Much like Hiroshima, Nuremberg is a city that – through no fault of its own – remains intrinsically linked to the horrors of the Second World War. Gastronomic specialities such as lebkuchen (a soft gingerbready treat, somewhere between a biscuit and a cake in texture) and bratwurst reign supreme in the old town, with dozens of stalls and shops claiming to have the cream of the crop. A mere six kilometres away lie the Nazi Party Rally Grounds; once a malignant growth, today a benign tumour testifying to the unprecedented rise of fascism which began in Nuremberg over eighty years ago.
Whilst in Bamberg, Simone and I hopped on a train and visited Nuremberg for the day. It was only a short ride away, though it felt like worlds away from the medieval streets of Bamberg. Leaving the station behind, we headed straight for the city centre. En route, we passed market stalls pitching the new season asparagus and other local produce. Most of the retailers and cafés in Bamberg were independent; Nuremberg, on the other hand, felt every inch the cosmopolitan city. Towering above the cafés, restaurants and shops lining Karolinenstraße was Die Lorenzkirche (St. Lawrence’s). Inside, religious art – ornaments, sculptures and paintings – seemed to hang from every column and wall, and to me it felt a little like an over-decorated Christmas tree.
After a short circuit of Die Lorenzkirche, we crossed the river and shortly thereafter found ourselves in Hauptmarkt, the square where Nuremberg’s Christkindelmarkt is held. A modest crowd was gathered at the foot of Die Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), snapping away and clearly anticipating something. At that point in time, we hadn’t a clue what they were waiting for – though, as the bells chimed noon, it soon became apparent. Whirring into life metres above our heads was the Männleinlaufen of Frauenkirche. Installed in 1506 to commemorate the Golden Bull of 1356, this mechanical clock features the Holy Roman Emperor surrounded by prince-electors and miniature musicians. If you want to catch the display, you’ll need to be there for midday sharp. (Or you could just check out this video on YouTube.)
At the opposite end of the square, we found the Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain); touching the golden ring on the fountain’s gate is said to bring good luck. Continuing towards the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle), we passed Sankt Sebalduskirche (St. Sebaldus’), which was heavily patrolled by the Bavarian police force for some reason unbeknown to us, and the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). Before long, we were making our way up the cobbled path to the Kaiserburg, which was almost entirely destroyed during World War Two, but which has since been rebuilt. We didn’t pay to enter, instead opting to wander round the gardens and admire the view from the terrace.
By this time, we were beginning to feel peckish so made our way to Simone’s favourite burger joint – though not before passing a decidedly creepy sculpture, known as Der Hase (The Rabbit) and a homage to Albrecht Dürer’s masterpiece Der Feldhase (Young Hare).
Hans im Glück, for British readers, is a little like GBK or Handmade Burger Co., only better. There’s an absolutely huge range of burgers (including vegetarian and vegan-friendly options for non-carnivores), the lunch menu (burger, side, cold drink and hot drink for afters) is great value and the service was the fastest I have ever encountered while eating out. The only downside is that – bar one on the Austrian border – they’re exclusively in Germany. (Boo.)
Feeling suitably stuffed, we set off in the direction of Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof, to catch the tram to the Dokumentationszentrum (Documentation Centre). (The Germans really do love their long words.) The Nazi Party Rally Grounds once covered almost eleven square kilometres, though many of the proposed structures were never completed and the city reclaimed some of the land for itself in the aftermath of the war. Located in the former – and incomplete – Congress Hall, the exhibit Faszination und Gewalt (Fascination and Terror) explores “the causes, the context and the consequences” of National Socialism, with an emphasis on how Nuremberg’s history is forever entwined with that of the Nazi Party.
After naming Nuremberg as the “City of the Reich Party Congresses” in 1933, Hitler’s propaganda-driven project quickly took on a far more sinister note; just two years later, the Nuremberg Laws were passed, denying citizenship to thousands of people. Learning about Hitler’s rise to power was fascinating, but also terribly unnerving – standing in the places they once stood, being where they once were. While Nuremberg’s harrowing history was well-documented, the question of how to deal with its legacy remains.
On a final note, thank you, merci and danke to Simone for having me to stay – I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of Bavaria, and her insider knowledge led us to some real gems.
- If you travel on local trains (not ICE trains) in Bavaria, there is a special pass you can buy which gives you unlimited travel in the region for one day. On the ticket, you’ll need to write down the full names of each passenger (up to a maximum of five) travelling on it – and if you haven’t done that by the time the ticket inspector comes round, you’ll be looking at a hefty fine. If you don’t understand German your chances of locating it on the machines are limited, as there are so many options available, so check out this site (similar offers are available in other regions) or enquire at the ticket desk.
- Reaching the Dokumentationszentrum by public transport is a breeze – simply catch Tram 9 to Doku-Zentrum, the line’s eastern terminal. Entry is €5 for adults; concessions apply. Audio guides in several languages are available, at no additional cost.