The scenic rural area that lines Germany's so-called Romantic Road provides unusual opportunities for family touring, making it one of Europe's favorite road trips.
Just about anyone who has ever traveled to Germany will be familiar with the medieval walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is one of Germany's most visited towns and is set high on a plateau along the "Romantic Road.”
This is the tourist name for what used to be a major trade route in Europe during medieval times, not necessarily a place for romance. Families are intrigued by the many historic buildings — including cathedrals, churches and even entire well-preserved towns — along a route that starts in Frankfurt and winds east and south through Germany.
What Families Will Love about Rothenburg
The Romantic Road ends in Füssen where you will find Neuschwanstein, "Mad” King Ludwig's fairytale castle that is the model for Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. For visitors to the area in late August or early Septemer, the area does more than provide its cobblestone streets, well-preserved architecture and castle walls to transport you to medieval times, its people dress the part, too! Check out the annual Imperial City Festival, complete with torchlight processions and cattle markets.
Rothenburg happened to be right in the middle of both the east-west trade route from Prague to Paris, and the north-south trade route from Sweden to Rome, and prospered during medieval times.
We have visited Rothenburg o.d.T (as it is known by locals) several times from our home in Heidelberg. Because we have been there so often we like to see something different each time we go.
Actually, our first visit was in 2000 when we were not living in Germany. We accidentally happened upon an old renovated mill that had been turned into a very quaint Bed and Breakfast. This mill, Pension Fuchsmuehle (09 86 192 633, Familie Alexander Molitor, Taubertalweg 103, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber), is located in the valley outside of the town walls. When we took our parents back there, we looked up the old mill and decided to stay there again.
A Wonderful B&B in Rothenburg
Fuchsmuehle means "the fox's mill” in German and it is a 14th-century mill built before the Topplecastle, which is just across the street. Alex and Heidi Molitor renovated one of the mill buildings in 1997 and opened it as a bed and breakfast two years later. When we stayed there in 2000 the old wooden mill wheel was still working and our room was right over the stream that turned the wheel and lulled us to sleep.
Today the wheel is still there, as is the stream, but the wheel is awaiting repairs so the stream now runs next to the wheel instead of over it. The Molitors live next to the bed and breakfast with their two small children, and are there to answer questions and provide assistance at any time.
They have a three-bedroom (that's the one over the mill wheel) and also a two-bedroom apartment. The rooms are very clean — roomy with ceramic floors — and the woodwork is an unfinished knotty pine; just beautiful, even seven years later.
We don't usually like to do the "normal” tourist things so we are thrilled when we find something unique like this bed and breakfast. It is outside of the Rothenberg town walls and 60m below the town on the Tauber River, accessible by a cute covered footbridge. The bridge leads to a paved walkway that extends 60 meters to an entrance through the Rothenberg wall and into the town's beautiful gardens. This walk from the B&B takes about 15 minutes or less, depending on your level of fitness.
New Sights in Old Rothenberg
The evening we arrived, Alex Molitor, the owner of the B&B, supplied us with a flashlight as we headed out to the Night Watchman's Tour of Rothenberg. This tour was quite enjoyable and informative. We were led around the inner walls by a guide wearing the full garb of a 14th-century night watchman and, from him, learned some history that we hadn't heard before. After the hour-long tour we made our way by flashlight, back down the path to our bed and breakfast.
There is much to do and see in Rothenburg o.d.T. Besides the Night Watchman's Tour you can walk around the city on the top of the wall, fun to do in daylight. Parts of the north and east walls were damaged in WWII but have been completely restored through donations by people and organizations from around the world. Be sure to read the little plaques indicating the donor for each section of the repaired wall.
Within walking distance of the pension are the Kriminal Museum (49 98 615 359, D-91541 Rothenburg, Burggasse 3 – 5) St. Jakob's Cathedral and, of course, the Ratstrinkstube. The Ratstrinkstube is the building in the main square where the town clock is located. It is here that the story of the saving of Rothenberg unfolds. When the clock chimes the hour (daily between 11am and 3pm and again from 8pm to 10pm), the doors on either side of the clock open to reveal two carved figures whose steins go up to their lips like they are downing their drinks. It is said this scene is of the mayor of Rothenburg drinking a jug of wine to save the town from being burned by the Emperor in 1631.
Most people will tour all of the sites inside the walled city but, being a German town, there are also miles and miles of paved foot and bike paths to explore the surrounding area. Watch the below video for a virtual tour of the historic town:
Details for Planning a Romantic Road Trip
To learn more about other towns along the Romantic Road, please visit Germany TourismGermany Travels or The Romantic Road online. This site lets you click on towns along the route to see what is available in terms of attractions and lodging.
For those with limited time, Rothenberg is a must-see destination, conveniently located about 1.5 hours by car from Heidelberg. There is also train service to Rothenberg from all major German cities.
The Pension Fuchsmuehle is open almost year round. We would love to take the children there for Christmas to experience a Rothenberg Christmas Market, but the Molitors close the pension for this holiday and reserve that time for their family. The cost is also reasonable for a family: €60 for two persons, €85 for three, and €110 for four persons. Rates include a delicious breakfast, a full European one with eggs to order.
Special thanks to Jeff Wilcox for the Neuschwanstein Castle photo.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.