Nördlingen: Heeding the call of medieval pearl
“So, Gsell, so!” A strong voice shouts over the dark and sleepy town of Nördlingen, the medieval pearl of the Romantic Road in southern Germany.
It’s 10 p.m. and the voice belongs to the tower guard, or Türmer, who stands guard on the tall tower of the Church of St. George in the center of town.
When Nördlingen officials announced the opening for the traditional job of a tower guard on top of the city’s Gothic church — built between 1427 and 1539 — hundreds of interested people applied. Now three guards alternately do their duty between 10 p.m. and midnight every night on “Daniel,” as the 270-foot tower is known.
In the Middle Ages, the “So, Gsell, so!” call — which translates to “Hey, chap, hey!” — was intended to alert and make sure the other guards on top of Nördlingen’s 11 towers and five gates were awake and ready to reply to the call. Today, this tradition is unique in Germany.
When in town, make sure to climb the tower during daylight and look down on the crooked streets and ancient structures, on the red roofs and colorful facades of this medieval masterpiece that once was an Imperial Free City.
While you’re standing on the hub of a wheel that makes up Nördlingen’s layout, your view glides along the rim of that wheel formed by the old fortified wall that guarded the city through the centuries. Still intact, the wall protects the picturesque town and preserved its medieval character.
Climb this wall and you’re invited to a trip around a beautiful town and a romantic journey into the past.