After Christmas, we thought that we should do a little bit of traveling before school started again. I'd been to Rothenburg before, so I knew we'd have fun, and I knew exactly how to sell it to my two loves:
Pat, would you like to see a medieval city with gorgeous architecture
surrounded by an intact city wall?
Xandie, would you like to go see torture instruments?
Yes, that's right. Our sweet, innocent daughter is a town executioner in training. She ties up her dolls for fun, and nothing lights her eyes like the thought of a museum of torture. I don't know where we went wrong, officer. I'm sure it has nothing to do with violent video games.
So we grabbed a car (I love the Karlsruhe car-sharing program) and
zoomed off with Pat screaming
Look out! (haven't lost my love for
the Autobahn, either).
Rothenburg doesn't let people drive inside the city walls (it's truly medieval!), but we had picked a cold Wednesday, so we were able to park right by the gates. We climbed the wall, pretended to defend the city from attacking archers, and visited the town square. That's when Pat spotted the horses. Two of them, bleached a gleaming white, and hitched up to a carriage.
Pat grew up in San Francisco. Xandie is growing up in L.A. (with a short spell in Karlsruhe). I grew up in Montana. So guess which of us thinks horses are absolutely wonderful?
That's right: the females. Liking horses has nothing to do with whether you're from horse country, or whether you're familiar with them. It's all in that X chromosome. Since I was outvoted, we had to go for a carriage ride despite the rain and near-freezing temperatures.
Fortunately, the driver had blankets for us, plus a canopy to keep the drizzle off and plastic side curtains to keep the wind out. Of course you couldn't actually see anything through the plastic, but I guess that wasn't the point. At least, Pat and Xandie didn't think there was any problem with that. I forked over several fistfuls of Euros and off we went.
Technically, it turns out that I was wrong about there not being a view. The front of the carriage didn't have a curtain, so we had an excellent perspective of what the driver saw: the backsides of the two horses. Now you may not think that horse rears are the most fascinating sight in the world, and I will tell you right up, er, front that I agree. But we received a fascinating lesson in modern medieval driving.
In case you didn't know it, when horses walk, they poop. Lots. They must have special poop-generating muscles in their legs. And I have to guess that the city has a fierce pooper-scooper law, since the driver was very active about cleaning up after his horses. We'd hardly gone a block when he stopped the carriage, hopped out with a bucket and shovel, and tidied up the pavement. The bucket went in the front seat, next to him, where the wind could waft its warm odor back to us. Two blocks later, he pulled the same routine again. But the fun was only beginning.
After all, this guy spends all day, every day, sitting right behind two horse behinds, waiting for the next time he has to scoop some poop. And he has figured something out: if he can tell when the horse is about to poop, he can stop the carriage, hold the bucket just under the horse's tail, and save himself the trouble of cleaning the pavement. It's a brilliant system...except for the fact that he's not all that good at it.
So our carriage ride went like this: horses walk two blocks, carriage stops, driver hops out and holds bucket under right-hand horse, horse does nothing, cars waiting behind us honk, driver gives up and gets back in, horses walk another block, entire sequence repeats. We went through this business at least five times. Once, while he was holding the bucket, the left-hand horse pooped, which I found very fitting. But I have to say that the whole experience resembled a bus ride more than an adventure.
Finally, just before we got back to where we started, the right-hand horse went in the bucket. We cheered. I doubt that I'll ever again cheer for horse poop, but this was a special circumstance. I hope you'll forgive me.
The torture museum (actually, it's the
Medieval Crime Museum) was
tons of fun. The torture instruments are really just a small part.
Xandie was grossed out by the rack but intrigued by the
used to embarrass gossips, and the
double neck violin, used to lock
two quarreling women together until they made up. We should try that
last one on our presidential candidates.
Rothenburg also has a toy and doll museum. There's nothing medieval about it, but it was still fascinating to see all the old toys.
We finished up by taking the Night Watchman's tour. This guy dresses up in medieval costume, complete with lantern and pike, and gives a guided tour of town (in English at 8 PM, German at 9, with a break for beer in between—he's a true German). He's funny and informative, and only uses the weapon if you undertip him. We recommend the tour highly.
In fact, we recommend all of Rothenburg. It's famous for being overrun by tourists, but it's also a real walled town with tons of things to do and see.
But if you take the carriage ride, you might want to bring some carrots for the horses—and a clothespin for your nose.