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Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Town Hall of Rothenburg
Town Hall of Rothenburg
Coat of arms of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is located in Germany
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Coordinates 49°22′37.88″N 10°10′44.18″E / 49.3771889°N 10.1789389°E / 49.3771889; 10.1789389
Country Germany
State Bavaria
Admin. region Middle Franconia
District Ansbach
Mayor Walter Hartl (Für Rothenburg)
Basic statistics
Area 41.45 km2 (16.00 sq mi)
Elevation 430 m  (1411 ft)
Population 11,226  (31 December 2006)
 - Density 271 /km2 (701 /sq mi)
Other information
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Licence plate AN
Postal code 91541
Area code 09861
Reichsstadt Rothenburg
Imperial City of Rothenburg
Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire
Duchy of Swabia
Capital Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Government Republic
Historical era Middle Ages
 - City founded 1170
 - Granted Reichsfreiheit
    by Rudolph I
 - Sieged by Tilly in the
    Thirty Years' War
October 1631
 - Mediatised to Bavaria 1803
A famous street in Rothenburg called Plönlein with Koboldzellersteig and Spitalgasse
Town wall of Rothenburg

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a town in the district of Ansbach of Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia), the Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany, well known for its well-preserved medieval old town, a destination for tourists from around the world. In the Middle Ages, it was an Imperial Free City. A significant fraction of Rothenburg is car-free.



The name "Rothenburg ob der Tauber" means, in German, "Rothenburg above the Tauber". This is so because the town is located on a plateau overlooking the Tauber river. As to the name "Rothenburg", some say it comes from the German words Rot (Red) and Burg (burg, medieval fortified town), referring to the red colour of the roofs of the houses which overlook the river. The name may also refer to the process of retting ("rotten" in German) flax for linen production.

The 'th' spelling in German is the sign of an older word; modern words just use 't' because there is no 'th' (thin, this) sound in German. The proper pronunciation of the first syllable is like English row, as in row-boat. The second syllable -then- is just ten, like the number. And -burg is similar to boork with the 'r' slightly swallowed. So 'Rothenburg ob der Tauber' is pronounced approximately ROW-ten-boork opp dare TAO-ber. In IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet): [ro:tənbʊag ɔp dєr taʊba].


In 950 the weir system in today’s castle garden was constructed by the Count of Comburg-Rothenburg.

In 1070, The Counts of Comburg-Rothenburg, who also owned the village “Gebsattel”, built Rothenburg castle on the mountain top high above the river Tauber.

The Counts of the Comburg-Rothenburg dynasty died out in 1116. The last Count, Count Heinrich, willed all his belongings, including Gebsattel and Rothenburg, to the Comburg convent, but Emperor Heinrich V appointed instead his nephew Konrad von Hohenstaufen as successor to the Comburg-Rothenburg properties.

In 1142, Konrad von Hohenstaufen, who became Konrad III (1138-52) the Roman-German King, traded a part of the monastery Neumünster in Würzburg above the village Detwang and built the Stauffer-Castle Rothenburg on this cheaper land. He held court there and appointed reeves as caretaker.

In 1170 the city of Rothenburg was founded at the time of the building of Staufer castle. The centre was the market place and the Jakob’s Church. The development of the oldest fortification can be seen: the old cellar / old moat and the milk market. Walls and towers were built in the 13th century. Preserved are the “White Tower” and the Markus Tower with the Röder Arch.

From 1194 to 1254, the representatives of the Staufer dynasty governed the area around Rothenburg. Around this time the St. John Order and other orders were founded near the Jakob’s Church and the monastery of the Dominican order.

From 1241 to 1242, The Staufer Imperial tax statistics recorded the names of the Jews in Rothenburg. Rabbi Meir Ben Baruch of Rothenburg (died 1293, buried 1307 in Worms) had a great reputation as a jurist in Europe. His descendants include members of the dynastic family von Rothberg, noteworthy in that they were accorded noble status in the nineteenth century, becoming the hereditary Counts of Rothberg, later taking up residence in the city of Berlin where they were well known as jewelers until the 1930s. Most members of the family disappeared and are presumed to have been murdered during the Second World War. Several of the von Rothbergs were laid to rest in a crypt located in the Weißensee Cemetery, while two members immigrated to the United States during the Second World War. The family is survived by its last living descendant, Andrew Sandilands Graf von Rothberg, who resides in the United States.

In 1274 Rothenburg was accorded privileges by King Rudolf of Habsburg as an imperial city. Three famous fairs were established in the city and in the following centuries the city expanded. The citizens of the city and the knights of the hinterland build the Franziskaner (Franciscan) Monastery and the Holy Ghost Hospital (1376/78 incorporated into the city walls). The German Order began the building of the Jakob’s Church, which the citizens have used since 1336. The Heilig Blut (Holy Blood) pilgrimage attracted many pilgrims to Rothenburg, at the time one of the 20 largest cities of the Holy Roman Empire. The population was around 5,500 people within the city walls and another 14,000 in the 150 square miles (390 km2) of surrounding territory.

In October 1631, during the Thirty Years' War, the Catholic Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, wanted to quarter his 40,000 troops in Protestant Lutheran Rothenburg. Rather than allow entrance, the town defended itself and intended to withstand a siege. However, Tilly's troops quickly defeated Rothenburg, losing only 300 soldiers. After the winter they left the town poor and nearly empty, and in 1634 the Black Death killed many more. Without any money or power, Rothenburg stopped growing and preserved its 17th century state.

Since 1803 the town has been a part of Bavaria. Romanticism artists of the 1880s rediscovered Rothenburg, bringing tourism to the town. Laws were created to prevent major changes to the town.

In March 1945 in World War II, German soldiers were stationed in Rothenburg to defend it. On March 31, bombs were dropped over Rothenburg by 16 planes, killing 39 people and destroying 306 houses, six public buildings, nine watchtowers, and over 2,000 feet (610 m) of the wall. The U.S Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy knew about the historic importance and beauty of Rothenburg, so he ordered US Army General Jacob L. Devers not use artillery in taking Rothenburg. The local military commander Major Thömmes ignored the order of Adolf Hitler for all towns to fight to the end and gave up the town, thereby saving it from total destruction by artillery. American troops occupied the town on April 17, 1945, and in November 1948 McCloy was named Honorable Protectorate of Rothenburg. After the war, the residents of the city quickly repaired the bombing damage. Donations for the rebuilding were received from all over the world. The rebuilt walls feature commemorative bricks with donor names.


The western town gate

To the left of the picture forming the west side of the town hall square is the Rathaus or town hall. The rear Gothic part of the building dates from 1250, and the attached front Renaissance building was started in 1572. This building served as the seat of government for the city-state during the medieval ages and for the city of Rothenburg since the formation of the federalist government. The town hall tower of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the Roedertor tower at the east end of the city, and is open daily for visitors to climb it for its scenic vistas.

While buildings within the walled city reflect the city's medieval history, this part of the city is in many ways a normal, modern German town with some concession to the tourist trade. Many stores and hotels that are centered around tourists are clustered around the Town Hall Square and along several major thoroughfares (Herrngasse, Schmiedgasse). Also in the town is a criminal museum, containing various punishment and torture devices as used during the Middle Ages. For authentic Rothenberg ob der Tauber fare, one should have schneeballen, which are egg dough fried and then either sprinkled with powered sugar or covered with chocolate.

The mayor of Rothenburg was Herbert Hachtel (SPD) from 1988 until March 2006, he was followed by Walter Hartl.

Cultural references

Rothenburg has appeared in several films, notably fantasies. It was the inspiration for the village in the 1940 Walt Disney movie Pinocchio. Also this place become popular tourist destination of Japan because of the animated film "Sugar a little snow fairy" where the main character use to live in this town and where all the story and the scenery took place, that's why half of the tourist who use to go there is Japanese. It was also the location for the Vulgarian village scenes in the 1968 family movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It is sometimes mistaken as the town at the end of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971); that town was Nördlingen. The town served as a loose basis for the fictional town of Lebensbaum (Life Tree) in the video game Shadow of Memories (Shadow of Destiny in American markets)[1].

Rothenburg is the primary location for Elizabeth Peters' mystery novel, Borrower of the Night (1973) which involves the search for a missing Tilman Riemenschneider sculpture. The town also featured as the location in the Belgian comic book La Frontière de la vie (The Frontier of Life, 1977) and it inspired the look of the town in the Japanese manga and anime series A Little Snow Fairy Sugar (2001). Rothenburg's famous street Koboldzellersteig and Spitalgasse is depicted on the cover of two Blackmore's Night albums, 1999's Under a Violet Moon and their 2006 festive album Winter Carols.

Image gallery

See also


  1. ^ Shadow of Memories, review on Adventure Archive

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Central Europe : Germany : Bavaria : Franconia : Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Plönlein a former marketplace, on the left side the Siebers-gate on the right the Kobolzeller-gate
Plönlein a former marketplace, on the left side the Siebers-gate on the right the Kobolzeller-gate

Rothenburg ob der Tauber [1] is a town on the Romantic Road in Bavaria, Germany, about halfway in between Frankfurt and Munich. It is known for its medieval Altstadt, seemingly untouched by the passage of time, encircled by the undamaged 14th-century town wall. In the Middle Ages, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was a free imperial city, reaching its apex of prosperity under Burgermeister Heinrich Toppler in the 15th century with a large population of 6,000 -- much larger than Frankfurt and Munich at that time. Now Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small town and a big tourist attraction.

  • Rothenburg o.d.T. is popular with big bus tour groups, especially in the summer. Therefore, it is advised that you see the town in the morning or the evening when the bus crowds aren't there.
  • If you are taking a train in, make sure you are buying a ticket to Rothenburg ob der Tauber; there are several other Rothenburg's in Germany. The train station is east of the town wall, about a 15 minute walk to the center Market Square (Marktplatz) of the Altstadt.
  • Walking will get you from one end of town to the other in about 15 minutes.
  • Driving is unnecessary and at times impossible; it is best to park the car and walk.
The Market square
The Market square
Klingentor, one of the gates to the city
Klingentor, one of the gates to the city
  • The Market Square (Marktplatz) is the center of urban life in Rothenburg o.d.T. The Square is framed on the west by the Town Hall (Rathaus), on the north by the City Councillors' Tavern (Ratstrinkstube) with its Tourist Information center, on the east by shops and cafes, and on the south by St. George's Fountain.
  • The 165 ft. 13th century Town Hall Tower (Rathausturm) at the center of the Altstadt offers the best view of the area; cost €1 and 241 steps up. The Tower does not have a foundation of its own; it rests on top of the gable of the Gothic building. The front part of the Town Hall, a Renaissance building, was built in the 16th century. The Town Hall (Rathaus) is free.
  • The Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum (Kriminalmuseum), just south of Market Square, is full of examples of torture equipment and is not for the faint hearted.
  • The Plonlein (Little Square), a few blocks south of the Market Square, offers a charming medieval sight. Standing at the right point, you can see two towers: on the left, more or less straight ahead, is the Siebers Tower (Siebersturm) dating from 1385; and down on the right, from the Tauber valley, is the Kobolzell Gate (Kobolzeller Tor) dating from 1360. These two access roads form a small triangular square, which is Plonlein. The Plonlein is often referred to as one of the most photographed spots in Germany.
  • The Town Wall encircle the city, giving the Altstadt the shape of a head, with the nose -- the Castle Garden -- pointing left (west). The existing Town Wall was built in the 14th century, was partially damaged in World War II, and restored through gifts from donors throughout the world (see plaques on the wall). The Wall is about 1.5 miles long, covered, with several towers and entrances at the gates. One of the easiest access to get up to the sentry wall is just south of Siebers Tower (Siebersturm). The Wall is free and offers a good vantage point to see the town.
  • St. Jakobskirche (Church of St. Jacob), Klostergasse 15, north of the Market Square, contains a masterpiece by the famous Würzburg sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider (ca. 1460-1531).
  • Two walking tours are offered. Both tours are in English, cost 6 €, and leave from Market Square. The tourist office tours are 90 minutes and run April to October and December daily at 14:00. The 60-minute Night Watchman's tour runs nightly mid-March to December at 20:00.
  • The Do it Yourself Town Wall tour. The best stretch of the Wall to walk is from the massive 16th-century Spitaltor (go through the Siebersturm to the southern tip of the Spitalgasse) to the Klingentor, completed around 1400, at the northern tip of the Wall. This takes about a half-hour if you don't stop. Offers excellent views and photographic opportunities.
  • Rent a bike at Rad und Tat, Bensenstrasse 17 (tel. 09861/87984)
  • Georg Schopf, Galgengasse 1-3. This shop sells both souvenirs from cuckoo clocks to drinking glasses and antiques such as paintings.  edit
  • Kunstwerke Friese, Grüner Markt 7 (tel. 09861/7166). Cuckoo clocks, Hummel figurines, pewter beer steins, music boxes, dolls, and the usual suspects.
  • Käthe Wohlfahrt, Herrngasse 1, [2]. A somewhat touristy shop in three floors underground where one buy Christmas decorations during the whole year.  edit
  • zur Höll, Burggasse 8, [3]. Gasthaus in a 1100 year old building  edit
  • Baumeisterhaus, Obere Schmiedgasse 3, just south of Marktplatz, housed in a Renaissance styled residence built in 1596 by the Master Builder. Main courses 12€-22€.
  • Louvre, Klingengasse 15. Main courses 25€-28€; fixed-price menu 49€-85€.
  • Ratsstube, Marktplatz 6. A true tavern atmosphere. Main courses 10€-15€.
  • Unter den Linden, at Kurze Steige 7B (tel. 09861/5909). A cafe-bar on the River Tauber.
  • Gasthof Goldener Greifen, Obere Schmiedgasse 5, just south of Marktplatz. Former home of Burgermeister Toppler (~1406).
  • Pension Gundel 7 km south of Rothenburg in the village of Lohr. [[4]]
  • Hotel Gotisches Haus, Herrngasse 13, +49 9861 2020 (fax: +49 9861 1317), [5]. Situated right behind the Market Square and the Christmas shops  edit
  • Nuremberg has a delightful castle, old town, and the nazi parade grounds
  • Wurzburg is a university town with an impressive palace
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