So, I really did not do Rothenburg ob der Tauber justice in my last post. I was tired and hungry and rushed to post something so as not to fall too far behind again and so missed sharing many of our best Rothenburg odT moments.
We arrived Wednesday late afternoon in the rain, but not a torrential downpour by any means, so the 200 meter walk from where we parked outside the city walls (RodT is a Medieval walled city) to our 650-year old hotel did not soak us. As I said previously, our room was adorable, with a cute little dormer window, dark wood beams against the white walls and ceilings, and a big modern bathtub in the bathroom.
We let the rain die down a bit before setting out to explore the town in the early evening dusk. The whole town within the Medieval city walls was really lovely, not at all crowded with tourists, though that is the town's main trade and July is the high season. I read in our Rick Steves guide that though 2.5 million tourists visit every year, only about a fifth of them stay overnight so by late afternoon, the town is relatively empty. I think the rain helped clear them out to. Most of the city wall has a walkable corridor on top of it that connects the ramparts. This path is open to the inside of the city (you're protected by a railing) but walled to the outside with little windows you can peek out to the outside of the city (good for shooting arrows out of).
When we got back to our hotel's restaurant (actually, I think the main business is the restaurant, and they just rent the 6 rooms above for added income), the English Conversation Club was well underway. This is a weekly gathering of locals and tourists we read about in the Rick Steves guide. We joined the crowd and ordered drinks. Chad got so engrossed in talking right away that when it came time to order food (everyone else had already eaten; we'd arrived after 8), I just ordered for Chad rather than interrupt him. The food was really good (I got us both pork dishes with mushroom sauce and side salads) but Chad said he hardly remembers the meal.
At the table was an older American hippy-ish couple who spend 6 months each year touring Europe in their RV; several folks from Wales at the far end from us that we didn't get to chat with; a couple just a little older than us from Verona, Italy; a 6-month Rothenburg resident who said he comes about two-thirds of the time; and Herman the German, the club's organizer, a friendly and boisterous German pig-farmer who has each guest of the club sign his notebook with a short entry. He knew of New Ulm's Herman the German statue and was very excited to learn Chad was from that area, and that we now live near Hermann, Mo., where he'd visited before, actually staying at a farm in Auxvasse! He'd been through Columbia as well, and it made us feel how small the world can be.
The other local I mentioned was named Joachim (pronounced yo-akim) and Chad and I talked with him the most. He was very interesting, a speaker of nine languages and had lived for a year in Bulgaria, which Chad and I enjoyed hearing about because of our former Bulgarian friends in Columbia. It was a very fun evening getting to know several strangers, which we hadn't had much opportunity to do on an extended level on our trip.
The next day (yesterday) we slept in a bit but got up in time for the hotel's very good breakfast. I don't know if I've written about the European hotel breeakfast yet, but they are all very similar, at least in Italy and Germany. It is usually cold cuts and cheeses, rolls and jam, sometimes croissants (freshly baked in the good ones), yogurt, fruit, juice,coffee, tea, and occassionally hard-boiled eggs. We've always been quite satisfied with the ones we've had when it's included in the room price.
After breakfast we went out to see the town's sights and shopping (RodT has the world's best tchotkes). Our best shopping experience was in the Rick Steves-recommended Friese shop, where they pressed us to learn whether we'd been referred by Rick Steves and when we admitted we had, they gave us a beautiful Rothenburg map drawn by the proprietor (then mass-produced of course) which she signed and dated for us, and promised a 10% Rick Steves discount.
We shopped around the town to determine exactly what we wanted to buy and then came back to the Friese shop later in the afternoon (after seeing an American high school band from Virginia perform in the rain in the town square, making me feel proud for our good-old American band kids). Because of the rain we had a lot of interesting conversation with the man who sold us our goods. He kindly gave us our postcards as a gift and a nice canvas bag with the store's name (advertising). He told us about meeting Rick Steves 30 years ago when he was still researching for his first book, and how much business they've gotten from his promotion through the years, but that he'd never accept any form of payment, so that is why they give the special discount to his readers.
It rained off and on throughout the day, but we could always go back to our room (RodT is very small) to wait out the harder downpours, and the covered city walls were great for circum-navigating the city without getting wet. Finally it let up and we walked down the Tauber River to the Unter den Lindon beer garden, pretty empty (and soggy) due to the rain, but really pretty and fun. Then we got back to our room just as the rain was starting again (about 5:30), so took a short nap and then I wrote that meager blog entry while waiting for Chad to wake up so we could go get Chinese food. It was good as expected (I had fried duck with Chinese vegetables, Chad got shrimp fried noodles, we shared both which complimented nicely) and then an early night.
This morning after breakfast we drove here to Trier, a truly old German city that was an important Roman town. We saw all the town's sights in two hours (two churches, two ruins, market square, Karl Marx's house, and the river walk) and now are having a break before dinner. Tomorrow on to Amsterdam, then the Champagne region of France (and the Verdun battlefield), then Paris, then home! We are still having a wonderful time, especially in Rothenburg, so I wanted to record the details I missed yesterday. See everyone soon!