I was surprised to see so many people wearing 17th century clothes, when we arrived in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. For all I knew this could be a tradition here, given the historical status of this city and seeing lederhosen and dirndls as common place in Munich, but not even close. We had walked right into a medieval festival named Der Meistertrunk, which translates to The Master Draught.
When History and Legend Meet
This festival transports you back to the year 1631, smack in the middle of the Thirty Years' War, the longest conflict Europe has seen to this day. Count Tilly and his Catholic army have taken over the town of Rothenburg after three full days of fighting. Even after the siege, Count Tilly is still met with resistance from the Protestant citizens of Rothenburg. This outrage forced the hand of the Count and he ordered his 60,000 men army to destroy the city and also execute the mayor and all city councilors.
The city councilors are shocked and offer the Count more of the Franconian wine which had been grown outside of the city of Rothenburg. The wine comes in a large tankard holding 13 Franconian pints. In today's measurements that would be 3.25 liters or 0.86 gallons of wine. The view of this substantial amount of wine made Count Tilly joke, that he would spare the town, if one of the city council members could swallow the entire amount in one go. Georg Nusch, one of the council members stepped forward, and chugged the entire wine
Der Meistertrunk, The Master Draught Festival Today
Based on this legendary story, local poet Adam Hörber wrote Der Meistertrunk play, which premiered in 1881 and is still performed every year during the Pentecost holiday weekend in May. There were many events going on around the play in the city center including a military parade, many market stands with historical souvenirs and sword throwers practicing on a large lawn.
If you cannot make it to the festival in May, take a stroll to the City Councillors' Tavern, which was only accessible by town council members back in the day and acts as the Tourism office for Rothenburg ob der Tauber today. The windows next to the clock on the building open every hour on the hour between 10am & 10pm. In the left window you will see Count Tilly looking over to the right window in awe of Georg Nusch drinking all the wine in one go. Catch a video of it here, even though it is a bit shaky
The Real Deal?
If you would like to see the alleged tankard, head over to the Reichsstadtmuseum in Rothenburg and look for the Kurfürstenhumpen, dated 1616. In this museum you will also find much more about the medieval history of Rothenburg including paintings, sculptures, and even weapons used to fight Count Tilly.
Watch German TV Documentary about the festival.
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