“Untouched throughout WWII, Ravensburg remains decorated with the many beautiful medieval towers that have risen over the city for the past 600 years.”
Having arrived in Ravensburg, Germany on a Friday night after a less-than-pleasant twelve hours of traveling through three different countries, a good night’s sleep was the only adventure I had in mind. Following a rich dinner of spaetzle and salmon pasta, washed down with cold weissbiers and milky gelato, I headed straight to bed in my new temporary home.
The next day was spent running around town searching for essentials in the miscellany of little shops and boutiques that line Ravensburg’s cobbled streets. Slowly but surely we found sheets and spoons and bath towels and a good cutting knife and packs of tissues and little grinders filled with salt and pepper. We ventured to the only grocery store we could find in search of basics to fill our fridge, cradling and stacking bags of muesli and cartons of milk and packages of fruit in our arms because we didn’t have the coins we didn’t realize we would need to unlock a grocery cart. At the cash register, the woman furiously swept barcoded groceries past the scanner and stacked them at the end of the counter more quickly than we realized it was our job to just as quickly bag them. We apologized in broken German and received in return the first smile we had seen all day. Slightly less embarrassed at our inadequate bagging efficiency, Olivier handed the woman his credit card. As if in slow motion, the woman’s fingers fumbled with the heavy plastic and it fell from them and slid directly into the crack between the register drawer and the casing in which it sat.
We all three stared at the register in despair momentarily before the cashier looked up at us hopelessly. She said something in the language we could still not yet remotely understand, and reached for a piece of cardboard in efforts to slide the card free, but my attention had shifted to the long line of Ravensburgers that had formed behind us, and I felt my face grow hot as I realized I had no clue how to tell any of them what was happening or how sorry we were for holding them up. So instead, I smiled, because that’s always worked before, and a smile accompanied by a worried brow should be universally understood by speakers of any language, and I held that smile even in the face of the half dozen apparent glares and eye rolls that I received back, because it was all I had to offer. Welcome to Germany, I thought to myself, feeling more intrusive than I have ever felt in any place I had visited before.
We eventually retrieved the credit card, our efforts requiring the use of two other cards and a larger piece of cardboard, and made it out of the supermarket unscathed. The remainder of Saturday was spent seeking out the Rathaus, or townhall, in the city center (which happened to have none of the offices we were looking for but was instead playing host to a massive wedding attended by a crowd of a hundred or so biker men and women dressed entirely in black leather) and trying to forget the day’s stresses over a six-pack of beers which cost precisely €1,80. We retired early that night, eager to finally begin exploring the medieval wonderland of Ravensburg the next morning.
Equipped with Olivier’s new GoPro, we set out the next day to wander the city streets and were immediately drawn to the soaring edifice that stretched over the roofs of Ravensburg higher than any of its ten or so other towers. Untouched throughout WWII, Ravensburg remains decorated with the many beautiful medieval towers that have risen over the city for the past 600 years.
“It’s Rapunzel’s tower!” I declared, running up cobblestone steps in search of the building that unarguably belonged on the cover of a Disney DVD. Following the tip of the tower peeking out from behind buildings and over rooftops, we finally found its base at the top of a flight of steps hugging a cracked old building situated on the outskirts of the city center. What we had discovered was in fact called the Mehlsack, or in English, the “Flour Sack,” so named for its white plaster walls. The Mehlsack is a landmark of Ravensburg, recognizable from far beyond the city limits as it is located on the highest point of the old town1.
Behind the Mehlsack was another staircase, leading into the woods. To its left, another wooded path curling up into the densely forested hillside. Having just climbed three stories’ worth of steps not long beforehand in hot, 90-degree sunlight, I shamelessly pointed to the sloped path, preferring to continue our exploration in the shade.
Eventually, the set stone path turned to a loose rocky one, and before long we were in the woods, ascending to the top of the hill.
Eventually, the path opened up to a beautiful clearing worked into the uppermost part of the hillside. Wildflowers and small gardens decorated the area, and a few benches faced outwards, offering places of rest to those ambitious enough to venture so far above the Mehlsack. The benches face outward, offering panoramic views of Ravensburg and the sprawling forests, vineyard, and hills beyond. Behind them was yet another medieval structure, sat atop the hill’s highest point. Later research revealed that a hostel and restaurant together crown the hilltop.
Though beautiful, the hill’s peak was hot, abuzz with bees, and offered little shade, so after a short while admiring the views and deciding to visit the very top on a day when we planned to dine at its restaurant, we returned to the shaded path from which we came and began our descent back down towards Rapunzel’s tower for one last look before continuing our game of tower-hunting in Germany’s “City of Towers.”