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!