Friday, June 12, 2015

The Unexpected ~ Nuremberg and Bamberg

Nuremberg Market
All I knew about Nuremberg was associated with Nazi occupation and with the later trials; Bamberg was just another city in Germany to me. Local guides in both cities were excellent at using history to explain how these cities had changed and how they had retained the heritage they wanted the German children to embrace. I have a greater appreciation for the people, past and present, in these cities and how they are building their culture.

Nuremberg is an old city, mentioned in historic writings in about 1050, which hosted an Imperial castle on an important trade route between Italy and Northern Europe. As a prime piece of real estate, Nuremberg was fought over by one group of another for hundreds of
Nuremberg Cathedral
years. These battles were physical and political with religious leaders as wielders of power. Nuremberg was seen as the ‘unofficial capital’ of the Holy Roman Empire because the Imperial Diet (Assembly) met at the Castle to administer the empire, both political and religious. With the power of the religious leaders came the ability to demand that all peoples worshiped in a particular manner. Of course this led to discrimination, particularly against the Jewish population. The Rintfleisch Massacres began in 1298, decimating the Jews while covering up the political motive of uniting the northern and southern parts of the city. Nuremberg rocked along, through the 15th and 16th centuries, becoming the centerpiece of the German Renaissance. However, in the mid-16th century the Catholics were ousted and the Protestants (specifically the Lutherans) took control. Two hundred years later, the Catholics were back, but not with the political power they had once held.

Nuremberg’s darkest days came with the choice of the city as the site of Nazi Party
Top L to R: Local guide; Nazi rally area
Bottom: Congress Hall
conventions. The choice was made to crush Catholicism and because the city is about in the center of Germany. Hitler had huge complexes built for the Nuremberg rallies and assemblies. During these occasions, propaganda photographs and movies were filmed. According to our guide, and he got the stories from his grandmother, Hitler’s ideal of the blond and blue-eyed youth were always rounded up and pushed to the front of any photo-op. The more common darker complexioned Germans filled the ranks behind their lighter peers. While the young men were engrossed in the marching and the arming of the troops, the young women lost interest quickly and did not attend the military spectacles. To attract the women, and have a chance of recruiting them into the Hitler Youth, other extravaganzas were held. In one instance, hundreds of girls in traditional costumes were brought in to dance on one of the assembly fields. The young soldiers who were to entertain by drilling in front of the grandstands were kept far away from these young women; they hadn’t seen females in quite a while and no one, other than Hitler, believed that the men could maintain self-control if they were allowed to mingle with the women. As soon as the dancing was over, the women were put on a train and taken back to the safety of their homes. Quite near the now deserted rally grounds stands another all but deserted edifice to Hitler’s arrogance. Congress Hall, built on the order of the coliseum in Rome but quite a bit larger, was under construction when the war came to a close. This ‘cathedral’ of the Nazi Party is now used as a car park on the inside and a museum on the outside that reminds people of the atrocities of the Nazis. The people in Nuremberg have declared that this building will never be restored. What I found most interesting during this tour was the number of school groups who were being taught about the Second World War. The main message to these kids seemed to be ‘remember what happened here and don’t let it happen again’.

What I did recall from my history classes about Nuremberg was that it was the location of the trials of German officials. The actual courtroom is located in what is still the Palace of
Nuremberg Documentation Center
Justice; however there are plans to open this room and perhaps a few others around it to the public for tours. The location of the trials of war criminals for crimes against humanity was debated among the allied powers with the Soviet Union campaigning for Berlin and the US supporting Nuremberg as the site. Eventually, Nuremberg was chosen because it had been the rallying point of Hitler and the Nazi Party as well as the dissemination point of the laws stripping Jews of their citizenship; the Palace of Justice was expansive and mostly undamaged; and a large prison was part of the complex, thus reducing the risk of either escape of or attacks on the prisoners.

Stork and baby

While Nuremberg was caught in Nazi embroilments, Bamberg missed most of the trauma. The Bamberg Conference was Hitler’s attempt to unite the then-young Nazi party with the more dissident members of its northern faction. This meeting was evidently anti-climactic and Bamberg escaped most of the destructive forces of World War II. In 1993 the Town of Bamberg was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Bamberg is actually about 100 years older than Nuremberg but their governing is very similar. Begun around a castle, Bamberg became part of the Diocese of Würzburg and a
Bamberg Cathedral
new cathedral was built in the 11th century. Because of the piety of Emperor Henry II and his wife, Cunigunde, Bamberg was the center of the Holy Roman Empire for a short while with several churches and an abbey for the training of the clergy. By the 13th century the bishops were princes of the Empire, ruling Bamberg as well as many other cities (such as Nuremberg); 400 years later, the bishop-princes tried about 1000 people accused of being witches. In the mid-1700s the possessions of the diocese were sold to Austria with Bamberg losing its independence and becoming part of Bavaria in 1803.

Since the most destructive parts of the wars bypassed Bamberg, its old town is quite well
Town Hall with paintings and 3D body parts
preserved, and in 1973, the town celebrated the 1000th anniversary of its founding. This is a good area for a stroll and to enjoy the sights. As you enter the town, you have to cross the Regnitz River on either the upper or lower bridge. The upper bridge goes through the town hall with its brightly painted wall. Although this wall undergoes restoration periodically, you can still see the quirkiness of the original artist. In two places the painting becomes 3D with a leg actually sticking out of the painting. The bridge passes through the town hall because, as the story goes, the bishop reused to give the people land for the construction so they built it in the river. The town hall is the boundary between the wealthy folks and the ordinary folks living on an island.

This island with its picturesque houses once belonging to the fishermen is known as Little Venice. Boats tie up at the houses and shops while others glide by taking tourists to see
Slaughter house with cow on the side
some of the lovely half-timbered houses. Although it’s pretty now, this was once one of the smelliest places in Bamberg. Not only were there fish processing houses here, but there was a butcher shop that dumped its waste into the river. Thankfully, all that’s left are the signs that show where these places were.

Our guide informed us that Bamberg is the ‘city of beer’ because of its long beer brewing history. One of the bishop-princes decreed that the only thing that could go into Bamberg beer was hops, malt and water; however, the patrons of pubs found that some beer tasted better than others. Those better tasting beers were brewed
Schlenkerla and bakery icon
next door to bakeries. Eventually some quick-minded brewer (although Louis Pasteur is credited with the discovery in 1857) added yeast, producing a consistently better tasting beer. The city is also famous for its ‘smoked beer’, another product of accidental flavoring.  According to the story we were told, malt is usually dried in the sun but there was a fire and luckily the malt was not destroyed, just a bit singed. It was added to the beer anyway and ach du lieber, smoked beer! Schlenkerla and Spezial, two brewpubs in Bamberg have been producing smoke beer for nearly 200 years.

For information on What we did, Where we stayed and What we ate, go to ‘Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris’.

Egyptian Geese on the Main River

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