Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Castles, Trains and Nazis: Nürnberg Part 2

Welcome to Nürnberg part 2! You can check out part one by clicking here.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and grabbed coffee and hot chocolate from their self-serve to-go station before heading out for the day. 

The Christmas market has a completely different energy in the morning. Make no mistake, though, you can get glühwein at any time of the day. =)

We took the long way around the market square and headed for the subway, stopping to take a selfie with this adorable tree.

Less adorable? The name of this bridge: fleischbrücke or flesh bridge, so named for the many butchers that used to do business nearby.

After a train ride to a suburban area of Nürnberg and a quick exercise in getting lost and map reading, we ended up here: the Nürnberg Palace of Justice, site of the Nürnberg trials.

It was mostly happenstance that the trials of prominent Nazis were slated to take place in Nürnberg – the home of the Nazi Party. The allies needed a courtroom that was large enough for the proceedings and a jail that was large enough to hold all who would be on trial. Before the war, this might not have seemed like difficult accommodations to find, but immediately following the war, much of Europe’s landscape was in bombed-out shambles. The requirements weren’t great, but Nürnberg fit them. The irony came free of charge.

The top floor of the courthouse has been converted into a museum that documents the trials and other human rights trials since WWII. Both S and I agree that the TripAdvisor reviews and the guidebook didn’t do this justice.

We came expecting to do a quick walk through before seeing the actual court room. We ended up staying for nearly two hours. The exhibits are well done and the audio guide is excellent. You can skip ahead if it is too long winded for you and stop only at the places that interest you. We definitely recommend visiting the museum while you are here.

Entrance to the museum was 5 euro for an adult when we visited. Nürnberg offers a special discount card called the Nürnberg Card. What it lacks in a creative title it makes up for as a great deal. 

The Nürnberg card is 25 euro for an adult and good for 2 days at these sites:
- All city run-museums
- German National Museum
- Nürnberg’s Imperial Castle
- The Deutsche Bahn (Train) Museum
- Nürnberg Trials Court Room
- All local public transit

It’s a deal. You can do the math if you’re not sure how many of the included sites you’re going to visit or don’t plan on taking the subway/trams, but we recommend getting it. 

After visiting the museum and fully understanding the gravity of the history we were witnessing, we headed downstairs.

In a plain hallway is the sign that lets you know you’re here. 

Note: this is still a working courtroom. If you visit on a weekday it may be closed for a trial. You can call ahead to confirm if the room is open for viewing during your visit. There is a small window located upstairs at the end of the museum tour that allows you to look into the courtroom if it’s in use.

As far as courtrooms go, I’d say this one is pretty impressive. And not just because of the history that took place here. 

It is a beautiful space. On the day we visited it was bright with natural light, but still quiet and somber.

You can see in the photo above that there are interactive kiosks in the front row. The screen changes depending on what you are pointing it at and shows additional information about the trials. They also display videos from the trial (headphones included) so you can watch and listen to a little of what took place here.

We took the subway back to the center of town and grabbed a sausage from the Christmas market for lunch before transferring to a tram to head out to the Nazi Dokumentation Center

The Dokumentation Center is not included in the Nürnberg Card, and at 23 euros each, was a little expensive, but the weighty history it holds is worth the price of admission.

This place is huge. You can spend hours here. We did. 

If you’re a student of history at all, you probably already know the general outline of the story of how Hitler and his Nazis came to power in Germany. Unless you want a refresher, I say move quickly through those sections. 

S and I found the exhibits about life during the war and the effects of Nazi rule on the German people to be much more interesting. 

The exhibits and the audio guide are well done. We especially enjoyed the videos that showed real people talking about their experiences interspersed with news reel showing the events they lived through. The architecture of the building also echoes the twisted history detailed here.

By the time we ventured outside, the sun was starting to set. We poked our heads inside the Congress Hall to get an appreciation of how massive it was and then headed toward the parade grounds, hoping we’d make it before dark.

We did not. The paths are wide and flat and well lit, so if you, like us, end up here at night you can still complete your visit, but we’d recommend going in the daytime if it is really important to you to see these sites. 

When it is light out, you can climb up on these stands and look out over the rally grounds you’ve seen in so many news reels, history documentaries, and movies. We snapped a quick photo and then just stood there in the dark trying to take it all in.

The sheer size and scale of these Nazi sites is something best experienced in person. It really is hard to believe of massive they are. 

By now, it was real dark and real cold. We walked back to the main street and rode the tram back to the center of town. 

We were hungry! We’d been distracted by our day of history and hadn’t eaten much. 

Bratwurst Roslein had been recommended to us and it did not disappoint. The restaurant is basically one large, warm room filled with long, shared tables. The food is traditional Bavarian and Franconian fare with a beer list to match. We shared a massive platter of sausages and potatoes and tried a new beer – Zirdorfer kellerbier – which was dark and delicious. 

We took a lap around the Christmas market and headed to bed.

Day 3 in Nürnberg dawned cold and foggy and cold. Did I say foggy already? It was real foggy, people.

I didn’t care though, today was castle day!  I love a good castle, and Nürnberg’s? It’s pretty good.  

Just look at it. Kaiserburg, majestically appearing out of the fog. S looks pretty cute (and cold) standing in front of it, too.

Nürnberg’s castle sits on a hill overlooking the city. Usually the view from up here is pretty great. 

Funny thing, though: sometimes I prefer weather like this when visiting historical sites. Castles are old, the planet is getting warmer, and there is a good chance that there were more foggy and cold days than bright and sun-shiney days in this castle’s heyday, right? These are the things I tell myself as I shiver and appreciate the views…

We got here early, before the castle museum opened, to explore a little before going inside.

Most of the castle was destroyed during the bombing during WWII. Some of the exhibits here have photos showing the castle basically in ruins. The archway above and the wall it is holding up were pretty much destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

It’s cold, can you tell by my face? There is also a large tour group just off to the right waiting patiently for us to finish taking this photo…

No photos of the interior, but the museum is nicely done. There are interactive stations that let you choose how much information you’d like and how quickly you’d like to move through the rooms. It is included in the Nürnberg Card, so why not step inside and take a look?

After the museum, we headed toward the deep well and Sinwell Tower (Not included in the Nürnberg Card, but only 3.50 euro!).

The deep well is, well, a deep well. Like, really deep. With your ticket, a guide takes you inside the well house and tells you about the history of the castle and the well. 

There is a demonstration where they pour water down the well and you listen to see how long it takes to reach the bottom. It sounds a little hokey, but I really enjoyed it. If you’re travelling with kids, this would be a fun thing to do with them.

This ticket add-on also lets you climb the Sinwell Tower. This tower, along with the Roman double-chapel inside the castle, were the only structures to survive the WWII bombing.

The climb to the top involves a lot of stairs, but the views are worth it. The top is open-air and there are photos all around that show what the skyline of Nürnberg looked like in 1945. 

Just do the climb. You can tell yourself you earned an extra sausage and beer for it later.

After one more walk around the castle and foggy view out over the city, we started the hike back down the hill.

Instead of going back toward the main square directly, we took the scenic route.

Along the way, we passed part of Nürnberg’s old city wall.

We paused for a photo in front of Albrecht Durer’s house. This is a museum, but we chose not to go in.

Just before entering the main square for lunch we found this, the Heilig Geist Spital. It’s a hospital, in a beautiful building that also happens to be a bridge. Love it.

There are so many types of treats on offer at the Christmas market it is hard to try them all. We gave it our best shot, though, with a ‘snack lunch’ of goodies that had been calling our names for the last few days. My favorite? Battered and fried apple slices. So good! Sorry, no photos, too busy licking my fingers. =)

From here, we headed to the Germanisches Museum (German National Museum) and the Deutsche Bahn Museum

The Germanisches Museum is awesome. It covers everything from art to furniture, musical instruments to clothing. It even have a recreation of an apothecary shop. There is a little something for everyone. The only problem is there is so much to see it can be hard to limit your time here.

We used the map to identify the things we really wanted to see and only went to those rooms. You might also recognize and deploy this strategy at places like the Louvre and the Smithsonian. 

The Deutsche Bahn Museum is just down the street and we really enjoyed visiting. The exhibits detail the development of the German railway system – in great detail. You can breeze through the English descriptions if you’re not too concerned with knowing every last detail. 

The best part? The room dedicated to real train cars. There are special viewing platforms that let you get an up-close look at how Kaisers traveled back in the day. S loved explaining to me how a steam engine works using the life-size display that lights up with different colors to show the process. This is another do-not-miss if you’re traveling with kids.

We walked back toward the main square looking for dinner. Zum Spießgesellen is in the lower level of the old town hall. They have delicious käsespätzle here. S indulged in a plateful of Nürnberger rostbratwurst sausages.

Nürnberg is known for its special sausages. Unlike most of the rest of Germany, the town’s namesake sausages are small and thin, about the size of your finger. They’re protected and can only be made in Nürnberg. You can find them in other cities, but we made a point to eat as many of them as we could while we were here. Made with pork and flavored with marjoram, they are quite delicious. 

This was our last night in Nürnberg, so we made a point to spend as much time as possible perusing the stalls in the Weihnachtsmarkt and taking in all the Christmas spirit. 

The Deutsche Post offers rides around the market in a vintage, yellow Deutsche Post wagon. We didn’t pay to go for a ride, but I made S take a photo of me with the draft horses.

Remember how I said Nürnberg has different themed markets that spill into the squares around the main market? They have one dedicated to children – the Kinderweihnacht. This is the largest Christmas market in Germany, they don’t mess around here; of course there is a market dedicated to kids. 

We’re not kids, even though we may act like them sometimes, but we decided to check it out anyway.

Our tip? Go late, all the kids are asleep and the lines here are shorter.

The stalls here are dedicated to toys and things that are attractive to kids. The food stalls, though, are about the same as the rest of the market. Meaning - yes, you can get glühwein in the Kinderweihnact and yes, the lines are WAY shorter. 

There are also some fun rides and activities geared toward kids. We didn’t stay too long, but we did take advantage of the short lines to get a mug of glühwein to enjoy on our walk back to the hotel.

The next morning, we grabbed Nürnberg sausages im weckla (in a bun) for breakfast. It felt very appropriate for our last meal in the city.

We stopped for a photo op in front of the Schöner Brunnen. Schöner Brunnen means beautiful fountain and it is quite beautiful. 

This was in the main square, just around the corner from our hotel, so we had passed it many times during our 3 days in Nürnberg, but this was the first time we really stopped to admire it. 

This fountain is actually a replica. The original stone fountain was built between 1386-1396 and has been moved to the Germanisches National Museum. 

There is a wrought iron fence around the fountain that has two brass rings in it. Legend has it that if you spin the rings three times (one represents wealth and one represents marriage), they will bring you good luck. 

S was our designated ring spinner. He’s pretty good at it.

The ring for wealth was easy to find. It was located on the outside of the Christmas market, near the wide walking path.  

The ring for marriage, however, was a little harder to find. When we visited, it was hidden behind some of the market stalls. We were a little hesitant to poke around behind the stalls, but one of the owners came out and helped us pull back some of the tenting and decorations so S could slip through.

He stood with me and we watched S reach for and spin the brass ring three times. After, he smiled at us and told us this meant we’d have good luck in marriage. It feels good to be validated by a brass ring and a little old German man selling traditional prune people.

S and I wondered if it was on purpose that the ring for marriage is harder to find and harder to reach. Perhaps the point is that you have to work together and be willing to overcome some obstacles to have a happy marriage…but now I’m going on a tangent. 

We’d left our bags with the hotel’s front desk, so we picked those up and headed for the train station.

You might remember the exciting adventure it was to get to our hotel with our suitcases from last week’s post…but the walk back to the train station was much easier. 

Maybe it was the luck from the brass ring, but I think the lack of crowds in the early morning and our knowledge of the smoothest path to the train station after 3 days of walking the streets of Nürnberg are what really helped us.

Next stop: Füssen! Check back in next week to hear all about this charming town in the shadow of the Alps and mad King Ludwig’s castles.


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