For the week and a half leading up to our visit to this small town, every time Mike said it, I thought he was saying “Rottenburg October.” Needless to say, I wasn’t all that excited… In fact, Rothenburg ab der Tauber is the only small town visit recommended to him by one of his German compatriots… A friend of mine had talked it up, too, so as long as we weren’t going to Rottenburg, I was ready to go! (of course, on the way there, we got caught up in a traffic jam of near-epic proportions and ended up exiting at the first opportunity to discover an outlet mall!)
The counts of Comburg-Rothenburg built the castle garden in 950, with the castle soon to follow. The town was built around 1170. I’m tossing these numbers out like they are nothing, but I still haven’t gotten over the sheer old-ness of so much of what surrounds me… The family Rothenburg is actually still alive and kicking, with the last known descendent residing in the United States (WWII felled many of them, as they were of Jewish faith/heritage; boo on the Nazis. Again.). Anyway… before that war, in the 1600s, was the 30 Years War. Rothenburg had a hard time with that one, too. Rothenburg was a Protestant Lutheran town at that time, and a Catholic General wanted to quarter his troops there. The townspeople of Rothenburg fought back, but lost. Pretty miserably, in fact. After that winter came and left, General Tilly took his troops and the plunder they gathered and left Rothenburg poor and sad. And then the Black Death came. It wasn’t a good time… In any case, it turns out that the Black Death and the plunder of Rothenburg was pretty good for you and me, because the town was so poor and destitute that it wasn’t of interest to anyone else, so it’s well-preserved in all of it’s Middle Ages glory. [Insert another little bit of WWII history (just for you, Daddy): Rothenburg was considered to be the best example of a German home-town “representing all that was quintessentially German” (Wikipedia), and so they held day trips there for their “Strength Through Joy” program; after expelling their Jewish residents in 1938, they stayed out of the fray for several years. In 1945, German troops were there to defend it, but, of course, they lost. Actually, the American commander had issued orders to the effect that artillery should not be used in taking Rothenburg (owing to it’s historical significance), so they just used bombs and whatnot, but the German commander there ignored Hitler’s orders to fight to the death and gave the town up to the Allies. American troops subsequently occupied the town, and the guy who ordered no artillery? He was named Honorary Protectorate of the Town (John McCloy, who was the asst. Secretary of War at the time). They had to repair about 2000m of the wall that “protects” the town, and now you can see the names of people from literally all over the world who donated dinero to rebuild this historic city.
That last caption made me think about “Pinocchio,” you know, who became a “real boy?” Rothenburg is the town that inspired the village seen in Disney’s “Pinocchio” as well as scenes in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Not to mention that it was used for filming parts of Harry Potter (I & II).
We had hoped to go to the Nightwatchman’s Tour to close out our Rothenburg experience, but it started raining. We’re hoping to go back!