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Rothenburg as a Stage Set

We spent 12 days scrambling to film our Reformation special. And the last stop was the historic German town of Rothenburg.
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We spent 12 days scrambling to film our Reformation special. And the last stop was the historic German town of Rothenburg. If the town's good enough to use as a location for "Pinocchio," "Harry Potter," and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," it's good enough to film "Rick Steves' Luther and the Reformation."

Rothenburg scenes like this (the Burgtor) are perfect for on-camera bits.

For over 30 years I've been bringing groups to Rothenburg, promoting it in my guidebooks and featuring it in my TV shows. And Rothenburg, which recognizes the value of our partnership, was extremely supportive of our filming needs. Oberbürgermeister (Mayor) Walter Hartl, understanding how tight our schedule was, presented me with a lovely proclamation of appreciation without a big and fancy banquet. The medieval-style wax seal was still warm.

Upon arrival in Rothenburg, we scouted every museum, church, and possible film location. This was essential if we were to use our time smartly. The wonderful Imperial City Museum had the perfect place to recreate the moment Luther discovered the verse in Romans that said Christians are saved by grace and don't need to earn it or buy it. But we needed a big old Bible and a proper table. Nearby, one of my favorite restaurants (Altfränkische Weinstube) had the perfect table. The boss was gone, so we had to do some fancy talking for the cleaning lady to let us walk out of the place with a table.

With the perfect corner in the museum, artful lighting, our table in place, and a Bible that was actually 500 years old, we were ready to film. Here, Second Cameraman Tim Frakes sits in for me as we tweak the lighting. Can you imagine how beautiful that shot will be as I say:

He found his answer in Paul's letter to the Romans. It read: "The just person shall live by faith." With that key phrase, Luther discovered what he considered the "good news": that salvation is not earned by doing good works or giving the Church money, it's a free gift to anyone who believes. Luther decided the subject should be debated openly.

After hiking into a forest to shoot the bit when Luther ran from the law before hiding out in Wartburg Castle, we paused for a crew shot: from the left, Cameraman Peter Rummel (who shoots nearly half our TV episodes), Cameraman Tim Frakes (who produced the Luther show I did for the Lutheran Church 15 years ago), Producer Simon Griffith, and me. Working hard is very rewarding with creative partners like this talented crew.

It's just great how, as we get older, our gear gets lighter. For a TV crew, we pack extremely light. I took a moment on the curb of the Frankfurt airport to show exactly how much our crew of three packs when we are making our TV shows (including a carry-on bag each for personal gear). The crew flew home, and I got off in London to start a three-week research stint in southern England.