Day 11, 07.04.2009: Rothenburg
My Gastfamilie [host family] took me to Rothenburg: a quaint, medieval town along the Romantic Road. Or, as it arguably is better known as, the town that sells Christmas souvenirs 365 days a year. Since it was only an hour away from Roßtal, we took the train there instead of driving.
We had a 15 minute layover in Ansbach, which was enough time to check out the Hofgarten [court garden] there. There was a rather long building built by the prince so he could house his fruit trees, which I thought was awesome because I want my own orchard someday. My Gastmutter [host mum], who loves art, brought us to an art exhibit nearby and struck up a conversation with the artist herself. It was kind of mind-blowing how everyone in Germany is so amicable.
I feel like in America, it’s far and few in between that you meet, say, a cashier at the supermarket who’d be willing to make eye contact, let alone small talk. And everyone is so busy getting somewhere. My host mum, however, strikes up hearty conversations with any clerk or cashier she meets, all the time. Not a grumpy face since I left the U.S. It’s actually pretty heart-warming to see people take the time to slow down and have a chat.
Stepping into Rothenburg was like a walking into a pop-up fairytale book set in the Middle Ages. The city wall, if I remember correctly, is the only city wall in Germany that’s still standing and complete. And you get to climb the wall! Going up the stairs was slightly terrifying because the steps were so small and so steep. But I didn’t want to be a party pooper, so I muscled my way through.
We strolled along the skirts of Rothenburg before getting off the wall. The stairs down were even worse! They were slanted downwards at a 15-degree angle. How did people climb this in the winter?!
As our tummies started grumbling, we stumbled into this random cafe. The only thing vegetarian option was Spätzle…literally just the cooked noodles. Because meat gravy. Not going to lie, it was pretty damn bland. I probably had 3 days’ worth of salt just to bring out an inkling of flavor. After downing most of the salted noodles, Clara offered to finish it for me. She said it was good with the gravy. Welp.
Thankfully, we ordered dessert and I got ApfelStrudel mit Vanilla Eis [apple strudel with vanilla ice cream). Like wow. I don’t know if it was because my entree was so unsatisfying, but 6 years later, and I still salivate at the thought of that Apfelstrudel with ice cream–you can’t not have the ice cream. The strudel was warm and the apples still crispy but coated in ooey-gooey cinnamon and sugar. The vanilla ice cream was like eating a vanilla bean. So pure and creamy: slowly melting and flooding the nooks and crannies of my strudel.
My host mother also convinced me to try a Schneeball [literally, “snowball”], which kind of looks like a yarn ball. Layers of flour, deep fried, and dipped in chocolate or sprinkled with powdered sugar, nuts…etc. It was pretty good but difficult to eat because I got one dipped in chocolate and the chocolate was melting as I ate it. Messy eater problems.
As my host mum went off to visit bookstores, Clara took me to the infamous, all-year round Christmas stores in Rothenburg. They have such tiny storefronts, but as you go deeper into the store it unfolds into a 2-3 story building! It’s bigger on the inside! (Doctor Who, anyone?)
Delicate and intricately handcrafted wooden ornaments. I wanted all the pretty things. And there was a huge, fully-decorated and lit Christmas tree in the middle of the store that reached all the way up to the ceiling. I wanted to take a picture so badly but it was prohibited and there were people watching.
There were also snowflakes made just from wood shavings (?!) and carved windmills that run on rising hot air from candles that you light from within it. Sooo cool. I bought this really cute ornament with a snowman, reindeer, and Christmas tree on it. It cost around €9, which was like USD $12 at the time, but who cares? I was in Germany!