city, day trip, Europe, free, Germany, hike, Uncategorized

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

The most picturesque medieval fairytale town

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the most enchanting and picturesque medieval fairytale town located in Bavaria along the Romantic Road (which goes from Wurzburg to the Neuschwanstein Castle.) Colorful, historic buildings with wrought iron hanging signs, half-timbered houses with flowering window boxes, medieval towers and gates, castles, little cobbled streets and a historic wall around the old town make it truly feel magical like entering a fairy tale storybook in real life or stepping back in time. It is a small town and can be discovered in one day, but it is so magical that you want to spend the night and stay longer.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is located in the Franconia region of Bavaria on the Tauber River, close to Nuernberg or Wuerzburg. There are several “Rothenburgs” in Germany. Make sure to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber (meaning on the Tauber River). Even though this is one of the most popular tourist towns in Germany, people do get it mixed up sometimes.

One of the most iconic shots of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Germany is the Ploenlein. Most people think that the name Ploenlein refers to the yellow half timbered house at the entrance of the Spital quarter. But the charming, tilted and crooked house is only part of it. The term Ploenlein is actually translated as a “small square at a fountain”. The Ploenlein includes the yellow timber house, the fountain in front of it and the two towers of the old city wall that rise to its left and right. Fun Fact: The Siebersturm on the left was build around 1385.

One of the best things to do in Rothenburg is to wander around town and get lost in the charming winding cobblestone streets. The entire old town, enclosed by the city walls, is just picture perfect. There are several options on how to get lost. We got a free map ( I attached it at the bottom of the post) at the Rothenburg Tourist Office, which is located in the center of the town on the Marktplatz, in the old City Councillors’ Tavern. The map comes with two different walking tours – “kleiner Rundgang”/ short walk – which takes about 1.5 hours as well as “grosser Rundgang”/long walk – which takes about 2.5 hours. There are also several guided tours available through the city, but we decided to make our own free tour mixing part of the long walk with the short walk and it was just perfect.

The Marktplatz/market square in the center of the old town is the heart of lovely Rothenburg. There is the giant Rathaus (town hall) which is a wonderful example of a renaissance architecture. The back of the building is the oldest section and dates from 1250 and the impressive façade was added in 1572. It is surrounded by romantic timber framed buildings as well as the Ratstrinkstube (Councillor’s Tavern). At each full hour between 10 am and 10 pm General Tilly and the former mayor Nusch appear from the clock on the building façade.

An artful pillar bearing St. George and the dragon has decorated the Marktplatz fountain/fountain of St. Georg for over 400 years. A replica of the statue can be found in the German Pavilion at the Epcot Center part of World Disney World in Orlando.

Part of the long self guided walk is walking on the old town walls. Even if you do not walk the entire walk, walking inside or on the old town walls is an absolute must. It was the favorite thing to do for my kids. The medieval defensive walls from the 12th century  have been surrounding Rothenburg completely and many sections can be still walked around the clock. The wall is open all day every day and is free.

The whole path is 4 kilometers long, offering the most beautiful and picturesque views over Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Six gates and several doors for pedestrians lead through this city wall into the old quarter. There are 42 towers in the town and steps to climb up next to almost all of the towers. There are also several informative boards along the way.

One of the most charming buldings in Rothenburg is an old forge, the Gerlachschmiede close to the Roedergate. It could be right out of a fairytale story. The original house was destroyed at the end of World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s.

The name “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” is German for “Red castle above the Tauber”. 

Other than strolling through the winding cobblestone streets and marveling at the beautiful buildings everywhere, there are plenty of other fun things to do in this historic town. There are lots of unique stores in Rothenburg ob der Tauber filled with examples of beautiful German craftsmanship. From cuckoo clocks, wooden music boxes and beer steins to German cookbooks, traditional Dirndl dresses and Christmas decoration, Rothenburg offers just about every German trinket and souvenir you can think of.

There are several fun and interesting museums to visit. The Medieval Crime and Justice Museum can be a little scary, but really interesting. Cages, medieval torturing instruments and executioner swords are some of the gruesome displays at the museum. A totally different experience is the Kaethe Wohlfahrt Christmas museum. It explains how Christmas was once celebrated in Germany and how certain customs developed in various regions of the country. There are also insights into the craftsmen’s traditions like wood carvings and mouth blown glass. Last but not least, there is the Rothenburg museum about the history of Rothenburg ,from the early Middle Ages and the era of an imperial city up to the time of the Nazi dictatorship in Germany and the rebuilding of the destroyed parts of the town after World War II. 

The Schneeball/ Snowball is Rothenburg’s most famous culinary contribution. This famous dessert was created more than 300 years ago, it is pastry dough layered and shaped into a ball usually covered in confectioners’ sugar and other toppings like caramel, chocolate, nuts or other toppings. Snowballs are one of the must things to try when in Rothenburg. These delightful looking treats can be found all around town on every corner in all kind of sizes.

We tried the mini versions covered in sugar, caramel, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.

I was a little disappointed by the “Schneeballs”, because they tasted a little like a dry crumbly pie crust … The kids on the other hand loved them and tried Schneeballs with different toppings. I would still buy them again, just because I love to try any regional specialty that makes a place special. But maybe with whipped cream or a strawberry sauce on the side…

With its fascinating history and fairytale look, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a beautiful place to explore. Have you visited Rothenburg? What was your favorite thing about this magical place?

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Schaffhausen, Switzerland

The amazing Rheinfall / Rhine Falls

The Rheinfall / Rhine falls is the largest waterfall in Europe and is located close to the border near Schaffhausen in the Northeast of Switzerland. There are many other waterfalls that have greater drops and are much longer, but the Rhine Falls is the most powerful. Because of melting alpine caps, the water flows at an impressive rate of up to 600,000 liters per second during the summer. Even though, it is only 23 meters high, it is about 150 meters wide, making the Rhine Falls very impressive, powerful and loud.

The Rhine Falls is around 15.000 years old and originated during the last ice age. Because of tectonic shifts , the Rhine River was forced into the current riverbed. First the stream met the glacial deposits – gravel, clay and sand. Once the glacial deposits were washed away, it met with a large block of hard rock. That’s why the river became wider and more shallow before leaping over this rock, forming an enormous waterfall.

There are several different parking lots on both sides of the river. We parked very conveniently on P2 and only walked a couple of minutes downhill to get to the site. If you have read some of my other posts, you know we are known to visit many places in the late afternoon and early evening. This works out great for us, because most of the crowds already left for the day and everything is covered in the golden afternoon light. We started our walk at Schloessli Woerth, which also has a restaurant and a boat dock for tours.

We decided to walk the promenade along the water towards the falls. There is an information point, playground, benches and several view points which are all free. The entire walk around the Rhine Fall basin was about 3 kilometers long.

The river Rhine is really special to me. I grew up in a small village right next to it and even saw it from my classroom window at school everyday. (The Rhine is the largest river in Germany and it flows from the Alps to the North Sea. ) We had visited family at Lake Constance, so it was the perfect opportunity to make a stop at the Rhine Falls. I am so glad we did. It is an amazing sight.

These waterfalls have been formed in a sharp bend of the Rhine which is why it offers so many impressive views.

We walked by several little platforms and viewing points, discovering little side waterfalls and different angles.

What a gorgeous view with the castle in the background.

The highlight for the boys was dangling their feet inside the water on one of the platforms. They had seen several people do it and since it seemed harmless with the handrail, I let them join the fun. Little things (if they are not dangerous) makes kids so much more excited about a place. I want my kids to want to travel with me and have fun while doing it. Little things like this can make their day and they will always remember the Rhine Falls. It also gave me a great picture opportunity.

This viewing platform was one of my favorites. The views were spectacular, the sun was setting perfectly and we had the falls almost to ourselves. In the middle of the Rhine Falls stands a large rock that has withstood the elements for thousands of years. The rock can be reached on one of the boat tours, which must be impressive. Virtually in the middle of the waterfall, visitors stand on platforms that jut out and partially hover over the Rhine. We will be back for that Rhine Falls.

Next up was crossing the water to the other side of the falls for more spectacular views.

We continued on the path which led us over the railway bridge that was built in 1857. There is a small pedestrian pathway right next to the railroad, which crosses the river, just above the falls.  I highly recommend to walk across the bridge and admire the falls from this amazing viewpoint. 

We were greeted by these cute cows. I am not sure if they always stand there, but the kids loved it. Of course we had to take cow pictures in Switzerland, even if the cows were made out of plastic.

Schloss Laufen

Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall on the southern bank towers on a rocky cliff high above the waterfall. Most visitors (including us) stroll directly through the inner courtyard of the castle to the “Känzeli”, a spectacular viewing platform directly over the thundering Rhine Falls. From here you can get the best views of this imposing natural spectacle. In addition there is also a new visitors’ center, a children’s playground and the “Historama” (interactive exhibition about the Rhine Falls and its 1000-year-old history ) . Schloss Laufen has an entry fee:

Entrance per person CHF 5.00 per person.
Included in the ticket price: access to the Historama and the viewing platforms.
Children 6 – 15 years CHF 3.00
For groups from 15 to 29 persons, CHF 3.00 per person.
For groups with more than 30 persons, CHF 2.00 per person.
Tickets for visitors in a wheelchair, with a pram and groups of 15 or more are only available in the Visitor Centre.

Since we did not book a tour and didn’t have too much information beforehand about the Rhine Falls, I found this sign very interesting. I normally plan and get to know some facts before visiting a place, but sometimes like here, I didn’t have time and appreciated this great sign even more.

Facts & figures
 
Width of the Falls
150 metres
Height of the Falls
23 metres
Depth of the basin
13 metres
Age of the Falls
approx. 15’000 years
Capacity of flow in summer
approx. 600’000 litres per second
Capacity of flow in winter
approx. 250’000 litres per second
Lowest capacity of flow
1921, 95’000 litres per second
Greatest capacity of flow
1965, 1’250’000 litres per second

The path to the viewing platform was steep, rocky and had lots of stairs. So much more fun for the kids. We even had to go through the rock several times.

Once we arrived at the platform, we were rewarded with an amazing view and sound. This was my other favorite spot of the day. We could feel the roar and vibration of the water through our entire body. We even got a little wet from the spray of the falls. This was an experience that I will never forget. This is the place to see, hear and feel the power of the falls.

This place is also one of the photo stops of the Grand Tour of Switzerland.

I hope you liked our visit to the Rheinfall. Follow us for more of our travel adventures.

Look through and download the official brochure of the Rhine Falls in English and German. The brochure is also available in French and Italian.

Rheinfall_Prospekt_de_en_2021_web.pdf

Comment below of your favorite place in Switzerland.

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Tossa De Mar, Spain

Tossa de Mar is a charming and picturesque old coastal town located on the Costa Brava in Catalonia, Spain. Only about one hour north of Barcelona, it is perfect for a day trip, but also worth staying a couple more days.

I really wanted to visit Tossa de Mar with my family, because it was my first vacation by myself (without my parents at the time) 20 years before. I had such great memories as well as some old pictures and I thought it would be fun to revisit with my husband and kids. I am so glad we did. It was as charming as I had remembered it and we spent a beautiful day in Tossa de Mar visiting and recreating pictures. (Scroll down at the bottom to see if I have changed )

The famous silhouette of Tossa de Mar with the iconic walled fortifications of the old town at the southern end make a gorgeous backdrop to the beautiful beach. It is worth visiting just for these views.  The beach is directly at the center of Tossa next to cute little shops and restaurants. The National Geographic magazine ranked Platja Gran, the central beach among the 25 best beaches in the world several years back. Swimming in the crystal clear waters while looking up at the romantic castle or better Vila Vella is pretty special. We didn’t have time to swim, but when I was there the first time, I snorkeled in the perfectly clear water. There are also glass bottom tours available.

Tossa is small and quaint. We decided to walk up to the castle first. The Old Town of Tossa de Mar is the only fortified town that remains on the Catalan coast. The castle was built in the 12th century and the stone walls enclosing its historic neighborhood date from about the same time. It is only a short walk from the beach and has three entrances near three large towers.

We passed the ruins of the Gothic church of St. Vincent. This is such a beautiful photo stop. The views are spectacular. The air was warm and sweet and it was the perfect moment.

The old town of Tossa de Mar is beautiful and has fantastic views over the coast. In 1931 it was declared a monument of artistic and historical value. Narrow old cobblestone streets lead through a charming labyrinth of ancient houses and medieval alleys. The old town was one of my favorite parts of Tossa de Mar.

We continued to walk randomly through the streets enjoying this beautiful summer day. And of course we ate ice cream.

Tossa del Mar is the perfect place for a family vacation. There are so many great spots and rocks to climb that make it a dream for any kid. I like to combine the interests of each of our family members. Everybody gets to pick activities and things they like to do and we make sure to include it in our vacation. Tossa del Mar was a place I wanted to visit, but the rocks were the ultimate challenge for my boys and they did not want to leave. It was the perfect combination for all of us.

After visiting the castle and the old and newer part of the town, we walked back toward the beach. We passed the beautiful promenade with restaurants and walked along the street to La Mar Menuda beach. This is another great beach in walking distance from the town center.

At one end on La Mar Menuda beach is a rock formation that surrounds a small cove that is known as “sa banyera de ses dones” (the bath of the women). This is perfect for little kids, because the water is shallow and calm.

The legend says that this rock formation was split open in two and this small cove was created so that Sant Ramon de Penyafort could arrive on time to hear the confession of a dying man. 

Our favorite part of the cove is the single pine tree on top of a rock. This is such a picturesque photo spot.

There are lots of fantastic places in Tossa del Mar and fun things to do. I am happy I revisited even if it was just for a day. We walked, explored, discovered, climbed, wandered and had a great day. This is what travel is all about for me.

And now….. It is finally time for the picture I promised at the beginning.

I really wanted to recreate a picture on a certain rock and it took us a while to find it.

My boys loved climbing the rocks and Luca wants to come back in 20 years to take the next picture. I like that talking about old memories and looking at old pictures, inspired us to visit Tossa de Mar again. We had such a perfect day and now are planning to be back again in 20 years.