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Visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber with Kids

Visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber with Kids

When you think of cute medieval German towns, this is the one you probably have in your mind. It was the inspiration for Pinnochio’s home village in the 1940 Disney film, and parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 were filmed here. Founded in 1170, it has the charming subsidence-affected half-timbered buildings, cobbled streets, and my favourite thing: the city wall. You can walk along the upper walkway of the city walls, peering out arrow slits, and imagining you’re a city guard on watch (at least, my son loved doing this). The wall also affords a wonderful bird’s eye view of all the little gardens and courtyards among the red roofs of the town.

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Rothenburg’s historic significance as a perfect little medieval town has featured heavily in its recent history. During the run up to the Second World War, it became a symbol of ideal Germanness. The Nazis even organized trips to visit this ‘Most German of German towns’. In 1945, Allied bombing destroyed just over 300 houses, a few public buildings and some of the iconic city wall. However, the Americans tasked with taking the town were instructed to offer peace terms, rather than destroy it outright. The Germans stationed there agreed, against Hitler’s orders, saving the rest of the town from destruction. The houses, buildings, and wall that suffered bomb damage were quickly repaired with funds donated from all over the world. You can see bricks in the city wall with donors names.

There is a circular city walk, well-posted with signs explaining the various stops, that incorporates a good chunk of the upper city wall walk. I love self-guided city walks like this, because when you’re exploring with a small person, their unexpected requirements for toilets, food, and running around mean your carefully crafted itinerary can go out the window. Even if you thought you had accommodated lots of kid time. The beauty of Rothenburg is it’s amazing just to wander the streets, peer in the shop windows at endless carved toys, chocolates, and dolls. It’s terrifically easy to visit with small people for this reason.

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However, there are a few fun stops if your family is game. The Kriminalmuseum covers crime and punishment over the past thousand years. My seven year old was fine with it, and enjoyed it, but my husband said he thinks kids younger than seven would find it too scary (I passed and wandered around taking photos instead). The Christmas Museum is upstairs from the Käthe Wohlfahrt shop, and if you’re looking to add a few ornaments to your collection, this is an excellent place to invest.

I’ll give you a tip: don’t bother with Schneeballs. The signature sweet treat, it’s a weird ball of dough scraps, fried and covered with sugar or chocolate. That sounds like it would be good, but in practice it’s often dry and tasteless. Go for a good Käsebrezel (cheese-covered soft pretzel) instead.

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I would love to have had lunch in the Biergarten at the Reichsküchenmeister, there’s a cute little carousel right in the fenced Biergarten, and you can sit under the Linden trees and admire the church of St Jacob’s across the road. We visited in February, so it was all bare branches and inside dining unfortunately.

Getting there

It’s a 2.5-3 hour train journey from Frankfurt, and slightly longer from Munich. Driving shaves off half an hour to an hour. Public pay parking is plentiful outside of the city walls.

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Look, I made you a nice image to pin this to your holiday planning board…

visiting rothenburg with kids

 

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Day out in Ulm

Day out in Ulm

I spotted photos of the library at the Wiblingen Monastery on Pinterest, often included in Libraries to See Before You Die lists. When I looked it up on a map, it was only a two-hour drive away, so we checked the off-season schedule and drove over at the weekend.


IMG_5518 IMG_5560The Wiblingen Monastery was founded in 1093, and was the home of Benedictine monks from the Black Forest and surrounding area. In 1714, they undertook a massive renovation, which is where we get all the spectacular and over the top Baroque details. The library itself was incredible. Unheated, in the winter it is a bit freezing. While we were there, a couple was having photos done and the woman in the strapless dress must have been losing feeling in her arms. There is a museum in the Abbey as well, with audio guides in English. There are plenty of beautiful illustrated maps of the area, huge wax seals, and other ephemera. We found this fascinating, but we also live nearby, so it may not be as exciting if you’re visiting from afar – though if you’re in Ulm, it’s well worth a visit. If you’re visiting in the off-season, check their site to see what’s open and when.

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The Ulm Minster is impressive, to say the least. A classic extended building project, the foundation stone for the church was laid in 1377, but the final building wasn’t finished until 1890. As with many building projects in southern Germany, the Thirty Years War derailed everything. Incredibly, the Minster was not damaged in WWII, though most of the medieval town was destroyed.

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A totally unplanned stop on our day trip was the Museum dur Brotkultur, which translates literally to the Museum of Bread. This sounds hilarious initially, but the role of bread through history is quite central. There are three floors of bread-related history displays, and they provide English-language audio guides as well as a children’s audio guide, which was a big hit. It’s a short walk from the Ulm Minster, and I really recommend it.

Unfortunately it was freezing out, and we didn’t get a chance to find anywhere to eat in town, so I have no suggestions on restaurants I’m afraid! There are the usual little backerei around where you can get soft brezel and sandwiches of course.

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The Black Forest Open Air Museum

The Black Forest Open Air Museum

The Black Forest Open Air Museum or Schwarzenwälder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof (sometimes pops up as the Vogtsbauernhof Museum) is well worth a visit. Deep in the Black Forest, it’s one of the rare museums we’ve been back to four or five times now, and enjoyed every visit. We regularly take visitors, and it never fails to impress. If you’d like a taste of the history of the region, this is the place. Family visitors and adults-only groups will both enjoy this extensive open-air museum.

The dining room of the oldest farmhouse at the Black Forest Open-Air Museum
The dining room of the oldest farmhouse at the Black Forest Open-Air Museum

What you will see at the Black Forest Open Air Museum

The museum itself is a collection of farmhouses ranging from 16th to the 18th centuries. There was one house originally on the site, and the others were painstakingly disassembled and moved to preserve this picture of the past for future generations. Each house focuses on different aspects of farm life, or a different generation. The largest (pictured above and below) is such a trip through time – even the kitchen still smells like smoke. The audio guide explains what each room was used for, and it’s been so well set up with period furniture and textiles, that it’s impossible not to feel like you’ve stepped into the past when you duck your head through the door. Fascinatingly, you get a glimpse into how life in these farmhouses changed over time too. The one pictured above was originally home to one large family, but as time moved on, they took in others as boarders, and had to share their dining room amongst three or four different families. Each one of them had a corner to sit in. One of the little elements I loved was how families would hang their washing to dry under the eaves upstairs out on the balcony – it’s out of the rain but still has the benefit of not taking up space outside. My own balcony in our turn-of-the-century house has hooks to hang a washing line for the very same reason.

The outside of the oldest farmhouse at the Black Forest Open Air Museum. Note the beehives on the ledge!
The outside of the oldest farmhouse at the Black Forest Open Air Museum. Note the beehives on the ledge!

Great for family visits

It’s a brilliant place to bring small children as kids can run around and touch most things. There are horses and chickens to look at, and an open-air bakery was operating the day we were there, turning out Flammkuchen and loaves of bread. Every day during high season there’s someone demonstrating elements of traditional farm life. We had the good fortune to see a woman hand-weaving amazing ribbons (pictured below, and the fruits of her labour below that). Check the website for details on what’s on the day of your visit.

There’s a whole woodworking workshop full to the rafters with beautiful wooden toys to buy for ridiculously reasonable prices (this is a common theme in Germany). You can watch craftspeople making the toys right there behind the counter as well. If you buy a duck whistle, make sure to hide it until you leave – children aren’t supposed to blow them in the park!

More gorgeous farmhouses in the museum area.
More gorgeous farmhouses in the museum area.

Specific kid-friendly areas to explore

Upstairs from the woodworking shop is an incredible play area built to resemble an attic full of discarded furniture, old toys, and other detritus from earlier centuries – though you need to access it from outside. There are paths through the piled bits, just the right size for smaller people, and the dim lighting makes it the perfect amount of exciting but not too scary. There is a little puppet stage to play with, and lots of secrets spots to discover. Additionally there is another more open play area within one of the farthest houses, with a beautiful space designed to look like the forest. On top of all that, there is an extensive outdoor play area with wooden structures, play houses, a water feature, and a natural rock slide. This is all right next to the outdoor cafe that serves schnitzel, french fries, wurst, beer, wine and ice cream, with plenty of picnic tables with easy sightlines to the playground.

Woman weaving very detailed ribbons.
Woman weaving very detailed ribbons.
Incredibly detailed ribbons, woven by local craftspeople.
Incredibly detailed ribbons, woven by local craftspeople.

Even if you’re not with kids

The museum is fascinating if you’re not traveling family style too. The audio guide is very detailed, with options to learn more at many spots, so you can take in the whole place or dive deep into a few of the houses at your own speed. There are at least two houses I haven’t even managed to explore yet, despite four visits under our belt. There’s a lovely sit-down restaurant serving more complete meals, as well as the traditional and regional Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest Cake. In fact, on display is one of the first known printed recipes for this regional specialty. The terrace is beautiful in the summer, with views over the rolling greens hills, forests, and picturesque farm houses, with horses wandering in front. If you’re lucky, you will spot some museum staff members in the traditional local costume, which includes the cherry-inspired headgear (pictured below). Unmarried women wore red pom-poms on their hats, and married women had black ones.

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Museum staff members in the traditional Black Forest dress
Another shot of the gorgeous old farmhouse, with a buggy parked outside.
Another shot of the gorgeous old farmhouse

Getting to the Black Forest Open Air Museum, opening hours, and ticket prices

It’s worth noting the museum is only open from March to November, except a short period in December for their Christmas market. Do check their site for the exact dates each year. They are open from 9am-7pm, with a last entry at 5pm.

Ticket prices

Adults 10€

Children 6-17 years old 5.50€ (children under 5 are free)

Family prices vary on how many children you have but for two parents and one child 23€

For two parents and two children 28€

For two parents and three children or more 32€

Getting to the museum

By car, you want to put in 77793 Gutach, and make sure you use the post code, because there is another Gutach, and it isn’t particularly close by!

By train, there is a regional branch line station directly outside the museum. Search for ‘Gutach Freilichtmuseum’, and there is a train that stops there every hour while the museum is open. You can get a reduction of 1€ each on your museum entrance tickets by showing your train ticket too, including Baden-Württemberg day tickets. From Stuttgart, it’s about two and a half hours by train. From Frankfurt, about two hours. It’s a beautiful journey, however!




Schwarzenwälder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof

77793 Gutach (Schwarzwaldbahn) , 0 78 31-93560

www.vogtsbauernhof.de

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