Last Updated on January 21, 2022
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By Jim Ferri
Christmas came early for me this year while I was In Rothenburg, Germany, on the “Romantic Road.”
It was late October and I was in the little medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria, one of the last remaining walled towns in Germany.
Rothenburg is a time warp for travelers. It has some of the most impressive medieval architecture in Europe and a walk along its streets of half-timbered buildings gives you a feel for Germany centuries ago.
Today, however, the weather was schizophrenic. Bright-colored flowers were still cascading from window boxes but it had turned cold and snow was falling. The feel of Christmas was already in the air as the red petals of the geraniums peeked out like little Christmas lights from beneath the soft blanket of snow.
In Rothenburg, Germany, No Need to Wait for Chrístkindlmarkt
The fact that the town’s annual Christmas market doesn’t open until late November did nothing to dim the spirit. Besides, Rothenburg is a town that celebrates Christmas every day of the year, not only with shops selling Christmas ornaments, but also because it’s home to Germany’s Christmas Museum.
I soon realized that I wasn’t the only one getting into the Christmas spirit. Soon after I arrived I saw a group of tourists making little snowballs in front of St. Jacob’s Church, placing them on top of a small three-foot-high pillar to make a little snowman.
Nearby, under the colonnaded front of the town hall were small groups of tourists, obviously not quite ready yet for winter weather, trying to stay out of the falling snow. Behind them in a passageway, there was a flea market filled with household knickknacks and some Christmas ornaments, all anchored by a cake sale at one end to benefit the local animal shelter.
I made my way past it all and headed around the corner to the Christmas Museum. The place was fairly interesting not just since it displayed a number of antique Christmas ornaments, figurines and the windmill-like German Christmas pyramids, but because it gave the history of the different ornaments and explained how they originated. It also told you about Christmas customs in different areas of Germany over the years.
Museums to Keep You Busy
ince Rothenburg is a town that is built on tourism, it came as no surprise that everyone exited the museum into a Christmas shop run by one of the largest ornament manufacturers in Germany. Needless to say, it was doing a brisk business, as were most of the other tourist shops in town.
But it wasn’t the only museum in town. Rothenburg is also home to the Medieval Crime Museum, the Imperial City Museum and the Doll and Toy Museum (Puppen & Spielzeugmuseum).
Since I wasn’t interested in the City Museum and wasn’t in the mood to see what I suspected would be a demonstration of medieval torture, I chose the Doll and Toy Museum. It also helped that it was only around the corner and a short walk from the Christmas Museum.
The Puppen & Spielzeugmuseum was relatively small and, not surprisingly, wasn’t as crowded as the Christmas Museum but it was interesting nevertheless, with its displays of dolls and dollhouses and other toys. I couldn’t decide whether it was the children or the adults that were more infatuated with the exhibits.
Plenty of Konditoreis, Cafés and Restaurants
There are plenty of konditoreis, cafés and restaurants all around town and for lunch I joined some of my fellow travelers in the Ratsstube restaurant back on Market Square. It was a great little place, obviously targeted at tourist groups, and with its Old-World decor and waitresses in Bavarian dress you felt you were dining in an old German restaurant. The added benefit was that the food and beer were very good.
Warmed by lunch, about an hour later I wandered down to the main gate to see the old medieval walls I remembered from years ago. It was still popular with photographers, and just as I recalled it from years earlier, although now dusted with snow.
In Rothenburg, Germany “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…”
Along the way I passed a number of konditoreis and shops selling the town’s famous schneeball, a snowball-looking confection made of fried sweet dough and covered with different icings. I didn’t taste any but sensed their popularity since they were stacked in little pyramids on countertops in many small shops.
Later that afternoon, as I was wandering back towards the meeting area for the bus that brought our group here, I made a detour into a small shop on the south end of the Market Square that was filled with all sorts of beer steins, cuckoo clocks and Christmas decorations. Browsing about I heard a couple of people say they thought this was the best shop they had been in. I guessed it probably was since I noticed the selection was certainly more varied and of higher quality than some other shops.
When I stepped outside once again into the falling snow, now tapering off, my ears immediately picked up the sound of a holiday tune. I followed my ears, walking past the shop and then turned the corner.
In front of me stood four tourists singing “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”
I couldn’t have agreed more.
If you go:
Christmas Museum (Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum)
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Admission: Adults €4; Seniors €2.50
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Tel: +49 9861 5511
Doll and Toy Museum (Puppen & Spielzeugmuseum)
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Admission: Adults €4
German National Tourist Office
122 East 42nd Street, 52nd Floor
New York, NY 10168
Tel: (212) 661-7200
Rothenburg Tourismus Service
91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Tel: +49 (0)9861 404-800