Franck Fernandez – Translator, interpreter, philolohist
The old Roman saying, “All roads lead to Rome”, could not be truer, as the Romans, in their desire to expand their Empire, built roads that crossed all their territory. They thought them to be the best way to get from one place to another, and relatively quickly. Many of today’s great highways that cross Europe, lie on, or are drawn close to, the ancient Roman roads and continue to serve general and commerce.
It is very relevant to our topic, as we will talk about the Claudia road and the Claudia Augusta roads. They used to link different sites of the formerly called Germania, today to the south German Bavaria.
A good part of these Via Claudia and Via Claudia Augusta, serve as a layout for what, since 1950, is called The Romantic Road (Die Romantische Straße). It is considered the greatest tourist attraction in all of Germany. It was its original purpose, but it was totally destroyed during the World War, as a strategy to change the very negative image Germany held at the time.
This idyllic route begins in the city of Würzburg. Personally, I believe that the capital of Bavaria, Munich, should be considered as an integral part of this tour and of great cultural and natural interest. Among other things, Munich is famous for being the seat of important museums, such as the Alte Pinakothek and the Neue Pinakothek (old and new art galleries), the BMW car museum, and large international holdings from different sectors of the industry. The extraordinary State Opera Theater (formerly the Residence Theater in the time of the Bavarian Reign) and a renowned ballet company, the famous Bayern football team are also in the city. But, let us come back to the main topic: our Romantic Route. It runs through 27 cities and towns, as well as beautiful forests, mountains, lakes, meadows, convents, palaces and vineyards; which are very attractive to all visitors.
As I mentioned before, the Romantic Road begins in the city of Würzburg, with its famous residence of the bishops’ prince of the city, a beautiful example of German clay, and a World Heritage Site since 1981. Another town that the Romantic Road crosses is town of Nördlinguen, a former free city of the Empire, which has preserved its medieval air. There are currently 3 German cities, including Nördlinguen, that keep their walls intact, but can be visited freely. An interesting fact about Nördlinguen is that it sits on the impact crater of a meteorite that crashed there 15 million years ago. It is of common knowledge that, there were enormous quantities of diamonds and precious metals, created by the pressure of impact, as well as in Yucatan. In any case, Nördlinguen managed to remain as it since the 14th century, due to its defeat in the Thirty Years War. The great death toll that this war left behind, caused the impoverishment of the city. Except for some Gothic and Baroque palaces, the city has not changed ever since.
If we follow the Route we arrive at the beautiful city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which, as its name implies, is located on the banks of the Tauber River. This city suffered the same fate as Nördlinguen after the Thirty Years War, therefore, it remained almost intact as well. One of the nicest facts about it, is that Rothenburg has a permanent Christmas. City shops specialize on Christmas decorations and everything that has to do with these festivities. It is amazing how, for example, in mid-August, under great heat, tourists buy nutcrackers and decorations for their Christmas trees.
Further on is the city of Augsburg. It was founded in the time of the Emperor Augustus, in the Roman outposts of Germania. It is the most important city on the Route, in terms of population. Here, one should visit the Town Hall and the Basilica of San Ulrico and Santa Afra. Saint Ulrico was bishop of Augsburg shortly before 1000.
In the town of Schongau is the Wieskirche, the White Church, is another beautiful example of German Baroque. This church was built after a miracle occurred. A girl saw an image of the scourged Christ cry, and immediately brought a large number of pilgrims. It used to be a small chapel, but then the church as we know it today, was built.
With the arrival of the Napoleonic Wars, at the beginning of the 19th century, came the secularization of many temples as well. This one was saved from being demolished, because it was bought by ladies from the region. Today it belongs to the Unesco World Heritage.
We then approach Schwangau, the highlight of this tour. Neuschwangstein Castle (see our article from December 5, 2014) was built under King Louis II of Bavaria, and was an inspiration to Walt Disney for his world-known Sleeping Beauty castle. One can also find the Hohenschwangau Castle, from the 12th century.
The end of the Route is marked by the small city of Füssen, where there are excellent hotels, and it is the departing point for trecking in the area. I particularly recommend the Seegasthof Weissensee, where one can taste their traditional trout. Employees themselves fish in the lake that gives the hotel its name, Weissensee. located on its banks. One can see the lake and the pre-Alps, from the balconies, covered with pine trees and low clouds. That is a memory that will remain for life in your memory. If the Romantic Road tour is not enough for you, you always have the possibility to continue your trip through Austria, a few kilometers from Füssen. It is the continuation of an extraordinary journey of beautiful landscapes, art, history and culture.