When you think of successfully defending a town in 17th century, what comes to mind is brave soldiers in epic battles fighting with guns and bodies till their last breath to ward off the enemy. However, this is not how then-mayor of the German town Rothenburg ob der Tauber saved it. His heroism involved a bet and a 3,25-liter tankard of wine, the legend says.
On 30 October 1631, the protestant town on the Tauber river surrendered to the emperor’s catholic army of 60,000 men. That happened during the Thirty’ Years War. The emperor’s army was lead by General Count von Tilly, a merciless man who wanted to raze Rothenburg to the ground, because the town offered resistance. He also wanted to sentence to death the mayor and the city council.
Legend says that in an attempt to appease von Tilly, the leaders of the city council offered the General a wonderful 3,25-liter tankard with local wine as a welcome drink. After the fierce man drank a bit, he melted and became amused. His intentions changed. Instead of remorselessly demolishing the city, the General said:
“If one of you has the courage and is in the condition to drink this tankard in one draught, then the lives of the city council members shall be spared and the town shall be protected from annihilation.”
Mayor Georg Nusch accepted the formidable challenge. After ten minutes of uninterrupted drinking, the wine was chugged and Rothenbug was saved. Unfortunately, the savior of the town could not enjoy his success right away. It took him three days of blissful oblivion to recover, but he lived to a ripe old age.
According to some sources, Rothenburg was in fact forced to bribe the catholic forces with a huge amount of money and goods.
The inhabitants of Rothenburg still celebrate the salvation of the town by re-creating the event several times a year in the Emperor hall of the City hall. The event is called “Der Meistertrunk”, or “The Master Draught”. Cheers to the warriors who can save an entire city without a single weapon!
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