Miltenburg is the first bead in a chain of German cities which Caspar, our cruise director, describes as “cute.” It is.
Narrow cobbled streets are lined with tall half-timbered homes and businesses.
We’re going to see a lot of half-timbered buildings in the next cities so I looked up some info (thank you, Wikipedia) on that building technique. Here’s how Wikipedia describes half-timber (“fachwerk” is the old German word for this style in this country).
The German fachwerkhaus usually has a foundation of stone, or sometimes brick, perhaps up to several feet (a couple of metres) high, which the timber framework is mortised into or, more rarely, supports an irregular wooden sill. Half timbering is a lattice of panels filled with a non-loadbearing material infill of wattle and daub, brick or stone. The frame is often exposed on the outside of the building.
Okay, that’s the definition, but here’s a better description: Imagine all those German fairy tales and Hansel and Gretel from your childhood books. Do you recall seeing those buildings which looked like a colored or white background with wood criss-crossing over the building’s front? That’s fachwerk or half-timbering. To me, it just looks like old Europe. And Miltenburg is full of it.
In fact, it’s so prevalent in this part of Germany that the area is known for its German Timber-Frame Road. They seem to like naming their byways with these descriptive phrases; heading to Rothenburg tomorrow, we’ll travel the “Romantic Road;” I’m thinking they have some great tourist marketing going on here…
Back to Miltenburg.
This is one location at which the Viking Atla docks right at the town; we meet our tour guide (Irene) just at the ship then we began our traverse of Miltenburg’s “old town” serpentine roads (we will be meeting at the day’s end, after “free time,” at a small plaza then boarding a bus for Wertheim where the Atla will have sailed during the afternoon).
It’s a small town with no autos allowed except those owned by local residents; quite a relief from dodging those pesky bicyclists in Amsterdam! We walk into an old wine cellar, built under the hill edging the town (with the de rigeur castle above all). We peek into a lower window in the Jewish section to see what’s left of a ceremonial mikvah (purification bath).
Irene points our chalk markings on door lintels, marking a blessing by singers during Advent (this is a very Catholic town with lots of statues and the like built into small building alcoves). We see “schneeballs,” handfuls of a light dough in the shape and size of a softball and topped with powdered sugar or frostings (I’ve heard they’re more of a tourist thing and, in fact, Irene confesses she’s never eaten one herself; I pass on this food purchase). We spot what is recognized as Germany’s oldest hotel (rooms can still be had for 88 euros/night; the photo of the room seems very intriguing but we have pretty luxurious digs on the Atla, so again, I pass on it); this is also where Elvis Presley drank beer during his years as a US soldier. Not really meaningful to me, but some passengers liked knowing that…
Many of the shops are run just as they have been for centuries; we found one butcher shop where the family had operated the same business out of the same building (and living upstairs) for 13 generations! At tour’s end we were excused to have some time on our own. I decided to take a walk up to the castle, above the town. Mom opted to explore the shops a bit. I walked up to the castle from the tour’s ending point, heading up to a church of some sort (there are lots of those in these parts so identifying a location by “at the church” isn’t really helpful usually) and then circled through the city park, making my way over to the castle’s mount. The park bordered the old city walls as well as the Jewish cemetery, located just outside those stone walls.
(scroll down for more text, I can’t get this to give me options for wrapping the text better–sorry!)
A traverse across the hill’s front (all on a path by the park) and I reached the base of the castle and walked to the pathway circling its front. There is a museum but I’d heard it’s all in German and the castle looks pretty “modern” inside so I passed on that expenditure (gee, I’m passing on a lot things today, aren’t I?). But the view outside was pretty nice–arching red brick bridge over the Main, the town below. Hey, this looks like a postcard! So I took some pictures, of course.
While I had no desire for schneeballs, I did feel I deserved some kind of a German treat so we ventured into Cafe Sell (“Spitzenleistungen in Conditorei u. Confiserie”) where I asked the women what they would suggest for a pastry specialty known in this area. Both women pointed me to a Miltenberger Waffeln sign with a tray of criss-crossed goodies behind it. I bought one. No, I have no idea what was in it, but it was certainly tasty.
We boarded our bus in time for a quick trip to Wertheim. Since this was a Saturday, the shops were closed (thankfully, a kind server at an Italian restaurant pointed out their restrooms since we had a 30-minute wait for the Atla after exploring the non-open downtown at Wertheim).
And that was our first medieval city.