We spent a kidless Night in Germany’s famous medieval town, and in Rothenberg nothing is more famous for the tourists types than the Night Watchman’s tour. It has practically reached legend status. The same Night Watchman – Hans-Georg Baumgartener – has been giving the same tour since 1991. In fact, open Rick Steve’s Germany book and page over to Rothenberg, and you will find a photo of Hans-Georg dressed with a cloak and lantern, leading a bunch of tubed-socked, camera-toting, pot bellied, grinning American tourists around. Melissa and I laughed at the stereotypical vision of the Americans abroad. Would we ever be caught dead do something so ridiculous?
Of course we would.
We sat in the marktplatz until dusk when the guy with the cloak, candle, lantern, and wicked-looking staff showed up, stood for a few photos, and took a couple dozen tourists on a stroll through the city. With a delivery that was a mix between Steven Wright and Andy Rooney, we followed the guy around town for an hour and listened to him explain the history of Rothenberg ob der Tauber – from the defense and fall of the city, the arrival of the black plague, the visits from kings and emperors, the history of the buildings, and even the story of its near destruction in WWII – mixed with with humor that ranged from cheesy to sublime. Example: The Watchman led us by a local tavern called “Zur Höll”, meaning ‘to Hell’, which gave him an excuse to tell us all to “Go to Hell!” several times. ´(Think that’s funny? How funny would that joke be if you had told it every day for the last 20 years of your life?)
HE’S NOT SO MEDIEVAL, it turns out. They day after the tour, Melissa and I sat at our Italian cafe – you know, the one with the Mozzarella sticks – when a man zoomed by on the cobblestone street on a Segway. Melissa said, “Hey, that’s a Segway. And hey, that’s the Night Watchman!” (Thinking “Pictures or it didn’t happen?”….here’s your proof.)
And just to be sure you don’t miss out on any details of the tour, beneath his cloak he carries US-formatted DVDs of the Watchman’s tour (complete with bonus footage), offered to you for only 15€. What sucker would ever buy such an obviously overpriced tourist trinket?
I’ll admit…cheese and all, it was well worth it. I recommend a stop in Rothenberg for a chance to stay in the quaint, medieval-styled hotels, a chance to walk the wall, and a chance to stop in the many tourist shops (this is the home of the famous Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store, after all). And if you’re here at dusk, you might as well take in the Night Watchman’s tour (and learn a little about the life medieval).
And I’d also recommend the Mozzarella sticks.