Tuesday 13 November 2018

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Scenic Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.7 km (3.5 miles), terrain: a few hills, gain 147 meters

Rothenburg is, for good reason, one of the most visited towns in Germany. It combines so much medieval charm into one small area, that it's hard to find a town that can top its enchantment. It has about everything you'd like to see in a medieval setting: intact town walls and gate towers, lots of old half-timbered and Renaissance-era buildings, a location perched on the bluffs above a winding, green river valley, and lots more.
Rothenburg old-town
If you're touring Germany and find yourself in Rothenburg, here's a little run that puts all of that together: It follows some of the most interesting old-town lanes, heads up the steps to the tops of the town walls and lets you run up there for a few stretches, heads down into the Tauber River valley, crossing a couple of beautiful old bridges and passing a few watermills. It then heads back up to town again, entering a gate-tower to then view the old spittal grounds and the bastion, and to then run along the top of the town walls again before returning to the main market square.

So, if you're lucky enough to be standing on the market square with your running shoes on, take a look around before we head off. That big, stone, Renaissance-style building with the arcaded front is the town hall (Rathaus). 
At the market square
This square was the legendary scene of a celebrated event back almost 400 years ago, the Meistertrunk
The Rathaus front entrance, with snow flurries!
The Imperial army, headed by General Tilly, had just captured the city. In the town hall, the bürgermeister was pleading for Tilly to spare the city the horrors of massacre and plunder, saying that the local wine was too good for the town to be destroyed, and he offered Tilly a large tankard. Tilly told the bürgermeister that if he could drink the entire contents of over 3 liters in one go, the town would be spared. And, somehow, the bürgermeister managed this Meistertrunk!

We'll have to do without a tankard of wine, but it should be a great run anyway....
Heugasse from the rooftops
Let's turn northwards and exit the square along Heugasse (Hay Lane) and its scenic houses. It's hard to imagine that almost half the town was bombed out in the last weeks of World War II. Almost everything was rebuilt in the original style.

After a few blocks, you'll come to the Schrammeplatz, a square used as a parking lot, with the massive town walls blocking the way in front of you. There's a little gate through the wall here, and you have the choice of following the course of the wall by either going outside, or taking those steps to the top of the wall and running along the ramparts, or running along the lanes that line the insides of the walls. 
Along the ramparts
I think the ramparts are the absolutely coolest way to go, with a view out to both sides, and views downwards into the courtyards of the old-town houses. So that's the way I did it, but just choose the way you prefer.

So climb to the top, if you'd like, and turn left to run westwards along the ramparts. Needless to say, you need to watch your step, and take care not to upset the other people who are just walking along the wall. This section of wall ends in just 200 meters, and you have to take the steps downward at the Klingentor tower.
View over town from the ramparts
Continue westwards along Klosterweth lane next to the section of unrestored walls. In just a block, the walls turn to the left as we reach the west edge of the old town. You'll see the hillside going down through the trees to the Tauber River valley to the west. That tall tower in the corner was used to jail people who did non-serious crimes!
View along the Tauber Valley walls
Run southwards for a block, continuing on Klosterweth. We're above the playground outside the walls. Now you have to leave the wall because the monastery grounds ahead block the path. So turn left and keep running on Klosterweth for a block until you hit Klingengasse. Turn right there at the Schwarzer Adler Hotel and follow the street as it passes under the apse of St. Jakob's church.

Once past the church, turn right to run west on Klostergasse, which will curve past the Burghotel towards the left and come out in a little square at the clock-tower called the Burgturm. We'll now exit the town through the tower gate, heading out through the walled compound that once housed the castle. Now it is just a garden.
The castle gate at night
Keep to the left and follow the Weinsteige footpath as it leads downward into the valley. For this section outside the city, we're following the marked trail number three. Just follow the red trail markers with "3"!
The trail markers
The path circles below the garden above, then take the left-turn to cross the covered footbridge over the Tauber River. This beautiful green valley has a variety of hiking trails if you want to extend the run. We'll just follow a short section of the river.

NOTE: If you want to follow some of the other marked hiking trails, here is an English-language page listing them: https://www.rothenburg.de/welcome/sport-active/hiking/hiking-trails/

After crossing the bridge, follow the trail to the left, next to the quiet Taubertalweg road. You'll run through the Fuchsmühle watermill complex, then continue as the road heads uphill and curves around a bend in the river southwards past more mills and farmhouses.

The road continues curving and joins into Leuzenbronner Straße and continues northeast before curving to the right and crossing the very cool old stone bridge over the river. This is a double-decker bridge, with two sets of arches.

Let's get a closer look by circling under the bridge to the right and following the path along the riverside, still following the number 3 trail.

The Panoramaweg trail (an old shoe as a trail symbol) now takes us past vineyards and zig-zags its way up the hill, back into town through the gate at Kobolzeller Tor.
The Panoramaweg below town
Running uphill, in just a block you'll come to maybe the most photogenic spot in town, the Plönlein fountain, with cobblestoned streets branching off towards two gate-towers.
Along Spitalgasse
Now turn right and run towards the Siebersturm, past beautiful old houses.
The Siebersturm
Continue on Spitalgasse towards the southern point of the old town.

At the Spitalkirche (hospice church) you might want to circle it around the back side to see the beautiful courtyard of the old hospice, with its round-towered Hegereiter-Haus, the amphitheater and some other impressive buildings.
Carnival-goers at the amphitheater
Right after this, you exit town by continuing south through the tower and Spital-bastion. It's a pretty amazing spot, covering several levels, with its own covered bridge and ramparts.
At the bastion
After looking at the bastion from the outside, head back through the gate into town again, taking the first right-hand onto Sterngasse, following more of the city walls as we head northwards.

Let's run along the top of the walls again, so find the first steps upwards. The walls take us northwards for a while, then turn right to follow a lane called Röderschütt. We'll run through a few more towers and then pass the strangely beautiful medieval smithy called Gerlachschmiede, with its pointed front and curving roof. I like it!
The Gerlachschmiede from the ramparts
At the next tower, Rödertor, with its own bastion outside, take the stairs down and turn left to cross the old town along Rödergasse.

In a few blocks, you'll come to another especially scenic spot, where a flower-draped fountain provides a great foreground for the Markusturm straight ahead. The Markusturm is a clock-tower gate leading us into the oldest part of town, with the old market square straight ahead.
The Markusturm
Back at the market, you'll have to wander the other old-town streets once you're cleaned up, and start enjoying a bit of town from the inside: try out one of the inviting cafés or restaurants, try some of the local "snowbal"l specialties, and take a look at the amazing Christmas decoration stores. Have fun!

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