OK, I have to admit...I kind of liked it.
For years I've been the person on this forum who recommends people don't go far out of their way for RodT. I stil maintain that. If you trip is Berlin-Munich environs I think it's a little bit crazy to go far out of your way to visit RodT because, as I always say, no matter where you go in Germany there is a charming, probably un-bombed town within 30 minutes train access.
That said...if you are doing the Romantic road, or staying anywhere nearby for whatever reason, a night in Rothenburg is a great idea. Yes, it's touristy. Yes, it's cliche. But at night the crowds go away and it is kind of magic. I am a little embarrassed at myself for being swayed by it, but here I am.
My history with RodT is part of the problem. I'd just lived in Germany a few months when my Grandmother visited and insisted on going there, as she'd been there in the 1970s as part of a coach trip and it was the highlight of her tour. This time, her and my mom complained about walking from the free parking, saw the Marktplatz, ate lunch, and were ready to leave. For a 5 hour round trip drive (traffic in and out of Stuttgart is notorious). Just a month later my in-laws had seen the Rick Steves episode about RodT and demanded to go. We pushed back but it was their first trip to Europe and they got their away. Another long, hot drive (our car didn't have AC) but it was similar to the trip a month prior, except that we saw the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum. But we were probably in town less than 3 hours.
So yes, I was biased. But on my two previous trips I'd visited with people with mobility issues so we didn't get to explore the city fully, so that made a real difference this time. And I hadn't realized the extent of RodT's defensive buildings, because I'd only seen the city from the gates where we parked from. So this time, unencumbered, on foot, I was actually pretty impressed.
The Night Watchman's Tour is actually pretty great. He's got great comedic timing, but more importantly for me, he conveys accurate historical information in an entertaining way. (This is the reason I stayed here, honestly - I may or may not give tours in a city with a history similar to RodT's and was curious how he framed complicated historical issues in a simple and entertaining way. He is very good at what he does.) We also got lucky with the late afternoon light hitting the Spital quarter during the tour which made for a great photo op. The tour itself was pretty insane in terms of people - at least 100 started, mostly Americans, and by halfway through we'd picked up at least 50 more. This blew my mind a bit. He collected money at the end and it was clear a lot of people didn't pay, which is a real shame. My husband heard one American dude claiming, "Oh it's a free tour, we can tip if we want to," which is not true and he made it clear. That said, he must really clean up even if only half of the attendees pay.
We stayed at Gasthaus am Ploeinen, which I cannot recommend enough. A modern studio apartment in an old half-timbered building, with a balcony right against the city wall overlooking the Tauber valley and part of the old city, with a kitchen and an amazingly comfortable bed for only 86 euros. In theory you can drive to drop off your luggage but I'm still not sure how that would have worked, but we were able to drive through the bastion at least and near the hotel before the tourist hordes made it too difficult to maneuver. A few more things in the next post...