Returning to Rothenburg ob der Tauber after six years we were excited to discover what state this medieval walled town would be in, following further substantial investment by private and state donors.
The answer was astounding. Where previously we could walk only a small section of the 12th century embattlement walls, today we could circle almost entirely around the 42-towered, red-tiled roofed and cobblestoned citadel. As the temperature again soared above 32 degrees at noon it was cool and quiet to amble along the wooden plank walkway in the shade of timber platforms covered by terracotta tiled roofing.
Up above the top floors and gardens of the town’s houses we had a privileged look into the everyday lives of the locals tending their gardens, washing their cars, unloading shopping and children into their front doors, and kicking back to enjoy a long drink in the hot sunshine of the holiday month.
We also, surprisingly, had a peek at the private lives of garden birds. The walkway put us eye to eye with basking pigeons and ring doves sheltering from the heat, deep in the boughs of fir trees. We also lingered to watch the feeding of a nesting box of house sparrows. It was a treat to watch whilst being unseen and we felt like undercover wildlife camera-men hidden by the shade of the empty walkway and quietly watching the adult sparrows grub insects from a nearby fruit tree to bring to their noisy young.
Back down at street level, and being lunchtime, it was clear where everyone else was. The restaurants, terraces and cafes were bursting with gangs of organised tours of Japanese and Americans.
For the first time on the trip we felt amongst tourists as everyone it seemed jostled to take a ‘selfie ‘ next to the nearest medieval tower, splashing fountain, gilded sundial, arched stone doorway, locked church, Italian-crooning busker, painted life-size nutcracker, out of season Christmas tree, cheap postcard stand, disgruntled local Audi driver… it was comically chaotic.
Preparations were underway for the next day’s annual Wein Fest. The narrow cobblestone streets that circle St Jacob’s Church, built in 1311, rang to the sound of powered screw drivers as decorated timber stalls were hastily erected by sweating construction workers.
Tomorrow, the Bayern glitterati would descend and mingle with the tour groups [good luck to them all] for a festival of ‘matching wine with food’. All of which would take place in a highly constricted and cobbled section of town under searing daytime heat.
We were happy to wait until the tour groups dispersed to take a last photo of the Roder Gate and Siebers Tower and then find our way back to Bertha as the inevitable early evening arrivals and departures brought grumpiness to the town’s busiest aire.