Friday, October 17, 2008

Rothenburg ob der Tauber ~ July 5 - 6, 2008

We drove through one of Rothenburg's small gates in the wall about mid-afternoon. Tired but excited about exploring this charming, whimsical, medieval city, we parked our van, retrieved backpacks from the trunk, and checked into the Gasthof Marktplatz. I almost felt like I was checking into my grandma's house for the night with narrow, winding wooden staircases, paisley wallpaper, and old sinks with dual faucets and chipped enamel. LeRoy, Eli, and Zeke were on one end of the house while Zae, Israel, and I were in a tiny room with slanted ceilings on the other far end. Bathrooms were across the hall. I wondered about the warning in the Rick Steve's guide, "The maddening Town Hall bells ring throughout the night." Maddening? Nah! How quaint!
Immediately enchanted by the cobblestoned streets and the setting of our hotel on the main market square, we decided to take our time finding a place to eat so as to allow time for exploration.
Okay, maybe we should have explored after dinner...

We placed our orders, refreshed ourselves with several miniscule sips of Sprite or Fanta, (remember, no free refrills in Europe! The rule is sip and savor!), and chatted about how thankful we were to be in this place.
Our table was on the back patio surrounded by roses and other flowers with vines climbing the ancient walls of the courtyard. What a treat for the senses!

LeRoy glad to be relaxing, laughing with his family, and enjoying German beer.

It was so cute! The restaurant owners lived in the house connected and they had several toys for their grandson... which Israel happily used to occupy her time while waiting for our meal.
Mmmmm!!! Barbeque pork leg, dumplings, and red sauerkraut! Of course, pommes frittes (french fries), too!

After dinner we walked back to the Square and saw this Rottweiler dog on the way. The owner assured us she loved children and the children made the most of this moment to love and hug on her. "Aww, Mom! I miss Jack!" (Jack was our sweet Rottweiler/Husky we gave to another family back in the States... And we all miss him very much!)

Rothenburg Marktplatz. See that light yellow building in the far left corner? That's our hotel.

Looking down into the Square from our room (mine, Israel's, and Zae's). In fact, up in the far left corner -- again -- is where we are standing in the above picture.

There was a medieval show, which was fun... except that it was all in German, so we remained clueless about the story.

Time for Italian icecream cones!

Every house had this pulley sticking out at the peak of the roof on the front of their houses. The Night Watchman later explained that these were for pulling up every kind of food for storage in their attics. The village required a year's worth of grain and corn so they could survive a siege.

Isaiah looking out our hotel room into the Square below.

I circled our hotel room where LeRoy and Eli are looking out the windows.

LeRoy and Eli took a nap while the rest of us relaxed in the Square... Okay, I relaxed and people watched while Zae, Zeke, and Israel played tag! Yes, Israel is barefoot... my die-hard free-spirit.

The children posing with the famous Night Watchman, Hans-Georg Baumgartner.

And LeRoy and I, too.
The Night Watchman led us through the village, telling "the way it was" stories, explaining society back then. As we neared the main village gate, I looked up to see where the high-pitched squeaking was coming from and there, just like the special effects in "Lord of the Rings," were bats circling overhead. Dusk settled upon us, the bats circled, the Watchman's candle lantern flickered, and the reality of those medieval days caused me to whisper a prayer of thanks that I was born in these modern days. Then Eli leaned over to me and said, "Mom, this is so cool! I wish that I had been born in the medieval age!" That's my boy!

Half timbered buildings.
Exhausted, but exuberant, we made our way back up to the hotel, anticipating hot showers and down comforters. Israel posed one more time before turning in for the night.

The next morning we came down to the dining room where the owner had our traditional breakfast all laid out for us already. And... mmmm, hot chocolate for the children and coffee for us big kids! So yummy!

Oh! And now I know why Rick Steves dubbed those Town Hall bells as "maddening." All. Through. The. Night. All I can say, is that it's a good thing they make such a lovely sound.

Next on the agenda: a visit to the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum).

This chair had a plaque next to it that read, "Spiked Chair for torment or simply to threaten with." (emphasis mine) Simply? It makes the threats I make to my children look oh-so-suddenly benign! This was also called the "Witches Chair" as it was for anyone accused of being a witch.

This exhibit was my all-time favorite!! I know, sounds crude, but seriously, why haven't we kept the "Double Violin?" What a beautiful tool for helping people work through their conflicts.

Can't you just imagine? Parents would just clamp their children into the holes, the effectiveness of marriage counselors would increase, neighbors would learn to tolerate one another, pastors would no longer have to mediate between congregants.

The description reads, "Double Neck Violin for quarrelsome Women. Also quarrelsome couples were punished in such manner until harmony was once again restored to their household."

I always knew that duct-taping my quarrelsome children together was a good idea! Now I'm looking for someone skilled in working with wood...

The Double Violin.

Mask that was clamped onto those who chose to gossip or tell lies. We learned so much about society and the way people thought about things back then. Almost all the punishments were designed to humiliate or harm the person. We all kept remarking how very thankful we are that things have changed! (Although that Double Violin is a great idea!)

This mask has a metal piece that clamps down on the tongue for those who chose to nag.

"Church Pillory Punishments"
This Rosary "was for ecclesiastical punishments. On Sunday, during church, the sinner was put inside the church or at the church door, wearing the rosary around his neck. These punishments were for sleeping in church [oh, how very, very thankful I am that times have changed!!!] and offending God, etc. Here in Rothenburg, the congregation came together once a year and were examined on the Bible and the Catechism. It was also punishable if one did not attend church on Sunday. This was easily found out, since everyone had his own specific place in church. Each citizen had to live his life in a God fearing manner and abide by the commandments."

We learned about general medieval history, superstitions, culture, societal classes and distinctions, and the ways they brought about justice. What a different -- and rough -- world it was back then! Our family went from being ridiculously amused by such punishments as the woman who had to push her husband through town in a wheelbarrow for bossing her pushover husband around to the horrific tortures they used to get confessions out of people -- sometimes false confessions so as to make the torture stop. We saw chastity belts, stocks, and an Iron Maiden. We read about couples who had to spend time in the Double Violin until they worked things out... and about the neighbors who would all receive a bottle of wine for having to listen to the arguing!

Most of the punishments were cruel and inhumane. The children and I talked about grace, motives, and about the tremendous fear people lived in back then. Even bakers were punished if their bread loaves were weighed and were even a fraction of an ounce off the acceptable weight!

But that Double Violin...

17-century St. George's fountain, where "the long metal gutters slid, routing the water into the villagers' buckets." Water flowed from high to low, filling the several fountains throughout the village. Back then, some of these fountains were stocked with fish on market days. And, because water was plentiful and the streets were wide, the village never burned completely to the ground as so many neighboring villages did.

Then we took Rick Steve's self-guided walk with the tour book. (Thank you, Dan, Jo, Evan, and Olivia! This book is getting beat up and ear-marked!) This picture is in front of a section of wall where we climbed the stairs and went for a walk on the wall.

Isaiah. Of course.

Whimsical, romantic.

Zeke and Israel snug on top of some stairs on the wall.

A Mercedes motorcycle. We think it looks like something out of "Star Wars."

The main gate to the village. See that face up obove the entrance? During sieges, they would pour hot tar through the eyes and mouth holes down on invaders trying to get through.

Phew! After a long walk, and finally satisfying our hunger at the Döner Kebap shop, we found the Eis Cafe D'Isep and indulged in fancy sundaes. This made up for the huge argument we got in while trying to find "normal" food. Please note, if eating adventurously is just not your thing, Rothenburg will bring out your grouchy side! The ordeal was fairly traumatic... (we narrowly escaped blood sausages for lunch), which is why this icecream shop helped soothe things over.

See? LeRoy and I are even sitting next to each other about to share a chocolate sundae!

Eli's sundae. So fitting since that boy LOVES fruit!!

A chocolate and coconut sundae!

The icecream shop was a perfect ending to a beautiful holiday in Rothenburg! With tummies full and spirits satisfied, we loaded up and headed for home, a three-hour drive. The children slept most of the way and LeRoy and I got to have complete sentences. We arrived home around 10 PM where we transferred ourselves to our beds for a good night's sleep... without "maddening" bells ringing throughout the night. The next day we settled back into our routine.


  1. It is fun to hear of your adventures :) I have seen funny cars similar to that in Spokane! They are so odd.

  2. Oh, what a walk down memory lane for me! The platz, the Eis, the challenging restaurants, Hans-Georg (I will find my pic taken with him!) and the museum! I'm so glad you went! If you go again (and you should, when it snows), email me and I'll get you a contact for a lovely B&B just outside the walls.