Goodness gracious, this sounds like the start of a joke — what do you get when you cross a Cistercian monk with a Walloon, a United States politician, and an owner from Macy’s Department Store? I’ll tell you what you’ll get, the town of Otterberg in the Palatinate, Germany.
Go on, ask, what’s the connection? Let’s start with the easy ones first, OK?
Otterberg is the hometown of Nathan, Oscar and Isidor Straus, the former and latter being co-owners of the very famous Macy’s Department Store — and it was Isidor who was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He tragically died over a hundred years ago on board the ill-fated Titanic. His brother, Oscar, was also a politician, and a diplomat.
Three famous hometown boys? Wow, there must be something in the water over here. ;-)
As for the Cistercians, Otterberg is where you’ll find an outstanding Romanesque/Gothic Abbey Church. The medieval monastery might be long gone, but the old church is still going strong — and said to be one of the largest of its kind in the whole state.
Now, what about the Walloons? And what is a Walloon, by the way? Ah, this took research, my friends. The Walloons are (were) French speakers from the Wallonia region of Belgium — but they came here and built these absolutely extraordinary half-timbered houses that still stand to this very day.
As for old buildings, the Altes Stadthaus (from 1753) is now a Local History Museum that does a much better job of explaining the hundreds of years of history of the place. ;-)
And as you’re walking around town, don’t make the same mistake I did — those old looking walls aren’t just there to fence in people’s yards — they were once part of the town’s original Stadtmauer, or defense wall; and they date back to the 12th and 13th centuries.
Don’t forget when you’re in Otterberg to visit the Otterburg. Yes, I know that sounds funny — but the Otterburg was once a castle from the 1100s, although only parts of its wall are the only thing that remains.
Drats, I want a castle. I guess I’ll have to settle for a festival or two; good thing Otterberg has a bunch of them. There are no less than four Kerwe celebrations (July, August, September, and October), a Wine Festival, an Easter Market, and an Oktoberfest.
Yikes, almost forgot about the Altstadtfest (Old Town Festival) in August, the two Christmas Markets, the Village Festival, and the Schloßbergest.
Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t be making jokes — and pay more attention to the fantastic and enchanting town of Otterberg. ;-)