Saturday, July 18, 2009

Neu Perspektive an der Altstadt

Usually a visit to Nürnberg means walking along Königstraße and the streets running perpendicular to it, visiting some shopping centres, eating eis, and perhaps enjoying the views of the old medieval skyline along the river. This time however, I thought I would change it up a bit and take the tour of the altstadt, given by one of the tour guides from the Touristen-Büro (its the only official tour in English offered to the public, at 1pm every day of the week in front of the Hauptmarkt Tourism Office).

It was worth every Euro--thanks of course to the fact that the city has an incredibly fascinating history, but also because Erika Jordan, our Mexican born, German tour guide had an incredible amount of knowledge on the history of the city and really took her time to show us as much as she could (the tour lasted almost 3 hours!) That's her underneath showing us St. George, the patron of the house there and the famous painting of the rabbit by Albrecht Dürer.

I am glad I got to know a little bit more about my future home (we are currently looking for an apartment in the city for September)... and while you may know little or lots about this place already, I thought I'd share a few interesting things I learned yesterday. Maybe it might even spark your interest in coming to see this beautiful place for yourselves one day.

1) Nuremberg (the English spelling for the city) is known for its Lebkuchen (or Christmas cookie that is similar to gingerbread), the Nürnberger sausages (which are nothing more than tiny sausages about the size of your ring finger), Albrect Dürer (the 15th century painter), it's wealthy and significant historical past during the time of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages, the Nazi Party Rallies & War Trials in the 20th century, and the Kristkindlmarkt (the world famous Christmas market held every year, 4 weeks before Christmas Eve in the Hauptmarkt).

2) The old city is divided into two parts named after the two largest churches: the St. Lorenz and St. Sebald sections. The river Pegnitz cuts the city into almost even sized parts and runs directly through the middle, east to west.

3) During WWII, Nürnberg was the center of the Nazi party where most of the rallies were held. Hauptmarktplatz was renamed (as in all major German cities during the 30s) Adolf Hitler Platz and banners adorned with swastikas were mandatory on the homes and businesses in the square. Hitler began building a colloseum (which is in the outskirts of the city) he hoped to fit 400,000 people (Nuremberg's population is only 600,000), yet it was never completed due to the end of the war.

4) From 1933-1935, the city came up with a plan to save the historic artwork and architecure of the town just in case war broke out. A few years later, with the beginning of World War II, the city put the plan into action and removed everything of value from the museums and churches (including all the glass from the stained glass windows) and placed them into the underground tunnels that were built back in the 1500s for the beer breweries. As a result of this enormous effort on the part of the city, the majority of of the city's art and historical pieces still remain.

5) 90% of the city was destroyed in the bombing of the war, yet Nuremberg is one of the few cities (unlike Cologne or Frankfurt) that chose to try and rebuild the city as much as possible keeping the architecture and character of the medieval city that Nuremberg was before the war. (This by the way really gives the city charm ;).

6) In addition to Dürer, Nuremberg is home to the inventor of the first pocket watch (originally built in the shape of an egg that women found fashionable to wear around their necks) and to Levi Strauss, inventor of the blue jeans.

Looking forward to making Nuremberg my home. Then I will really take the time to get to know as much as I can about it.
:) Good times ahead.

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