Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nürnberg

I got into Nürnberg (aka Nuremberg in English; that confused me for a while) in the afternoon. Once I found my hostel (awesomely situated right by the Alstadt/Old City wall and the opera house), I headed out to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, the largest collection of German historical artifacts in the country. Unfortunately, museums and other indoor activities seem to close at 5 all over Germany, so I only got to spend an hour or so in the museum.

I walked over to a tourist-directed reconstruction of old Nürnberg called the Handwerkerhof, where little shops sold cuckoo clocks and lebkuchen. I ate Nürnberger sausages with sauerkraut and had a dessert of warm lebkuchen with ice cream and strawberry jam! (YUM)

In Amsterdam and Hamburg, the sun set quite late -- around 10 or 10:30 -- which made for good sight-seeing. Even in Nürnberg, which is in the middle of the country, the sun set late, so I spent a while wandering around. I found Nürnberg's small red light district, totally by accident, when I saw a series of women in their windows and wondered what they were doing. (They had more clothes on than the ones in Amsterdam, so I made an honest mistake!) I also found a memorial set up with the humanitarian laws set up after the Nürnberg trials, one law each on a series of columns. Each column had the law in German and one other language, which ranged from English to Hebrew to Hopi, for a series of about 25 columns. Lastly, I ambled over to the Opera House to see what they were playing. You know what I'm missing by about 2 weeks? The Ring Cycle. In Nürnberg.

The next morning, I headed out to Luitpoldhain, a part of the city southeast of the old center where the Nazi rallies were held. The Kongressbau, which was to become the Nazi seat of power and whose architecture was meant to best the Colluseum in Rome, was never finished and is now the headquarters of the Dokumentzentrum (which just means "document center"). It's a museum that details Hitler's rise, the part Nürnberg played in his plans, and what happened to the leaders of the party after the war.

After the exhibit, I walked outside to see the Grosse Strasse ("Big (Main) Street") of Leni Riefenstahl fame ... think of old footage of Nazi soldiers marching in lines 50 people long. This street could easily hold such a number, and bystanders on either side of them. I could see on my map that the Meistersingerhalle was nearby, so I excitedly went to find it, but it was nothing but a 70s-style convention hall. Boo.

I went back into the old town, and with only a few hours before museums closed, I tried to figure out the Nürnberg bus system, but to no avail. Frustrated, I chose a museum nearby: the Verkehrsmuseum, which houses both the Deutsche Bahn (National Raiway) museum and the Post (Mail) museum. Each one led me through the history of the field in Germany. I started with the train museum, which had among its collection one of Ludwig II.'s coaches, dressed up as elaborately as his castles were. In fact, he called it "Neuschwanstein on wheels".

The Post museum's best (and most confusing) part was a side-by-side representation of the systems in East and West Germany through the latter half of the 20th century. The womens' uniforms, blue suits in the West, looked more like mumus in the East!

A heavy and sudden onset of rain made it hard to leave the area, even once the museum closed, so I went to a nearba sushi restaurant, which was served to me on a model train. (Yesss...) Once the rain let up, I took my chances and hiked around through the Altstadt, which really wasn't as big as I feared, and saw all the picturesque "stuff" one's supposed to see in Nürnberg -- the Hauptmarkt, the Schöne Brunnen, various churches. (Funny story: As you may know, Nürnberg was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire, which categorically made it a Catholic town for many years. However, once Martin Luther started doing his thing, it eventually reached Nürnberg, which decided to incorporate it, and eventually the city lost its Catholic "backing." Near the middle of the city, one can see a Catholic and Lutheran church sitting side by side.)

The best part was hiking up to the Königsberg (King's Fortress) at the north end of the Altstadt (the old city's built on a hill). Although the castle itself was closed to the public for the day, the view from the top of the hill was marvelous -- I could see everywhere I'd just been.

Unforunately, all that hiking caused me to sleep through tickets to "Late Night Opera" (actually described as cabaret and musical theatre songs) at the Opera House at 10:30 pm (!). This trip is great, but at the pace I'm taking it, I may be ready for another vacation! Next stop, Freiburg.

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