Many of the Atla’s passengers signed up for the optional World War II Historical tour offered here in Nuremberg. We did not but our tour guide, Tom, really had a lot to share with us about this time period in Germany’s history on the “included” tour. (FWIW, I spoke with those who’d taken the optional tour and each of them thought it was very valuable; but I don’t think they had much of a tour of the old town city of Nuremburg as we had).
This stop is one of those “take a bus to the attraction” dockings. The river, I guess, used to flow close to the city center but the canal does not so we dock about 20 minutes away and ride in. That means that Caspar is very clear, the evening before, about what times the buses will be available to us to shuttle back and forth. It also means that if you want to have lunch on the Atla, you need to bus to the city, bus back, then bus to the city again before returning on the last shuttle. We decide to “stay” in Nuremburg’s old city center and have lunch there to save time.
The standard tour in Nuremburg begins with a quick visit to the Hitler-built “coliseum” where he planned to hold annual rallies of his National Socialist (Nazi) party. The outside of the building, finished in sandstone, is impressive in its scale and shape (a very large horseshoe). As with so many things the German people thought Hitler proposed, it looks initially fine on the outside. But, venturing into the inner courtyard (huge), you see that it’s unfinished and “rotten” at its core. Construction was never completed and we stand in the middle of the horseshoe, looking around at the barren place while Tom uses words and photos to describe the time and place we can better imagine as we stand on the ground where Hitler shared his “dreams” with the German people.
Throughout this part of the tour, Tom works hard to tell us the truths of the time—but also emphasizes what Germany has done/is doing to educate its citizens (and most especially its children) so that it can “never happen again.” It’s a sobering tour.
We board the buses and skirt the south end of the walled city and veer around it to drive by the site of the post-war Nuremburg Trials. The courthouse is still in use and doing judicial duty today so the courtroom used for the trial is closed; there is a video presentation at the site, but that’s part of the optional tour so we drive onward, heading for the highest point in the old city, the uber-defended castle (yes, another castle—they’re everywhere in these parts, along with opulent residences for bishops…)
Tom’s description of trying to “storm” the castle brings the whole thing to life as we walk through four heavily-defensible castle gates. Finally arriving up top (yay, we conquered this castle!) we revel in a view with the city unfolded below us. Much of Nuremburg was bombed to oblivion during WWII but it’s been carefully rebuilt until it’s difficult to tell which are the “new” homes and which are the ancient ones.
A special home is that of Albrecht Durer, a German painter unequaled in his time. Durer brought the painting techniques of Renaissance Italy north to Nuremburg and lived and painted from this home for decades. There’s a museum there (but only reproductions of his work, which is evidently scattered throughout the world) and a tour featuring a historical re-enactment by Durer’s wife, Agnes, as she guides you through the home and you can relive home life in Germany’s 1500s (look for the tour in English unless you’re much more conversant in German than I am…)
There’s a cathedral here, too, and lots of “regular” churches (as in still pretty darn impressive in age, scope and design to me but not up to the town’s “dom” or cathedral in status). It’s a delight to hear the hours chimed out on bells throughout these medieval cities—deep tones peal forth as do the lighter-toned bells. It all comes together in a lovely melody of sound that will remain one of my fondest “aural” memories of this trip (well, that and the plashing of water as we glide smoothly through quiet stretches of the Danube).
[Side note: I’m typing this as we come into Passau (yes, I type the posts a few days after the activities sometimes–life gets busy around here) and the captain is executing what seems to be a 180-degree turn in the channel. The engines are cranked up and the wake is churning behind us as we spin this very long boat around on its axis. This is something we’ve not done before on this trip. I’m not sure it it is a “scheduled” maneuver or we were changed to another docking site and had to turn around. I’ll probably never know, but if I find out, I’ll come back and post the details.]
The central plaza of Nuremburg is being revamped so I think we lost a little bit of the feel of the place, but there are still two distinctive things to watch for here: The glockenspiel there marking the noon hour with mechanized characters and the brilliant ornate fountain with a fencing around it holding a gold-colored ring. There’s a story and legend with the ring, suffice to say Mom and I each spun it around 2-1/2 times to ensure our good luck or some such thing. I’d be happy if twisting the ring around would just guarantee I won’t lose anything major on this trip (as in wallet, camera, Mom, etc.).
Before leaving us on our own for the day (Mom and I planned to spend the day in Nuremberg and not return until the 4 pm shuttle back to the Atla), we asked Tom the best place for the sausages which the city is renowned for. He pointed us to a restaurant just up toward the castle. “This place is the best,” Tom assured us. “They grill their sausages on beechwood and it gives them the best flavor. That’s where you should go.”
Say no more.
Mom and I headed up that way and were joined by two friends from the Atla, Diane and Darrell. It was the noon hour and tables under the trees outdoors were in short supply but we spotted two other Atla passengers who were sitting at a table for six and they welcomed us (thank you, Jerry and Monique!). Mom and I don’t have huge appetites and frequently split a meal; that was perfect for this cafe, too. You can choose six or eight (or even more) of the finger-length sausages with a choice of sauerkraut or (hot) potato salad. Once these little wienies arrived, still sizzling and smoky from the grill, pull one of the crusty oval-shaped buns from the basket on your table, slice it down the middle and insert at least three sausages. Slather on some of the spicy mustard…no, add more than that, it’s really good stuff! Cost for this, including a Coke was 10,20 (euros). Add a beer for a few euros more and you have a wonderful German lunch.
But we still needed something a little sweet, so we sampled the “gingerbread” this city is well-known for. Don’t expect it to taste like gingerbread back home (at least not in my neck of the woods) and you’ll be delighted. The cookies are soft and the flavor is nutty and quite “healthy,” really. And of course I had to pose one of these Lebkuchen in front of a Nuremburg scene so I could add it to my expanding gallery of food treats posed in front of old European towns.
A farmers’ market occupies the wide plaza streets downtown; Mom snagged some nut and fruit cake (no sugar added) and I couldn’t resist a trio of creamy pink rose stems for only a euro. I carried them back to the Atla and the front desk staff gave us a vase. For a few day’s we’ll be enjoying a very visible reminder of the beauty of Nuremburg, right in our stateroom.
[Additional side note: The ship’s captain was in the reception area this morning when I dropped by to pick up our boarding passes. He said this morning’s 180-degree turn was the first such maneuver on this cruise and was intended. We’ll be doing turn again to get out of this dock and at least once more before reaching Budapest.]