Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Nuremberg: The Heart of Germany


I'm back from my week-long excursion to Nuremberg, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic with my study abroad program! Both cities were absolutely gorgeous and charming in their own ways, and I'm extremely grateful for the chance to travel the world. In an effort to keep the blabbing about my trip to a minimum, I'll split the information into two posts: this one will focus on Nuremberg, and my next one will be about Prague. Let's get started!

Nuremberg is a small city in Bavaria (southern Germany) with lots of history and traditional German culture. The city itself was founded in the year 1050 and has ties to the Holy Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and European trading in medieval times. All of the beautiful medieval buildings were well-preserved until World War II, when Allied bombing destroyed 90% of the city, according to my lovely city tour guide. However, the city was rebuilt to look like it did before the bombings. Hitler and the Nazis also started to build their massive rally grounds in Nuremberg, and the Nuremberg Trials (where the U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union punished the Nazis for their war crimes) were also held in the city in 1945-46.

After the five-hour train ride from Berlin to Nuremberg, my friends and I spent the day exploring the city. Remember when I went to Oktoberfest in Munich and gushed about the stereotypically German pretzels, beer, Liederhosen, cobblestone paths, and bratwurst? Nuremberg has the same type of feel, but in a smaller city setting. Pubs and breweries serving traditional German food can be found on practically every street, and food vendors sell traditional N├╝rnberger Bratwurst (basically American breakfast sausages) and pretzels. I splurged on a Nutella pretzel, and I've been craving the unbelievably delicious sweet-and-salty combo ever since. Small shops with gingerbread, beer mugs, and homemade trinkets are also sprinkled around the town. 

The "Altstadt," or the old historic center of the city, is surrounded by a wall which separates it from the residential areas. The main area of the Altstadt is a cobblestone town square surrounded by beautiful architecture and lively people.

We happened to be in Nuremberg during the Altstadtfest (old city festival) so the square was filled with tents that sold German food, gifts, trinkets, and clothes. My friends and I spent a nice chunk of time walking through the markets during our four days in Nuremberg. I bought some delicious dried fruit, a birthday present for my sister, and way too much German street food. I tried Flammkuchen (like flatbread pizza, but crispier), N├╝rnberger sandwiches, cheese-stuffed olives, gingerbread, and toasted nuts. Let me just say that German food is amazing!

While my friends are I were exploring during our first day, we visited the Nuremberg Castle. Although the castle isn't as grand as the one I saw in Potsdam, the gardens and scenery were just as amazing. We didn't go inside, but the view of the city from the yard was worth the uphill trek to the castle.


For dinner that first night, we went to a traditional German restaurant in the basement of a building, which is apparently a pretty popular restaurant location in Germany. The scenery and food were both incredible! I got Kaesespaetzle, which is basically Germany's version of mac-n-cheese that tastes one-million times better than the stuff you buy in America. Think super creamy with a slight onion taste – YUM!

The next few days in Nuremberg were a mix of events organized by my study abroad program and free time to explore the city on our own. We went to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and the courtroom of the Nuremberg trials. Both places were exciting and strange to see in person. I'm always amazed at Germany's vast history... I can see medieval buildings and Nazi buildings in the same small town. My group also visited the Germanisches Nationalmuseum and had an interesting guided tour of the Altstadt.

(This very spot is where Hitler addressed the German people during the Nazi Party rallies)

Since Nuremberg is a smaller city with 500,000 residents, night life isn't as prominent as in Berlin. Nevertheless, my friends and I went to a club one night for a birthday. I'm still planning to write a post about the night life scene in Berlin, but you should know that I'm not the biggest fan of clubbing and would much rather go to a bar. The club in Nuremberg was still pretty fun, even though we pretended we were fluent in German to get past the tough bouncer (lucky for me, I know a good amount of German and could answer his questions easily!). The DJ played popular American music and the dance scene was energetic. We had a round of tequila shots, and the bartender served the shots with cinnamon and orange instead of salt and lime! I've never even heard of the mix before, but the shots were surprisingly tasty.

On our last night in Nuremberg, my friends and I went to the Altstadtfest for some street food and caught the beginning of a live music act. Instead of a guitar solo, the artist played an accordion solo! Only in Germany. We managed to get lost while wondering around and came across Nuremberg's version of Oktoberfest. I can't believe we were in Nuremberg for three days before and missed this humongous festival! Just like at Oktoberfest, temporary tents serving beer and German food were built in an open field. Stands sold everything from Flammkuchen to potato chips to crepes . However, unlike Oktoberfest in Munich, the fest at Nuremberg was more compact, well-lit, and surrounded by trees, which made it more beautiful and a better environment to take in the German culture. My friends and I sat at a long outside table and ordered beer and food. I got Schweinhaxe (pig knuckles), which I promise taste way better than they sound!

Nuremberg might have taken Munich's place as my favorite German city. I'm a sucker for traditional German culture! Since the city is so small, I felt like four days was more than enough time to see the major sites. I can definitely see myself living in a city like Nuremberg in the future. In the meantime, I'm sure I'll be back to visit again!