Outside of Germany, Nuremberg is probably best-known for the trials that unfortunately made it famous after WW II and its sausages. But this Bavarian gem has much more to offer, especially if you’re into Medieval book culture and literature.
When you arrive in Nuremberg via train, you might as well land on one of Germany’s bigger airports — it’s ginormous, at least for German standards. Still, once you leave said train station, you’ll see a city that still managed to conserve that charm a little town usually gives off.
I visited Nuremberg during the Self-Publishing-Day 2019, which I can only recommend to any self-publishing author. The entire conference was jam-packed with information on social media, software, and writing style.
Granted, it’s in German. So if you understand our fricative gibberish that sounds like angry canteen women throwing pease porridge against a cement wall, we’d love to have you. But back to Nuremberg…
If you’re a foodie or a beer connoisseur, bring your wide pants! You should be prepared for some heavy lifting, though. The Bavarians even manage to make your summer salad “meaty” by adding lukewarm “Schäufele,” or pig’s shoulder meat. Tasty, but you need some time to get used to it — or another red beer.
Speaking of which, you should visit the historical rock-cut cellars. Here, you can choose from tours for children, red beer tastings, historical tours, or adventure tours with light shows.
But, if the hearty Bavarian cuisine is not up your ally, that’s okay. You can find every flavor of café and restaurant all over town, from Burger joints over Thai restaurants to Bohemian bars — that’s Bohemian as in the actual country Bohemia. So be careful with your expectations when you walk inside holding Google Translate in the palm of your hand.
It’s hard to find a public open space that doesn’t swarm with café chairs and people enjoying the scenery.
Don’t you worry, though. If you left your urban beehive for some small-town flair, you’re still in the right place. Even public spots never feel crowded. Up until my last day, I had thought that the entire inner-city is a pedestrian area, which it isn’t. But still, cars are so hard to come by you might as well look for a paved road in the rain forest.
No matter where you go, you always encounter gothic churches like St. Lorence right next to half-timbered houses that make you think Mister Geppetto must wait for you around the corner in his little workshop.
Be careful about planning your walking tours, though. Half the city is built into a hill leading up to the Imperial Castle, which is about 350 meters (ca. 1100 ft.) higher than the marketplace. So the inner-city is definitely walkable, but you should bring your sturdy shoes. After all, you’ll mostly be walking on cobblestone. So that’s a No on the b-b-b-biking tour, I suppose.
But why should Nuremberg be a literary town? We want to do the title some justice, after all. — As I mentioned, the Nuremberg Trials probably come to mind first when you hear the cities name, and yes, you can visit an exhibition about them. But that’s not all that ever happened down there.
If you’re not yet familiar with German literature, Nuremberg is one of the few cities where the magic happened, back in the 15th and 16th century. Unless you’re following Gutenberg’s footsteps — in which case you should visit Strasbourg or Mainz — the South of today’s Germany brought forth some of the most significant leaps in literature and art.
That is why you cannot walk for a mile without seeing a monument or a memorial tablet. And they are not parked in invisible corners for students who suffer through painful lectures by their teacher.
Nuremberg celebrates its cultural past on every corner, without exploiting it to the extent that you feel like walking an artsy theme park. You see craftsmen everywhere, and most of the artists’ birthplaces can still be visited to this day.
The Ship-of-Fools-Well by Jürgen Weber picks up motives from Albrecht Dürer’s woodcuts, which illustrated Sebastian Brant’s “Ship of Fools,” one of the best-known moral satires from Reformation.
The sculpture may have been criticized back in the 80s when Weber designed it, but I enjoy the mere fact that it picks up the actual motives of a literary work for once. You might also argue that Brant’s criticism against a foolish society is still relevant, but that’s a topic for another time.
The artists themselves have been carved into some stone and poured into some bronze, as well. From the painter Albrecht Dürer to Philip Melanchthon, every public place is crowded with memorials reminding us of Nuremberg’s role in cultural history.
I only felt a little bad for Hans Sachs — one of the most productive playwrights and poets of the 16th century — for being squeezed into a construction area and a honey bucket. It won’t be for long, though.
If you’re looking for some good ole history lessons from the Middle Ages to Reformation, then Nuremberg is the place to be. You won’t miss out on a modern city, though. It’s one of the few cities that don’t rest on their laurels. You’ll find plenty of modern-day offers that make your trip there worthwhile.
Be prepared to eat heartily and to explore some hidden gems by foot, and you’ll witness a rare melange of early modern times and today.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my take on Nuremberg. I appreciate it!
If it made you visit Bavaria or pick up traveling again, let me know how it went! Also, if you’d like to see more travel pieces, feel free to comment on that. I’m just experimenting with some topics and formats and would love to know what you think.
Florian Führen is a story coach, copywriter, and novel proofreader. He’s currently working on his first book to get his Ph.D. in Medieval Studies. After that, he’ll take his first steps into the literary world as an author with a satiric stage play. If he’s not writing or coaching, he’s probably tweeting @FuehrenWriter. Care to brush up your story? Get in touch to work on your next creative project!