A few scoops on life in Rothenburg, from when it was modern.
i.e. in the Middle Ages.
(All the the facts/information are from the Rothenburg Walking Tour)
- The beautiful iron signs with figures and symbols are above every business doorway—important for the days where literacy was atypical. Today most shops carry on with the tradition, helped along by strict building codes preserving the city’s medieval aesthetic. There was once a McDonald’s in Rothenburg and it too had an iron sign.
- Trees were often planted directly next to houses, only possible because of a particular root system that grows straight down. This allows the house foundation (and cellar) to remain dry—important for the storage of perishable foods.
- Believe it or not, this is a toilet! Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a walled city, as well as having 3/4 of it surrounded by cliff. The cliff-facing wall had these interesting gutter-like spots every so often. Fancier toilets had roofs or coverings shielding your rump, or even a toilet duo where you and a friend/partner could “do your business.” Now you know the real origin of this phrase (and I’m not even joking).
- Wealthy folks liked to show off their wealth. As per usual. Houses of well-to-do families often had their family crest on the outside. Stone was significantly more expensive than timber, so people would build their houses with stone fronts and timber sides/rears to show off their riches.
- Windows boast wealth. This is because there was a “window tax” for houses. I’m not sure what the city needs to tax windows for, but I guess any excuse to collect money is good enough.
- In medieval times regions each had their own, different, unit of measurement, though they were all called an “elle.” When traders moved from one town to another, they would need to go to the town hall in the city center and find the specific length marked for the local areal, and measure them in string to take back to their stand. In Rothenburg’s case, metal rods showcase these lengths and they remain on the building today.
- How was this length decided? This was ingenious, and yet another money maker! If a wealthy person (preferably the richest person living in the area) agreed to stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber for 5 years, they would have the right to decide the length of these measurements. 5 years of residency = 5 years of high tax revenue. What would the rich person get? Honor. And lots of it.
- Rothenburg was able to fix their own measurements from the year 1294 until 1811, when it became part of Bavaria. I use the word “decide” loosely here. It’s not really decided, nor is it completely arbitrary. The length of an elle was based on the length from the wealthiest committed tax-payer’s nose to the tip of his/her thumb (measured while giving a thumbs-up with full outstretched wingspan).
- This is a shoe scraper. It’s a common accessory to the front door of many houses, particularly on the streets where they could not afford fancy cobbling which were subsequently muddier (and…other filth-ier).
- The A-frame houses have a hook at the top, allowing the residents to pulley goods up to the top.
And finally, a bit on the clock shown next to the City Hall at the top of the page:
- Clocks were not a household object. For many, the bells told the time. The city clock, installed in 1632, chimes on the hour (until 9 or 10pm) and has a small show of opening/closing the windows on each side and slightly-moving figurines. It also has a sun dial at the top and a clock with a hand pointing to the day of the month. This was particularly impressive because people didn’t really know the day of the month by number, instead they used their patron saint’s names to identify important dates for meetings, festivals, etc.