Easter Sunday. This is just cruel. I knew that my European friends did not “spring forward” at the same time that I did back in the US. I also knew that they did eventually do this. I did not realize it would happen while I was in Europe. This whole springing forward twice in one year is just wrong. It seems particularly odd to do so on a special day, but perhaps there is some method to their madness. You see, in Europe, not only is Easter a holiday, but the day after is, too. Monday everything will be closed up tight just like it is a weekend. This gives them an extra day to catch up on the hour they lost.

There have been several optional (read “costs extra”) tours on this trip. There were two in Vienna and four more as we sailed. We opted for one of the Vienna extras and three of the four sailing extras. Today was the last of our optional tours and to make sure we appreciated the whole time change thing, it is the only time during the tour when something had to happen (besides breakfast) before nine o’clock. We needed to be on the tour bus by 8.30.

After Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the church door, there was a rift in the Catholic Church. There were people who protested against the power and dominion of the church as well as the misuse of power and dominion. Eventually, there were people who broke away from the church and followed Luther and then there were many more splinter religions and the Catholic Church was no longer the sole soul provider.

Luther, being German, had many followers here and eventually there was a war which lasted thirty years to decide which religion would get to be the boss of places. In other parts of Europe, the war took as much as eighty years so in some other places it is the Eighty Year War while here it is just the Thirty Year War.

Rothenburg was a nice Catholic town with a population of about 12,500. They stayed that way for a quite a long time and then suddenly they decided to become a Protestant town. What they didn’t know when they were making this perfectly reasonable choice was that there were a bunch of Catholic troops closing in on the town.

They fought valiantly but did not manage to survive the Catholic assault. In some of these sieges, the town would be blockaded and attacked and after the attacking army won, the townspeople would be slaughtered. (I’m assuming there would also be a bit of forced labor from the people capable of labor, but that isn’t mentioned.)

The mayor, Mayor Nasch, was a man of great moral character and he made a bet with the general of the invading forces. He poured wine into a gallon jug and bet the general he could drink it all without stopping. If he managed to do so, he wanted his people freed. And the story says he was able to drink and drink and drink some more until he finished off the gallon of wine and he then passed out but his people were freed.

Whatever really happened, the town of Rothenburg was abandoned. It became a ghost town and lost up in the hills and woods of Germany. It was essentially undisturbed until the beginning of the 1900s when it was discovered again. The buildings were mostly intact and completely as they were left. It is the most Middle Ages town in Germany. Many of the buildings have been restored as the aging of hundreds of years is a bit hard on even monolithic buildings.

The streets were cobblestones, but unlike the more used cities, the stones were larger and of a more irregular shape. They were less level on the top and had wider spaces between them. They did have the draining ditches but they were considerably more difficult to walk on than the smaller, flatter (patterned) stones we have been walking on.

The town was also mostly spared during World War II and so the village is purely medieval. There was a castle, of course, as part of the intact city walls. However, there was an earthquake nearby and the castle was destroyed although all the other buildings remained standing. I would assume that the castle which stood on a promontory of overlooking land was not given the same bedrock stability of those building not quite overlooking the valley below.

Although the printing press was developed before the Thirty Year War, the masses were generally still illiterate. Rather than street signs, major buildings had cute little pictures painted at one corner of their houses. Thus we walked down Fox Alley and knew that was where we were because a building had a clever little fox painted on it.

On that alley a half timbered building was left unrestored. These are buildings with the bottom floor made of stone but the upper floors made of timbers at ninety degree and forty-five degree angles which support the walls and in between the timbers anything was smacked in there to fill the space. Sometimes it was rocks and mud and sometimes it was hay and sometimes it was just garbage like egg shells or whatever was at hand. That meant that lots of bugs liked the houses, too. It also meant that fires could spread easily.

As we continued to walk, we neared a spectacular church. St. Jakob’s Church or as we might call him, St. James. This was a Protestant church and they were holding services that started as we were approaching. A few people left the tour and entered the church to worship. Outside the church was a statue of St. Jakob and we know it was him because he held his walking stick and a shell, signs of the saint.

We walked some more before finding a Shakespeare stop. I don’t remember talking about these before. But this is where you must decide “to pee or not to pee” and these were free. Apparently there is money to be made by charging people to use the restrooms here. Usually it is about fifty cents to use the room and they dole out toilet paper like it is a rare commodity. I realize there was a time when even kings and queens didn’t have the stuff, but that was long ago, although not far away from here. Anyway, one of members got herself trapped in a Shakespeare room and had to be rescued. No one looked to see who it was and we let her maintain just a little bit of dignity.

We rounded the corner and were in the town square. It was bordered on one side by the town hall, on another side by the clock tower which was sort of like a cuckoo clock in that every three hours there would be a little mechanized performance as the hour struck. The mayor would appear in one window, the invading general would appear in the other and then the mayor would raise a large tankard and drink and drink and drink some more. One would assume this was added later.

The other two sides of the square were surrounded by shops and in the center of the main road leading into the square was a fountain. We walked down the road and eventually came to the traditionally decorated for Easter fountain which was laden with patterned, decorated eggs. These were plastic eggs but in olden times they would blow the eggs from the shells and decorate the shells in these same elaborate patterns.

As I mentioned a couple times already, people were mostly illiterate and so all the shops and stores had to be identified by something other than just written signs. They had large items outstretched high over the walkways with clues to what was inside. There was a large iron helmet over the door of the Iron Helmet Hotel. There was a shiny golden lamb over the door to the Golden Lamb Inn. Being functionally illiterate here, these signs were helpful to us as well.

We traveled down the main road and came to the city gate with the large clock tower. Beyond this was where the castle once stood on the outcropping of hillside overlooking the valley and the river below. The tall clock tower still stood. The gate was locked because in just a few minutes, they would be opened so that the local children could participate in an Easter Egg Hunt paid for by the local businesses and government.

The Catholic Mass started at the same time as the Easter Egg Hunt (apparently the town is still mostly Protestant) and those who wished to go to Mass were given directions to the church. We waited for the gates to open and let the children rush in first. The Japanese tour group that was behind us made us rude Americans look good as they shoved their way past us and several small children.

We entered into a space that is known as the royal gardens. There were blacktopped paths (one assumes these are newer additions) between green grass and flower beds around massive trees. Some of the smaller buildings survived and we entered what we assumed was the castle chapel. We assumed that because there was a large stained glass window with a cross. Along one wall were three large granite stones with names and the years 1917, 1918, and 1919. Along the other wall there were six large granite stones covered with names and the dates from 1939 to 1945. We assumed these were locals who were killed during the wars. Along the floor under these stones were beautiful funerary wreaths.

The walls were quite low from the inside but when looking down over them, would have been impossible to climb safely during an attack. I knew that they like to boil oil or pitch and dump it on people trying to scale the walls, but there was also a trick of taking a bale of hay and lighting it on fire and letting it roll down the hill and getting rid of attackers that way. How clever is that?

There is a taste treat that was developed here and it translates to snowballs because these things look like snowballs. They are about three inches in diameter and round. However, the original ones were simpler and covered only with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar. Today they are improved, but I was assured that all the calories fell out of the holes.

They take a basic sugar cookie dough but need to remove some of the fat because this is fried. They also have to add some extra eggs to make it work. They roll the dough very, very thin and then use a special little cutting tool that mostly cuts it into strips. The very ends are left connected. It looks like very large fettuccine noodles that are then grabbed in the middle and criss crossed. It is then picked up n a glob and plopped into a circular metal tool that looks like a very large meatball maker and dunked into hot oil. It isn’t quite as hot as regular frying because it needs to cook a little more slowly without burning the outside.

The outside is cooked in a couple minutes, but the inside takes a bit longer. As it fries, it also puffs up or expands. This leaves a space in the center. Today, they can inject something wonderful in the center and then they could the outside with more goodness and sometimes then roll it in extras like almonds or coconut or pistachios. The man making them said they will last six weeks. HA! The ones I bought will not last that long.

Some time in the early 20th century, some man wanted to give a friend a present. I don’t know what they are called, but they are the Christmas decoration that uses candles on the edges to make heat which turns the top level that is made of canted light wood wings. He couldn’t find one and when he got in touch with the company that made them, he could only buy ten of them instead of the one he wanted. He did. So he went door to door and tried to sell the other nine when he was stopped by the police. He was supposed to have a permit to sell door to door. He didn’t.

So instead of giving up, he opened a store and that is why Rothenburg has so many year round Christmas stores where you can purchase Christmas goods year round. They also have a Christmas museum, which we went through following the celebration and the evolution of the Christmas tree and how we went from simple decorations to the elaborate things we display today. Pre-Christianity Germans had lightly decorated trees during the winter solstice and they just went with the idea after getting Christianized.

We also were allowed to go up and walk along the city walls. These were used not only to look out over the countryside to make sure no one was attacking from without, but also to look inward and make sure no fires had broke out within. The lookout points outward were small spaces that left the occupants able to shoot out but protect them behind stone walls. The inside was a wooden railing giving the guards a grand view of the city within. The ceilings were high enough for Bill to walk under but the overhang for the steps lead one to believe they weren’t that tall back then.

Another bus ride brought us to where the ship had sailed during our absence. We drove on to Wurzburg and met up with them there. There is a massive castle (who knew?) up on the hill on the opposite side of the Mein River. It was occupied by the bishop who thought he needed a bigger house and eventually built something even more massive in town. The Residency is a massive symmetrical building right in town.

There is an old bridge that is used only for walking on, not driving and it is very near where the ship was docked. It has a dozen larger than life sized statues on the bridge and is made of sandstone.

After Easter dinner we had a local group of traditional dancers come and perform for us. Their accordion player was 17 and he provided all their music. There were ten people dancing all dressed in various traditional outfits. One woman was wearing a dress that had four skirts. It was 130 to 140 years old and cannot be made today. Long ago it would have had seven skirts. The reason was that the dancing could get a bit frisky and one needed to make sure no leg would show so if one skirt would whirl up, there were more to cover up so one could remain demure. I am putting in the name of the dance group, but I have no idea who to say it. They were the Trachtenverein Dieter Muller folks.

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