Nordlingen is an 1100 year old Bavarian town along the Romantic Road that was built inside a meteor crater. The meteorite impacted the area 14 million years ago, creating a 24km wide crater, called the Ries Crater. A few towns are built inside the crater, one of which is Nordlingen.
Approaching one of Nordlingen's 5 City Gates"
Nordlingen has an intact medieval city wall, complete with 5 city gates. You can walk on the city wall for free; it took us about 1.5 hours to circle the town on the wall. From the wall, we got a clear view of the city below. One thing that caught our eye were the half houses built into the city wall. Some houses had one half their house built on one side of the wall, the other half built on the other side of the wall, making the city wall part of their house structure and using the moat to form their garden
A Walk on Nordlingen's intact Medieval City Wall - Nordlingen, Germany
Half Houses built into the City Wall that People Currently Live In, Nordlingen
As we walked the wall, we looked out the small openings in the wall, probably used to look for approaching enemy and saw what looked like a drained moat. Since the wall was no longer needed for defensive purposes, people have used the moat as part of their backyard, adding basketball courts, trampolines and mini golf courses to it. The city has also repurposed parts of it for playgrounds and parks.
Mini Golf in the Moat of Nordlingen City Wall"
City Wall View from the Moat, Nordlingen, Germany
The meteorite impact created a rock called suevite. The townspeople used this rock to build a church (St. George) in the middle of town and its tower, called the Daniel. For a small fee, you can climb the Daniel. Very creaky old wooden stairs climb 90m (about 300ft) to the top of the bell tower. It was by far the scariest thing this acrophobe has done. Once at the top, the view is priceless. In the foreground, clusters of red roofs of the town below stretch out to form an almost perfect circle in every direction. In the background, small hills encircle us in every direction, forming the perimeter of the meteor crater wall.
View of the Daniel Church Tower from the City Wall
Afterwards, we walked out of Nordlingen town and headed towards the crater wall about 10 km away. (Nordlingen is near the middle of the crater). The return hike was 20km, which was a little further than our little one could have handled within the time constraints that we had. (If we were more capable of handling long distances, we would have walked to the next train station and caught the train there to Munich with the tickets I held – the Bayern Day Ticket. Checking Google Maps, it states the walking route would have been 28 km. Food for thought for anyone who might be interested in a long day hike or biking.) On the hike that we did do, we walked through neighborhoods, fields of wheat and corn, bordered by typical country roads, all on the floor of the crater wall. Look for suevite rock chips along the way. Along the way, we walked past a suevite rock outcrop named Hexenfelsen where, we were told by staff at the Visitor Center, women branded as witches were burned at the stake in the 1500s.
Hexenfelsen - Meteor Rock Outcrop, near Nordlingen
Walking by farm inside the Ries Meteor Crater, near Nordlingen, Germany
For movie buffs, if the pictures of Nordlingen seem familiar to you, you may have encountered Nordlingen in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, (the first movie). We arrived at Nordlingen by train, with the Bayern daily unlimited travel pass for 28EU return tickets for our family of 5. There was a connection that we had to make at Donauworth coming from Munich. The ride was about 2 hours. On a Saturday morning, we were greeted by a town market on the way to the center of town, not too far from the Daniel. Look for the information sign indicating the visitor center. The English-speaking gentleman who worked there was very helpful in helping us get oriented and offering information about the town wall hike and the hike towards the crater wall. There were free public restrooms available for use as well, not always the case in Europe. Of the German towns we visited, Nordlingen was our favorite German town, due to the crater history, medieval city wall, intense walk up an old creaky stairway for a wonderful view of the town and wide open spaces just outside the town itself.