Tauberrettersheim is a town of 839 people in the Tauber Valley just five-and-a-half kilometers upstream from Weikersheim. It is also nearly three kilometers upstream from Schäftersheim and roughly the same distance downhill from Queckbronn.
The name Tauberrettersheim means Tauber-Rescuer’s-Home or maybe Tauber-Savior’s-Home, though I have never found any explanation of how it got that name. (If you know, please leave me a comment below this post.)
When you cycle the five-and-a-half kilometers from Weikersheim to Tauberrettersheim you at some point cross the invisible boundary between Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. You also cross the invisible religious boundary between Protestant and Catholic communities, but this difference becomes very visible when you get to Tauberrettersheim because the town is full of religious symbols and statuary.
Not all communities in Bavaria are predominantly Catholic, but most of them are. Tauberrettersheim certainly is, and they make quite a show of it, perhaps to set themselves off from their nearby Protestant neighbors.
In the year 1987 Tauberrettersheim had 754 inhabitants, of whom 719 (= 95 %) were Roman Catholics and 32 were Protestants. (That leaves three unaccounted for.) Bavaria keeps close track of this sort of thing because predominantly Catholic communities are entitled to an extra holiday every year, Maria’s Ascension into Heaven on August 15th.
Predominantly Protestant communities also used to have an extra holiday called Buß- und Bettag (Penitence and Prayer Day), but that was in November when nobody was particularly in the mood, and it was abolished as a holiday in 1995.
When I went to Weikersheim in 2009 for the opera The Merry Wives of Windsor, I was hoping to stay at the guest house Krone in Weikersheim, which I knew from previous visits, but it was full as were all the other hotels and guest houses in Weikersheim in my price category, so I expanded my search by a few kilometers and found this guest house of the same name (Krone = Crown) just over five kilometers away. When I arrived in Tauberrettersheim I asked the owner if his guest house Krone was affiliated with the one in Weikersheim, and he said no, “he’s a good colleague, but otherwise there’s no connection.”
Actually, it was good to be staying five kilometers away because that gave me a pleasant bicycle ride each night after the opera, just as I always have in Frankfurt and other cities. Except that here it was a ride through the woods and fields. And the ride was a bit shorter because in Frankfurt I live seven kilometers from the opera house.
Like every other hotel, guest house or whatever in the Tauber Valley, the Gasthaus Krone in Tauberrettersheim provides safe and dry bicycle parking on the premises.
The one really unusual thing about this guest house is that the owner and his wife are folk musicians who perform regularly throughout the region as the “Original Taubertal Duo”. On the first Saturday evening of each month they put on a dance evening at the guest house. I didn’t happen to be there on one of those evenings, so I can’t say anything about it, but if you are a fan of German Volksmusik you might want to give it a try.
Address: Mühlenstraße 6/7, 97285 Tauberrettersheim
GPS 49°29’42.16″ North; 9°56’10.89″ East
Phone: 0 93 38 4 12
Both Weikersheim and Tauberrettersheim are located on the “classic” Tauber Valley bicycle route, which starts at Rothenburg and goes downstream for one hundred kilometers to Wertheim, where the Tauber River flows into the Main. This “classic” route is very popular with us older cyclists because it goes right down the valley and is therefore flat or slightly downhill all the way.
This cycling trail is very well signposted and maintained and is nearly 100% car-free. It was the first German bicycle route to be awarded all five stars for quality, safety and service by the General German Bicycle Club (ADFC).
There is also a parallel cycling route called the “sportive” route which goes up and down lots of hills just south of the Tauber Valley, for you young folks who like that sort of thing.
Most bicycle tourists seem to ride right through Tauberrettersheim without stopping, but those who stop usually do so to have a look at the stone bridge over the Tauber River that was designed by the architect Balthasar Neumann (1687 – 1753). This is said to be the only one of his bridges that still exists. Actually, Balthasar Neumann is best known not for his bridges but for the Baroque palaces that he designed and built, particularly the Residenz in Würzburg.
Unlike nearby Queckbronn, Tauberrettersheim was not damaged at the end of the Second World War, except that retreating German troops blew up the two middle spans of the historic bridge. These were repaired by 1947, and the bridge was given a thorough overhauling and restoration from 1979 to 1981.
The one church in Tauberrettersheim is of course a Catholic church, since 95 % of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics. There have been at least four churches on this site. The first was burned down by Swedish troops in 1631 during the Thirty Years War. The second was built from 1644 to 1663 and used for ninety years until it became too small and was replaced by a third church that was built from 1753 to 1757. This third church was used for over a century until it also became too small for the growing population, so it was replaced by the fourth church, which was built from 1861 to 1869. This is the church that is still standing today.
From the photo you might notice that the steeple of this church is in a rather unusual position, off to one side at the rear of the building. This is because when the current church was built from 1861 to 1896, they built it at a right angle to the former church, with a North-South orientation instead of East-West, but they left the steeple where it had been for the previous church.
This whole region is a patchwork of Protestant and Catholic communities, the reason being that in the 16th and 17th centuries people in rural areas were required (under the terms of the Peace of Augsburg from the year 1555) to take on the religion of their local rulers. At that time the Tauber Valley and surrounding areas were ruled by the aristocratic Hohenlohe family. Initially the whole Hohenlohe family converted to Protestantism, but later there was a split in the family and one branch reverted to Catholicism. So all the residents of the towns where this branch ruled, such as Tauberrettersheim, were required to re-convert to Catholicism. They have remained Catholics ever since, and most have no idea that this choice of a religious denomination was forced on their ancestors some fifteen or sixteen generations ago.
The kindergarten is of course also a Roman Catholic institution. Its attractive new building was completed in 1997. Although they say their first priority is the promotion of religious values, their list of pedagogical priorities also includes social awareness, arousing understanding of nature and the environment, language and media competence, exercise and health, mathematics, natural sciences, technical skills, creativity and artistic development.
As in nearby Schäftersheim, the streets in Tauberrettersheim are newly paved with asphalt, trimmed with brick edges, and are absolutely clean. There is an excellent sewer system. The houses are in perfect condition and have all been recently painted. The small yards are bounded by low stone walls and filled with carefully tended flowers, bushes and small patches of neatly trimmed grass. As I have said before, I could never live in a place like this — I’m a city person, after all, and have a somewhat more relaxed concept of tidiness — but I do have a grudging respect for the amount of effort and persistence that people in these places invest in keeping their villages clean and in perfect repair.
Like many other towns in the Tauber Valley, Tauberrettersheim has a long tradition of wine growing, going back at least to the year 1225, but there have also been slack periods when very little wine was produced here, such as the 1920s and the 1960s.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wine was a valuable commodity. In the year 1610 there were forty-six families in Tauberrettersheim that made their living by producing wine, and they even grew vines on the less productive north-facing slopes that no one would think of using for this purpose today. From the town’s website, I learned that for a bucket of wine in 1610 you could buy three sheep, two goats, one calf or one fat pig, and for three buckets of wine you could buy a cow.
In Tauberrettersheim I came across a street called Judengäßchen (Jews’ Lane) and one called Judenhof (Jews’ Courtyard), but no other indication that Jewish people once lived there. Later I learned from the website www.alemannia-judaica.de/ that there was a small Jewish community in Tauberrettersheim perhaps as early as the year 1700, when Jews were first allowed to settle in this area. In old documents there are references to Jewish merchants who lived and worked here in the second half of the eighteenth century.
In the year 1816 Tauberrettersheim had 50 Jewish inhabitants (6.6 % of the population, which at that time was 757). Like most people in Tauberrettersheim, the Jews here were mainly farmers, though several Jewish families were also shopkeepers. In 1845 a new synagogue was built at the address Im Judenhof 6, replacing an older synagogue from the eighteenth century.
In 1867 there were 63 Jews in Tauberrettersheim (9.0 % of 697), but after that the Jewish population went into a slow but steady decline as younger Jews moved away to work or study in other parts of Germany.
By 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, there were only ten Jews left in Tauberrettersheim, seven of whom managed to emigrate or at least move away in the next few years. In 1935 the remaining Jewish houses were attacked. One of the houses was repeatedly smeared with excrement. In 1936 the synagogue was decommissioned, so to speak, because hardly anybody was still there to use it. During the nationwide pogrom of November 1938, the disused synagogue building and the two remaining Jewish houses were attacked and furniture destroyed by Nazis who reportedly had been trucked in from Bütthard, thirteen kilometers to the north. In the winter of 1939/40 two non-Jewish residents of Tauberrettersheim were accused of selling firewood to a Jewish widow, Gretel Grünfeld, who was still living there.
At least seventeen Jews who were born in Tauberrettersheim or were longtime residents are known to have been murdered in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War. The former synagogue building still exists, but it has been remodeled several times and has been used as a residential house since 1945.
Catholic or Protestant, rich or poor, urban or rural, every German town or city has these vending machines right out on the street where you can indulge your nicotine habit 24/7.
In 2007, after a bitter political struggle, a new law finally went into effect, requiring buyers to insert a card proving they are at least eighteen before they are allowed to buy cigarettes. But it is still not clear whether this new law has effectively reduced the number of young smokers, since the tobacco industry is still doing everything it can to get teenagers addicted. Statistics from the German Cancer Society show that people who have not started smoking by age 20 have a good chance of remaining non-smokers for the rest of their lives. (And of course living longer than those who are addicted.)
Yes, it’s true that lots of Germans like to put up statues of funny little dwarves or gnomes in their gardens. (And lots of other Germans look down their noses at those who do so.) This statue of a sweeping dwarf is especially appropriate for an immaculately clean town like Tauberrettersheim.
As in many other rural towns throughout Germany, the volunteer fire brigade in Tauberrettersheim is one of the most important local organizations, not only for putting out fires but also for promoting local pride and social cohesion.
The volunteer fire brigade in Tauberrettersheim was founded in 1875 by the town council. Essentially it is a municipal institution, but since 1992 it has also been supported by a society called the Freiwillige Feuerwehr Tauberrettersheim e. V., with 90 members.
They also have a Youth Fire Brigade to train young people in the use of modern firefighting equipment. The only surprising thing is that the Youth Fire Brigade was only founded in 2004, much later than in many other rural towns in Germany. Including the youth group there are now 59 volunteers who take part in regular training sessions and are available for firefighting as needed.
Tauberrettersheim today is a prosperous town with a perfectly functioning water system, but not so many decades ago people really did have to fetch their water from a well or a pump. A few of these have been preserved and spruced up for ornamental purposes, though the roof on the well in the first photo looks as though it was ordered from a catalogue and not found in somebody’s barn or attic.
A very visible change in the 21st century has been the appearance of solar panels on the roofs of many houses for the generation of electricity. Though these panels are subsidized, they do require an initial investment on the part of the homeowners, so they tend to appear in prosperous communities like Tauberrettersheim rather than in poorer places. The investment is expected to pay off within fifteen or twenty years, however, because the homeowners have lower electricity bills and can sell any excess to the regional electricity company for a guaranteed price.
My photos in this post are from 2009. I revised the text in 2019.
See more posts on Weikersheim (and vicinity), Germany.