Episode 359 – Nürnberg (Nuremberg)

First, kudos to Viking, who made our transfer from the Magni in Nürnberg to the Baldur docked on the Danube in Vilshofen (between Regensburg and Passau) seamless and painless. River levels are beyond their control, but those things that were (luggage transfers and keeping us occupied) were dealt with beautifully.

We – and our luggage – were off the Magni by 8:30 a.m., with our luggage headed by truck to Vilshofen, and all of us headed to Nürnberg by bus.

Today’s tour was quite different from the one we took in 2013, when we had an American expat as our guide. Today’s guide was a Nürnberg native, and able to lend local perspective, especially when it came to the most problematic periods in the city’s history.

The initial portion of our ride into Nürnberg was through the industrial area; our guide commented that the heavy morning fog was probably a blessing.

Next we drove through the section of the city where its Nazi past was most evident, passing by the huge rally grounds and absolutely massive architecture favoured by the Nazis in the years leading up to WWII. At one point, there was discussion about demolishing these sites, but it was decided to keep them as both a reminder and an educational opportunity.

The massive rally grounds. We’ve all seen them in newsreels, with giant swastikas draped over the stage, and flames burning on either side. The huge square stone structures are quite appropriately called “brutalist” architecture. Nürnberg is said to carry “stone memories”.

Some buildings have been repurposed as museums or offices. It seemed somehow fitting that the former SS barracks are now the German Ministry of Immigration and Refugees, going from intolerance to welcoming.

Even through the fog, the sheer size of the barracks was almost overwhelming.

Driving further into the city, we passed by the Hall of Justice and Courtroom 600, where the Nuremberg trials took place. Our guide suggested that it was very appropriate that the trials brought the city’s Nazi involvement full circle, to personal consequences for the Nazi leadership.

The Hall of Justice is now partially obscured by a visitor centre “Cube 600”.

We then completely switched eras and took a tour of Nürnberg’s mediaeval walled inner city. Although heavily damaged in WWII, the Imperial castle and fortress (Kaiserburg) have been extensively restored.

Perhaps my favourite of Ted’s photos today: a tower of the Imperial Fortress seen through the entry gate.

The fortress entry. Imagine trying to breach the gates going uphill, around a curve, with barrels being rolled down at you, archers at the sides, and “stuff” coming down from the gaps in the overhead arch. Bottom left: just outside the castle is the “Hexenhaüsje” (little witch’s house – it’s the house that is little, not the witch!)

The heavy wooden entrance door to the inner courtyard is painted with the imperial crest: the 2-headed eagle. Red and white are the colours of Nuremberg.

Views of the several kinds of towers and guardhouses in the fortress.

Top: a model of the entire walled fortress complex. Lower: views of the thick walls, and some of the half-timbered inner structures. The outer wall was reinforced using a sloped design created by the same engineers who fortified Malta’s city walls. Episode 218 – Malta

Ted taking photos inside the fortress: proof that he really was here with me! Photo credit: A. Yoshimura
Commanding views over the city of Nürnberg from the fortress wall.

We walked down the steep cobblestone hill into the centre of modern-day Nürnberg, where Germany’s largest Christmas Market was in the process of being erected around the Frauenkirche, the city’s huge cathedral. En route, a tiny Lebkuchen (Nürnberg gingerbread) shop beckoned, and I bought some dark-chocolate-glazed soft gingerbread cookies. (No photo – they’ve been eaten.)

Nürnberg’s gigantic Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Lady) stands in the centre of the city. Markets have for centuries been held around the cathedral, so it is no wonder that Germany’s biggest Christmas Market is being set up here.

The beautiful fountain in the main square dates to 1396, when it provided fresh water to the city. Forty figures adorn the 19 meter high fountain, with Moses at the very top. Tradition has it that turning the gold ring woven into the ornate metalwork is good luck (so of course I did).

The Glockenspiel on the Hauptmarkt (Main Market Square), partially obscured by Christmas market booths being erected. The market opens on the first Sunday of Advent and runs until Christmas Eve.

Nürnberg is also famous as the birthplace and home of artist Albrecht Dürer. The square on which his home stands is also home to a pub named after him; just around the corner is one of several statues honouring him.

Also on Dürer Square is the whimsical/terrifying statue of St George completely vanquishing a dragon,

St. Sebaldus is a local saint, who nonetheless inspired pilgrims and a large church.

The city crest was visible on many buildings. While it may look like a woman ruling the city on behalf of the Empire (as depicted by the imperial eagle), it is in fact the Mayor with his characteristic (for the middle ages) long hair.

We ate lunch in the Heilige Geist Spital Weinstube (the Holy Ghost Hospital Winebar). If the name seems strange, remember that the monks who ran hospitals brewed beer as both food and medicine.

After a lunch of finger-sized Nürnberger sausages, we transferred to motor coaches to reach Vilshofen. While this detour was inconvenient for our cruise, it held a bonus for me. Vilshofen was the location of the Pleinting 85 refugee camp in which my mom, grandmother, and great grandmother lived from late 1944 until 1948, 1951, and 1954, respectively. Tomorrow we’ll drive right through Pleinting on our way to Regensburg.

My mom’s application for refugee assistance from 1948, while she and my grandmother and great grandmother were living in Vilshofen, which was the location of a refugee camp (Pleinting 85). Episode 68 tells this part of their story.


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