Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Caught in the Middle Ages in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

This was the scene that greeted us as we approached Rothenburg ob der Tauber

To begin with, I'd like to share with you a sample of music from Medieval times composed by  Saint Hildergard of Bingen - please click on link to listen. 11,000 Virgins - Chants for the Feast of Saint Ursula. I hope it transports you to the middle ages as you read this post.

Hands down our favorite stop on our road trip through Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, is  a must see on Germany's Romantic Road. It fulfilled my fantasy of  experiencing being in a beautiful German town during the Medieval Ages. Walking around this old town, my imagination ran wild as I envisioned the village life  here at the time when it was the imperial citadel of  the Hohenstaufen Emperors.  Life centered  around the planting season as villagers primarily worked the land to grow food to survive until the next season.

The Marktplatz and Rathaus
During  fairs and festivals, I imagined the Marktplatz filled  with street  performers such as troubadours and acrobats, merchants selling all manners of goods and livestock at the main plaza by the Rathaus. There would be tournaments featuring knights from near and far  and merchants and crusaders returning from Asia, the Middle East and Africa telling stories about their adventures and experiences. There would also be pilgrims coming to worship at the churches and rest for the journey ahead.  Sometimes the travelers are greeted by the heads of bad men (maybe women, too) displayed on a stake as you entered one of the gates, a deterrent for those with malicious intentions.

Today's Rothenburg is scrubbed clean catering to the tourist trade and the atmosphere is really not too different back then. The  cobbled streets smoothed by footsteps of the many visitors over time and lined with half timbered houses are still there fronted by restaurants, museums, guesthouses  and  shops selling Christmas items and other souvenirs. Although, you get the feeling that this town was created by Disney, we found the people in Rothenburg, from innkeepers to shopkeepers, waiters and local guides, are genuine.

A painting we bought showing Hotel Markursturm (yellow building on the right)

Romantik Hotel Markursturm nestled by the Markus Tower and Roeder Arch
We opted  to stay for a couple of days inside the walls so we can enjoy Rothenburg when the throngs of day trippers have left and the ghostly spirits of dark ages can be felt even more. Our hotel, the Romantik Hotel Markursturm, was a former toll house nestled next to the Markus Tower and Roeder Arch (built 1200AD) and just steps away from the main Market Square. It has been a guesthouse for 500 years and owned by the Berger family for 4 generations. Lilo and Stefan Berger, and the entire staff treated us as if we were a guest at their own home,  Stefan, a talented chef who specialized in German dishes of the region,  was in charge of the kitchen but he could also be found at the reception desk, waiting on tables, giving tips on sights and even acting as a valet. We were surprised when we checked in and were given a list of room numbers to check out and pick our favorites to stay in. All the rooms that we saw had large bathrooms and a comfortable sitting area. The rooms, uniquely decorated by Lilo Berger were charming and it was a hard choice. In the end we chose the ones that were further away from the front with the thought that they would be quieter than those by the main street.

Half Timbered building typical in Rothenburg
Rothenburg is unique among the old German medieval towns in that it was only very slightly damaged  by  the many wars in its history. It has retained its surrounding walls , fairy tale towers and turrets, each one unique.  It's architecture is distinctly German, with the half timbered gabled buildings and red tiled roofs.

A Sample of Architecture in Rothenburg o.b.T.
More half timbered buildings with red tiled roofs

One of the activities we did  was to walk the walls and ramparts around the city. It was probably the one activity, other than joining the Night Watchman tour or going to the Crime and Punishment Museum, that  you can do where you feel most connected with the Dark Ages.

Walking along the town walls

Walking the Ramparts

We started off walking towards the main gates by the Burgtower which lead to the peaceful Burggarten. On our way, we stopped at the Franzisknerkirche. At the Burgarten, because Rothenburg is situated high on a plateau  above the Tauber valley, we enjoyed the panoramic view of the country side and the Tauber River. The garden is an ideal place to relax and enjoy a book or do some sketching. From here, we started walking on decked wooden walkway along the ramparts. It was so great being there just at the beginning of the tourist season since we had the ramparts all to ourselves. I just wish we could have done it in the dark also.

Main gate and Burg Towers


We followed the walls to the Spitaltor and then decided to rest back at the hotel. But first we had lunch by the Plonlein fork, one of the most photographed and painted spots in Rothenburg. It is a very picturesque medieval spot, where if you stand on the right spot you can see the Siebersturm (circa 1385) and the Kobozellertor  (circa 1360) towers simultaneously.

Plonlein Fork

Rothenburg is a great place to shop for German souvenirs , Christmas items and apparel also. The Kathe Wolhfart's Christmas shop located in the main square is very popular but I prefer the Anneliese Friese shop located by St. Jacob's Church. They carry authentic Made in Germany items plus the prices are more reasonable, and we got the bonus of owner Anneliese's or as she asked us to call her, Mama, regaling us with stories about her adventures in her 80 plus years.

Beer Steins

Wooden toys


Map of Rothenburg courtesy of 'Mama" Anneliese Friese
Like the pilgrims of the middle ages, a visit to Rothenburg would not be complete without a visit to the Gothic St. Jakobskirche where we found the altar of the Heilige Blut (Holy Blood) , said to contain a drop of Christ's blood. This altar piece is a masterpiece carved by the Michelangelo of wood sculptors, Tilman Riemenschneider. During this German trip, I became a quick fan of Tilman Riemensneider so much so  that I planned a stop wherever his work can be found.

St. Jacob's Church
The Altar of the Holy Blood by Tilman Riemenschneider

Detail of altar carving

Roasted Pork Knuckles

As far as the food,  at Roter Hahn restaurant, we had the best roasted pork knuckle ever. It was very crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Accompanied by potato dumplings and a vinegary sauce, it was just perfect.

We also had to try the signature sweet from Rothenburg, the Schneeballen. This confection is shaped like a snowball from layers of  deep fried pastry and comes in different flavors. The one I tasted had almond paste or marzipan as flavoring. It was very sweet and you can really tell it is deep fried. Is it healthy? Definitely Not! But how many times will I be in Rothenburg.

Here is an excerpt from the work of German Ulrich von Huetten regarding medieval life:
"The day is full of thought for the morrow, constant disturbance, continual storms. The fields must be ploughed and spaded, the vines tended, trees planted, meadows irrigated. There is harrowing, sowing, fertilizing, reaping, threshing: harvest and vintage. If the harvest fails in any year, then follow dire poverty, unrest, and turbulence.”  

I do not think that I would have liked to live during the medieval times. But much is to be said about the great art and architecture  that were produced during that time just because the people believed in God and salvation. I would have liked to be an active participant or even  just an onlooker when they built the great cathedrals. painted and sculpted the altarpieces and made the beautiful stained glass windows.

Auf wiedersen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Maybe one day, time travel will be a reality and I can be transported to when your beautiful city was growing up.


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