Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Medieval Meets Modern German Town Retains Its Antique Charm - and Wires for Cable

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Medieval Meets Modern German Town Retains Its Antique Charm - and Wires for Cable

Article excerpt

ROTHENBURG exudes the kind of charm one expects from Germany's "Romantic Road." Cobbled streets. A 600-year-old apothecary. Churches and fortifications that date from the Middle Ages.

But hold onto your lederhosen. Even medieval walls can't stop all progress. Rothenburg ob der Tauber - the city that Frommer's calls "the finest medieval city in Europe" - now has a McDonald's.

When the restaurant applied to set up shop three years ago, "we couldn't find any reason not to have a McDonald's here," says Johann Kempter, director of the local tourist office. The restaurant followed the city's exacting rules about the exterior of the restaurant. Because the apothecary it took over had an outdoor wrought-iron sign, McDonald's was allowed the same. (No neon. This is Rothenburg, after all.)

And somehow, it works. Even golden arches can't diminish the awe that Rothenburg inspires.

The starting point for any visit to Rothenburg is Marktplatz. It's the site of the Rathaus or City Hall, which combines a Gothic tower and German Renaissance facade, the Lowen Apotheke ("with service since 1374"), and the gabled Councillor's Tavern. The tavern sports a golden clock and, since 1910, mechanical marionettes.

For two deutsche marks (about $1.30), tourists can climb the 197-foot Rathaus tower and contemplate the city's long history. The earls of Rothenburg began building here late in the 10th century. Portions of the city wall date from the 13th century. Construction of one of Rothenburg's most famous churches - St. Jacob's - started in 1311.

Tourists move on from the Marktplatz to see the city's ramparts, the small streets with half-timbered houses that sport colorful window boxes, and tiny shops that sell everything from horn-handled carving sets to original Steiff bears. They can visit the Imperial City Museum, the Doll and Toy Museum, or, for a darker view of the Middle Ages, the sometimes gruesome exhibits of the Criminal Museum.

Most of the visitors here are day tourists. Some 2.5 million people pass through each year. …

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