A Great Place to Explore
In southwestern Germany, Wertheim is located at the confluence of the Main and Tauber Rivers. Founded between the 7th and 8th centuries, it is at a strategic location because of its commanding views of two rivers. The vantage point from their famous leaning Pointed Tower was used to guard the town for 800 years. Wertheim’s quaint cobblestone streets, half-timbered homes, bright floral window boxes and historic city center make it s great place to stroll around and take in the sites.
Crowds Were Thick This Day
The crowds however, were pretty thick during our visit to this little town. Tourism is the number one source of income for not only Wertheim, but most of Europe. For this large influx of tourists, shops and food vendors prominently displayed their wares for sale along the city’s bustling streets.
Great for Commerce, Bad for Flooding
Though a great location for defense and commerce, being at the confluence of two rivers gives Wertheim great vulnerability to flooding. Several locations throughout the city show these high-water marks of past floods. As you can see on this building near the river, floods in the past have been epic, causing much damage to the town.
To combat this force of nature, Wertheim has installed gates around the town capable of holding back minor flooding. Once the water reaches a certain level however, these gates must be opened because they can no longer hold back the increasing water pressure. In addition, streets were raised 1.5 meters, causing the odd site of the tops of some old doorways to just peak over the street level.
Wertheim’s version of the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” is what is called the “Pointed Tower”. This 13th century tower does not lean because of a flawed design, but because after 800 years of flooding, the ground underneath it shifted.
Lindor truffles chocolates, created by Swiss chocolatiers in 1949, have a hard chocolate shell with a sumptuous silky, smooth “melt in your mouth” chocolate filling. “Lindor” comes from the company’s name “Lindt” and the French name for gold, “or”. For a seasonal treat, in 1969, Lindt began selling these popular chocolates in the shape of balls covered in shiny, bright wrappers to look like Christmas ornaments. They were so popular that Lindt began selling the festive foil wrapped chocolate balls year-round. It appears that this store in the heart of historic Wertheim just might carry every flavor of the delicious chocolates!!
This glass shop, owned by Hans Ittig’s family in Wertheim, is filled with delightful and skillfully made colorful glass pieces such as ornaments, paperweights, jewelry and birds. He came onboard the ship one evening and gave a glassblowing demonstration. Hans comes from seven generations of glass blowing artisans and made the process look easy, but it definitely is not. There are many glass blowers in this area of Germany, and close by in Wertheim is the only glass museum in the state. Not only that, this small shop has a connection with the famous American glass artist Dave Chihuly. Hans is a guest instructor at his school in Seattle, the Pilchuck Glass School.
Old Jewish Cemetery
The oldest preserved Jewish cemetery in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, resides in Wertheim. Established in 1406, It is one of Germany’s oldest cemeteries, with 72 gravestones just from the 15th century alone, with the last burial here held in 1938. Jews were not allowed be buried with Gentiles, thus these segregated Jewish cemeteries were built. Note that the burial site is on higher ground, on a hillside, where river flooding is least likely to wash out the graves.
During wartime, Jews were required to wear items so that they could be readily distinguished from a distance. Men wore hats and women wore a brightly colored buttons on their coats. Today, men are still required to wear hats when entering this cemetery, as was the case for the men in our tour group.
Reducing Property Taxes Even Then!
Property taxes in the Middle Ages were assessed by how much of your home “touched the ground’, not by total square footage. As you can see, this clever homeowner saved some money by building his home larger on the upper floors!! That took some structural know-how!!
Coming up: The Rhine River Valley!! We are nearing the end of our cruise and the end of this European Journey!
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