Nürnburg – a city of slightly ignored history (Part I)

Nürnburg is an unusual city.  As I have mentioned, Berlin is the city that never forgets and München is a city that i has a hidden past.  But Nürnburg is a city with a past, right there i the open, that isn’t forgotten or isn’t fully address.  It’s kind of in the way.

Normally I tell you about the events of a day, but I mostly want to focus on what I learned about this unique city.  So here is the short version.  Left Füssen in the snow.  Drove on autobahn 3 hours.  Stopped to spend 2 hours in a laundrmat making clothes clean.  Arrived in Nürnburg and started exploring the afternoon away.  Went to soccer game.  Slept in.  Got up.  Explored more.  Okay, now that we got that out of the way, back to my story about the city.

There are 2 aspects to Nürnburg.  First is the old town.  The old town of Nürnburg, or Altstadt, is over 1000 years old.  There is a castle on hill (known as Kaiserburg) that dates to around 1000 AD.  The whole Altstadt is surrounded by a wall (or the 5 km of the wall remaining).  Outside the wall is a moat – or at least a ditch that should have been filled with water.  Apparently they never got around to actually filling it.  Like any town, it’s been invaded, survived the plague, dealt with the 30 years war, seen many emperors and kings turn over, been seized a few times, bombed during the war and of course now is preserving it’s old buildings and churches, as many German towns are doing.  We explored the town in 3 sections.  The first day we went into the middle of the town.  We started at the Hauptmarkt – the daily market running in the middle of Altstadt.  This market has stalls selling food, clothing, kitchen gadgets, wood working, pottery, bags, buttons, wool, hats, knitting etc.  This is the daily market, but the extension of it in December is the family Nürnburg Christmas market – one of the biggest and best the world has to offer.  But even without Christmas, the markets are wonderful.  We started here and slowly grazed through the stands.  He enjoyed himself a bratwurst with onions (which is ordered by the 1/2 meter….) and I, of course, enjoyed the wonderful German food known as the breze (a breaded pretzel).  The brezen (plural of breze) have become one of my favourite snacks.  It is a pretzel mixed with an olive garden breadstick.  Salty, yet bread.  It’s brilliant!  I also found a stand with a stick of white chocolate covered strawberries (and went back the next day for white chocolate covered grapes, strawberries and bananas – grapes were unusually fantastic covered in white chocolate, for the record).  I loved all the hand made ceramic mugs and kitchen wear, but we realized bringing back a €80,00 potato bin that holds 10 lbs of potatoes was a wee impractical, so we will have to save that for the future.  Instead I located a magnet (of course) and Ray a gift for a friend.  I was disappointed not to locate the perfect hand made mug for my random mug collection, but I loved the market all the same.  It was interesting to see stands selling regular items, such as spatulas, underwear or socks.  We have Walmart.  Nürnburg has the Hauptmarkt.  They win.  By a landslide.

When leaving the Hauptmarkt, past the churches, we headed towards the Pegnitz river, which runs through the middle of town.  These leads to a large number of beautiful stone bridges running over the Bridges, and a series of beautiful cobblestone streets on either side.  The middle of Altstadt is full of pedestrian only streets (which I LOVE) and more market stalls selling gingerbread or fresh produce (a few were advertising black and white truffles).  The produce looked amazing.  I also saw stands selling wurst and another with just eggs and milk.  The market style of shopping is my far my favourite and made it easy for me to fall in love with this part of the city.  As much as I wanted to explore more, we wanted to see a few other things and of course had tickets for the soccer game that Ray previously wrote about, so we headed out.  But I wanted to see so much more so we came back the following morning.  This was our chance to wander along the town wall and explore a German comic book store (they share our love for Joss Wheadon, Board Games, the Big Bang Theory and all things Geek.  We felt right at home).  But the read gem of the morning was stumbling across a little corner of the world connected to the wall, and through some official old doors into what is known as Handwerkerhof.  This little corner is filled with small shops, each based on a particular trade or craft, with most of the items hand made in the region.  There was a shop specializing in leather goods, class, metal work, woodwork, pottery, silver/goldsmith etc.  Each shop was AMAZING.  The unique and handcrafted products made right in the region were unique and beautiful.  Ray bought me a little anniversary gift from a silversmith, and I found myself the mug I wanted from an artist in her ceramic shop.  And of course, we found a wonderful little restaurant where we could order Nürenburgerwurst.  These are much smaller than traditional Bavarian wurst – almost the size of a breakfast sausage (and taste similar, except WAY yummier and less greasy).  Ray enjoyed his with a 0.4 L refreshment and sauerkraut while I had a grilled piece of Turkey and my traditional orangensaft (I never lack for Vitamin C).  It was a beautiful time out from a busy 24 hour period of time.


Following lunch we headed to the top of the hill to see the castle.  There is only narrow and OLD cobblestone streets, and once we navigated our way to the top, found there was no parking and drove all the way back down to the Hauptmarket to park, and then walked the 15-20 minutes uphill to see the castle and the views.  The Castle was being renovated, and we didn’t want to commit to a full 90 minute tour given it was already 3:00 in the afternoon (and we were suppose to be leaving that morning), so we walked around the outside for a good 20 minutes or so taking photos before hiking back down.  The outside is all available to see for free, and was beautiful (the lady at the kasse desk called it a “little” castle – but I still thought it rather large.  It was different than the castles we’d seen before, this had many small buildings as a part of it – probably why is was a burg and not a schloss…).  The thing I noticed with the wall and the castle, and the churches and pretty much everything is that there is no signage or information anywhere.  This town is crazy old with all this beautiful stuff and there is no tour guides running around or trams taking tourists through the sites or plaques on the castle buildings or anything.  In fact, much of what is there is not being fixed or improved upon, it’s just being “addressed” – that is to say, the town is investing just enough money to prevent anything from falling apart, but not being pre-emptive in making it better/sturdier etc.  So there is this great down, but from an outside perspective, I still know so little about it.  I’m not sure what has drive this approach, and how it came into place, but it is how I experienced the city.  If/When I return (I’m sure I will at some point – maybe for a Christmas market) I think I will have to more proactively seek out a tour guide or some sort of system of learning about the 1000 years of history the town has to offer.  For now, I’ve barely touched the surface.

Of course, that is just ONE part of Nürnburg.  The second part has to do with it’s Nazi history.  There is SO much to unpack there, so I will save it for a second post!

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