After a great week kicking around Berlin and enjoying one of the best apartment rentals of the trip, Neil and I picked up a brand new rental car from Avis and hit a southwest route toward the famous Romantic Road in Germany. While we are big fans of road trips, we can understand why many tourists opt out of the extra effort and expense especially when easy hub-locations such as Munich and Berlin beckon their fair share of the tourist market. But even with three days, you can see the Romantic Road from Wurzburg in the north to Fussen at the southern border shared with Italy.
The key to a successful road trip on the Romantic Road is to plan carefully where you will sleep and which towns you’ll visit during the day. For convenience, we slept at the top and bottom of the trail at Wurzburg and Fussen, with an intermediate stop in Augsburg, halfway down the route. Attractions in the cities are wonderful but for a full flavor of the old merchant road, we loved the small villages at Rothernburg ob der Tor and Nordlingen.
Sneeballs and Tower of Rothenburg
After a morning’s drive out of Wurzburg, our first stop on the Romantic Road was Rothenburg. The city walls wrap around the historic center and as soon as we stepped out of the car, we knew we were in a different world. Flowers decorate street-side windows on private homes and steepled orange roofs give that classic southern German country feel. Streets are cobblestone and the old cathedral breaks the skyline with its gray spire.
In the town square, we braved the slim steps up to the tower where an unrivaled view of Rothenburg stretches over houses, walls, and into the green hills. Not for claustrophobics, the ascent is demarcated by green and red traffic signals. If more than 20 people are up top, the light glows red and you can not pass through the turnstile. Once guests exit, that same number of new visitors may enter. Pay at the top of the stairs right before you go up the very narrow wood planks that will have you crawling out onto the lookout.
After surviving the squeeze of the tower, we headed to lunch, treating ourselves to a big meal of roasted pork (for Neil of course) and an amazing plate of trout filets with butter-sauteed almonds. But we made sure to leave enough room for the town’s speciality: sneeballs.
Imagine the lovechild of a funnel cake and a graham cracker that’s then rolled up into the size and shape of a softball. Then, you’d be able to preview the experience of a sneeball. Many shops sell them but we found Diller’s first and purchased a marzipan-filled pistachio ball and a simple chocolate covered one too. With our road snack secured in our car, we headed to our second destination at Nordlingen.
Quick Stop in Nordlingen for Willy Wonka Fans
The 1970’s version of Willy Wonka ends with an elevator ride into the sky and we all remember Charlie looking down at all the little houses with orange tiles, snuggly packed together in a round valley. In Nordlingen, you can experience the same views from the square tower since this town hosted the camera crew who shot the final scenes of the iconic film. A huge meteor smashed into the turf there a long time ago and created a bowl shaped hole. This is why the houses are so compact and the elevator scene was chosen in Nordlingen. Neil couldn’t stop humming “If you want to vieeeeew paradise, simply look around and view it”, as if he was in a private karaoke studio.
We didn’t spend much time in the town itself because we’d already spent so much in Rothenburg. But we liked walking around the medieval walls which are well preserved and loop around the old city.
With a relaxed departure from Wurzburg that included a visit to the UNESCO Residencia, we easily fit these two stops into a full day on the road toward Augsburg. For a fun road trip like ours, consider packing lots of snacks and water in the car. Only small bottles are offered in these towns where tourists are forced to pay premium for a glass of H20. On the autobahn, stay to the right but be careful of cars merging from the on-ramp. Otherwise, go at a comfortable speed for your needs. Don’t rush and have both printed road maps and a GPS in the car too.