The Romans, the salt trade, the railway – many different influences have come to shape Rosenheim. Today, the city is a real winner thanks to charming architecture and southern flair, and a wonderful location between mountains and lakes. Text: Markus Stein, Photos: Bernhard Huber
Who would know better than the well-travelled English! With “Rosenheim, The Loveliest Health Resort of South Bavaria”, this is how “The Rosenheim Kaiserbad Tourist Association” in London advertises a trip to Bavaria’s faraway Chiemgau region. Via Holland, along the Rhine and past Munich, we’ll be heading to Rosenheim for five days. The health resort is equipped with all modern facilities.
And the surroundings: “Splendid Fishing and Boating on the Lakes and Rivers. Mountain Climbing, Cricket, Polo & Golf. Magnificent Scenery”. This can all be read on a poster from 1908 in the Rosenheim Municipal Museum. Its brief, splendid existence as an imperial spa from 1882 to 1917 is long gone – Kaiser Wilhelm I was a guest a total of seven times – but Rosenheim is more lovely than ever.
Dolce vita bavarese!
Especially on a sunny September day like today. After days of rain, the sky is back in its Bavarian best, with white, sheep-like clouds on endless blue pasture. Passers-by adorning sunglasses stroll over the cobblestones. A babble of voices emerges from under sunshades. The cafés and inns on Max-Josefs-Platz, including such traditional institutions as the “Gasthaus zum Stockhammer”, “Fortner – Weinhaus zum Santa” or “Café Bergmeister” are all well-visited.
Arcades and serene tones
The square is the heart of Rosenheim, characterised by old patrician houses in the Italianate Inn-Salzach style. With arcades and strikingly high, cubic façades, plus the protruding fire protection walls that have been considered a good idea since the great city fire of 1641! In the so-called “Grabendächer” (trench roofs), which cannot be seen from below, water was collected for fire fighting.
The colours of the façades are friendly and cheerful, light green, pink, light yellow or light blue. This is matched by the bright orange of the full Aperol spritz glasses on the tables. The houses are so high that only the onion-shaped dome of St. Nicholas Church can be seen in the east.
Toni Sket, landlord for 50 years
“Rosenheim is the gateway to the south, and it has a lot of southern flair,” Toni Sket says as he describes his city. Toni, an enthusiastic “Trachtler” (traditional costumes lover), may have grown up in Passau, but “Rosenheim is my home,” he proudly confesses.
“Rosenheim offers so many possibilities for guests”
He has been a landlord with heart and soul for 50 years, and since 2005 for the “Wirtshaus Zum Johann Auer” Inn, a stately building originating from Germany’s “Gründerzeit” - the country’s economic period that preceded the great market crash of 1873. “Rosenheim offers so many possibilities for guests,” Toni continues, “you can enjoy all the amenities a city has to offer, such as cafés, restaurants and cultural offerings, and yet you’re not far from the Chiemgau mountains and the many lakes in the surrounding area. And you can quickly get to Munich, Salzburg or Innsbruck for a short trip. Ideal for holidays!”
Toni’s “Inn” can be found on Ludwigsplatz, the terrace was built directly over the Mühlbach stream and poses as a wonderfully secluded spot in summer. One speciality from the kitchen is venison from the Bavarian State Forests of Ruhpolding: roe deer, stag, chamois. Fresh fish, especially whitefish, originates from Lake Chiemsee. The full-bodied, tangy “Johann Auer”, a dark wheat beer and Toni’s favourite, tastes great with a good meal.
As a caterer, the busy restaurateur feeds the film crew behind the TV series “Rosenheim Cops” (only in German). “The city has benefited a lot from the TV series over the last 20 years.”
Inn meets Mangfall
Rosenheim lies at the confluence of the Inn and Mangfall rivers, in an area so beautiful that people have been settling there since the dawn of time. In Roman times, two trade routes met here: the one from Brenner to Regensburg and the one from Salzburg to Augsburg. The Romans protected the crossing with a military station. A settlement arose.
The name “Rosinheim” first appears in a document in 1234. In the Middle Ages, trade on the Inn River ensured prosperity. The Thirty Years’ War brought with it decline; the upswing began in 1810, when Rosenheim developed into the most important saltworks in Bavaria. This existed until 1958.
The brine was brought from Berchtesgaden via a more than 80-kilometre-long wooden pipeline, and the firewood was carried on cattle routes stretching from the forest areas around Schliersee and Tegernsee on the Mangfall. Another milestone for Rosenheim was the connection to the railway network in 1858, followed by the elevation to city status by Ludwig II in 1864.
Onwards to Mangfallpark
Just a few minutes’ walk from the historic town, you can experience Rosenheim’s two rivers in Mangfallpark. The former site of the State Garden Show stretches one and a half kilometres along the Mangfall to where it flows into the Inn. There, at the “Inn-Spitz”, the brown water of the Mangfall clearly differs from the shimmering green of the Inn.
A magical place where the two meet, before hurriedly moving on northwards and finally disappearing between dark floodplain forests. In the opposite direction, to the south, our view meets the broad ridge of the Riesenberg mountain on the horizon.
A hat with holes?
Plenty of greenery, old trees and benches in the park encourage visitors to linger, along with a sculpture path to be marvelled. Barbed installations. In one meadow, for example, a “luminescent forest” thrives, a forest of street lamps that light up at night.
A call against the encroachment of cities and the over-exploitation of nature? Or the “Raining Hat”, a giant hat with holes, stretched over a stream through which the water drips – symbolising that nothing is perfect and perfection is merely an illusion?
Home is always to hand
The love felt by jewellery and fashion designer Florian Blickenberger for his craft, on the other hand, is no illusion. The thirty-something is a native of Rosenheim and runs his shop “Mamma Bavaria” in Riedering, a few kilometres beyond. The Bavaria insider has travelled the world extensively – and returned to Rosenheim.
“We live in a paradise!”
“Everything is so cosy and manageable. You walk through the city and meet many acquaintances, and take a moment to look at each other. Add to that the mountains and lakes in the surrounding area, and we clearly live in a paradise!” Florian is delighted by his hometown.
The journeys and the changes he experienced gave him the idea to create “a piece of Bavaria to take along and have by your side”, Florian explains. This is how high-quality rings, bracelets or traditional costume fashion with symbols such as the Bavarian lion or the Bavaria figurine are created.
The highlight is the handmade pendants in the shape of summit crosses, for which he was “inspired by the most beautiful peaks in the region”. Of course, it includes a summit cross from Rosenheim’s local mountain – Hochries. “The summit cross pendant is a symbol for achieving one’s goals in life,” explains Florian as he describes the thought behind the piece of jewellery.
Colourful stained glass windows
From the summit cross, it is not far to St. Nicholas Church (spiritually speaking, that is) near Max-Josefs-Platz. A good place for a quiet break or the chance to seek inspiration. Its eye-catching features include twenty colourful, modern glass windows in the otherwise white plastered interior of the newly designed Gothic church.
The windows on the south side symbolise the beautiful sides of life with many rose petals in warm colours – yellow, orange, red – while the less beautiful side – pain and suffering – are represented by the cold blue tones on the north side. There are 30 minutes of organ music every Saturday from 12 noon, the new organ is considered to be top-class among its European counterparts.
In the name of the rose
Roses grow a few steps to the south in the Riedergarten, a small city park. The park includes an apothecary garden with medicinal plants, a children’s playground and a Kneipp pool. Shade is provided by old, partly exotic trees such as the Chinese sequoia, copper beech, Japanese zelkove or whitebeam.
But where does the rose in the name and coat of arms of the city come from? Some say it was originally called Rossenheim, named after the steeds that pulled the transport ships upstream. Others cite the word “Roas”, which used to denote swamp and peat areas. These still exist in the surrounding countryside.
But “roses” could also have meant the many pretty young girls in town. Another less romantic, but plausible answer: the counts of Wasserburg, who held sway in the region during the age of knighthood and who had three silver roses in their coat of arms, essentially donated a rose to the settlement at that time – and Rosenheim more than deserved it!