DM and MM's Germany 2007 Diary

Day 16 - Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Würzburg

Sunday, 6 May, 2007

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16:35 Train from Steinach to Würzburg

The specialty of Rothenburg is Schneeballen. There are Schneeballen everywhere, in every shop window, piled dozens deep. But nobody ever seems to buy or actually eat them. No wonder the place is hip deep in them. You know you're in a seriously touristy place when the shops have signs in Japanese. Although Rothenburg is very charming and interesting to wander through, it's also extremely touristy. We heard more American accents than German speakers. It will be good to get somewhere less well tramped.

The day began with breakfast, which was served only from 08:00 and was rather disappointing, being a bare minimum of the options we'd seen elsewhere. We resorted to cutting and eating an apple for some of our morning sustenance. We checked out and left our bags at the hotel, before heading out to explore the town, which was still relatively tourist-free at 09:00.

Town wall
Rampart of the wall around Rothenburg

First we headed to the Röder tower on the wall, right next to the hotel, to see if it was open for climbing up for the view. We found a staircase leading up to a parapet running along the wall, but the door which presumably led into the tower was shut uninvitingly. We could however walk along the parapet in either direction, so we picked north and took a scenic walk where soldiers guarding the town in medieval times must have stood watch. The wooden beams overhead required me to keep my head a bit low, so it wasn't all that easy going. At the next tower north along the wall we climbed down to street level again. Apparently one can walk along the wall around the town for 2.5 kilometres - we didn't feel obliged to do the entire thing.

Too early for tourists? Never...
Street of Rothenburg

We headed west through the touristy strip to the Burggarten, a peaceful promontory of solitude on the hill overlooking the loop in Tauber River below that surrounded it on three sides. The view was slightly compromised by trees in the foreground and the sun shining over the city from the east, but was marvellous nonetheless. We did a circuit of the garden anticlockwise from the main gate, enjoying the tranquillity, the colourful flowers, the formal area with statues of various symbols of harvest, and the expansive views.

Over the wall
View from the Burggarten

We approached a woman to take a photo of the both of us in the picturesque garden, with the walled city in the background behind us. She was very friendly and directed us as to where to stand and how to pose, as she bounced around with the camera lining up the shot. After taking it, she said that the light wasn't very good, with the sun behind us, but she hoped it turned out okay. We thanked her and walked off. A few minutes later, she came running up to us and said she'd found a much better spot to take a photo, and beckoned us over to a spot partially shaded with overhanging vines, which tempered the glaring backlight considerably. She proceeded to pose us and take several photos before handing the camera back again. It's nice to find someone keen and knowledgeable to take your photo!

Next we walked around past the Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum (Medieval Crime and Justice Museum) - where Michelle got a photo of me in stocks, but we didn't bother to pay the admission to go inside and see more. We continued to the Plönlein square with its iconic fountain that is the symbol of Rothenburg. I was expecting something big or elaborate, or at least moderately interesting, but the hallowed fountain was a small unadorned stone pillar in a spa-bath-sized stone pool. Entirely unimpressive, especially compared to some other fountains we'd seen already in the town, such as one with four heads with snakes coming out of their mouths.

We took the lower right fork in the street and exited the city wall via a double gate joined by a small plaza in between. Outside, a path led down the hill through dense trees. We walked down, stopping to admire some particularly hairy moss on the rock wall by the path and notice a large snail. It was hiding its face behind a flower, so I tried to pull it away to get a better photo - it was actually eating the flower and I was tugging its meal away. So left it there and shot around it.

The Doppelbrücke

We reached the Doppelbrücke a lot faster than I'd expected and walked across it before realising that the Lonely Planet's description of it as "double-decker" meant only that it was built as one course of arches on top of another, not that there were actually two roadways, one above the other.

21:50 Room 3, Hotel Gasthof Zur Stadt Mainz, Würzburg

We've just retired for the night after another full day. To continue from Rothenburg:

The Tauber
Tauber River and the Doppelbrücke

We had to return across the Doppelbrücke to get back to the right side of the Tauber, then took another route back up to the town, crossing under the bridge and walking along the bank a bit before turning on to the sloping path that wended between terraces of grapes and a few houses perched on the slope. We returned to the city via a gate near the Kriminalmuseum.

We were hungry, even though it was before 12:00, so we grabbed some food from nearby shops. I got a hot Leberkäse roll (called Fleischkäe here) and Michelle had a cup of coffee with the plan to get some bread from an adjacent bakery, but that turned out to be closed despite the tantalisingly lit displays of baked goods (plus Schneeballen) in the window. We walked to find another bakery and got a bread roll and a quark cheese pastry for Michelle, and a nut-filled pastry for me. While eating these, the clock on the Ratstrinkstube, the building next to the Rathaus, struck 12 and the windows opened to several mannequins of the central figures in the Meistertrunk story, re-enacting the huge sip of wine - basically one mannequin lifting a big stein to his mouth then lowering it a minute later. After this amazing performance, which was watched by a crowd of about 300 tourists, we went into the Rathaus to climb the tower for views over the city.

Looking down the spiral staircase of the Rathaus tower

The climb began with a few floors up a heavy stone spiral staircase, with interesting runnels spiralling down the inner edge. From there we crossed inside the roof of the main building - which was eerily empty - to the tower area, and climbed about four flights of wooden steps in ever narrowing and steepening configurations until we reached (finally) a cashier who accepted a euro for each of us and directed us up a tight ladder to the final lookout. Michelle tried going up first, but the steepness and tightness of the climb was too much for her and she backed out, leaving me to go up alone and take photos for both of us. She got to see out the windows just a couple of metres lower anyway. While up on the tower ledge I heard a guy talking with an unmistakeable Aussie accent. I said to him, "Is that an Aussie accent I heard?" and he said, "Yes," and promptly turned around and walked away. So much for friendliness.

Medieval view
View over Marktplatz from the Rathaus tower

We returned to the ground and basically browsed touristy shops for a while. Michelle bought some tree decorations from the Christmas shop and we explored a new street and got some drinks. We needed a toilet break, so went back to the Burggarten where we'd used a very nice facility earlier. From there, we took a gate out to a walk along the outside of the town wall. We turned around to the northwest corner of the town wall and re-entered from a gate in the north wall. From there we took several new streets, walking through mainly residential areas until we returned to the Marktplatz in front of the Rathaus. Then we did some more browsing of shops until it was time to head back to our hotel to pick up our bags and walk to the station for our train to Würzburg.

The train pulled out on time and took us to our connection at Steinach, which was made painlessly. The 40 minute trip from there to Würzburg passed uneventfully, except for a moment of panic when the train stopped about four minutes before our scheduled arrival, with the guard announcing something about Würzburg. We raced to the door to find a tiny platform and an American couple also a bit mystified as to whether to get off or not. He said he thought this was a small stop at a secondary Würzburg station which was proved correct when we pulled out to see a "Würzburg Sud" sign on the platform. A few minutes later we were safely at Würzburg Hauptbahnhof.

We walked out with our bags and down Bahnhoftsraße, taking what I thought were the right turns according to my memory of the Lonely Planet map, but we ended up in a street that didn't look promising for our hotel. I asked some stranger what street we were on and they gave me a name (Semmelstraße), which I figured I'd look up once they'd gone. But then they asked us where we wanted to go, what hotel. I said the Zur Stadt Mainz, and they turned around and pointed and said, "There it is." We were in the correct spot according to the Lonely Planet map, but the map had the hotel marked on the wrong side of the street!

Check-in was incredibly brief, with a guy basically seeing us walk in with our bags, asking our name, and showing us up to a room, before efficiently vanishing. No paperwork, nothing.

After check-in, we had a brief rest and I took the opportunity to have a shower to wash off the grime of the day of sightseeing and travelling. Then at 18:30 we met my aunt Jenny and her husband Gert, who we'd arranged to meet here in their home town of Würzburg. They took us out to dinner to a Greek place, Restaurant Knossos, just across the road and down a bit from the Residenz. Jenny was prepared to walk the few blocks, but Gert herded us into his Mercedes to drive - which took a significantly greater distance because of the various one-way streets. Michelle got a baked eggplant, zucchini, and cheese dish, while I had fish for the first time in ages. Both came with huge salads and a mound of crispy fried potato slices. None of us could finish the entire meal.

While eating, we discussed the various interesting aspects of Germany we've been experiencing. I mentioned how everyone seems to eat ice cream for lunch, and Jenny said no, that's just a dessert, after eating the lunch. And that most Germans have some cake for afternoon tea. And of course, there's the huge meal portions, and lots of sausages everywhere. I said it was amazing how more Germans didn't get fat. Jenny said, "Oh, those don't make you fat! It's all the junk food the young people eat nowadays that makes people fat."

Würzburg Residenz
Würzburg Residenz at night

We organised a plan for tomorrow over the meal. The Residenz offers guided tours in English at 11:00 and 15:00, so we will hit the 11:00 tour, then have a bit of a walk around in the gardens, then go over to the town centre to meet them at their favourite cafe at 13:00, from where they will take us up the hill on the other side of the Main River, to the castle to have a look around up there, and then to see the "little church" where they got married, which they said is very nice inside - we suspect this is a joke and it may be a huge cathedral or something.

During dinner I commented on how green the German countryside looked, and Jenny said it was too dry - they hadn't had rain for five weeks! The farmers would be in trouble if they didn't get some soon. Of course, compared to Australia, where the grass is all yellow and brown, it still looks nice and wet.

At the end of the long and relaxed meal, Jenny ordered ouzo, and I volunteered to try some for the first time. It was very liquoricey, but not unpleasant at all. I think the taste stayed with me until I brushed my teeth a couple of hours later. They insisted on paying the bill despite my attempts to do so - it's hard to argue with someone who actually speaks the same language as the waiter. Jenny also insists on doing a load of laundry for us, to save us the couple of hours in a laundromat that we'd need otherwise.

Residenz Brunnen
Residenz fountain

After returning us to our hotel in the lingering European twilight, we went for a short walk to the Residenz to take some night photos with the tripod. Michelle got a take away hot chocolate from an Italian place across the street and I got a gelato cup with blood orange and lemon as we walked to the Residenz. After photos, we came home again and turned in for the night.

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