So through a cock up we visited Nürnberg a few days before the famous Christmas market. Anna had originally thought that it was being held on the dates we were visiting.
We discovered that it didn’t matter because if you can live without an acre of stalls selling small wooden figurines, glühwein and sausages then you’re not missing much. However, that being said then all I knew about the city was its awful Nazi history and the fact that my Favourite Youngest Daughter seemed to fly in here every month on adidas business. Their HQ is located nearby.Ryanair continue to delight. The flights were ludicrously cheap - £10 each way (which might have been a clue as to the fact the market hadn’t started) but the random seat allocator on the web site put Anna and I 12 rows apart. Of course this could be corrected for £4! The next joy was that Ryanair had the passengers embark through one door, at Manchester, leaving you to queue on the runway and steps whilst it rained. Passengers who had not been seat prioritised (you also pay extra for that) jostled for overhead locker space delaying others getting to their seat or getting out of the rain. Lovely.
Nürnberg greeted us with the famous ivory coloured taxis (not an Uber in sight) and we were whisked into the town centre accompanied by the Everly Bros, The Doobie Brothers and Cliff Richard on the radio. And they ask why we want to leave the EU?
We were staying in the old part of the city and close to all the sights. After checking into the excellent Hotel Five in the centre we encountered the other significant challenge of the trip - vegetarian restaurants. The legal statutes of Franconia (the Northern part of Bavaria) require a German to consume at least a kilogram of pork meat every 24 hours. All very well for me but unfortunately Anna forswore the ‘fleisch’ several decades ago. A lap of the restaurants offering schweinhaxe and quite a quantity of schnitzel but few nut cutlets. However the diner at the hotel came up trumps with a veggie burger. As always the quality of the English spoken by virtually anyone is shaming to the average Brit. Our waiter, of Vietnamese extract, spoke perfect English and this was learned at school.
The German climate, whilst cold is dry in winter (apart from when it is raining, cough) and many burghers can be found at outside tables drinking and, more worryingly, often smoking. This is quite a sight as even in the harder parts of the UK then being outside after dark in the winter isn’t a popular pursuit even for those fortified with alcohol.
Day 2 - The weather was cold but quite sunny and quite pleasant if wrapped up. Generating body heat was not a problem as the next morning I was led up a steep cobbled hill to the Castle (Kaiserburg). Quite a delightful building that very occasionally housed kings and emperors. These chaps rotated around their Bavarian cities collecting money from the well healed to fight their next war. It wasn’t very grand inside and I wouldn’t recommend shelling out to look around. There is continuing refurbishment on the building. It has to said that there is quite a lot of construction in Nürnberg generally and it was worth noting that this included the obligatory blokes in hard hats and hi viz loitering as one or two were actually doing something.
The old city (Altstadt) is very authentic and looks centuries old. Nevertheless this is a reconstruction since the 1940’s. In fact British and American bombing levelled 92% of it. By 1945 it was rubble. After the war the Germans painstakingly rebuilt it all. In fact Nürnberg was the second most bombed and destroyed German city of the war. The Allies targeted it because of its war effort supporting industry and it’s iconic status for the Nazis.
After our mountaineering then we did it again with, Regina, our tour guide. She led the 11 O’clock tour up the hill. She was a Finn but had been a resident for many years. Her talk didn’t skirt the ‘dark times’ but frankly we knew enough about WW2 that it held no real interest apart from some of the practicalities that befell the residents. Nürnberg, following the War, lost its industry, or it never came back, and today it is mainly service led. Tourism is popular and the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal brings cruises all the year round through the town. They disembark for, wait for it, glühwein, sausages and small wooden figurines. They also probably partake of the magnificent cake that you can find at many cafes. We felt it necessary to sample and in fact over the next couple of days did ample research. Delicious.
The town centre with its outdoor Germans was also a hive of joinery as all the stalls were being built for the market. The influx of tourists, mainly German is immense and the market runs all the way up until Christmas. Which brings us onto another interesting fact. The Germans appear to be quite interested in Christianity. In the UK it is in dramatic decline but here the churches appear quite well supported and references to religiosity seem more prolific. Regina advised that if you belonged to a church then tithes were collected at source - 8% of the amount you paid in tax went to the church you nominated. I can imagine active marketing campaigns for new membership!
The population of Nürnberg is 501,000 and whilst most live away from the old town then many do visit the large centre and it’s shops just across the small Pegnitz River, which splits the city centre. This was vibrant and at the weekend it came alive. On the pedestrianised streets were a lot of street vendors selling delicacies, vegetables, cheeses, flowers, sandwiches and the like. It was always buzzing.
Evening dining was later solved at a Vietnamese restaurant, which was delicious, and joy knew bounds when Sky News was found on Channels 1035 on the hotel TV. Only I would trawl through so many Channels! The hope was to learn more about the Ashes, which were not in complete disrepair at this stage of the series.
Day 3 - Anna led yours truly toward the railway station. As she pointed out you could tell we were getting closer to the terminal as we passed a large old hotel, Tourist Information, McDonalds and beggars. We were bound for Bamberg. Forty miles north of Nürnberg. Or were we?Negotiating the ticket machine resulted in obtaining two tickets costing over €38. Further review of the ticket revealed that one would have been sufficient and that we now needed two other adults and four children under the age of sixteen to get the full value of our investment. If that was a disappointment so was getting on the wrong train.
Let’s call her ‘Heidi’. She was quite gentle as Anna presented our tickets and enquired if we were on the correct train? We were not and although the train was going in the correct direction it was a sort of inter city train rather than the smaller affair that ran locally. So we were ejected at Erlangen. Now slightly uncertain about the tickets we decided to visit the ticket office. Yours truly was despairing at German efficiency as two little old ladies took an age at the counter to be served. I imagined judging by the engagement and activity of the assistant that they were exploring the cost and connections involved in travelling with a small farmyard animal from Erlangen to Motherwell via Athens on a long Bank Holiday weekend in 2019 paying with Bitcoins. Eventually a counter became free and in immaculate English the lady confirmed our new travel arrangements... and without prompting reimbursed me for the extra ticket we bought erroneously. “All good in the ‘hood” we both thought.
Bamburg has importance as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a short time it was the centre of the Holy Roman Empire and had religious importance and still today has a number of important churches and a monastery. My eye was drawn on Wikipedia to the golden years of the 17th century when about one thousand victims were claimed in the witch trials. Those crazy Bavarians.
So we wandered around had more coffee and cake and then ambled down an alley ostensibly heading back toward the barnhof. German architecture is solid and attractive but the level of graffiti is awful. For all their discipline then it appears that many youths take delight in spraying bollocks on beautiful emulsioned walls in a variety of colours. If I were a resident then I could be attracted to joining a vigilante group to coral these morons for some 21st century ‘witch trials’.
However, grumpiness was lifted by finding a second hand record store. The Germans do have some superb shops and other masochists who read my blogs know that I have driven to Stuttgart twice in the last couple of years to visit a brilliant shop there. Here I bought a German compilation album of a British band called East of Eden. It was pure nostalgia because I saw them supporting the Jack Bruce Band at The Queens Hall, Leeds on October 8th 1971.
On the train back to Nürnberg it was rammed with school kids. Anna deduced that they were weekly boarders who were let off early in the afternoon. I remember that I used to read books and listen to music on these journeys but now like the rest of the human race I scroll through rubbish on my mobile phone. If on leaving the EU we lose our free data roaming rights then I may get my life back when on holiday.
As compensation for being accommodating on Anna’s dining limitations I was allowed to select Bratwurst Röslein for dinner. This was a large hall with wenches in bustling red dresses over their white blouses who seated you at long wooden benches and proffered menus with dishes that were probably popular a couple of centuries ago. I had the pork schnitzel that covered the full plate and Anna had a potato goulash that didn’t seem to hit the sides, on the few occasions I looked up from my emptying plate and large wheat beer.
Day 3 – Rain! We had a morning to fill and the heavens truly opened. Anna thought the best way to avoid this was by going on a tour of caves under the city! There is quite a complex under the city that had two main purposes. The first was a place to ferment lager up until the mid 19th Century. The brewing process requires a cool temperature and as the average German drank 500 litres of beer/year back in the day there was a large industry to keep Fritz and Helga blotto. However after brewing didn’t necessitate being stored underground the mainly empty labyrinths were vital as an air raid shelter. Such is the network and its depths that it limited the death count to 6,800 in the war. This is still terrible but in the most bombed city, Dresden, it was nearer 25,000.
In line with our new protocol we proceeded from the sandstone depths to a café for another piece of cake before catching the metro to the airport. All went according to plan and we got back to Manchester on time.
Splendid. Get your tickets booked. We barely scratched the surface of all its delights.