Rothenburg: Torture 101

One of the gates in the Rothenburg city wall.  Pat liked the architecture.  Xandie liked the towers.  I liked the naked lady. Xandie and Pat check out an archer's port in the Rothenburg wall. A team of horses waits for us to take a carriage ride in Rothenburg. The horse on the left is named Presto (and he was!); the one on the right is Romero. A torture chair in the Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum. A leg clamp in the Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum.  The books behind and next to it illustrate the proper use. A treasure chest in the Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum.  If the multiple locks were operated in the wrong order, the chest would not open.  Xandie asked if we could have it to keep her plastic jewelry in. A toy Christmas market in the Rothenburg toy and doll museum. A sitting room in the mansion dollhouse (Xandie called it a palace) in the Rothenburg toy and doll museum.  Xandie says that the doll on the right is a princess and the one on the left is a maid.  All of the rooms were extremely well appointed. A very old (and large -- the size of two fists!) lock on a Rothenburg door. Xandie and the Rothenburg "Night Watchman" (scanned from a photo by Pat). A mask in the Rothenburg wall.  The black line on the right is an archer's port; the mask itself has holes that were used to pour boiling oil on anyone who tried to break down the gate directly below.
The Rothenburg Marktplatz, with the Christmas tree still standing. The Rathaus is on the right.  Note the medieval architecture of the surrounding buildings.  The houses had very large attics because there was a city requirement that you be able to store a year's worth of grain in case of siege (which happened to Rothenburg a LOT!). Xandie chastises Pat, who is being punished for severe misbehavior by being placed in the stocks outside the Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum.  I forget her exact crime, but I'm sure it had to do with chocolate. A "neck violin" in the Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum.  This was a sort of portable stock.  The large hole was placed around the offender's neck, and the small holes held his or her hands.  I didn't photograph the "double neck violin," which was normally used to lock two quarreling women together until they made peace. A rack in the Medieval Crime Museum.  Note the spiked rollers in the middle. A shame mask in the Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum.  People who had offended public decency had to wear these masks as penance, as shown in the illustration.  This one was used for people who displayed piggish behavior. A jeweled crown in the Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum. A toy shopkeeper in the Rothenburg toy and doll museum.  There were several "playing store" setups; it must have been a very popular activity a hundred years ago. Nearly life-sized dolls in the Rothenburg toy and doll museum.  It is difficult to give a scale in this picture, save to say that I was holding the camera to my eye while standing, and the display is placed on the floor (in a little room of its own). Xandie on the Rothenburg wall.  We decided to try to walk the entire length of the wall, circumnavigating the city, while Pat did some shopping.  We failed for two reasons: first, you can't walk on top of the entire wall because some parts of the city are defended by a natural ravine, rather than by the wall, and second, we ran out of steam in the dark.  But we came close. The Rothenburg Marktplatz after dark.

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 shame masks, 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.