Tag Archives: museum

Nuremberg

With Christmas coming up, one of Europe’s most interesting places to be at is Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt, where booths are stacked with easy-to-indulge-in glühwein and gingerbread, wooden toys, and a festive atmosphere pervades. Unfortunately I can’t speak to that more specifically – I was in the Franconian city during a heat wave this past August.

Medieval Nuremberg is bounded by a wall marked with 80 towers. A walking tour through it and across the Pegnitz River reveals its charming spots. Almost 90% of it was destroyed in WWII and, although most of the historical buildings have since been reconstructed, it still feels ancient. The presence of timber-framed buildings, the city’s prescribed angle of roofs and dormers, and the lack of high-rises no doubt play a role in that. Gothic churches and patricians’ houses round out the medieval motif, not to mention the imperial Kaiserburg castle towering above from its sandstone ridge on the northern edge of the old town.

Nuremberg’s ugly past is in full view. Though it remains an active court, on certain days you can sit in the Courtroom 600 at the Palace of Justice, the original venue where leaders of the tyrannical Nazi regime had to answer to their crimes before an international tribunal. There is a municipal information centre upstairs entitled Memorium Nürnberger Prozesse where extensive documentation through photos, films, and soundtracks gives visitors an in-depth look at the events leading up to the trials, of their course and the aftermath.

If you’re still curious to see more, the ‘Fascination and Terror’ permanent exhibition at the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds examines the “causes, context and consequences of the National Socialist reign of terror.”  Architect Günther Domenig designed a diagonal glass and steel passageway that leads into the museum, piercing through the north wing of the immense Congress Hall’s unfinished remains. It is a cold and effective architectural counterpoint. Seeing the museum’s documentary evidence of the sheer magnitude of crowds that once packed the former grounds to the brim – a shivering thought – and then later standing at the long-empty Zeppelin Field feels positively surreal.

On an entirely different level, the Neues Museum (State Museum for Art and Design) mounted an exhibition of designer Alessandro Mendini; some works by Gerhard Richter; and, Martin Wöhrl’s “Maß und Werk“, a two-storey high metal tracery mounted directly behind the glass façade that faces onto Klarissenplatz.

One tip: if you ever visit Nuremberg, don’t make the mistake of confusing Franconians and Bavarians! I learned that the hard way – youch!

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Albrecht Dürer Haus

Nuremberg’s Historical Mile is a string of architectural and artistic landmarks and a key stop along the way is the Albrecht Dürer Haus. As a memorial to Germany’s “most famous Renaissance draughtsman”, it’s also, amazingly, one of the few buildings of the medieval city centre that survived the extensive bombing in 1945.

A painter, graphic artist and theoretician, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was internationally known for his woodcuts and engravings, and benefited from the fact that Nuremberg, in its economic and cultural heyday at the time, was the centre for the printing trade and for different types of metal-work.

His once-residence and workplace now serves as a museum and visitors can tour the master’s recreated painting and printing workshops and watch demonstrations of historic artistic techniques. Though few originals and copies of his graphic works are on display, multimedia ‘kiosks’ illustrate a gallery of his works of art including: religious pieces, portraits, landscape sketches, and such infamous watercolours as Young Hare (Junger Feldhase) and Praying Hands. Tours are complemented by audio guides in which the speaker represents his wife, Agnes, describing everyday life in her husband’s household (frankly, a teensy bit eerie).

There’s no escaping Dürer’s presence in this, his home city, particularly in the Old Town. A larger-than life statue of him towers in Albrecht-Dürer-Platz and a bronze sculpture of a hare, a reference to the artist’s painting, Junger Feldhase, appears to quash a human foot, perhaps alluding to the “dire results of tampering with nature.” More recently, Italian designer Alessandro Mendini paid a tribute to the artist with the sculpture Il Cavaliere di Dürer (The Knight of Dürer) at the Neues Museum in Nuremberg this past summer (see post).

Hamburg

Things are happening in Hamburg!

On a small scale, Knuffingen Airport opened this summer, well, a teeny tiny version of it anyway. Covering approximately 150 m², the installation is the most recently completed section of Miniatur Wunderland, a museum housing the world’s largest model railway. Detail-wise, nothing was missed. The airport has been outfitted with every sort of technical feature imaginable, even airplanes that take off and land. (Presently, they are navigated manually but a revolutionary autopilot system is in development). Be prepared to queue – one can spend hours ogling the museum’s outstanding layouts, from the Austrian Alps to a fleet of ships on the North Baltic Sea to the crowd-drawing, gravity-defying attractions of the USA. If you look closely, sometimes you’ll find random bizarre scenarios intermixed in the minutiae of detail – like monks stopped for highway speeding – small moments of humour injected by the exhibits’ builders, whose jobs couldn’t be more enviable! Until you get a chance to see these miniature marvels for yourself, the museum’s exquisitely rendered official video, a 5-minute engineering feat encapsulating many ‘wunderbare’ scenes, is the next best thing. Take a peek.

And the construction doesn’t stop there. A striking new full-size landmark in the Hanseatic city’s port is nearing completion. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the 37m high Elbe Philharmonic Hall is a tent-like superstructure sheathed in glass perched atop a brick warehouse where cocoa beans were once off-loaded. This entire cultural complex, which will house a ‘great hall’ and two other concert halls, a five-star hotel, and apartments is the latest highlight in HafenCity, an entirely new quarter emerging between the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district and the River Elbe, and one of the largest inner city urban expansion projects in the world. There’s no underestimating the lengths Hamburg will go.

For all the ongoing building activity, Hamburg was still bestowed the title “European Green Capital 2011” by the European Commission to acknowledge the city’s commitment to environmental protection. It is taking great measures to cut C02 emissions by creating sustainable buildings and businesses, maintaining nature-protected areas, and manufacturing the world’s largest fleet of hydrogen-fuelled buses. Even its immense port, for which Hamburg is best known, wants to make its entire transport chain environmentally friendly. It just goes to show how a major (growing) industrial hub can have a successful balance between business interests and the environment. Eligible cities vying for the top honour are assessed on the basis of 12 indicator areas, including biodiversity and eco-innovation. Applications are being accepted for 2014. Anyone, … anyone?

A city of parks and waterways, Hamburg should be experienced from the water, say, on a boat cruise along the Alster lakes and river. Start in the lake harbour and tour through narrow canals – a boggy oasis for water lilies, reeds and ferns – past secluded gardens, town houses and villas. Did you know that there are more bridges within its city limits than in Amsterdam and Venice combined?

Head to the rustically decorated Gröninger brewery for drinks and the usual heavy German fare. You can order a 10-Litre beer barrel for 75 Euro and then get tanked serve yourself right at the table. Better yet, visit the traditional Fischmarkt in St Pauli on Sunday mornings where hundreds of traders sell their wares, bands play deafening oompah music, and the beer is a-flowin.’ It’s a trip to watch the vendors auctioning off ‘variety packs’ of fresh fish to the throngs of onlookers. They holler and wave and try to underbid the guy in the next stall. Their ease and confidence is no doubt built upon the centuries-old foundations of harbour trading and loose bargaining that goes along with it. Get to the market at 5am if you can – for some the party just continues and for others it just gets started.

Until October 20, you can see an interactive urban environment exhibition on the „Train of Ideas“ – a “rolling ambassador for the city of the future” – at Jungfernstieg (Reesendammbrücke)