Notes from Nuremberg

While I was in Luxembourg I tried to stay for a couple more days, but I couldn’t find anywhere that wasn’t booked up and was reasonably priced, so I decided to go back to Germany as it was the only country border-adjacent that I hadn’t just come from and wasn’t France. I’d enjoyed Berlin really quite a lot and so thought I’d try a different flavour of Germany. As I’m vaguely heading south that cuts out a lot of Germany, and Nuremberg seemed fairly central for places afterwards too.

I took a bus which was about 8 hours. That’s not total travel time, that includes stopping at a lot of other places for other passengers (my favourite being a car park in front of a“Der MEGA-EROTIC Discounter” store — it just seemed such a German thing for some reason). Our bus driver kept getting quite angry as for every person who got on our bus there were another three asking if this was the bus to Milan or Berlin or Somewhere Else which must get a bit irritating, even if I did chuckle to myself. Karma got me back though when the Polish lady who was sat behind me Facetimed right in my ear for about 4 hours.

I stayed in the Five Reasons, which I’m guessing is a play on words of the Four Seasons. It was one of the nicest hostels I’ve been in, with really nice receptionists, bathrooms and rooms. There wasn’t a laundry room though which was a great pity and led to me having to hunt a laundromat down. My German is crap and certainly doesn’t extend to doing laundry. The machine kept flashing a message at me and I had no clue what it meant. I now know what it’s like to be an old person using a computer.

My first day in Nuremberg was a Sunday and after a shower in the very fancy showers I went out to look for breakfast. I hadn’t prepared for nothing being open though — this was 10:30 in the morning and I couldn’t find a single open cafe. Not even the ubiquitous Starbucks. It was also really cold so I gave up and went back to the hostel.

At least they sold coffee there, and I discovered they offered a free walking tour and as I had nothing better to do I decided to go. It was initially a small group, just a couple of sisters from Australia, an Argentinian lady and me. The tour guide was friendly and chatty (tour guides seem to like me) and tried to teach us interesting things about the Holy Roman Empire. I did try to pay attention, really I did, but in all honesty I was far too distracted by one of the Australians.

My goodness, was I smitten. (This’ll just be a brief diversion, I promise). She had the most amazingly wry lopsided grin, with glasses that made her blue eyes seem huge. She looked freezing and I was so tempted to give her a hug to stop her from freezing. We went to Liebesinsel (“Love Island”) and it took all my willpower to not drop to one knee and propose right there and then.

Twist the ring for miracles, apparently

It was with some reluctance that I remembered that I’m not Hugh Grant in a cheesy romcom, I’m a British Gentleman Traveler and should maintain a stiff upper lip at all times and so limited myself to pleasantries and shy smiles. What I should have done really was pretend to be a Cool Traveler and not a bumbling fool and taken her for a coffee. I never did see her again, despite keeping an eye open. Oh well! Live and learn.

The worst thing about the tour was the end where we reached an area where Allied bombing during the Second World War had destroyed that part of the town. Our guide was from Nuremberg and when he described the English bombing and how it was split up into the various waves that destroyed that part of town I felt about a foot tall. It was a good reminder that there were German victims too.

To escape the cold I went to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, which was really good if a little difficult to navigate. I’d be wandering down a gloomy corridor looking at monks gravestones from medieval times and then I’d open a door and suddenly I would be looking at domestic life in the 1700s. I can imagine it’s what it’s like to be a time traveler. It was good, I liked it but it’s big and sprawling so you should make some time for it and definitely make sure you’re sufficiently fed and watered.

I was disappointed to miss the English language tour though. I didn’t even know there was one but I’d just so happened to arrive about 5 minutes before it started, which I thought was fortunate until one of the receptionists said I had to put my bag in a locker. The lockers, of course, only accepted €1 coins and while I had every other coin I didn’t have one of those and the receptionists said they couldn’t change it so I rushed my bag back to the hostel (luckily very close) and dashed back but of course I missed the tour.

It seems museums were not to be my friends in Nuremberg. I went to the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (try saying that 10 times really quickly), a museum on the grounds where the Nazi party rallies took place and it was a good museum, it’s definitely a must-see if you’re in Nuremberg. It was really well presented with an audio guide which was great until it stopped working part way through one of the films. It had always been a bit of a pushy audio guide, spontaneously telling me about the next exhibit that I hadn’t yet reached. There was no-one around I could ask to fix it without leaving and going to reception (not really an option — the woman was very stern and a bit scary) and nothing I tried could coax it back to life. I’d been there for a couple of hours anyway so I was kind of burned out. I’m not sure how it ended because all the exhibition text was all in German. I certainly hope those Nazi guys lost, they seemed awful.

Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände

My poor luck continued when I tried to go to the Nuremberg Trial Courthouse. If you’re not aware, this was where a bunch of high-ranking Nazis were tried after the war for their participation in war crimes. I made it out there OK but I hadn’t realised it closes on Tuesdays, so I had to try again the day after.

I decided to walk it as it was a nice day, and after getting lost and paid the bargain entry price of €6 I was in Courtroom 600. If you’re not aware this is the very courtroom where they tried Goering, Speer and all the other surviving high level Nazis for their crimes. It was fantastic, and it’s really interesting to learn how it all came about. This is the first time that anyone had been tried in this way, and it spawned the evolution of the legislation that we have today to attempt to prevent all the horrors back then from happening again.

Courtroom 600

Nuremberg feels a lot more like a German city than Berlin did. It’s an awful lot smaller, with the fairly typical centre containing all the usual shops, even if I don’t quite see why it needs three Starbucks, none of which open on a Sunday morning.

There’s some really nice little things too. The Frauenkirche for example has a little clockwork display that has various musicians pretending to play when the clock strikes noon which is nice to watch.

The Schöner Brunnen fountain has a good tale to it, as well as being very ornate. It was said that the original creator of the fountain created two rings in the ironwork which didn’t seem to show any join marks, thus proving his worth as a craftsman and his worthiness of marriage to a wealthy merchants’ daughter. It’s said if you spin the ring you’ll bring good luck, or your wish will come true.

So much of it is stunningly pretty — I was there on the run-up to Christmas and I can imagine that when the Christmas market is set up it’ll be great. They were starting when I was there, but it wouldn’t open until December. It’s a really good city for just moping around. One evening I must have wandered for hours, a proper “Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade”-esque wander, just looking at all the lights and listening to a surprisingly talented sax player. I gave him some assorted change, muttering to myself “play it again, Hans”. I felt very pleased with myself, even if it doesn’t have the same ring to it as “play it again, Sam”.

Far fewer people here spoke English than in Berlin. I suppose that’s to be expected, and there were times when I struggled with language and felt massively ignorant for not speaking German. Still, you can’t know everything and at least they got my tourist Euros.

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