47km (29 miles) S of Würzburg, 106km (66 miles) NE of Stuttgart
Most of this spa town's fame derives from its role during and after the Renaissance as the home, beginning in 1525, of the Teutonic Knights, one of the most durable orders of feudal knights. From their base in Bad Mergentheim, they received tributes and pledges of allegiance from as far away as Lithuania. The knights' way of life ended abruptly in 1809, when Napoleon forcibly disbanded the order, consequently threatening the very existence of the town.
But Bad Mergentheim's fortunes were reversed in 1826, when a shepherd discovered rich mineral springs a short walk north of the town center during the time when Germany's spas were expanding at a rapid pace. The water turned out to be the strongest sodium-sulfate water in all of Europe; it was said to have health-giving properties, especially in the treatment of digestive disorders. With the knights gone, the little town had discovered the key to its future prosperity.