I don’t even like shopping, yet Rothenburg is just so charming, welcoming and relaxed, that it imbues with joy even one of the most stressful and tedious [for me] activities.
Tiny Rothenburg is a GREAT shopping destination. But you won’t find Prada or a Zara megastore in in Rothenburg’s medieval center; instead, the entire town is like an adorable DeutscheMart. If you want to stock up on quintessentially German souvenirs and gifts, Rothenburg has got you covered with everything from embroidered textiles and meter-tall Bavarian beer steins, to wood-carved cuckoo clocks, antiques, jewelry, toys, and smoked sausages.
The crowning jewel of Rothenburg’s shopping scene is the EPIC Christmas emporium Käthe Wohlfahrt. Before going in, The German joked that perhaps he should take away my wallet. I scoffed at the suggestions; I have always been immune to the red-and-green bonanza that plagues everything in the U.S. for the month of December. Oh, how awfully unprepared I was for awaited me inside!
Käthe Wohlfahrt is a real-life Christmas fairy-tale. As you go from room to magical room (spread over several levels, no less!) the store reveals a seemingly endless array of holiday-themed treasures. There are decorations made of wood, tin, glass and porcelain, delicately carved nativity scenes, and a whole village populated with plush animals. Well-appointed Christmas trees are decorated each according to their own unique color schemes and themes, be it orange-and-green woodland creatures, or champagne-and-purple bells and stars. Trust me when I say – you will want to buy everything! The person in line in front of me rang up a €3,500 tab! Thank Saint Nick that my own budget doesn’t compare, or I wouldn’t be able to help myself.
But one of the most fun aspects of shopping in Rothenburg had nothing to do with what’s inside the stores and everything with what’s on the outside. I am talking about the delightful signs hanging above the town’s many shops — as well as guest houses, restaurants, apothecaries and other establishments. Each one was different, each one was special in its own right. I absolutely loved exploring Rothenburg’s narrow streets in search of new and creative signage.
I don’t know why these signs fascinate me so — I loved hunting them down in Tallinn and London too. Maybe because we don’t have them in Moscow. Or because I associate them, and the gingerbread houses they adorn, with illustrations of European fairy tales from my childhood books. Whatever the reason, every little thing about Rothenburg made my Magical German Fantasy come to life.