Good Morning World! And a Happy October to everyone!
Here is another post starting with our interesting night travels. We hopped on the train in Berlin at about 6 pm last night. After a 6 hour ride we ended up in Augsburg. Where is Augsburg? That’s a good question, and if you ever find out let us know. All we know is that it’s in Germany and didn’t have a good waiting room to sleep in. This was important to us as our train out of Augsburg was 6.5 hours after our train in. Everything was closed so we just found a piece of wall to sleep by.
Seriously, we just slept on the floor in the train station lobby. We each pulled out our sleep sheets (which are basically a sleeping bag but made with a sheet) and cozied in. Justine shoved her entire bag into the bottom of her giant sheet. Krsitin put her little one in, but used the big one as a pillow. We both had surprisingly good sleeps. We were only disturbed a couple of times: once by a station security guy who didn’t speak English and sounded at first like he was not happy about us sleeping there, but that’s just how Germans sound (mad that is) and we soon figured out he was just worried we might miss our train. The other times were by drunk people. It is still Oktoberfest here and we were only a couple hours from Munich by train. It seemed weird a first to see them stumbling in at 1 am after a 4 hour train ride, but then we thought about it…if there were a night train from Calgary to Edmonton you could easily go to Stampede in the day and then ride back home at night.
At 6 o’clock we got packed up so we could be on our 6:30 train. After two hour long rides and another short 15 minute one we were in Rothenburg. Or should we say Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Rick Steves had warned us there were many Rothenburgs in Germany that were only distinguishable by the river they are on, so we had to be careful to make sure our train went to the right place. Now those of you who were gifted with a special calendar/map before we left might be saying, “But wait! Did you just say Rothenburg?! Aren’t you supposed to be in Koblenz today?” And yes, that was the original plan, but scheduling conflicts forced us to rework our week in central Germany a bit…so you get to be surprised by our posts for awhile too!
We walked from the station to our hostel. It was a little tricky as they don’t have the best street signs here but we made it. The hostel is really nice! It is situated in a renovated old horse mill that was used when the town was under siege and the river-powered mill was inaccessible. The room is big (with 5 beds), there are lots of showers and the location is rather convenient for exploring the old town. The wifi is a bit dodgy, but you can’t have everything and we are making it work.
We weren’t able to check in yet as it was only about 9:30 am but there were handy lockers to stow our bags in. After getting organized we were on a quest for breakfast. By this point Justine was starting to get a lack-of-caffeine headache and Kristin was having I’m-soooooo-hungry stomach pains so the quest was a very determined one! Our hostel is situated at the South end of old town, just inside the historic walls. We walked towards the town center along a cute road full of other old & wonderful buildings. Eventually we found a cafe with cappuccino to go and a bakery with tasty buns & apple strudel. We settled ourselves on the steps of town hall and added a banana from the weekend market to the mix.
…that’s town hall…
While we ate we read through our various literature on Rothenburg. Kristin had out her cue cards & Rick Steves and Justine rooted through the handful of brochures she always grabs from the hostel reception. We laid out our plan for the next couple of days and came across a self-guided walking tour of town. Justine took over the role of tour guide & Kristin as official photographer and we set out. Here are a few of the coolest/most interesting/most photogenic places in town:
St George’s Fountain is the largest of the 40 fountains scattered throughout medieval Rothenburg. In the Middle Ages cities were built with very narrow streets making fires were a major concern. Being as Rothenburg is located on a plateau, access to water was a major problem. The fountains were meant to supply both fire and drinking water.
St Jacob’s Church (also known as St James Church depending on what guide you are going by) is a Protestant Church built in 1311. It is a symbol of the wealth of Rothenburg in that day, as it looks more like a grand cathedral than a mere church. It’s main attraction is the Holy Blood Altar. This amazing feature of woodworking was built to house a relic, a drop of Christ’s blood. Unlike last time we were supposed to see Christ blood and found out it was locked in a giant silver box, this time you can just make out the drop…it is set into the stone in the center of the cross.
On the far west side of the old town is the Castle Garden. This name is a little misleading as the castle was built in the 12th century and fortresses didn’t actually have gardens in those days. The name comes from the fact that the garden was created on the exact spot where the castle used to stand. This was the ideal place for a fortress as it is bordered on multiple sides by a 80 yard drop into a valley. For us this means spectacular views!
The Plönlein (translation: Little Square) is one of the most charming medieval sights in Germany…or at least that’s what our tour pamphlet claims. It is an adorable triangular square (hmmm that’s confusing) bordered with a great 14th century tower & a cute Tudor-style house (although this is Germany so it wouldn’t be called Tudor here…).
Oh! And one last town treat…Snowballs!
These little babies are sold everywhere. They are basically strips of dough layered & crumpled together to make a ball. That ball is then baked and covered in some sort of topping. Some also have a filling pumped into them. We decided we could not miss out on a local staple so we each tried one. Kristins was covered in powdered sugar & Justines had a dousting of granulated sugar + cinnamon. They were a great treat! The dough wasn’t too sweet so the flavor wasn’t overwhelming…they were just simple and yummy and sweetened by the sugars.
As we neared the end of our guided tour we started to wandering into the various shops around town. There are so many here and they all have such cute things. Although there are the classic tourist shops there are also ones with food & wine, woodworks & beer steins and loads of Christmas stores. This is likely to be where we do all of our Germany shopping!
Toured & shopped out, we returned to the hostel to do some laundry. “In-hostel laundry,” we thought. “That will be easy after Belgian laundromats.” And it would have been, except the 3rd floor breaker blew before we could even get the washer started. The man at reception fixed it for us (after he looked at us like we were crazy for suggesting the power was out on one floor of the building) and we were able to get out clothes all clean. We had slept well on the rail station floor last night, but we had still only slept 4 to 5 hours, so as a mark of how tired we were we both fell asleep waiting for our clothes to be done.
Once our laundry & two hour naps were done we ventured back into the town center. The light was slowly starting to fade and we caught brilliant glimpses of sunset & fog hanging over the valley outside the towns fortifications. We wandered about trying to find somewhere for supper. We ended up stopping to glance at a specials board at a random little restaurant tucked in a corner off the main road. The owner came out and offered to translate the dish descriptions for us and he made them all sound so delicious that we found ourselves a table there. We are rather proud of this find as it fits perfectly into Rick Steves’ description of a perfect not-a-classic-tourist-restaurant. It was small with just a few tables inside and out on the street. It had one cook (who was also the owner) and one woman waitressing for him (she may have been his wife). There was a small menu of mostly local style dishes and a handwritten specials board listing what would probably be made with the freshest available ingredients. And there were mostly people who could have been locals eating there. With twilight setting in and out ability to peak through the houses to the valley the ambience was perfect. We both ordered the same thing, Ravioli, and split a house salad. First the salad: it tasted very fresh and that suspicion was confirmed when halfway through dinner a man showed up with a wood crate filled with greenery & herbs. Then the Ravioli: Oh it was so good! It was green ravioli with white asparagus filling. They are crazy about white asparagus here…it’s one of their main affordale delicacies in Northern Europe…so we figured it was definitely worth trying while we were here! The ravioli was topped with a brilliant sauce that was tomato-ish but had a bit more of a oil & vinegar feel to it too. Hard to describe but we were wishing we had spoons it scoop up the dregs when we were finished eating. There was also a nice little mound of greenery on top and chuncks of warm goats cheese interspersed with the pasta.
We were still feeling a little sleepy so we return home to the hostel after supper. There we used the Internet and read for a bit before bed. Rothenburg gave us a beautiful day today and we are sure it will be just as brilliant tomorrow!
Love, Luck & Long Naps,