Wertheim is a picturesque German town strategically located at the confluence of the Main and Tauber Rivers about 156 kilometers upstream from where the Main flows into the Rhine River. European river cruise ships such as the Viking Spirit often include Wertheim as a stopover point on Danube - Main - Rhine River cruises. The half-day we spent in Wertheim was a perfect introduction to this typical medieval village known for its glassworks, Franconian wine, shopping, and friendly people.
The Wertheim Castle (Burg Wertheim) was built in the 12th century overlooking the river junction and expanded during the 15th to 17th centuries. The fortress was destroyed in 1634 during the Thirty Years' War. Today the castle remains are among the largest in Germany.
Let's take a tour of the old town of Wertheim.
Pointed Tower of Wertheim - European River Cruise Port of Call - Wertheim, Germa
Everyone has heard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but Wertheim, Germany has its own leaning tower -- the Pointed Tower (Spitzer Turm). This 13th century tower does not lean because of an architectural defect, but because of 800 years of flooding. Wertheim's location on the edge of the Main and Tauber Rivers makes it susceptible to flooding, and many of the old town structures including the Pointed Tower have markers that show just how high the water has been over the centuries.
We visited Wertheim on a Grand European River cruise from Budapest to Vienna on the Viking River Cruises' river vessel the Viking Spirit. Disembarking the Viking Spirit, old town Wertheim was just a short walk, and the Pointed Tower was one of the first things we saw in the village. Like all of our ports of call, we had a wonderful local guide who entertained us with stories about Wertheim.
The Pointed Tower was originally built as a lookout tower, but also served as a prison for drunkards and feuding women. It seems that the medieval citizens of Wertheim liked their peace, and if two women were deemed to be shrews because of their fighting or bickering with each other, they were locked in this dark tower together for up to six weeks! They had to climb a ladder and enter the tower through the only entrance 30 feet off the ground, and then be lowered to the bottom of the tower with ropes. Food and water was also lowered to them, but they were kept "in the dark" together.
Wertheim, Germany - Village on the Main and Tauber Rivers
Fall is a wonderful time for a river cruise through central Europe, and picturesque villages such as Wertheim are seen all along the Danube, Main, and Rhine Rivers. One of the best things about a river cruise is the marvelous scenery you can see from the top deck or the observation lounge as the river vessel gracefully moves along the river.
Wertheim Market Square
The Wertheim Market Square is filled with well-preserved half-timbered buildings, many of which were built in the 16th century. We found the best-tasting pretzel at a small bakery on the square, and the wine shop also did a brisk business from the Viking Spirit passengers.
Bon-Apart Glass Gallery in Wertheim, Germany
Wertheim has long been famous for its glass works. The production of glassware and beaded jewelry started in medival times and continues today with industrial fiberglass and scientific glass.
The Ittig family has been in the glass business for over 150 years. They settled in Werthem after fleeing communist East Germany in 1958. Today Karl Ittig and his son Hans continue the family glassblowing tradition in Wertheim at their shop called bon-apart. Their gallery is an old half-timbered house on market square built for a knight named Zobel in 1520, and they operate a hot glass facility a couple of miles outside of the old town. The Ittigs also have a small building just off the Wertheim market square where they provide free high-speed Internet access (and a clean toilet) for cruise passengers.
Hans Ittig sailed on the Viking Spirit with us from Wertheim and did a glassblowing demonstration on board as we sailed towards Frankfurt. He was very entertaining, and most of us purchased glass thermometers or other collectibles either in the shop or on the ship. He took orders on the ship, and his colleague delivered the items when he came to pick up Hans at one of the locks. Great planning!
Wertheim Market Square Window
Like many people who love to travel, I enjoy hearing offbeat stories about the places I visit. This small window in a house in Wertheim is one of those stories. According to our local guide, the medieval citizens of Wertheim were very curious about what was going on in their small village. But, they didn't want their neighbors to know that they were spying on them in the streets below. Oftentimes, women would peek through their windows, but they ran a risk of being seen. This homeowner built a small window whose only purpose was to be able to see down the street.
Our guide explained that this curiosity contributed to the winding lanes of the old town. Having straight, perfectly aligned streets and homes means that you can only see what is in front of your home. With winding streets and irregularly aligned houses, you can see much more!
Franconian Wine of Wertheim, Germany
The Franconia area of Germany is famous for its wines, and the area around Wertheim, Rothenburg, and Wurzburg is filled with beautiful vineyards. Most Franconian wines are bottled in lovely round bottles such as these. Our guide told us that the 2003 vintage was one of the best ever for Franconian wines, and we could certainly confirm this fact by pricing the wines in the local shops. The 2003 vintage was significantly higher priced than other years!
Main River View in Wertheim, Germany
The Main River is very picturesque, with vineyards, small villages such as Wertheim, castles, and rolling hills covered with hardwoods. Fall is a perfect time to cruise the Main and Danube Rivers of central Europe.
Viking River Cruises' Viking Spirit at the Dock in Wertheim, Germany
Viking River Cruises includes a short stopover in Wertheim on its Grand European and European Adventure Itineraries. A half-day in this quaint, friendly village is a wonderful way to get a taste of Franconian life.