There has been a settlement in Landsberg am Lech since the bronze age and it was a prosperous place in the middle ages due to the salt tax levied on passing merchants. Now it benefits from tourism and I find it a busy little place as I cross the River Lech into the heart of the old town.
The main square is strangely triangular in shape leading up to the 13th century Schoner Turm (beautiful tower). Opposite, is the town hall with an impressive stucco façade designed by the same architect as the Weiskirche, the popular pilgrimage church further south on the Romantic Road.
In a smaller square, beside the parish church, a craft exhibition has been set up and at one stall a local metalsmith is demonstrating how he makes bells, pouring molten metal into moulds.
On the recommendation of the tourist office I follow a flight up steps up to the State Museum, but then decide not to go in as there is apparently a lack of any information in English. Luckily my trek is not wasted as I find the Jesuit Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche opposite. Though rather plain on the outside, it actually has a very beautiful baroque and rococo interior.
I return to the river by following the defensive walls and cross the Karolinen Bridge to walk along the eastern bank of the River Lech. Many people have the same idea, drawn out by the sunshine though wrapped up against the cold wind. I’m rewarded with a fine view of the town and I also find a curious fairy tale tower, known as the Mutterturm. It was built at the end of the 19th century by artist Hubert von Herkomer to function as his studio and a museum dedicated to his work is based in the adjoining house.
Shongau is another walled-town but this time it’s situated on a high hill above the Lech River, although the romance is ruined by the surrounding industrial areas with smoke belching paper mills and lots of large lorries clogging up the roads.
Up inside the old town walls it is thankfully more peaceful and this is also because I have arrived while everything is closed and everyone is having their lunch. Fortunately, the main sites are still viewable, including several beautiful churches and a former monastery cloister, bordered on one side by medieval ramparts and featuring a rose garden with each rose dedicated to one of 63 women who were executed during the 1589-92 witch trials.
The medieval ramparts also surround the cemetery and opposite I find an unusual fountain with a metal sculpture of 3 knights on horseback and a chain which is probably related to the former prison and torture house nearby.
Only 4 kms away is the more modern, sleepy town of Peiting. St Michael’s church is boring both inside and out, and the local museum opens infrequently and not while I am there. But it does offer a warm and welcoming café with antique style furniture and large communal tables, and also a very peaceful aire next to a small stream and an outdoor swimming complex.
A few kilometres outside the town is the Villa Rustica, a Roman villa dated to about 200 A.D. and opened to the public in 2012 with an adjoining garden of Roman plants, herbs and vegetables.