Sunday, 15 December 2013

A romantic day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a delightful evening in Nuremberg and a hilarious train journey home.

I love medieval towns. Medieval towns in Germany are especially gorgeous. German medieval towns at Christmastime are almost too charming for words.

Yesterday, I made the trip to one of Germany’s most picturesque, quaint and attractive towns, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, here in Bavaria. It’s pretty popular as a tourist attraction because it’s a stop on the famous Romantic Road. And let me tell you, it sure is romantic, even when there in a group of girlfriends.

It was a Mulberry day yay! And the first outing of my self-knitted hat.
The name literally translates as ‘Red fortress above the Tauber’ (the Tauber is a river), but I’m sure you’ll agree that doesn’t sound half as good as Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Practically untouched during the war, it’s a beautiful and well-preserved ye olde town, full of cobbled streets (hence, I was sold) and gorgeous medieval-style German buildings. Were it not for the cars (ruining our photos grrr), I would’ve genuinely felt like I’d gone back in time.

There’s an impressive old wall which encircles the pretty old town centre, and you can walk along it for gorgeous views over the valley and river. Alas, the view wasn’t quite as clear as it could’ve been yesterday, but we still appreciated it. What started out as pretty snow swirling gently to the cobbles under our feet gradually turned to sleet and then rain as the afternoon drew on, but we didn’t mind. Lit up by the lights of many-a-Christmas tree, Rothenburg still looked stunning in the rain (even if our tootsies were verging on numb!)

Emily, Emma, Isabelle and I were all totally charmed by Rothenburg, and you’d be hard-pressed not to be! It’s not huge, and we had a wonderful time exploring the old town. It’s full of cute little gift shops, a ridiculous amount of Christmas shops (naturally, we went in them all) and quaint cafés a plenty.

Look! It's Ted's kids' mother!
I actually purchased what I personally think is a rather lovely Christmas present for my family yesterday, but obviously as they are all such avid readers of my blog (in my mind), I shan’t tell you all here so as not to ruin the surprise. Ahem.

Think I may have caught Father Christmas in his off-duty gear...
Rothenburg is famous for its Schneeballen (‘snowballs’). No, I’m not talking about actual balls of snow, but rather a sweet, biscuity treat. Much more exciting, oder? They’re made of shortcrust pastry, rolled into balls, and traditionally covered in icing sugar. We shared one of the original ones between us, but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t blown away.

Later, I went for a Schneeball covered in milk chocolate and filled with caramel. That, dear friends, was much better. It didn’t half take us a while to choose though, as there are so many different Schneeballen from which to choose – for example, marzipan, vanilla or coconut fillings, and chocolate, nuts and cinnamon coatings. Mmmm.

Throughout the day, we obviously kept needing warm-up stops, and we found a lovely little bakery/café on the edge of the old town called Brot und Zeit (‘bread and time’). German bakeries are generally fantastic, and this was just perfect because it also had a very cosy sit-down area. There were the usual sandwiches, pastries and cakes on offer, as well as freshly-cooked pasta if you fancied something warmer. Sehr gemütlich und angenehm. 

You don’t really need more than a day to see the main sights of Rothenburg, as far as I’m concerned, and we made sure to make the most of our day – we walked a bit of the town wall, saw the old tower gates, the grand Rathaus (town hall), the old churches, the Plönlein (a little square – one of the most photographed sights in Germany, apparently - in th ebackground of the pic at the top of this post), the market square, and the crazy lady throwing Christmas presents out of her window to passers-by below. Pretty sure she’s a tourist attraction. She also told me her son was still single, so that’s good to know, eh ladies?

Rothenburg is totally decked out in Christmas magic, and unsurprisingly, I LOVED IT! Mini twinkling Christmas trees on the sides of all the buildings (just like my village back home actually), Christmas lights along the streets and a pretty Christmas market (known as the Reiterlesmarkt in Rothenburg) to explore, sprawling out of the market square and around the old town.

Naturally I had to get a cheeky Glühwein to add to my mug collection (now five strong!), and we wandered round, nibbling at free tasters as we went.

However, my ‘Freebie Queen’ status somewhat backfired for the first time… I saw a plate of biscuits and a sign next to it saying something about ‘zum probieren’ (to try). ‘Excellent,’ thought I, and in I went for a biscuit. It was only as I munched that I finished reading the sign. It transpired that I was in fact eating a dog biscuit, which was rather hilarious indeed (for everyone else.) To be honest, it just tasted like an oatcake. I’ve had worse!

With our Schneeballen to go, the gals and I left Rothenburg and jumped on a train (or three) to Nuremberg for our language assistants’ pre-Christmas meet-up evening. 13 weeks in Germany down, it was lovely to catch up with everyone from our area (‘The Nuremberg Crew’ was thrown around, but I’m not sure any of us are really cool enough to pull that off.)

Most of the crew
While our facebook newsfeeds are chock-full of photos of British Christmas dinners from our friends back home, we went for traditional Bavarian fare, natch. Behold: Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, Kartoffelsalat and beer. Of course, beer. I myself went for a Radler (mixed with lemonade) and then later one with Coke (nope, I didn’t know you could get that either), so I’m slowly coming round to the German beer-drinking ways. Although it may take me over an hour to drink one pint.

Sufficiently sausaged, we meandered through the Saturday-night-at-Christmas Nuremberg crowds to the biggest Feuerzangenbowle in the world. You know, a Feuerzangenbowle? Oh, you don’t? Allow me to translate. Feuerzangenbowle = Fire tongs punch. So that’s clear now, right?

Yeah, I thought as much. Feuerzangenbowle is an alcoholic drink (of course it is.) Basically, rum-soaked sugar is set on fire and then allowed to melt into mulled wine, usually in a massive punch bowl. And Nuremberg apparently has the biggest in the world. If you ask me, it just tastes like slightly stronger Glühwein and is more expensive accordingly, but it’s still a lot of fun to sip outside with all your friends, enjoying the buzzy Christmas atmosphere.

We finished off the evening with a trip to an Irish pub – yes, our German evening had turned not-so-German, and I’m pretty sure the boys planned this so that they could watch the football. Using beer glasses as props, I was successfully taught the off-side rule, so that’s something. Honestly, I don’t know why they make out like it’s so complicated in Bend It Like Beckham!

As midnight drew ever closer, Emily, Emma and I decided it was time to head back to Bayreuth so we said our goodbyes and hopped on a train, not before being approached by a drunk on the platform. Naturally, Emma commanded us to get on the train and we ignored him. Unfortunately, he followed us. Cracking.

Luckily for we three Mädls, we found a table for four with just three seats free. Perf. Down we sat, and Drunky McDrunk proceeded to sit behind me. Of course he did. Somewhat generously, he kept leaning round and offered me a swig of his wine, in a rather slurred manner. Initially, I replied ‘Ne, danke,’ but he didn’t seem to get the picture, so I resorted to a much-firmer-yet-still-polite ‘No thank you,’ auf Englisch.

As the rest of the carriage laughed on, our drunk friend got the picture and fell asleep with his feet up on my chair, spilling wine all over his trousers in the process. The rest of the carriage lovingly named him Paul and proceeded to take many-a-picture of the off-his-face guy in his drunken slumber.

Oh, there’s nothing like laughing at a drunk to encourage friend-making on a train, eh? As the train neared Bayreuth, a few passengers tried to wake Paul, but he wasn’t having any of it. That boy was out of it. Who knows where he ended up! Poor guy must’ve been in a right state this morning.

But luckily, we three gals all got home safely, after a long but wonderful last Saturday in Germany before going home for Christmas. Eeeeep!


  1. I was in Germany about this same time a few years ago. Brings back lots of memories looking at your photos! I LOVED how Christmas-y and romantic Rothenburg was


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