Nuremberg is a city in Bavaria about 100 mi / 160 km from Munich, with population about 1/2 million. Since World War II it became widely known for the Nuremberg Trials at which Nazi leaders were tried for their crimes. The trials were held in Nuremberg in part because this city was a political birthplace of German National-Socialism.
There is more to this city’s history than its infamous association with the rise of the Third Reich. Nuremberg is first mentioned in historic records as early as mid 11-th century. It was considered a de facto capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The Reichstag (a sort of imperial council or parliament) and the Imperial Court met in Nuremberg Castle. The role of this city in the Holy Roman Empire was increasing with time, and it was granted multiple privileges. Later Nuremberg became one of the main cultural centers of German Renaissance, and of Protestant Reformation. It is for a reason that this city was chosen as the venue for Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg / The Master Singers of Nuremberg.
The Nuremberg Castle first appeared in the 12th century and has undergone many additions since then. At the time it was considered one of the strongest fortified towns in Europe.
The Castle is located in the center of the historic downtown. It features three major towers originally dating from 11th to 14th centuries, the Imperial Chapel and a few buildings of typical Bavarian style, some looking fairly old and some recently built or restored.
Without a tour guide it would probably take less that half an hour to walk around the Castle. However I would recommend to get a guided tour of the Castle since it is the perfect place to refresh you knowledge of the Holy Roman Empire history.
The Castle is located on a hill and thus provides a few good views of the city. The spires of the 13-th century church of St. Sebaldus are hard to miss.
It’s time to descend from the Castle into the town and take a closer look at it. I’ve got a mixed impression of the city. On one hand its a typical Bavarian city: historic, with a characteristic architecture, impeccably clean and well maintained. On the other hand most of the buildings look like they were built just yesterday, albeit with a strict adherence to the medieval building code. The explanation is simple: Nuremberg was heavily bombed and shelled during the final months of World War II, and much of what we see now has been rebuild or restored from ruins. They did a great job of restoration, but nevertheless in my eyes the city looks less genuine than other Bavarian cities, like Regensburg that was lucky enough to avoid major damage during the War.
One of the main attractions in the historic part of the city is Tiergärtnerplatz – the square where the house/museum of Albrecht Dürer is located. Dürer was an painter, a printmaker and a major figure of German Renaissance.
There is construction going everywhere, but despite that the streets are super clean. They can be rather crowded with cars though. Like elsewhere in Europe, scooters are popular and ubiquitous here.
The Church of Our Lady of Nuremberg (Frauenkirche Nürnberg) is another landmark worth seeing. It is located at the head of the main market square (Hauptmarkt).
The river Pegnitz flows through the city, or rather does not flow at all. We couldn’t see any movement of its water and were not able to determine which way was downstream. The building on the left is one of the oldest pharmacies in Germany – the Hospital and Pharmacy of the Holy Spirit, dating back to at least 15th century:
The St. Lorenz Church is located nearby on Lorenzplatz, which features the so called Fountain of the Virtues, or Tugendbrunnen. The virtues are rendered in – how to put it better – an unconventional way:
There are quite a lot of modern architecture and street art in Nuremberg. Some of it fits well into the general context of the city, and some maybe not:
No hike or city tour can be fully enjoyed if it does not start or end (or both) with a good meal. We polished our experience with bratwurst, sauerkraut and some superb Bavarian beer at Bratwurstglöcklein im Handwerkerhof at the corner of Königstraße and Frauentormauer:
Nuremberg of the 1930s
The dark part of Nuremberg’s history is its association with the rise of National Socialism. From the very beginning the Nazis tried to gain their legitimacy by linking their movement to Nuremberg and therefore, they thought, to the history of German nation. That’s why many of the rallies and parades that one can see in the documentaries of the period were held in Nuremberg.
One of the sites of Nazi rallies was located near the Nuremberg stadium at the place called Zeppelinfeld, a few miles south-east from the city center. It was partially taken apart after the war, and the symbols of the Third Reich regime were removed from it, but the site was neither fully destroyed nor turned into a museum. It looks like it is kept, probably intentionally, in a state of supervised neglect.
The site is not officially open for public and there are signs warning the visitors about unsafe conditions and about entering at one’s own risk. The thing is that the Nazis were short of time and money when building this stadium, and they cut some corners. Note the almost paper-thin layer of granite over the cheaper brick masonry at the bottom right picture above. They also didn’t make the structure solid enough, and it only became worse with time. We took our risk and walked those stairs.
Pictured below is the main Zeppelinfeld main tribune, overlooking a huge field where thousands of stromtroopers stood and listened while Nazi leaders shouted their speeches at them. Now the tribune overlooks what is now a motorcycle track and – out of all things – a field for American football! And on the very steps of the tribune we found a bottle of Baltika – a Russian beer – a leftover of somebody’s last night’s picknick.
It is not just the rallies that National Socialists used Nuremberg for. In 1935 Hitler convened the Reichstag here to pass the infamous anti-Semitic laws known as Nuremberg Laws. He ordered several buildings to be constructed for such congresses and assemblies, and one of them is ginormous unfinished Kongresshalle (the Hall of Congresses) that was obviously designed to resemble the Roman Collosseum. There is now a museum of the period (Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände) in one of the wings of the Kongresshalle, dedicated to documenting the historical circumstances, causes, crimes and consequences of the Nazi rule.
Another somber reminder of the past is the Erenhalle, across the road from Kongresshalle. It was the site of the 1934 Nazi rally featured in their propaganda film Triumph of the Will.
The political system and ideology that arose in the 1930s around this place brought an unimaginable amount of evil upon the humanity. Hopefully the evil spirits of that time have been exorcised forever.