Groomed fields of sunflowers and wheat, vineyards, rolling hills, and dense forests checker the landscape between Wurzburg and Fttssen. It’s beauty was not lost on the German tourist industry, which christened the area the Romantic Road (Romantische StraJSe) in 1950; it’s now the most traveled route in Germany.
Europabus runs daily at 10am from bus platform #13 in Wurzburg to Fttssen via Rothenburg ob der Tauber. (Reservations 089 59 38 89; www.euraide.deroman-tic. 10% student discount, 60% Eurail and German Railpass discount.) A more flexible and economical way to travel the Romantic Road is by the frequent trains that connect all the towns.
ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER. Rothenburg (pop. 12,000) is the Romantic Roadstop. After the Thirty Years’ War, the town had no money to modernize; it remained unchanged for 250 years. When it became a tourist destination at the end of the 19th century, new laws protected the integrity of the medieval Altstadt; today, Rothenburg is probably your only chance to see a walled medieval city without a single modem building. After the war, the conquering general promised to spare the town from destruction if any local could chug a wine keg (3.25L). The mayor successfully met the challenge, then passed out for several days. The Meis-tertrunk is reenacted each year, and the town clock performs a slow motion version every hour over the Marktpl. For other fascinating tidbits of Rothenburg history, take the lhr. English tour led by the knight watchman, which starts from the Rathaus. (Easter-Christmas daily 8pm. 3.) The 60m tower of the Renaissance Rathaus, on Marktpl. provides a panoramic view of the town. (Open Apr.-Oct. daily 9:30am-12:30pm and l-5pm; Nov. and Jan-Mar. noon-3pm, Dec. Sa-Su only noon-3pm. 1.) The Medieval Crime Museum, Burgg. 3, exhibits tools of torture for anyone who can stomach the thought of iron-maiden justice. (Open Apr.-Oct. daily 9:30am-6pm; Nov. and Jan.-Feb. 2-4pm; Dec. and Mar. 10am-4pm. 3, students 2.) Head to Christkindlmarkt (Christ Child Market), Hermg. 2, and Weih-nachtsdorf (Christmas Village), Herrng. 1, which houses a Christmas Museum documenting the evolution of gift-giving. (Open Jan. to mid-May M-F 9am-6:30pm, Sa 9am-4pm; mid-May to Dec. also Su llam-6pm.)
Trains run to and from Steinach (15min. 1.75), where you can transfer to trains for Wurzburg and Munich. The Europabus leaves from the Busbah-nhof, next to the train station. The tourist office, Marktpl. 2, books rooms, ( 404 92. Open May-Oct. M-F 9am-noon and l-6pm, Sa 10am-3pm; Nov.-Apr. M-F 9am-noon and l-5pm, Sa lOam-lpm.) The cheery, spacious rooms of Gasthof Goldene Rose , Spitalgasse 28, are on the main street. ( (09861) 46 38. Singles 21-23; doubles 36-62.) Many other private rooms are not registered with the tourist office; look for Zimmer frei signs and knock on the door to inquire. Postal Code; 91541.
WURZBURG. The university town of Wurzburg is surrounded by vineyard slopes and bisected by the Main River. In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen discovered X-rays here and was awarded the first Nobel Prize. Inside the striking Fortress Marienburg are the 11th-century Marienkirche, the 40m Bergfried watchtower, above the Hole of Fear dungeon, and the Fiirstengarten, built to resemble a ship. Outside the main fortress is the castle arsenal, which now houses the Mainfrankisches Museum. (Take bus #9 from the station to Festung, or walk 40min. toward the castle on the hill. Tours depart from the main courtyard Apr.-Oct. Tu-F 11am, 2, and 3pm, Sa-Su every hr. 10am-4pm. 2, students 1.50. Museum open Apr.-Oct. Su and Tu-Sa 9am-6pm; Nov.-Mar. 10am-4pm. 2.502.) The Residenz houses the largest ceiling fresco in the world; the Residen-zhofkirche inside is a Baroque fantasy of gilding and pink marble. (Open Apr. to mid-Oct. daily 9am-6pm, Th until 8pm; mid-Oct. to Mar. 10am-4pm. 4, students 3. English tours Sa-Su 11am and 3pm.) Trains arrive from: Frankfurt (2hr. 2 per hr. 19); Munich (3hr. every hr. 39); Nuremberg (lhr. 2 per hr. 15); and Rothenburg ob der Tauber (lhr. every hr. 9). The tourist office, in the yellow Haus zum Falken on the Marktpl. provides maps and helps find rooms. ((0931) 37 23 98. Open Apr.-Oct. M-F 10am-6pm, Sa-Su 10am-2pm; Nov.-March M-F 10am-6pm, Sa 10am-2pm.) Postal Code; 97070.
With its position at the foot of the Romantic Road, in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, the name Fiissen (feet) is apt for this little town. The main attraction of Fiissen is its proximity to Ludwig’s famed Konigsschlosser (510). Within the town, the inner walls of the Hohes Schiofi (High Castle) courtyard feature arresting trompe-l’oeil windows and towers, and the Staatsgalerie in the castle shelters a collection of regional art. (Open Apr.-Oct. Su and Tu-Sa llam-4pm; Nov.-Mar. Su and Tu-Sa 2-4pm. 2.50,