Nürnberg is known for all kinds of associations, some of them not so good. It is, however, a beautiful town in Bavaria and we chose to spend a week here. Train travel in Europe is marvellous, and it is even more amazing that we could book our tickets on the German website before we left home.
We have learnt to allow plenty of time when catching trains, especially as I am not the quickest mover at the best of times and am not going to run along platforms finding our carriage. Or so I thought.
We checked out and walked to Frankfurt station, Peter pulling both of our suitcases, good man, and had plenty of time to find our platform. We know how to keep an eye on the diagrammatic train plans that tell you which part of the platform your carriage will stop – we’re across this! Or so we thought.
Somehow we picked up from the typically unintelligible railway announcements that the train was being replaced, so we waited for news. As it got closer to departure time, I noticed that people were rushing back up the platform, and I particularly noticed a lady whose dress I had admired when she went past before. We had evidently not understood the announcement that the new train was leaving from another platform behind us!
We ran – yes I did! I fell in up the steps of the carriage, and Peter hauled the cases one at a time as the door closed, almost on him, and the train glided from the station. We were within seconds of missing that train, which has never happened to us before. It took a while for my heart rate to come down, but at least it has added a little drama to my blog! I was very close to doing a solo train trip with suitcases but no husband.
There was further delay, a signalling problem and a detour, but we did get to Nürnberg. A bit of adrenalin is OK in small doses.
What a wondrous little city it is! So many old buildings, spacious plazas and ancient remains. Under foot are the infamous cobblestones which make a joke of rolling suitcases; we call it the sound of a European holiday as they clack on the rough stones.
We joined the crowds out wandering, drinking, and shopping and grabbed some supplies at Aldi as it closed for the weekend. Everything is closed on Sunday in this very secular country.
Our first sausage was for dinner, sold by the Dogfather, a Turkish immigrant who made us a delicious hotdog, claimed to be pure beef, halal and with numerous sauces. About a foot long, it was just about all we needed. You simply have to eat sausages in Germany. We went back again to him another day and Peter now has his life story, as is his wont.
Nürnberg is the location of one of Germany’s biggest museums. We chose to stay around the corner from the immense national gallery, as it was first on our hit list (art galleries usually are). We were simply not prepared for the massive collection – over a million pieces, of which 22,000 are on display. It felt like we saw all of them, but actually only made it around some parts over the five hours we were there! Peter stayed another two hours 😊. I think I am a gallery weakling!
The town is famous for Germany’s best known artist, Albrecht Durer (1471-1578) but only a few of his paintings are here. I especially liked the portrait of his mother, which he kept until he died. Nobody knew who it was until 1979! Peter found some Rembrandts too.
The standout collection for me was the stunning display of mechanical instruments like compasses, watches, globes and calendars. They were the precursors to computers and extremely cleverly and accurately made. I think my dad would have loved seeing them, and was reminded of how he taught me to use a slide rule.
Impossible to describe all the art; the collection of sculpture displayed in the monastery chapel was exquisite and peaceful, showing real respect for the faith tradition. Best of all was that all pieces had English information.
We had a lovely lunch in the gallery cafe, and ‘Viennese chicken, breast and leg with salad’ turned out to be a huge plateful of what seemed to be most of a chicken. We wrapped up a couple of pieces for later, and now my handbag smells of fried chicken…
The heat has determined our activities a bit, with each day reaching the thirties by mid morning and staying there until after sunset; we seem to be the only people wearing hats. Our summer clothes are being worn on repeat which meant that we had to conquer the German instructions on the washing machine in our apartment. Google translate is a lifesaver and I now know that pflegeleicht means Easycare.
There are no galleries open on Mondays, but we found St Clara’s church, which was beautifully simple, quiet and cool for two overheated elderly tourists. Booking train tickets for a day trip and finding the tourist bus defied us, so they were put on hold while we did more homework. Life on the road is a series of problems to solve, so hopefully it is good for our brains. It took us a whole evening to navigate the German rail website and buy tickets and a discount card and head off on a day excursion.
Regensburg is listed as a beautifully preserved medieval town which escaped destruction in the war. It was already over thirty degrees when we got there, making a big walking day quite a challenge. We persevered with wearing hats and downing bottles of water, and hugged the shade when possible, looking for the sun which in this hemisphere seems to be in the wrong place!
Regensburg is girded by a beautiful green belt, which afforded us a cool spot for our iced coffees while we watched the council truck watering. I had wondered how the flowers were surviving the dry heat. There are colourful flower boxes everywhere.
We wandered the long Main Street to the Dom, and were grateful for the quiet coolness of the massive cathedral of St Peter’s. It is an outstanding example of Gothic architecture, completed in 1520 and the home of the world’s oldest boys’ choir. Its 105m spires soar and the exquisite stained glass is from the 13th century.
I was close to heat struck by this time and Peter was wrapping a wet hankie on my neck. Fortunately we found a cute little red train that took us on a tour of the town without expending energy – bone shaking over the cobblestones. One of the other draw cards in the area is the 12th century Old Bridge over the Danube, which is so pleasing to the eye and still used today.
We probably didn’t absorb all of the town, but decided to go home on an earlier train, without knowing if we were allowed to do that on our discounted ticket. The train was a few minutes delayed, which we took as a sign we should get on and risk the consequences. My heart rate went up as the ticket man approached, wondering if we would be thrown off the train! In Germany, rules are important, we thought. In the event, he just glanced at our ticket and said ‘Alles gute’. I found out later that Peter had prepared an explanation on his phone with Google translate along the lines that his wife was unwell…
I walked nearly 8km that day, which is some sort of record for the last few years. We were struck with evidence of renewable energy being prioritised – large fields of solar panels, many homes with panels on the tall roofs and wind farms everywhere. So much has been done to counteract the acid rain that was falling on the Black Forest in the seventies.
Eventually we cracked the code and made it onto the double-decker tourist bus that took us on a two hour trip to the significant sights around Nürnberg, with a commentary. It was a low demand activity in the heat and took us to places we couldn’t have walked to. I learnt a great deal about the long history of the town.
Apart from the beautiful architecture and gardens of the city, the tour takes in the places associated with the history of this place. We drove into the 4km2 area where the National Socialists held their Nazi Party Rallies in the 1930s and saw the small platform from where Hitler spoke. This is a city that does not hide from its past, fulfilling an ‘Obligation to the past’ as a way to a better future.
We saw the prison and Courts of Justice where, appropriately, the Nazi war criminal trials were held and those convicted were executed. It was chilling just to look at these places. I felt that it must continue to be hard for German people today to have tourists wanting to see these haunting locations for themselves. We are still trying to decide if we want to go to Dachau next week.
On a brighter note, we saw long parts of the ancient walls, gates and towers and Joannis’ graveyard which is so filled with flowers that it looks like a botanical garden. The town is like one long postcard, with a mix of original and restored buildings.
A few random observations: beards are di rigeur for young males; there is a plague of some kind of wasp which terrorises those who eat outdoors; the coffee is very good, contrary to rumours; silent bikes and scooters are the biggest danger for us; the flower boxes around the city are lovely; the street cleaning is very thorough and starts very early!
On our last day today, it was time to explore to the north across the Danube river. Our aim was to walk to St Sebald’s church, but accidentally ended up at St Lorenz, a Catholic Church. This precinct is very picturesque, with river views from the many bridges, expensive fashion and jewellery shops (I restrained myself) and around every corner another platz with outdoor cafes and always a statue.
As the temperature climbed to yet another thirty degree day, we made it up the hill to St Sebald’s, a Lutheran church. Built in the 13th century, it was furnished with many works of art by famous artists. The church followed the Reformation and became Protestant, but kept the art. It was terribly damaged by bombing and fire melted the medieval bells. It was painstakingly restored.
People have been worshipping there for 750 years and we sat for a quiet prayer together – our way of making up for not being in regular church. Thankful for some good news from home, (you know who you are) I shed a few tears and gave thanks for answered prayer.
Further up the hill we found a lovely cafe that was also a distillery (Peter is enjoying German beer) and were ready for the last push to the ancient house of Albrecht Dürer, where he lived for twenty years in the 16th century. Although the furnishings are not original, the house still stands and the displays were great. It is always amazing to tread on boards that have had such a long history. Because his paintings are all over the world, the displays are mainly replicas. With the ancient residence four storeys high, I found the stairs challenging but I am getting fitter as we go.
We have loved Nürnberg. It would be a great place to live, but we would need to learn German! Time to pack up and catch another train to München. We’re getting the hang of travel life.