Frankfurt, we thought it was going to stop at the main station as it said that in the timetable, but an announcement came over that it wasn't going to stop there after all. It was a good thing that Steph understood it, because they only announced it in German! Se we hopped off in South Frankfurt and had to get another train back to the main station. It worked out OK though, because we had about an hour or so until our train left from there, so we got some supplies for the rest of the journey. Matt got 2 cans of Becks for less than the small container of Strawberries and Pineapple, it was 3.50 for the fruit, and 3.40 for the beer. Clearly the Germans have everything in its right place!

Eventually we got to the train station in Rothenburg, and had to walk about 20 mins to our place. Steph had a bit of an idea where we were heading, because we were staying in the same place she had stayed with her family here. Walking through the newer part of town, we turned the corner and saw the walls of the old city - huge stone walls, we were glad we could just walk through the gate, rather than trying to climb over! Just as our backpacks started to get heavy, we found our hotel, and could put the bags down to hit the town.

We walked back through the middle of town, down the cobbled streets, back to the wall. You can climb up into the wall and walk along it so you get a good feeling for what it would be like as a guard back in the day, looking through the crossbow slits in the walls.

After dinner we met up with the Nightwatchman for his tour of Rothenburg. He was a pretty funny guy who sounded like a cross between the cat from Yogi bear, and Borat. We saw the main gates, which would be locked at night time, and if you were late coming back, youl would have to pay a fine to get through the small man-hole.

The city survived from around 1100 when it was first settled, until the late 1600s, during the 30 years war, when a passing army of 40,000 Catholic troops needed shelter from the weather, but the 6,000 Protestant inhabitants didn't want to let them in. There was a big battle, and it looked like Rothenburg could hold off the attack, when the guy who was guarding the gunpowder went into the tower where it was stored with a torch, and blew it all up.....So the city fell after the Catholic troops came through the big hole in the wall, and proceeded to ransack it. They were going to burn it down, but the Catholic leader told the council that if one of them could drink a 3.5 litre container of wine in one draught, he would spare the city. The Mayor at the time took up the challenge, and did it! He passed out for a few days, and woke up to find his city free again. They call this the Master Draught, and it is re-enacted every year! After the troops had left, the people had very little money, and nothing happened in the town for 250 years. That is why it is so well preserved - nobody could afford to build new houses or change their old ones.

During World War 2, the city was bombed by the Americans, trying to get a Nazi General who had taken refuge in the city. Luckily for the town the weather was bad, and the bombs detroyed 40% of the town, leaving much of it intact. The Americans were going to use artillery on the rest of it, but the then Vice Secretary of State liked the town because his mother had been there and had a painting of Rothenburg hanging on the wall at home. So he stopped the destruction of the town and negotiated with the local Commander to occupy it instead. To rebuild the town after the war, people could buy a 1m section of the wall, which was then built up again. You can see the names of all the people who bought sections in plaques all along the new parts of the wall.

After a long day of travel and history we were ready to sleep, but excited to explore more of the town in the morning!!