Location: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Itinerary and full experience of my visit to Germany can be accessed through the link below:
The charm in Rothenburg undoubtedly help the Romantic Road which wind through it earn its name, but the town's pleasant atmosphere hid a tragic past. Followers of my last post would know that the reason of the preservation of medieval architectures was due to its population being decimated in the Thirty Years War and the subsequent Black Death, but its history did not end there.
With the town's well preserved state from the 17th century, it caught the attention of a rising Nazi regime and its infamous leader, Adolf Hitler. Its conservation was used as a cultural propaganda by the Nazis to promote an example of an ideal German family life, hailing them as the "most German of German towns". The town, not receiving any attention for the past few centuries, was eager to accept that distinction, so much so that they expelled their Jewish citizens to the approval of Nazi supporters across the nation.
Various stores selling crafted toys and handicrafts could be found in Rothenburg, especially the area around Marktplatz. Most of these stores claimed their merchandise to be wholly handmade in Germany, offering even to ship the larger items by air with an additional fee. The handiwork was magnificent and most of them, crafted from wood, showed a high attention to detail. Even if you are not interesting in buying, going in for a tour in each shop is highly recommended. You may even find something to keep as a legit souvenir from Germany.
Rothenburg's survival in World War II was a contribution from both sides of the war. The Allied forces bombed the town during the war and would have leveled the place if not for US Assistant Secretary of War, John C. McCloy's recognition of the town's historical value. An offer to surrender was accepted by the German forces defending Rothenburg thus sparing the town from total demise and its ability to preserve its medieval state once again.
|Going into town|
One other thing which I started noticing since Rothenburg was brass plaques set into the cobbled street in front of certain buildings. I later found out that this was a Stolperstein, a project of Gunter Demnig, a German artist. Each was the approximate size of a cobblestone and commemorated the victims of Nazism by mentioning the name of the victim as well as their last residency date in the building prior to being evicted or killed. The victims were generally of the Jewish population but also included other Holocaust victims, like the Sinti and Romani people, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses and a whole lot of others.
To the casual tourist, the plaque can be easily missed; to the curious it told a drastically different story. Such plaques were scattered across Europe and in subsequent visits to other towns, I started to take note of them. They glinted under the sunlight, catching very little attention most of the time. Not everyone, it seemed, were interested in a plaque set on the floor.
|There once was|
The Stolperstein is a contemporary art memorial commemorating the tragic past of the nation and acknowledging the fallout from the Holocaust. This particular plaque states:
involuntarily evicted in 1938 to Stuttgart
deported in 1942 to Theresienstadt (concentration camp)
The tragic of Rothenburg's past and the story behind Stolperstein were counterbalanced by the magical view across the Tauber river right across part of the medieval walls of the town. The river wound past to the west, and from the higher vantage point of the town, the view stretched for miles away. Population was not limited to within the walls, for there were a few small houses congregated in a small colony near the river as well. The lush green coupled with cottage-like colonies painted an even more beautiful picture of the region.
|Tauber valley wide|
|Through the arch|
|Through another arch|
|The garden and the museum|
|Road past the cliff|
|Road out of town|
|The walled town|
|On the way back|
A circuit along the medieval wall afforded quite a number of photographic opportunities, which could be said as one of my best experience off the beaten path so far. Most of my experience of wandering off the tourist track did not return a gratifying result, but having just one satisfying experience like that in Rothenburg is enough to convince me to continue hunting in the less trotted path for hidden gems to share.
Of course that does not mean I did not visit the recommended landmarks and buildings. Plönlein
, for one, could not be missed, and while not as impressive as other churches I visited, St Jacob's Church was still a marvelous sight. The most bizarre would be the Kriminalmuseum, a place dedicated to the laws of crime and various instruments meant to execute the law. Each of these received a dedicated post to them and the interested reader to continue following the adventure's trail in Rothenburg.
Just in case any reader is still intrigued by the long name of the town at the end of such a long post, here's a reward: the name is transliterated as "Rothenburg above the Tauber". It is easily understood that the town is situated on higher ground over the valley where Tauber River wound through. Its naming though is important to distinguish the town from various other sharing the same name of Rothenburg - there is one in Switzerland and another one in Germany.
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