Rothenburg ob der Tauber
There are a lot of well preserved medieval walled towns in Franconia (Northern Bavaria). Rothenburg is the jewel.
Like for many small German cities, time has stood still in Rothenburg since the multiple deprivations of the 17th century (war, plague, economic decline). Stagnation has preserved this once wealthy centre of commerce and today when you step through the gates of the in-tact city walls you are immediately in a world of pure medieval. Cars are largely excluded and there is not really anything modern in sight, beyond the tourists. Economically, mass tourism is probably the best thing that has happened to Rothenburg since the discovery of the Americas. It seemed well visited for its size, despite a slight lack of actual things to do. The town was lucky enough to be chosen as the setting for a particularly well loved anime series and as such is especially popular with the Japanese.
I arrived at Rothenburg by bicycle and was unaware that I was heading to anywhere of particular note until I had hauled my bike up an impossibly steep incline and was face to face with those amazingly preserved city walls. At first I thought it was a castle and the town must be somewhere beyond, but as I stepped through a gateway I was straight into colourful ancient streets. Perfectly preserved, the town is total spectacle – it cannot fail to impress even on the dullest of days.
It’s a bit dull of a Saturday night. We were reduced to drinking wine in our room well before midnight – literally nowhere else to be, unless we missed the party quarter.
The jewel in the jewel. Rothenburg’s St John’s Church.
The limewood carving of the last supper with the removable Judas
As I mentioned. There is not actually so much to do. Once you’ve walked around the walls and climbed the town hall tower, the main church is all that’s left. However, this is really worth seeing. A light, airy and refreshingly plain interior with lots of medieval art to see. Wooden alter pieces and many paintings adorn the main body of the church.
But there is something truly special in this church, hidden away in its very own chamber. The very best of the Riemenschneider wooden altarpieces. Riemenschneider is the no1 woodcarver of German’s rich heritage of carvings in Limewood. This alter-piece in Rothenburg his masterpiece: A depiction of the last supper with a removable Judas (he only appears on special days).