Würzburg & Rothenburg, Germany
The drive from Weimar to Würzburg was spent gazing out at a mesmerising sunset, making the time pass quickly. When we arrived at our destination, Danny cooked up a stew for dinner with three types of mushrooms – he is ecstatic about all the exotic mushrooms (well, exotic to us) coming into season, and being able to buy them fresh, not packaged. He also picks them from the soil occasionally, promising me he knows what he is doing.
Würzburg is one of the biggest white wine producers in Germany, so it was only logical to head out after dinner for a sample. We found a hotel/wine bar/beer hall, dotted with tiny private alcoves that each contained just one table of various sizes. Once we had picked our niche, Danny ordered a local beer, while I couldn’t pass up a local vino. Danny was happy with his choice but I wasn't so keen on mine, despite it being the same variety I enjoyed in Czech (Müller-Thurgau). We were tired after a long day of sight-seeing, so after just one drink we returned to the van, conveniently parked right near the middle of town.
In the morning we walked into Würzburg and found a map of the city. The busy centre square was dominated by a bright red and white church - not a style we see every day. We wandered through a small market, but nothing really took our fancy. Over a bridge that was reminiscent of the Charles Bridge in Prague (but with a few thousand less people), we commenced the journey up a hill to the Fortress. Halfway up Danny decided it was too far to climb, so he turned around and walked around the non-hilly streets at the bottom. I persevered and made it to the top, exploring the courtyards inside the Fortress. The site itself was nothing special, but the views over the town were fantastic. Later on, I told Danny he missed out. He didn’t agree.
Back in the city I meandered the streets, passing a couple of pretty churches and, once again, thousands of bakeries and cafes. Cafe culture seemed to be thriving in Germany. I stumbled upon an English shop, which mostly sold Wedgewood and other expensive brands, but it did sell Scottish shortbread. Once I saw it I knew I had to have it - nothing was going to stop me from buying these biscuits. It had been months since we had eaten shortbread, and it was mouth-wateringly crumbly, buttery and delicious. It’s funny how little things like this can brighten our day.
I stopped by the Residenz (a huge palace), and just walking into the entrance hall I was blown away by the opulence and the intricacy of the details inside the room. I ran back to the car to fetch Danny, then we both paid to wander around the 20 or so rooms that were open. Each room had a strong colour theme, a few of which were overpowering, and all displayed various types of grandiose chandeliers. Some were impressive, some not so much. The reported highlight was a mural on the roof of the second storey, which is apparently the world's largest ceiling fresco. There was a wide patch of plain blue across the middle, so I think the artist cheated a bit when claiming this title, while the edges supposedly represented the four known continents at the time. It was engrossing, and kept my neck craned skywards for an uncomfortably long time. The gardens were also lovely, not too large or overstated. It's not often we pay to enter palaces, but this one was definitely worth the money.
From Würzburg we took the Romantic Road down to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (from here on known just as Rothenburg). The drive was stunning, passing through tiny medieval towns, although the slow-moving traffic was frustrating at times.
Rothenburg turned out to be very tourist-friendly, with a multitude of car parks allowing us to stay overnight right outside the city walls. Inside the walls the medieval theme continued, with cobbled streets, pastel-coloured houses and fairy tale-like buildings. It took us a while to find the centre square, and we were fortunate enough to arrive there late enough to avoid most of the tour groups. Most signs had Chinese translations attached to them, something we hadn't come across in Europe.
There didn't appear to be any significant sights in town, but we were happy to wander around the beautiful streets. We tried the local specialty, schneeball (snowball) – strips of shortcrust pastry rolled into a messy ball, deep-fried and coated with either icing sugar or cinnamon sugar. 100% unhealthy but 100% fantastic. To wash down the oily, sugary goodness we sat at a cafe and sampled two local white wines, a Silvaner and a Bacchus. As is tradition in this part of the country, they were served in thick, green-stemmed glasses that looked like they had come straight out of the 1970s. Both were completely different from each other but both went on my list of wines I would drink again. Afterwards I climbed up the city walls, hoping for a view over the town. I wasn't granted this wish, but I did witness a dazzling sunset.
The next morning we took another walk around Rothenburg, exploring new streets and also a garden area. It was here that I finally glimpsed the views I was after, reaching over the town and the surrounding valley. As it was a cold, grey morning we didn't feel the need to stick around for long. It was time to head to the festival city – Munich.