On the way back to the hostel, Mark wanted to check out the Galaria, and what a good idea that was. Although most of the games he wanted, we already got at Obletter, we picked up Odins Ravin's for only 5 euros. At the hostel we checked out, which involved just giving them our key, and headed back to the train station. We went back to the help desk and were given a little pamphlet with all the train schedules for Rotenburg. Unfortunately, the lady told us to follow the schedule for Saturday (note this is Monday). After boarding what we thought was the right train- the trains don't have numbers, they just line up on the platforms- we sat by ourselves for a bit. Now the digital display in the train said that we would not be going to the right location, and that seemed odd. While pondering this, we were approached by two girls who were also interested in going to Rotenburg, and since they could read more German than us, they mentioned that it looked like this train only goes to Rotenburg on Saturdays. After they headed off, we pondered what to do for a bit when a ticket agent approached us talking in German. After a bit, we learned that this train would take us 1/2 a day to get to Rotenburg if we took this train, we were following the Saturday schedule and that this train doesn't leave for another hour.
Well enough was enough. We headed to the ticket window. The nice thing about the ticket agents at the ticket windows is that you can ask them to print you an itinerary for you, which is what we did. We got a printed schedule from the reservation desk and boarded the right train at 11:45. Three transfers later (three trains and a scary fast bus from Steinach to Rotenburg where someone’s pears kept rolling around on the floor with every quick turn) we got Rotenburg. Being good tourists by now, we headed straight for the information station, right next to the bus station. A very helpful lady helped direct us to our new abode for the night, which was a 1/2 hour walk from where we were currently.
So we headed up hill, around the outer wall of Rotenburg, over several apples dropped from apple trees and what appeared to be red plums dropped from their trees. As we were walking along, we couldn't help but notice how fast everyone was driving. I will admit that I enjoy the speedy drive, but I think some of the locals our crazy- in these little cars, about half the size of an American car and taking turns that seemed to break the laws of physics. It was a bit nerve racking to watch.
At 3pm we were ecstatic to arrive at our lovely hotel "Klingintor." This was another pick from our guidebook, and it was only 15 euro more than a hostel and worth every penny. We were on the second floor with a room to ourselves, a double bed with room to stretch and our own bathtub and shower. After refreshing ourselves we hit the road and walked into town. The roads were all cobblestone, which announced every approaching car clearly to us. Oddly the sidewalks had barely enough room for one person to stand, rather awkward. Following our map from the info station, we headed toward one of two city church's, Stadtpfarrkirche St. Jakob and used our student IDs to get in for 1/2 price. This particular church was rather cathedral-like with the tall arched ceiling with stone saints on each pillar. We weaved through the pews in the larger part of the church and headed toward the altar. The altar was recessed in a narrow section at the front of the church, lined on both sides with wooden chairs for the choir above which there are 14th and 15th century stained-glass windows. We sat for a bit in two of the many chairs in this smaller section, before the altar- it was so peaceful.
Getting up, we headed to the left side of the narrow alter alcove to see an older alter with its beautiful hand carvings. Heading toward the back of the church, we walked up behind the organ. There was the altar containing the Heiliges Blut (holy Blood). The carving was amazingly detailed and beautifully carved, it felt like the artist used the grain of the wood when creating his masterpiece- it was so seamless. Nestled in the upper center part of the altar was a crystal capsule which is suppose to contain drops of Christ's blood. After sitting and staring at the masterpiece, we headed back outside and toward the center of town to visit the Christmas museum. We had talked about visiting the Medieval Criminal Museum, but due to our timing, we only had time for one tour. So Christmas it was and we headed to Kathe Wohlfahrt. Just walking in the door was an experience. Walking in we took a right and walked past mechanical toys in a mechanical village getting ready for Christmas time (putting up decorations, slipping on the ice).
Purchasing two tokens, we headed upstairs for the museum. There we discovered the history of Christmas trees (originally one per immediate and extended family where today it is one per household) and learned that small trees were shipped to soldiers during WWI to brighten their spirits. We also learned about the history of Santa Claus which originally started with Saint Nickolas in Germany. I also found the development of ornaments very interesting- they were originally made at home, out of dough. With mechanization, more ornaments became possible including glass and molded shapes. Mark also learned about the German Christmas pickle, a tradition where the first child to find the pickle on the tree Christmas morning would receive a special gift. We also learned about cards and the addition of first candlelight and then strings of light bulbs.
After our tour, we were definitely thinking about Christmas and the store did not disappoint. We headed down stairs and into Christmas shopping land. There were bedecked Christmas trees everywhere we looked. Lining every corner of every wall were ornaments to buy. Well we just wandered around and eventually covered the whole store. With the help of sales ladies we picked up a Mushroom smoker (a wooden mushroom home to burn incense in, although I probably never will- I just loved the look), lovely ornaments of wood, wood shavings and straw, and lots of gifts for family and friends back home. We briefly looked at the glass ornaments (too breakable) and table toppings in the back and headed out happily with our purchases.
For dinner we ate at a hotel right next to the church we visited earlier. I was happy to see all the chanterelles on the menu. In the spirit of the season, I ordered a chunky chanterelle soup topped with lovely butter croutons followed by 3 sausages (brat, breakfast sausage and one that was hot dog like) on sauerkraut which was served on a heart shaped plate with some hearty dark german bread on the side. Mark started with a stayed Chanterelle mushroom salad followed by Weinersnitzel with those delicious french fries.
With our tummies full, we paid our bill just as it started to rain. When we got back to our hotel to put our purchases away, we were rather soaked. After a quick change, we headed back out to see the watchman at 8pm in the town square. Unfortunately, it rained the entire tour, but remarkably, our tour guide was really good spirited (we have discovered that it rains often in Germany) we haven't laughed so hard in days. Since it was hard to see most of the tour, as we were dodging the rain drops under one umbrella, we ended up purchasing his video tour to watch when we get back home. We did see the wealthiest house in Rotenburg which housed a king, a door within the gate to let in those who stayed out after the gates closed, that each house was responsible for keeping one years supply of flour in case of siege and the richer houses must also save salt in their attics (too bad they didn't save gunpowder, which would have come in handy- instead they kept all the barrels of gunpowder in one location- part of their downfall), we walked the oldest remaining cobblestone street from the 15th century, saw the oldest house (Hell's Kitchen) which still has its original basement, and learned about how the town survived the destruction of WWII. A great night and after the tour, it stopped raining :)
Walking around the town, there were still a large number of stores open, across from Kathe Wohlfahrt we found another ornament store and got a present for Irene, who is watching our garden. Heading down to the pub, we got some fruit desert with strawberry and chocolate ice cream. The waitress also gave us advice on where we could buy a nice pub glass and we found the store, closed now, but we will visit tomorrow. Heading back to the hotel I took a wonderful shower and Mark watched some Germany TV- mainly music videos- but impossible for us to understand.