A visit to the Old Bavarian town of Rothenburg is a delightful, real-world romp into your favorite fairytale classics. Discover charming Rothenburg as you sail along the Rhine River on our Europe's Rivers & Castles itinerary.
Home of Fairytales
The town has inspired not only the village in the Disney classic Pinocchio but also centuries of other artists and filmmakers. The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts I and II) showcase the picturesque town as well.
Of course, its association with fairytales and fantasy isn’t entirely random. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm grew up in a town not too far away and helped to popularize such classics as Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel and Gretel. Lederhosen, turrets, clock towers and thatched roofs just feel organic to the story. Our appreciation of folklore is steeped in German culture.
Step Back in Time
Nowhere is this appreciation more apparent than in the lovely, charming towns in Old Bavaria. And in particular, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (as it is officially known), which translates as “Red Fortress above the Tauber” since it overlooks the Tauber River. While you may not technically be able to travel back in time, it sure will feel like it when you arrive. Opt for the Nightwatchman’s Tour to take your group through the ramparts and back alleys as the comical guide fills you in on what life was like in the Middle Ages. You can also walk the wall around the city which, incredibly, still stands. Once a defensive strategy to keep out intruders, now a major tourist destination to draw the crowds in. And they come in droves. Drawing in over 2.5 million tourists annually, tourism is the main business here. A perfect place to find gifts for the little ones as well as stroll through Christmas shops (and a Christmas Museum) that remain open throughout the year. An old craftsman’s house dating back to 1270 is also available to tour.
A Historic Old German Town
Back in its Middle Ages glory days, the town looked basically the same as it does today. And that’s part of the allure. Once the epitome of ‘Old German’ architectural chic… at least as far as medieval towns go... it has often been hailed as a perfect example of the old German culture. Accordingly, laws were enacted starting in the 1800s to preserve the historical beauty of the town. They did such a good job that the American Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, familiar with Rothenburg’s storied history, spared the town from destruction in WWII.
A Glimpse of the Dark Ages
Of course, life wasn’t all fairytales in this medieval village. A museum dedicated to Medieval Crimes and Justice gives a much more chilling picture of life in the Dark Ages. And a replica of the Jewish cemetery that was decimated can be visited in honor of the community that once lived within these city walls.
As they say in Pinocchio, ‘always let your conscience be your guide’ as you choose excursions – and a trip to Rothenburg with our Europe's Rivers & Castles itinerary is surely one not to be missed.