Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Preserved by Poverty

Rothenburg, Germany founded in 1170 was strategically located on the Tauber River on the main trade routes from Paris to Prague and Scandinavia to Rome.  Not only was the city situated in a prime geographic location, it also benefited from rich farm and pastureland surrounding its well protected walled environs.  In addition to this, the Holy Roman Emperors granted the city the freedom to print its own currency and dictate its local affairs.  To say that the city was wealthy would have been an understatement.

But in 1631 a different picture began to be painted.  During the 30 Years War (1618-1648) a cold, wet, and hungry Catholic army passing by decided to make the Protestant city it's home for the winter (maybe being on two major trade routes wasn't such a good thing after all!).  The Catholic occupation lasted longer than expected and destroyed the local economy.  For the next 250 years Rothenburg was preserved by poverty.  While other German cities changed, Rothenburg was unable to modernize, so the old houses, buildings, and the cobblestone streets remained the same.

Around the turn of the 20th century Rothenburg became the haunt of poets and artists and they began to promote the medieval charm of the small but scenic city.  A brisk tourist trade was started and the town began to rebuild the wealth of its glorious past.  But in 1945 though the city was insignificant to the German war effort, 40% of Rothenburg was bombed by American forces trying to break German morale.  Fortunately, most of the damage was away from the oldest and most beautiful parts of the village.  Further carnage was avoided when Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, whose mother had visited Rothenburg before the war, made sure that no artillery was used against the city.  McCloy's restraint and foresight paved the way for the tourist trade to continue to bless the people of Rothenburg into the 21st century.

November 20-23, 2010, the Smiths and some of our Dublin friends joined church workers from across Europe along those ancient trade routes to the city on the Tauber and enjoyed its sights and sounds as well as some good Christian fellowship at the Euro American Family Retreat. - Shay       

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