From the Rhine Region of northern Germany we headed south along the "Romantic Road" to the medieval town of Rothenberg ob der Tauber before traveling west to the infamous town of Baden-Baden, which lies between the French border and the Black Forest. Both Rotenburg ob der Tauber and Baden-Baden have pretty fascinating histories (although extremely different) and I encourage you to take a moment to look them up.
Rotenburg ob der Tauber's enticing preserved wall and fairy tale dreamscape ultimately ruled our decision to add this Bolvarian town into our itinerary. Despite the extra long travel time and many train changes we arrived without any delays and as soon as we walked through the walls, we were transported back in time. After grabbing a quick bite to eat and a glass of wine, we checked into our Airbnb and headed for the wall. The one and a half mile wall encircles the medieval town and offers great views of both the town and surrounding countryside.
Our second day in Rothenberg fell on Good Friday and we soon learned our plans of renting bikes and riding out to the countryside fell to the wayside. After trekking out of the walled town in search of the bike rental we slowly realized that everything was closed, well everything except for cafes, and so we wandered back through the cobblestoned streets and found a lovely little wine shop with an even lovelier outdoor garden and this is where we happened upon our new friends- a German couple on holiday to Rotenburg for the weekend, he an architect and her a music teacher. We shared a lounging area with them for the better part of the afternoon and while my husband and I received great service from the waiter, our German friends were completely overlooked. They had come for kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake- an afternoon German ritual). Although they had very little English and we had next to no German we spent a very endearing afternoon together. Our friend, the engineer, did have one particular English sentiment that he repeated throughout the day in reference to the particular service he was receiving (or lack thereof), "Time is Money." On our way out, we covered their check hoping to return our gratitude to them for a very sweet afternoon.
A few of Rothenburg's highlights we enjoyed- the Baumeisterhaus with the seven virtues and seven vices Renaissance facade, the castle garden, the 12th century architecture, the endless shoppes, and the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum.
On our last day in Rotenburg we hiked down into the Tauber Valley to explore the village of Detwang built in the 10th century. On the way back, we stopped at our first German Biergarten set along the Tauber River.
On Easter morning we made the long trip to Baden-Baden. Once arriving, we met with our AirBnb host and checked into our swanky room in the cobblestoned old town. Baden-Baden is a resort spa town known for its Roman thermal baths and Kurhaus casino with an overall Parisian feel. Every morning in Baden-Baden we strolled the beautiful gardens of the Lichtentaler Allee park and enjoyed the architecture of 19th century mansions lining the park. We soaked in the baths, meandered through shoppes, savored some wonderful meals and engaged in some very interesting conversations with the locals learning all about the rich history of Baden-Baden. Overall it was a very relaxing couple of days.
Visiting the "Romantic Rhine" region had been on our bucketlist for years, home of the sweet whites and storybook castles. In fact, it had been on our bucketlist for so long, I no longer really care for sweet white wines. This region still turned out to be one of our very favorites. On the way we stopped in Cologne to tour the gothic Cathedral, the Kolner Dom, famous for its sheer size. Also on our list- Kolsch. Brewed solely in Cologne, it is the only place to have a truly authentic Kolsch. The Dom was magnificient, the Kolsch was very tasty, the lunch was... eh. Being a pescatarian at the time, I soon came to learn that the German menu had very few options for me. This lunch was my introduction to Kartoffels, which we got to know quite well over our eleven day stay in the country. We soon realized they made an appearance somehow in every meal, whether front and center or hidden beneath salads. Kartoffels came pickled, baked, mashed, fried, sauced, sliced or diced. In this particular meal they were breaded, fried, and completely soaked through in oil. I decided to stick to the beer instead. Jason was happy with his sausage and side of Kartoffel salad. Hello Germany!
We arrived during the shoulder season, before the town is taken over with tourists. The streets turned out to be completely empty and we had the tiny medieval town of Bacharach all to ourselves, only spotting a few locals when we really looked hard for them. Tucked into a bend of the Rhine River, the sleepy little town was probably the most storybook of anywhere we explored on our European adventure.
After a full day of traveling on trains and checking into our Airbnb (top floor apartment in the town center with a view of Burg Stahleck) we knew we immediately needed wine, so wine we did. We tasted twelve wines served as a flight on a carousel while enjoying the last of the day's sun, sitting on the patio of the highly recommended Weingut Fritz Bastian. We agreed that every single one was delish!
The next day we rode the ferry along the Rhine River and then traveled by milk train to the town of Moselkern up the Mosel River. Moselkern is an even tinier Medieval town that appeared to be completely vacant, not another soul in sight. We followed our very nondescript directions (to the tune of- walk 100 steps and turn left at the red door) out of town, along a creek, and through the forest to Burg Eltz. Let me just say, listening to songbirds while following alongside a meandering stream that eventually leads you over a stone bridge and right into a 12th century medieval German castle was one of the highlights of our trip. The Eltz family is still living in the castle 33 generations later. The Burg Eltz hike is a must!
On our second full day in Bacharach we rode the ferry to the ruined castle of Burg Rheinfels in Sankt Goar. Before exploring the ruins we had cocktails with a view from the rooftop bar. I would highly recommend this order of things- cocktails followed by explorations. We were like kids running through the ruins and we had the place to ourselves (pretty much everywhere else we went in Europe was completely overran with tourists). We had so much fun we almost missed the last ferry back to Bacharach and had to turn our hike into a downhill sprint. Hey, I had to figure out some way to sneak a run in!
While riding the ferry along the Rhine, you order your drink and then just sit back and watch as one castle passes by after another.
After returning to Bacharach late in the afternoon we hiked up to the castle we had been eyeing out of our kitchen window, Burg Stahleck, which more recently had been converted into a hostel. While the castle itself wasn't all that interesting, the hike was gorgeous and the lighting was perfect for taking photographs.
I also want to mention one of our favorite restaurants we found during our trip was Stueber's at the Rhein Hotel. We actually ate there twice. It was one of the only times we went back to the same restaurant twice. When we travel we usually try to go to a new place for every meal so we can experience more. Traveling nearly five weeks and eating out for pretty much every meal, we actually managed to follow this for the most part but the Rhein Hotel drew us back in for more. We got five star service, quality, experience, everything. On our last night, we also ducked into this very cozy and hobbit-like wine bar called Kurpfalzische Munze and finally found where all the locals had been hiding. The Rhine Region was very romantic indeed!
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