How it all began


In 1950, the Korean War broke out. US President Harry S. Truman ordered the hydrogen bomb to be built, Jerusalem became the capital of Israel and India was officially declared a republic.

And in Germany? In the still young Federal Republic, ration cards, which had been given out since 1939, were finally done away with. The 'Economic Miracle' ensured ever-increasing prosperity and yet it was a time of contradictions: on the one hand, the lovely new consumer world, on the other, the still ruined towns and cities – consequences of a devastating war, started by the criminal Nazi regime.


A road as a flagship

What the inventors of the Romantic Road had in mind would be called active image cultivation today. When the holiday route between Würzburg and Füssen was officially brought into being in 1950, it was intended to be the flagship of a friendly Germany, a Germany far away from the Hitler terror and the piles of rubble: a route rich in culture and history, with Medieval towns, half-timbered buildings, palaces, castles, gentle hilly landscapes and vineyards, one after another, like pearls on a string. A trip through a country that is open, friendly and closely linked with the history of Europe.


GIs on the Road

It was a bold undertaking in many respects, but it came off: American soldiers were the first to take their holidays on the 'Romantic Road'. They wanted to show their families where they had been stationed – and they were impressed by the Medieval townscapes in Rothenburg and Dinkelsbühl, the delightful Tauber valley, the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Bad Mergentheim, and the picturesque landscape in the Pfaffenwinkel.


A trip with romance guaranteed

Of the some 200 holiday roads in Germany, no other has become so famous as this 460 kilometre-long stretch from the River Main to the Alps. For some years now, it has occupied a regular place among the top travel destinations of overseas visitors and it has namesakes in Brazil, South Korea and Japan.
These days, millions of people every year visit the Romantic Road, which lives up to its name as a long-distance cycling and hiking trail. Some people make for just a few destinations, others stop in each one of the 29 places. They admire the Church of Our Lord in Creglingen as well as the Wies Church in Steingaden; they enjoy the view of Wertheim castle as well as the view of Neuschwanstein from the Marienbrücke, and the gardens in Rain as well as the meadow landscape around Wildsteig. But it doesn’t matter how long you stay: everyone who goes on this trip is richly rewarded. With culture, enjoyment – and of course, romance pure and simple.

Romantic time travel

Today and yesterday

A tourist route is not created every day. In 1950, the first signs of the economic miracle began to emerge. A visit to the cinema cost one deutschmark and anyone who could call a car their own in the new Federal Republic of Germany had already gone a long way.

Today, nobody can say what gave the founders of the Romantic Road the courage to launch one of Germany's first tourist routes. Indeed, their names are now largely unknown even between Würzburg and Füssen. In the American occupied part of a Germany divided into four zones, they pinned their hopes on a stream of tourists from the USA.
Tourists came in ever increasing numbers. And not just from the United States. Today, the name Romantic Road can also be seen on the road signs in Japanese. Initially, of course, the name became known among American soldiers who took their families on vacation here. However, the Augsburg founders wanted more. Their aim was to rehabilitate Germany as a holiday destination following the years of Nazi terror. With the medieval towns along the Romantic Road, they wanted to show not only Americans but also holiday makers from all over the world a different, lively and multifarious picture of Germany – a country fully integrated into the history of Europe.
No other German tourist route is as well known throughout the world as the Romantic Road. For example, according to a poll conducted in the nineties, 93 percent of the Japanese who are capable of travelling have heard of it, i.e., almost all. The future, when one in two Japanese will have travelled the Romantic Road seems close at hand when, shortly after nine, the morning tranquillity in the Pfaffenwinkel district is broken as coach after coach unloads its cargo of Japanese guests at the parking area near the famous Church in the Meadow.
But what is the Romantic Road? If a straight line is the shortest connection between two points, the Romantic Road is undoubtedly the most attractive connection between more than two dozen South German towns, all of which hold staring places in travel guides on the region. The best known of them are Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the wine, cathedral and Baroque city of Würzburg, Füssen, Augsburg, the city of the Fugger family and silver, and the small but delightful town of Dinkelsbühl. Visitors who have already travelled the length of the Romantic Road will be able to add to these names. Landsberg, perhaps, or Nördlingen. Bad Mergentheim with its Castle of the Teutonic Order and Feuchtwangen. It is the towns that exercise the real power of attraction along the Romantic Road. 
In principle, one hears today, it was the Romans who built the road. And this is quite true. For the southern part at least and if you can ignore the fact that, like the Romantic Road, the Via Claudia follows the course of the River Lech from Füssen to Augsburg but does so along a different route. In 47 AD, the Via Claudia Augusta was extended via the Reschen and Fern passes and Füssen to Augsburg and then on to the River Danube.