A trip into the Bavarian country-side
We wanted to get out of Munich today and see some of the Bavarian country-side; in particular we thought a day trip to Nuremberg might be nice. Nuremberg is just 170kms North of Munich, easily reachable by train, and has lots of history and cool old stuff like this…
We checked out the Deutsche Bahn website and found ourselves a 9:00am train from the Munchen Hauptbahnhof to Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof – an easy, 90 minute “free” ride with our Eurail Passes (I say “free” because we did pay for the Eurail Passes, of course, but not having to pay for tickets along the way has saved us a heap of $$ and it’s really convenient, being able to just hop on any train anywhere in Europe!). Well, at least we thought it would be easy… See, what we didn’t realise was today is a public holiday in Germany (and a number of other European countries) – it’s the day of Mary’s Assumption apparently. What this meant for us is that our “easy” train ride became the Human Sardine Experience from hell. There were people standing in the aisles, people sitting between carriages, sick people in wheelchairs squeezed in front of the toilet, crying babies in prams, puppy dogs in baskets (yes, they allow dogs on trains here – in fact, everywhere we’ve been in Europe, Including Russia, pets are allowed on public transport – it’s actually really cool to think you can go on holiday and taker your dog with you on the ferry/bus/train!). It was 90 minutes of hot, sweaty, noisy, claustrophobic train hell. Well, maybe not hell exactly (I’m sure crowded train rides in India or China would be far worse), but certainly not the comfortable, scenic train trip we had expected! By the time we got to Nuremberg we were both a little shell-shocked and gasping for fresh air, so we found a quite cafe and just chilled for a few minutes before venturing into Nuremberg’s altstadt!
Built along the banks of the Pegnitz River in Northern Bavaria, Nuremberg has a population of just over 500,000 and is today a relatively small city by German standards. Five hundred years ago, however, it was the heart of the German Renaissance and one of Europe’s most important trade cities. Founded in 1050, Nuremberg grew steadily over the centuries due its location along key trade routes; the city was also where the Diets (i.e. judicial assemblies) of the Holy Roman Empire met in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its prosperity during the medieval era is reflected everywhere in the city’s altstadt which was a joy to stroll through, with its beautiful old buildings, expansive churches, wide paved boulevards and big open squares. The original city walls are also still standing, as are four of the original five gates and watch towers.
Nuremberg has long been famous for its hand-crafted goods and even today the city maintains this reputation, with masters craftsmen still producing hand made leather goods, jewellery, glass works, ceramics, etc. The artisans of the city sell their wares in small shops throughout the altstadt, at stalls in the haputmarkt (translation = central market square) and at the annual Christkindlesmarkt (translation = Christmas market), which is famous for its handmade ornaments, Christmas decorations and iconic Christmas gingerbread houses. The craftsmen traditionally lived, worked and sold their wares from timber-framed houses, many of which have been restored and converted into shops.
One of the more impressive buildings in town was the Gothic St Lorenzkirche (St Laurence’s church), built around 1270. This huge Lutheran cathedral has an extremely ornate facing and its vast interior certainly does the job when it comes to making you feel small.
At the top of hill, in the corner of the altstadt is the Nuremberg Castle: the burgraves’ castle. Built in the 12th century, this fortress stands protectively over the old town, providing a unique vantage point from which to survey the landscape. With its cobbled streets and rustic terracotta roofs, Nuremberg’s altstadt made for a lovely view..
Beyond its important role in medieval Europe, Nuremberg also held great significance during the Nazi Germany era. Because of the city’s relevance to the Holy Roman Empire and its geographical position in the centre of Germany, the Nazi Party chose the city to be the site of the Nazi Party conventions – the Nuremberg Rallies. After Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 the Nuremberg Rallies became huge Nazi propaganda events. At the 1935 rally, Hitler specifically ordered the Reichstag to convene at Nuremberg to pass the anti-Semitic “Nuremberg Laws” which revoked German citizenship for all Jews. Then, during World War II, Nuremberg was an important site for military production, including aircraft, submarines, and tank engines; it also housed many German troops. After the war, between 1945 and 1946, German officials involved in the Holocaust were brought before an international tribunal in the Nuremberg Trials. Nuremberg was chosen as the site for the trials because of its symbolic significance to the Nazi Party. Many of the old Nazi premises and Judicial Hall where the Nuremberg Trials were held are open to the public, along with a museum documenting the events of WWII; we didn’t visit those however as it’s not really an aspect of history either of us interested in. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate the significance of such events, just that we didn’t feel compelled to see the sights. Our interest in Nuremberg lay more in its older history and we well and truly satisfied that interest! With its cobbled streets and rustic terracotta roofs, Nuremberg was lovely – well worth the day trip.