Friday, April 10, 2015

The Crap I Do for Photos

On Wednesday my Schwiegermutter and I had another opportunity for a day trip, and it was a beautiful day. We decided on Rottweil, another town I'd never been to. It's only 35 minutes by train, and it's interesting, pretty, unique and is the oldest town in Baden-Württemberg. It was founded by the Romans in 74 A.D., and archeologists have found lots of evidence of its origins underground.

I'll probably write a later post about the day in general, but the most dramatic business was my climb up the Hochturm (High Tower), just west of the Stadtmitte, or town center. I climbed it because it was there, and because I wanted to see the impressive view described in the town brochure.

Hochturm in Rottweil

The tower is only 54 meters tall and there are 187 wooden steps to get to the outdoor observation deck. It's a pretty comfortable walk up with a few platforms along the way. But let's start at the beginning.

To climb the tower you need to go to the Tourist-Information or the Dominikanermuseum to request the key. You hand over your personal id card, pay €1, and they give you the key and an info-and-instructions sheet.

Please note: Climb the tower at your own risk!! The city administration is NOT responsible for accidents or injuries!

That set the tone nicely.

Read the instructions on your walk to the tower:
  • No smoking.
  • Don't touch the Aufzugwinde (I don't know what an Aufzugwinde is, but I'm sure I didn't touch it.)*
  • Only use the fire extinguishers in case of fire.
  • Don't throw anything out the windows or from the observation deck.
  • No eating or drinking.
  • If you open any windows to take photos, remember to close them again.
  • Tower visits are limited to 15 persons at one time.
And here's the best one:
  • After you enter the tower, lock the door behind you from the inside.

I naturally followed all the rules (I do that), but it did feel weird to lock myself into a stone tower that was once used as a prison. I imagine this is to keep marauders from following me up. Another woman with a key showed up at the same time we arrived, which turned out to be a very good thing for me. My Schwiegermutter didn't want to climb, so she found an accommodating park bench and sat down to read about more details of the town. The other woman and I locked ourselves in and headed up.

Every time we got to a platform I thought maybe that was it, but then I found another set of steps and kept going. I hadn't realized yet that there was an outdoor observation deck, but she knew and kept saying there must be more. Finally I got to a narrow set of steps that felt more like a ladder, and I went half way up. The level above me was clearly the end - I could see roof rafters in a cone-like shape above me, and it was very dark. I stopped mid-stairs and said I don't think it goes any higher. She said it must and urged me on. If she had not been there, no way in hell would I have gone up into that tower attic. We fumbled around in the dark until she found a door and opened it. Sure enough - that led outside. 

She stepped out and said some version of "Holy crap!" It was not the view that was so stunning, but rather the flimsy low railing (just about rib-height on me) and the height. She kept exclaiming her nervousness and surprise, but took off around the tower roof. We were standing on concrete, which felt nice and solid, but the American in me likes the security of a high railing or glass barrier when standing on the tops of towers or buildings. 

I don't think I'm afraid of heights. I mean, I did it, and I think I walked all the way around. But I kept repeating "Holy Mother!" and didn't for a moment let go of that little iron railing. I had my big camera with me but took the pictures one-handed, leaning back against the tower's pointy roof. The other woman walked around the tower, returned to where I was (not far from the comforting door), and announced that she was going back down. SHIT! You're leaving me up here alone? What if the door locks? What if I'm stuck up here? I'm already dizzy, but I don't have all my photos yet!  Please - pretty please with sugar on top, DON'T LEAVE ME!  

She left. But not before asking me to hold the door open while she walked across the dark tower attic to the stairway because the light from outside would help her find the stairs. 

My flash is lighting up the dark scary tower attic.
The smart thing to do would have been to screw the rest of the pictures and leave with her. But no...I had to decide to prolong the horror and make sure I wasn't missing anything on the other side.

overlooking Rottweil

safety railing

the other side
At one point, leaning against the tower and holding onto the railing, I held my camera over the railing pointed down and took a photo. I'm not bothering to include it because it doesn't provide the terrifying effect I was aiming for.

Right, time to go back down. I held the door to the tower attic wide open and as I let go, and made a dash across the attic to the top of the steps. The next level down was lit well enough, so I anticipated no trouble. As my right thigh started to cramp, I remembered I'd only had coffee to drink since getting up, and (forgetting a former student's advice) no water. Silly twit. Now I face the danger of cramping and falling down the creaky wooden stairs with my good camera, and I remembered the locked door. Even if I yelled for help and my Schwiegermutter actually heard me, she'd have to walk 10 minutes to the Stadtinfo to get another key and perhaps summon the fire brigade to retrieve me with a stretcher.

I kept hobbling down, one step at a time, holding tightly to the wooden railing and cursing myself for wanting photos that weren't all that good anyway. "Hey look! The tops of houses!"

But like a cat distracted by a piece of lint, all of a sudden I spied the prison cell. "Cool!" I forgot my cramping leg and the creaky steps and shimmied around for the best angle.

I was relieved to reach the locked door and let myself out, ending with the thought that I wouldn't do that twice.

Then again, Ulm is on my plan for this spring and summer, and I know I'm going to do the same darn thing again just to take stupid pictures of the tops of houses and to say that I climbed the tallest church steeple in the world.

And not a soul is going to care whether I did or not.  Oh well. At least I'll have some photos to prove I did it.

*An Aufzugwinde is a hoisting winch. Yep, definitely didn't touch a hoisting winch.


  1. I've been to Rottweil but I didn't climb the tower. Locking yourself in does sound rather terrifying!

    The Indian restaurant in Rottweil is terrible! I couldn't finish my meal.

    1. I remembered you went to Rottweil, and I re-read your blog post when we returned. We have some of the same photos, unsurprisingly! I DID see a real Rottweiler there, but I wasn't quick enough with my camera and only got him walking away. A Rottweiler butt isn't terribly appealing, so the photo is useless.

      I don't enjoy Indian food anyway, so we wouldn't have been tempted by that restaurant. We chose a cafe next to the Rathaus.