The bitter wind cut into the sizable group of Floridians that huddled in the city center platz of the medieval city of Rothenburg, Germany. Snowballs soared through the air like cannonballs and smoke escaped mouths like modern fire-breathing dragons. We stood in our newly purchased ski jackets and scarves, waiting.
Suddenly, a bulky figure lumbered out of the Rathaus City Hall building. The man was equipped with a calling horn, staff, and lantern for the night. He was the Night Watchman of Rothenburg, and he was going to lead us into the past. He introduced himself as the last remaining night watchman. A night watchman protects the sleeping residents of Rothenburg. He guards the town against the thieves of the night but receives poor recognition for his work. The only profession lower than the night watchman was the gravedigger. The Night Watchman described how he could alert the entire town of a fire with the call of his horn. He offered us an example, which we eagerly accepted. The deep sound of the horn resonated through the tired town, and we took our first step into history.
We crunched through the hardened snow that shimmered silver and gold from the pale moon and the bright lantern. We started at a storefront, where we were first reeled into the rich past of the town. We began our tour through history with the Black Plague. The Night Watchman explained how Rothenburg was once a town of the poor, but then the black plague ravaged the city. After the recovery from the plague, the town prospered as a trading center because of its convenient location on the Tabour River.
From the Middle Ages, we marched into to the Romantic Era. The quaint town of Rothenburg had been an inspiration for Romantic art. Rothenburg became the prime example of German culture. The triangular skyline became known around the world, and people flocked to the town which began the tourism industry.
Then we ended in Nazi Germany when the future of the town was uncertain. The Night Watchman described how the town was once bombed, blowing parts of history to bits. The Nazi Germans treasured Rothenburg because they believed it was the ideal image of Germany. Foreigners loved, and still love, the quaint beauty of the historic and well-kept town. Both the German and American leaders recognized the historic importance of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and wanted to preserve it. The Germans approached the American forces with a white flag and surrendered the town under the agreement that no harm should come to it. A rare agreement between enemies preserved Rothenburg and it continues to flourish today.
Throughout the tour, we discovered some secrets of the town with the help of the Night Watchman. He described the special entrances for those who wanted to enter after the curfew and how many of them slept outside the city when they came back late. He revealed to us how the wall only fit one person for the safety of the town and the opening was called the “manhole.” The Night Watchman also showed us systems for food transportation up and down the buildings and described how the windows would open for residents to dump chamber pots.
The Night Watchman revealed history in a way few people can. He was our bridge between the past and present. He transported 60 students and parents on a 2018 band trip to the earliest days of the town. The Night Watchman was able to make the walls talk, and what a story they told.
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