Next stop, Nuremberg?
Nuremberg is a strange city. There aren’t many people around. Unlike most other cities worldwide, I didn’t see any crowds anywhere, despite the lovely hot weather. It reminded me of The Truman Show: I stood in a completely deserted town square, then I walked round the corner – and there was a group of people walking towards me. It was just as though a director had called, “Action!”
The city of Nuremberg has a three and a half mile long city wall around it, with four towers dating back to 1350; one at each corner. They’re known as the Fat Boys. In the usual German way of not wasting anything, the towers are lived in, and used as studios. Ninety per cent of Nuremberg was flattened by American bombs, but a lot of it has been rebuilt in its original form. The Way of Human Rights is an area with 30 pillars, designed by the Israeli architect, Dani Karavan. There is one article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on each pillar. It’s just after the Red Light District, with the Medieval Monastery on the right. Nuremburg accepts responsibility for the darker side of its history. It was once called the ‘City of Party Rallies’ but re-invented itself as the ‘City of Peace and Human Rights’.
I realise that Germany’s Nazi era was a terrible time. But I couldn’t help admiring them for admitting their crimes and having to come face to face with the shame every day, and do wonder if Britain has ever admitted to being wrong about anything! There was no graffiti or litter anywhere. It’s all immaculate.
We crossed over the River Pegnitz, which divides the city in half, and our guide Karolla proudly told us that Nuremburg has 400 crusades a year! It turned out that she meant cruises, but I prefer the crusades image! On the left of the bridge was a plaque commemorating a synagogue that was destroyed in August 1938, a few months before the Night of Broken Glass (known as Kristallnacht), when 101 synagogues and 7,500 Jewish businesses were smashed and burnt by gangs of Nazi youths. Twenty six thousand Jews were arrested and 91 were killed.
On the other side of the bridge was a sign for an Irish bar. The Holy Spirit Hospital dates from the 1300s. They used to throw all their dressings and rubbish out of the windows and into the river. At noon, I went to see the mechanical clock and glockenspiel of the Church of Our Lady in the main market square. A synagogue was destroyed in violent riots in 1349 and the church was built there in 1355. We all gathered in the square, as crowds have for over 500 years, and waited.
As I watched the trumpeters, piper, flautist, drummer, and the seven electors spring briefly into life above me, I tried to imagine what the Medieval audience would have made of it. They must have been absolutely fascinated. We were completely gripped by the sight, even in our modern world. It really is a mechanical marvel. Let’s hope that it continues to work for at least another 500 years!
Also in the square is the Beautiful Fountain, dating from 1385. It resembles a Gothic spire. In the surrounding railing is a gold ring that supposedly grants your wish if you silently twist it three times and make a wish. I twiddled a similar ring in Hanover, but my wish hasn’t been granted yet, so I had another twiddle for luck.
Over the other side of the square is a modern statue called the Ship of Fools. It’s very noticeable, and absolutely hideous! Nuremburg has sculptures everywhere. Some are good, some aren’t but regardless they are interesting to see. Nuremberg’s famous Christmas Market is held in the square.
Our lovely guide Karolla, a well-endowed lady, effortlessly trotted up the hill in the strong afternoon heat, with us huffing and puffing along behind her, trying to keep up. There are some quirky shops in the city too, including a Gingerbread Bakery on the edge of the Market Square. At the end of August, many small bakeries start baking the traditional winter gingerbread by hand.
Along the road lies the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop. It has been open 365 days a year for over 45 years, selling traditional German Christmas decorations. The workmanship is excellent, but it’s way above my Pound Shop Christmas price range. I was shown over 100 different types of mustard in Der Senfladen, and tasted quite a lot. Delicious. Something for everyone! Nearly next door is Das Schmuckzimmer aka Nuremburg’s smallest shop which sells mainly jewellery. Only a couple of customers are allowed in at once, as there’s no room for any more. Down the road you’ll find a Puppenmacherin (doll maker). Her medieval shop wasn’t much bigger than the Schmuckzimmer and she sat proudly surrounded by dolls, clothes and accessories. I had the feeling that if I’d tried to purchase some of the dolls grouped outside, she would have limited the number I could buy, or just burst into tears!
There are signs of Albrecht Durer everywhere. I must admit that I’d never heard of him. He was Germany’s greatest painter and graphic artist, and lived from 1471-1528. I visited his house, then had a ride in a velotaxi; a bike with room for two passengers. The drivers work very hard, pedalling up and down the hills. At St John’s Cemetery I met our guide, Ursula Katt who is 90 and has lived in Nuremburg all her life. The 750-year-old graveyard has over 6,000 tombs. Again, in the German practical way, they all have owners. Fresh air destroys the bodies within 10 years, so the tombs will never be full. However I’m not sure what they’ll do when they run out of space for plaques on the outside. It’s a beautiful place, bursting with floral displays, and neatly laid out. Albrecht Durer’s tomb is there. Unfortunately, and embarrassingly, the weather was red-hot, and we couldn’t keep up with the amazing Ursula, so we had to admit defeat, and gave up. I asked her for a copy of her diet, but she just laughed.
On the way out, we passed a red squirrel, watching us from a tree. Saying goodbye to Ursula, I caught a tram back to the hotel. I would have liked to have spent more time in Nuremberg. It’s a very interesting city, with absolutely loads to see and do. There are museums to suit everyone. And there is as much to see underground as there is above! Tours are available in ancient tunnels everywhere. Something that I loved was taking shortcuts, walking along alleyways, across courtyards, up steps, and out onto the street again. It’s allowed and encouraged. Great fun! I ate in the world’s oldest sausage producers’ restaurant. They’re traditionally served on pewter plates, preferably with sauerkraut and potatoes. Six sausages each! As there are plenty of restaurants to suit every budget, with a choice of locally produced beers and wines, the social life never stops. But I’d love to know the secret of the locals’ health and fitness. Is it the sausages, or the beer? I never did find out!
NEED TO KNOW
Lyn travelled with Eurostar, Deutschebahn and Thalys and stayed at the Park Inn Nuremburg
Trip arranged by Railbookers Ltd
14 Bonhill Street ∙ London ∙ EC2A 4BX ∙ United Kingdom
Tel. +49 (0)911 214 86-0
19 90402 Nürnberg
Christmas Store (open year round)
Nuremberg Königstraße 8 90402
Tel: + 49 (0) 9861-4090
Nuremberg’s smallest store
Gisela Meyer Bergstraße 23 D-90403
Albrecht Dürer’s House
Albrecht-Dürer-Straße 39 D-90403
(English language guided tours take place every Saturday at 2pm)
Visit of St. Johannisfriedhof (St. John’s Cemetery) by Velotaxis (www.velotaxi-nuernberg.de)