Frank and I decided to do the Bavarian Castle Untour in 2005 and we were delighted with it. I think every little girl has dreamed of living in a castle and I was no exception. My dream came true at Schloss Sommersdorf. We stayed in the Gabriele apartment which is located right in the castle.
Baron von Crailsheim, who insists on being called Manfred, even though he is a Baron and a MD, and his wife Lila are such gracious hosts. Manfred has a wonderful dry sense of humor. Moritz the dog is really friendly and guards the gate, so be sure to close the door tightly behind you. Frau Schmidt is very sweet, speaks very little English, but she makes the best apple strudel which will greet you in your apartment on arrival!
First you will have a lovely breakfast with the Baron and Baroness in their apartment while they “orient” you to the castle and the area. Later, they will wine and dine you one evening, plus give you the “royal” tour of the castle including the tunnels with the mummies.
I happened to mention to the Baron that I was on a mission to find the best “Sauerbraten and real potato dumplings in Bavaria” so he had Frau Schmidt add that to our dinner menu. By the way, hers were tie for the best I tasted in Bavaria. The only other that was close to hers was in a restaurant in my family’s hometown of Wiesen in the Spessart Mountains.
The castle's location is very convenient, although there are so many roads to take in Germany that you can get lost and plan on doing just that. Luckily the Baron had one GPS which he lent to us when he found out about my search for off the beaten path family towns. If you have a GPS, get a European chip and take it with you it will make the whole trip much easier. Actually though, before leaving California I printed out some directions off mapquest for backroads to towns from Sommersdorf and they were quite helpful too.
There are a lot more places than what I will tell you about, but let me list a few towns we went to and a few things to see there. In this blog I will stick to the closer towns.
Burgoberbach, try saying that 3 times in a row, is very close to Sommersdorf on the main highway. Do be sure to stop at the grocery store in Burgoberbach. It is on the left entering town from Sommersdorf and is called the “Activ Markt”. There is a bakery as you walk in. The lady is so nice. Ask her to put butter on your pretzel. We had it first from her. Yummmmmmm!
Be sure to eat at Gasthof Krone across from the church on Main Street in Burgoberbach. The people are friendly; locals hang out and play cards there. The food is good and inexpensive.
Everyone stops to take a picture of the front of the church. Why? Because there is a sculpture of a young woman trying to pull the devil up the steps to church. It’s worth checking out up close for the detail.
Just beyond the church on the same side of the street is the Bank with an ATM machine. What Frank really liked about it is that it gave the money in different denominations.
One of the Baron’s favorite gasthofs (restaurants/pubs) is located here. Around the grocery store in Burgoberbach there is a sign pointing to Neuses going the left. The gasthof in Neuses is on the left and I believe it is called Landgasthof Braunes. We ended up at their Oktoberfest on our last night. It was great!
I understand that this is a very nice town but we didn’t have chance to visit it except to catch the train when we went to Munich. By the way, there is overnight parking available in the garage near the train station if you are taking the train anywhere.
Dinkelsbuhl is a smaller less touristy version of Rothenburg that dates back to the 8th C and is fun to spend a day in. It was spared destruction in the 30 yrs War and WWII leaving it pretty much intact. It’s rather like walking through time. Nice half-timbered houses line the streets. The town is walled and has 18 towers and is located on the Wornitz River. We followed the walls around the town as well as walked thru the town itself. Great photo opportunities here. A must is the Munster St George Church. Well worth a visit. I understand that there is a Nightwatchman’s Tour here at night but we did the one in Rothenburg previously. By the way, Dinkelsbuhl is the location of the Baron’s Dialysis Clinic Practice also.
I voted Rothenburg my favorite town in the area. Although more touristy than other towns (Famous Christmas Tours held here in December), it remains quaint and medieval. Rothenburg also walks out of medieval time having been spared from much damage during the wars. It is a walled town with towers. It’s actually double walled so it’s possible to walk along the outside wall and view the countryside then go back inside the inner wall. Don’t stay out too late though or you will have to enter the gate thru the “Manhole” in the door and pay the guard mucho bucks to get back in! So okay they had to do that centuries ago but not now!
Things not to miss here are:
St Jacob’s Church: Up the stairs inside you will see the 35 ft high “Last Supper” carving by renowned sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider, begun 1499 and completed in 1504. It is said to be one of the finest carvings in all of Germany.
The Rathaus: Located in the Marktplatz. By the doorway of the Rathaus you will see on the wall the town’s 3 measuring rods. The Rod = 4.3 yds; The Shuh = shoe, roughly a foot; and The Ell = from elbow to fingertip.
The Marien Apotheke: Also in the Marketplatz, this old time pharmacy is still filling prescriptions.
The Ratstrinkstube: Located in the Marktplatz, it was formerly a tavern for city council members and has a glockenspeil (clock) on it that plays out the story of the Meistertrunk many times a day.
The Christmas Shop: Near the Rathaus, it is Christmastime all year round. There is a fabulous shop that you must walk into even if you have no intentions of buying anything. It looks like Santa’s house in the North Pole. Warning do not try to take a photo inside. I usually ask permission but no one was available to ask, I thought, and I snapped a photo and was “asked not to” by someone coming out of a wall! Ah-hm!
A Bakery: You must check out a bakery while you are here because they are famous for their “Schneeballens”. These are slices of pastry dough rolled into a ball and covered with powdered sugar or regular sugar. Actually good tasting!
The Nightwatchman’s Tour: There’s so much more to see in Rothenberg, but the highlight if you stay til dark is the Nightwatchman’s Tour. He is the best! It starts in the Marktplatz in front of the Glockenspeil. You can join him on his informative “security” tour of the town, just as he had done for many centuries before, as he retells his stories of history of the town. He is sooo entertaining!
This is a small town not far from Sommersdorf on the backroads that is famous for being the birthplace of Wolframs von Eschenbach in 1170. He is noted as Germany’s greatest medieval epic writer and author of “Parsifal” between 1200-1210. Richard Wagner used his lyrics in his opera “Tannhauser” which depicts a contest between medieval singers. Wagner, by the way, was best friends with Mad King Ludwig who built Neuschwanstein Castle. It doesn’t take much time to see this town but it’s worth a visit. It teams well with a backroads trip to Nurnberg.
Nurnberg is a really nice city to visit but it is much bigger than the others. It is very “do-able” in a day. Since we went there during the Altstadtfest in September, our take on Nurnberg is quite different and I have written about it with Oktoberfest celebrations in other blogs. We loved the city! If you want to go there I would consult the Rick Steves book for what there is to see and do. Or… perhaps other Untourists can give their recommendations for it.
If you are into photography, you will love the town of Schwabisch-Hall. You’ll find photo-ops everywhere in this town. There are seven covered bridges that cross the Kocher River here. Yes, it is another of the double walled towns, and it's really fun to wander thru it and find the covered bridges. Here you will also find a round building that houses the Shakespeare Theatre, and be sure to check out St Michael’s Church which has some very interesting art work inside.
OTHER WALLED TOWNS:
Our last day in Bavaria happened to be a holiday so many shops were closed and it rained a lot, but it was the day that we planned to visit some of the smaller walled towns in the nearby areas. We traveled on the backroads to reach them which made it all the more fun. Some of those towns are: Ornbau, Merkendorf, Windsbach, and Abenberg. Since it was raining, all we did there was take a few photos.
Gate Tower in Ornbau
So that’s it for now but look for a blog on towns that are a little further distance from Sommersdorf to be posted soon. (I hope). Meanwhile check out my photos of Bavaria. I hope to post more very soon.