Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lodgings: Gastehaus Uhl

If you’re looking for a medieval city, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Rothenburg o/T) in Germany is one of the best. Being such a charming historic city, many of the hotels are expensive, but it is possible to stay inside the walls at a very affordable price without sacrificing comfort or services.

My hotel of choice is the Gastehaus Uhl. Located just a five-minute walk from the market square, it is very close to the town’s major attractions, and the view from some of the upper floors is a beautiful scene over the top of the wall through the valley beyond.

Far from being just a place to stay, the Uhl family has run the historic building as a café and bakery for 30 years. At the top of the list for me are schneeballen (snowballs) – basically deep-fried balls of pie crust coated in sugar, chocolate or flavored icings (on the lower-left shelf below).

Aside from the great geographic location and the fact that the building dates to the 1600s, the things that make Gastehaus Uhl the perfect place to stay are the rates and the friendliness of the owners.

In a city where comparable rooms cost 80 euros and above, I stayed at the Gastehaus Uhl in December of 2008 for 55 euros per room.

When I went to Rothenburg in 2006, I had not reserved the room for the first night, thinking I might stay somewhere between Frankfurt and Rothenburg. When I arrived in Rothenburg, I found Gastehaus Uhl full until the following night. Robert Uhl, who somehow manages to work six or seven days per week and remain cheerful, managed to get me a room in a neighboring guesthouse for the same rate, and let me use his parking spot for my car.

The rooms are comfortable, but small – like most in Europe. I’ve always stayed on the fifth floor, and there aren’t any elevators. The whole building is spotlessly clean, which is something of the norm in German lodgings. Both of the top-floor rooms have showers, and one has a view of the street while the other has a view of the countryside and wall. The room with the street view has a tropical mural on the wall, which always makes me laugh.

The café is reasonably priced, and the menu features a wide selection of German favorites. I really, really liked the wiener schnitzel with potatoes. The cookies, pastries and other desserts are excellent, and if you are up early enough, you can probably get them fresh out of the oven (or fryer, in the case of schneeballen). The schneeballen are softball-sized, and the Uhls sell about 25,000 each year.

The Gastehaus Uhl sits on the Plonelien, a street that keeps popping up in postcard shots. The half-timbered buildings with the nearby tower that spans the street make for a good photo, as I tried to capture below. (The building with the light on top that shines at the tower is Gastehaus Uhl).

In my stays at Gastehaus Uhl, I have yet to find any reason to stay anywhere else. With the location, prices and friendliness of the staff, it would really be hard to beat.

The Café and Gasthaus Uhl is located at Am Plonlein 6-8, Rothenburg ob der Tauber 91541, Germany.

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