Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"The Most German of All Cities"

We've finally made it to the Bavarian portion of Germany! Last week we took a long road trip that brought us to Nuremberg. It was a whirlwind visit because we had only a day-and-a-half but we made the most of it.

When I hear Nuremberg, the first thing that comes to mind are the Nuremberg Trials. Adolf Hitler called Nuremberg "the most German of all cities." While much of our trip centered around the history of the rise of the Nazi party, we found that there is much more to see in this modern metropolis.

Our arrival late in the afternoon allowed for a quick stroll through the Old Town as we made our way to the Bratwurst-Hausle for an early dinner. This most famous bratwurst house in the city has been grilling Nurnberger Rostbratwurst since 1313. The wurst was perfection and the accompanying sauerkraut was the best I've had! Wash it all down with a few Tucher Hefeweizens on draft and I'd say that's a pretty tasty German dinner.

Beautiful Fountain
Rising up 62 feet in the main square is the Beautiful Fountain. It was built between 1389 and 1396. Its intricate design boasts forty stone figures and a couple of lucky charms. There are two rings on opposite sides of the fountain. The most noticeable one is "for the tourists" and the other, more difficult to find, is for the locals. Make a wish, rotate the ring three full turns, and your wish will come true. Here's the catch: some sources say turning the ring will make you lucky in love while others warn that if a woman turns the ring she will become pregnant. I'm not sure what will happen in our case because we were greedy and we each turned both rings three times. Between us, we are either going to be very lucky in love or very pregnant. 

After sealing our fates (whatever they may be), we headed for the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle) looming grandly above the city. It is one of the most important imperial palaces of the Middle Ages. A Salian royal castle was built on the spot as early as the 11th century. The Kaiserburg was the official residence of the German kings and emperors from 1050 to 1571. It's a very easy walk to the terraces and you are rewarded with a fantastic view of Nuremberg's skyline.

Nuremberg at Night

The next morning we were excited to see Nuremberg in the daylight. We made our way back to the main square, to the Church of St. Lawrence. Construction began in 1270 and lasted for more than 200 years. It's a beautiful Gothic church with soaring pillars and magnificent stained-glass.

We decided to wait around until noon for a little show that happens every day at the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). A gilded 16th-century mechanical clock called Little Men Running performs every day at 12pm. When the clock tolls, figures of the seven Electors appear and pay homage to Emperor Karl IV. It was a charming sight to see and we were among about 50 other people gathered to watch.


Little Men Running

We didn't have much time left in Nuremberg before our road trip continued so we moved from sweet to sobering as we drove over to the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelande - the Nazi Party Rally Grounds Documentation Center. A visit to Nuremberg is incomplete without at least an afternoon, and possibly a full day, spent immersed in a chronological overview of the rise of Nazism. 

It's impossible to convey how much information is displayed within the Center, housed in the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall. The permanent exhibition is appropriately named "Fascination and Terror." Everything is written in German but the audio guides are wonderfully informative as you move from room to room, passing images of smitten teenage girls fawning over Hitler, haunting photos of atrocities at concentration camps, and films showcasing construction of the massive Rally Grounds in Nuremberg. The size of the complex is mind-blowing. Aerial photos are almost unreal.

Panoramic of Unfinished Congress

Luitpold Grove Park
We spent almost 3 hours in stunned silence inside the Center. Afterward, we walked across the street to Luitpold Grove Park. The City of Nuremberg erected a monument in the park during the Weimar Republic (1919-33). The monument was intended to commemorate the 9,855 Nuremberg soldiers killed during WWI. During the 1929 Party Rally, the Nazis incorporated the then-unfinished Hall of Honor in their staging of the cult of the dead. Hitler commemorated the fallen soldiers of WWI and the "Martyrs of the NS Movement." The ritual was intended to commit the "party soldiers" present to sacrificing their lives for the "Fuhrer" and for National Socialism. In 1933, Hitler had the park remodeled into the Luitpold Arena for the Party Rallies.

Ehrenhalle - Hall of Honor Now

Ehrenhalle Then

After 1945, Nuremberg turned the area back into a park. Today the Hall of Honor commemorates the victims of WWI and WWII, as well as the victims of the National Socialist rule of terror.

As we drove away from Nuremberg, my husband commented that he was glad we saw the city the way we did: initially our view was untainted, just another German town with a castle and some interesting churches - then, as the stark base of Hitler's rise to power.

In the end, I think Nuremberg has done a great deal to pay homage to the victims of Hitler's reign. His 'glorious' complex hovers unfinished in a time past but not forgotten, incomplete but still standing to serve as a constant reminder of the unimaginable.

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