Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 18 - The Bill Gates of Rothenburg

Morning Team (at least for me),

After our tour of King Leopolds' Castles, we headed north in our C-Max to a little town about half way between Munich and Frankfurt by the name of Rothenburg.  Now back in the day (Middle Ages) this place was booming.  Textiles and fertile farming land actually made this the 7th largest city in the Holy Roman Empire.  It was even bigger than London at the time.

Much like Bruges, however, it had a couple of bad breaks, some industries came and went, and it stagnated for a couple hundred years.  This blows for the people living in those times, but with the onset of the tourism business, it set up a cornucopia (advanced word of the day) of business opportunities to cash in on suckers like me who want to go see something "authentic".

Scott and I got into town in the evening because there was supposed to be this really cool tour around 8PM by a local called "The Nightwatchman's Tour".  Next time you're in Rothenburg, check it out.  It's one hour and completely worth the price of admission.

So here's a couple of shots of my new hero.    His name is Hans and he's from Rothenburg.  For the last 18 years this guy shows up in the middle of town around 8PM wearing this get up and charges somewhere between 50-100 people about 5 euro a pop to go walk around and tell you a little about the history of the town.  He's also one of the driest wits I've ever heard and  he got no less than 10 laughs from the entire crowd.  He's like a German version of Monty Python but without having to endure 20 minutes of stupidity before getting to the good stuff.


Oh yeah, so why is he my hero.  Notice there is no one else in this picture.  No staff, no waiver forms citing he's not responsible if his axe thingy there hits you in the face.  His overhead is that costume and whatever product is needed to get his hair looking like that.  He just shows up at 8, does his spiel, collects your money (not including tips) in cash, and is at the pub by 9:15.  This dude makes more money in euros for one hour's worth of work than I do in dollars putting in a full day. He's even got a DVD if your interested.    

Scott and I crashed at this cheap hotel/bed and breakfast place and then got up early the next morning and did a walk around the city wall.  You can cover the entire perimeter in about an hour and it is supposed to be one of the highlights of visiting.

Here's a shot outside the city.  The town is surrounded by a steep hill on three sides so attacking the city was very difficult.  In fact it was only taken once in 700-800 years.  During the 30 Years War a heavy rainstorm happened along and one of the enemy armies (going somewhere else) got stuck in the mud and asked to be sheltered.  Rothenburg gave them the German Finger so they besieged the town.

Well like I said, it is a very difficult place to take due to it's impressive wall and cliff like perch.  Rothenburg was doing quite well until the guy in charge of the gun powder room decided it would be a good idea to take a torch in there one night (because it was dark of course) to check things out.  Well it got really bright in a hurry and simultaneously that section of the wall disappeared.  So after that the army just waltzed in and took over, making sure they high-fived whatever remnants of the torch guy was left.

You'd think there would be some kind of entrance exam to get the gun powder room watcher job.

Question 1)  While none are a good idea, which should you never ever do in the gun powder room?
a) Use the powder kegs as you own personal toilet
b) Play your lute for long periods of time
c) Light a fire around the highly highly combustable contents that we store there
d) Wear a jester suit

I would think that really needed to be the only question but perhaps it's more complicated.

Here's a shot to show you what the town looks like.  For my money this is more medieval looking (whatever that means) than Bruges but it doesn't have the canals.

This is a shot of the wall from inside the town.  As you can see, you can actually walk on the wall.  Good story here. During WWII when the Allies where finishing off the Nazi's one of the last German Armies came to Rothenburg.  Well we found out about it and started to bomb the city, damaging a bit of the wall here.

We were about to go ahead and just wipe this place off the map when some Under Secretary of State for the US heard about the plan.  Turns out, his Mom had visited here many years before and loved it.  When he was growing up he would even eat dinner looking at a picture of Rothenburg hanging in their dining room.  Well he called the commanding general, and said that he thought Rothenburg was too important a historical city to destroy, so if the Nazi army would surrender we would spare the town.  The Germans were ordered not to surrender, but the commanding officer for them was out of town for some reason, so one of the local citizen/soldiers came out and said, "No problem, it's all yours".  And just like that,  the town was saved.

Here's another shot of some of the architecture.

This is the main square and the city hall of the town.

This is at St. Jakob's church.  This is considered one of the most remarkable wood carvings from the Middle Ages.  If you get up closer on it, the detail is amazing.  How people do this stuff is beyond me, and with wood it seems even more impressive.  You screw up, and you have to start all over.  I struggle to write my name correctly and this guy does a 10 foot wide masterpiece that's nearly flawless.

Our next stop was to the Medieval Punishment Museum where you get to see all of the "civilized" ways people used to pay for their sins.

Is this a new way to play washers?  Perhaps a really big key?  Maybe a new form of hopscotch? . . .

No silly.  Its a Double Neck Violin.  Gents, are your lady friends having a bit of a tiff and need to be put back in line?  Well pop 'em in here for a couple of hours and voila!  They're now the best of friends.

Now girls, don't shoot the messenger.  I'm just reporting the facts (see picture).  This isn't nearly as bad as the Bavarian dresses at Oktoberfest.  See, you can't even see their ankles.

Alright ladies and gentleman, step right up and pick your favorite way to leave the world.  Will it be being boiled alive?  Or maybe driving a stake through your heart.  Or even better, taking a 150 lb wagon wheel and throwing it on top of you repeatedly until you expire.  Of course, we'll follow that up by weaving your broken body between the spokes just for good measure.  You get full service here and all for free.

It's times like these that make me wish I was back in the Good 'Ol Days.

The last big thing we did was head over to see Europe's version of the North Pole.  From the outside this building looked like any other one.  But then we walked in and saw this:

And you though Macy's gets the Christmas stuff out too early.  There are 3 floors of nothing but Christmas decorations here.

Rothenburg was a quick trip, but we got a good 3/4 or a day in and I think we both agreed it was worth the effort.  After that we headed back to Munich to drop off the car and catch a train to the Czech Republic.  Prague is the next stop. . .