Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a romantic fairytale town in the heart of German Bavaria. It’s known for many things – including its schneeball (traditional sugar-coated deep fried pastry balls), its Christmas museum, its Medieval Crime museum and some of the best preserved medieval architecture in Germany. The city is surrounded by a wall with ancient fortifications and there are 42 gates and towers – making it a truly fascinating place to explore.
For centuries, artists and writers have taken inspiration from Rothenburg – and famous films such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Pinocchio and even the Japanese Manga and anime series ‘A Little Snow Fairy Sugar’ have based their towns on this Bavarian beauty.
Imperial City Festival is a festival that takes place every September for three days and it couldn’t have a more fitting location. The festival focuses on bringing together the local community to re-enact customs and traditions from the past dating back to the Middle Ages.
Here are my top 5 must-see elements of the festival:
1) TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION AND FIREWORKS
The first day of the festival starts with a bang; thousands of costumed locals carrying torchlights line up at the ‘Double Bridge’ before parading down the cobbled streets towards the iconic market square in the Old Town. The parades involve signing, chanting, fire-eating, juggling and playing music instruments – it really is a sight to behold.
The Lord Mayor of Rothenburg then welcomes all participants and guests before a spectaular fireworks display and illluminations over the Town Hall.
You can see a video of the Torchlight Procession and fireworks display here:
2) MUSICAL PERFORMANCES
From brass bands to folk singers, drummers and solo flute performances – music brings the Imperial Ciy Festival to life. Wherever people lived together in the Middle Ages, music was at the heart of the community and the main form of entertainment. Many different groups play during the festival including ‘Rothenburger Stadtpfeifferey’ and stunning night concerts at St Jacob’s Church.
3) MEDIEVAL MARKET
As you enter Rothenburg Old Town under the arched bridge, you will see a campsite on your right. This is the medieval market where locals gather together to eat, sing, dance and create arts and crafts. What I found fascinating was that they even sleep in beds crafted by hand during the three day festival, wearing clogs and sleeping under fur blankets. You can buy traditional costumes, jewellery, trinkets and food at this lovely market place.
4) THE SHEPHERD’S DANCE ON THE MARKET SQUARE
There are dance performances throughout the festival days, but the most famous dance is ‘The Shepherd’s Dance’ which dates back to 1517 in order to celebrate the Rothenburg Guild of Shepherds. Locals gather on the market square in colourful costumes adorned with ribbons and live by the motto: “For the honour of the city and for the enjoyment of the guests.”
5) STOBERLEIN OPEN-AIR THEATRE
Throughout the weekend, historical groups gather in the market square and each take their turn to perform a play from the past. With knights on horseback, masked warriors, monks, jugglers, kings and queens – you’ll learn a lot about Rothenburg’s history while enjoying the theatricals too.
If you’re interested in reading more about Imperial City Festival and watching more highlights videos, check out Alicia’s story about the Festival: http://aliciaexplores.com/videos-imperial-city-festival-in-rothenburg/
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