Travel Day Driving in Germany – Heidelberg to Rothenburg ob der Tauber

–>  Morning fog –> Afternoon mostly cloudy – high temp 49ºF

The day started with a 40 minute walk across Heidelberg to pick up our rental car. I left the family in the apartment, and walked from old Heidelberg to contemporary Heidelberg. Luckily it was a pretty straight shot down Hauptstraße which is a main walking street.

Walk down Hauptstraße

Walk down Hauptstraße

The pick-up was quick and easy. We were given a slightly larger car, a Passat station wagon. I sat in the car for a couple of minutes acclimating myself to the car and trying to switch the nav system to english (which I didn’t). I then started out for a parking area near the apartment. The car was a stick shift, and I immediately stalled it, because I was in third gear not first ?. Being the first time I was driving in a foreign country in two years I was cautious.

The drive was uneventful. I went to collect the family and we loaded up. I spent a little more time with the nav system and got it switched to english.

Our original intention was to drive along back roads to one or two small towns to see ruins and a palace museum about the Teutonic Knights. However since Karen was interested in Thingstätte and did not make it there with Aidan and me the day before, we decided to drive there first. I used the nav system (as well Google maps since I was familiar with it), and we started towards the Thingstätte. First we went across the river, and then off main streets into side streets to reach the top. This is where the driving anxiety got kicked up a notch… the side streets were narrow, like REALLY narrow, like cars parked on both sides with room for one car in the middle, but a two-way  road. Then surprise number two… the main road up the hill (which was tiny like the rest) was closed due to construction, and turning around was tough.

After driving through these tiny little streets, I found a route that would bypass the closure. However when we arrived a the street, it was more like an alley, and REALLY narrow (less that 10 feet wide) with buildings on both sides. Although the maps said it was a two-way road, I was afraid cars were not allowed, and so I bypassed it originally and ended up stuck again at the road closure. I slowly turned around, and saw another car go through the alleyway. At this point I felt it would be ok for me to do the same and so I did. As we approached the end of the alley, a car started to turn down the street, but saw us and backed up until we exited.

Once out of the alley, the rest of way was easy to follow, but still on tiny streets without room for two cars. There were a number of occasions where either myself, or an oncoming car had to stop, back-up, or pull over into some off street spot to allow the other to pass. It was CRAZY!!

We finally reached the monastery ruins, and then the Thingstätte. Karen and Dylan got to check it out, and since it was my second trip, I was kind of checked out. I was waiting for everyone to be finished so we could begin our drive. Eventually all were done and since it was well after lunch time, we needed to grab some food. We started back down, and since our drive would take us back through Heidelberg, I decided to return the parking area so we could get something to eat in a place that was familiar.

After eating, we went back in to the car and plotted our course. We had decided that since we went to Thingstätte, which took about an hour and a half of our day, we would only make one stop… but as I started putting in the destination and looking at the time we would arrive, and then the time it would take to get to Rothenburg, it quickly became evident that there just wasn’t time for any stops. So we decided to go straight to Rothenburg, and I decided to stop trying to take country roads and allow the nav system to send me the quickest way, which would put us on the autobahn.

That was an interesting experience. Speed signs in Germany don’t exist in the frequency and clarity that we are used to here in the U.S. Thankfully the nav system always had a speed limit on the screen for our current location… except when it didn’t and it was at that time I realized were on the autobahn in the “no speed limit” zone. Also the driving was much more organized. People were always in the farthest right lane for the speed they were driving, and only when passing would they move into a left lane. Te far left/fast lane did not see a lot of activity except for the speed demons that would barrel on past. I settled on a speed of 140 km per hour which is about 87 mph, and there were cars passing us like we were standing still.

The drive was pretty uneventful, we hit a couple pockets of traffic cause of road construction, but we still made good time getting to the outskirts of Rothenburg. Then things changed, and the bad road luck that we experienced on our way to Thingstätte returned.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a walled city with only a few entrances through the wall. the main entrance that we were being directed to was closed due to construction. I looked at the map to find an alternative, and did so, however when I got through the wall and needed to turn right towards the hotel, I saw a traffic sign which I thought meant no cars allowed, so I went left. We pretty much drove around aimlessly for about 15 minutes before I gave up trying to figure it out and called the hotel. The wonderfully nice woman who answered talked us through the streets until we were at the hotel and saw her standing out front looking for us… turns out I was misreading the street sign because she directed up right up the street I thought we weren’t allowed to drive up.

By the time we had checked in and got our luggage to the room, it was dinner time. Unfortunately, the restaurant in our hotel had closed early this day, so we walked to the restaurant in the hotel across the street. Another food adventure ensued with some of us eating well, and others not so much. After dinner we walked the city streets and took some pics.

Church next to our hotel.

Church next to our hotel.

Building in the town square

Building in the town square

One of the things we had planned on doing in Rothenberg was to go on the town tour with the Night Watchman. This was a nighttime tour of what we thought would be the tower wall. Apparently the tour occurs every night at 8:00pm starting in the town square, which is where we found ourselves around that time. We had a quick discussion and decided that we would go on the tour the following night, but we did hear the Watchman begin his spiel.

We walked a bit more and decided to return to our hotel for the hotel for the night. On the way back, we passed the Night Watchman giving his spiel in another part of town and wondered, does he ever get up onto the wall?