After two days of exploring Munich, I decided to schedule a last minute tour to Harburg Castle and Rothenburg on Viator. Come Wednesday morning and my fifth day in Munich, I set off to Hauptbahnhof central station extra early in the rain so I could snag a good seat at the front of the bus. I blindly got out the wrong exit and found myself a little lost but a kindly German lady sent me in the right direction and all was right with the world again.
I was hesitant of booking this specific tour as many of the reviewers complained of the long drive and the short time in Rothenburg. That’s the unfortunate downside of booking tours — the amount of time you spend in a location will never be enough. But how often when you’re traveling do you feel as though you’ve spent an adequate amount of time in a place? Unless you have the luxury of being able to spend weeks in a locale, and even then, I think it’s hard to find that you’ve truly experienced everything you possibly could from a city. I find a certain beauty in enjoying a place so much you’re left with It. You can’t explain what It is — you needed just a little more of It. It is what fuels the desire to walk down every street, fill every museum, walk through every garden, climb every mountain, and step across every bridge. It is what pushes you and drives you to pack your bags, throw caution to the wind, and set off to see the world.
Perhaps my years of traveling throughout countries in vans and buses prepared me, but I didn't find the drive to be too long. Moreover, only 1/3 of the trains in Munich were operating due to a rail strike so this would have been a logistical nightmare for me had I been planning to get around on my own. I was more than happy to sit back and be comfortably transported around so I settled into my seat and gleefully stared out the window as we set off on the Romantic Road to Schloss (castle) Harburg.
Situated on a hill, Harburg Castle is one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved castle fortifications in Germany. It was an important military stronghold during the 11th and 12th centuries and has never been seriously damaged during battles.
Visiting Linderhof and Neuschwanstein was an incredible experience because it was my first time seeing a castle outside of Disney World and Disney Land, and as magnificent as they were, they were more akin to palaces. Harburg Castle, on the other hand, was a real castle with a Wall Walk, replete with loopholes, arrow loops, and murder holes to pour acid or hot oil onto the enemy, as well as a dungeon and torture room. I embraced my inner nerd and LARPer at heart because the entire time I was walking through the castle I was imagining my long gowns and cape trailing around my feet or the weight of my armor as I was notching my crossbow. Someone needs to protect the Iron Throne!
After a tour of Harburg Castle and a walk through the gift shop which used to be the bakery, I set off towards Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the most perfectly preserved medieval town in Europe. In the Middle Ages, Rothenburg was Germany’s second-largest city, with a bustling population of 6,000. It had been rainy and cloudy up until leaving Harburg but the moment I got to Rothenburg the wind began blowing celestially and the sun gloriously emerged.
Rothenburg is an unbelievably magical city straight out of a fairy tale. It feels as though you're walking on a movie set which only becomes a million times better when you realize you've stepped out of a time machine. The perfectly intact town walls, larded with towers and gateways, still fully enclose the center of the city, and you’re able to walk on the ramparts to admire the various perspectives of the city's beautiful buildings, walls, and alleys. I ditched my paper map and decided to wander aimlessly in the Market Square, alleyways, and Castle Garden. I walked down cobbled streets and roamed through passageways — weaving, twisting, turning as I felt inclined. I then proceeded to climb the dusty stairs up to the ramparts and when I delightfully found myself up there alone the way you only can when you visit off season, I did what any normal, reasonable person would do — I began filming videos for my very own travel show.
I fell in love with the enchanting town of Rothenburg, and standing in the Market Square I promised myself I would return (hopefully soon) to see the Christmas Markets and stay overnight to venture around at night. Going through my photo album, my hair is crazy from the morning rain, my sunglasses were broken so I had to settle with a cheap pair I had thrown in my bag last minute, and the angle and lighting is off in virtually every picture, but none of that matters because when I look at every single one of these pictures, I see pure, unadulterated happiness radiating from my face, and I can recall exactly how I felt as if I was there now. Sitting on the garden wall, staring out at the beautiful scenery of the pastoral valley surrounding Rothenburg, my heart soaring and leaping out of my chest, I felt something inside of me switch back on — a desire to purge the negativity that had been consuming my life and the determination to once again live deliberately.