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11 Oct 2014

Nuremberg, Germany (Part One)

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October 11, 2014 Category: Travel Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Nuremburg Marketplace

By Renée S. Gordon

Nuremberg, on the Pegnitz River, is located in Bavaria and is southern Germany’s second largest city. It was founded more than 960 years ago, has been at the forefront of Germany’s culture since its establishment and personifies the entire spectrum of Germany’s history. Most significantly it presents a pattern of how to begin to recognize, come to terms with and learn important lessons from one’s history. 

The building, by King Henry III of Bavaria, of Kaiserburg, Nuremberg’s imperial castle, preceded the first official reference to “Nourenberc” in 1050. At that time the city was the eastern frontier of the region and there had been small communities in prehistoric times but the first fully documented settlement surrounded the castle and was chartered in 1219 by Emperor Frederick II as a free imperial city. Although it was not situated on a major water route it was situated at the intersection of several land routes and by the early 1300s it was a free imperial city dependent upon trade and industry. It was considered for more than 450-years the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation some have deemed the First Reich. 

Armor, at that time, was so heavy that if knocked from your horse you were unable to rise without help so many men wore shirts made of wire rings. Each shirt took 18 months to make and was comprised of 40,000 individual rings. The city became famous for making these chain-mail shirts. 

The Nuremberg bratwurst, the city’s iconic food, is first mentioned more than 700 years ago. The sausage was such a diet staple that the city council instituted the “Guten Policy,” guidelines for the making and content of the sausage and those guidelines continue to be adhered to.  There are numerous restaurants and kiosks where visitors can try one. Traditionally, they are between three to five inches long, are grilled over beechwood and six to 12 are served with potato salad or sauerkraut on a pewter plate as pewter was one of the primary metals mined here. Currently an exhibit, “A Cultural History of the Nuremberg Bratwurst” is on display in the City Museum Fembohaus until March 2015. The 1596 Fembo House is the sole surviving large late Renaissance merchant’s house and has been a museum since 1953.

In 1356, the town’s status was assured when the Golden Bull was issued stating that the first parliamentary session held by each new king had to be held in Nuremberg. During the 15th and 16th centuries Nuremberg was a cultural center and art, architecture, philosophy, science and innovation flourished. Ironically, some of the very things that made it a focal point of the German Renaissance would make it ideally suited to become a major city for Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP/ Nazi Party) and later for the war crime trials.

Nuremberg’s Old Town (Altstadt) walls were constructed to surround it beginning in the 12th-century. Originally they were approximately 4.5-miles with 3-miles and four gates still standing. The Pegnitz River divides the old town into the northern Sebalder Altstadt and the southern Lorenzer Altstadt. If you arrive at the Main Railway Station it is less than one block to the Konigstor, King’s Gate, and Konigstor Street that offers access to the major sites and attractions.

Just inside the gate is the Handwerkerhof, a courtyard with traditional craft stores, cafés and entertainment all replicating a medieval shopping district. This is a great place to purchase authentic souvenirs and memorabilia. The historic Bratwurstglocklein Restaurant is the perfect place to soak up the medieval atmosphere and order a traditional meal prepared and served in the authentic manner. It also presents a wonderful photo opportunity with the walls and tower in the background.

Hotel Victoria is also in the shadow of the gate and it is ideally situated so that a car is not necessary for travel. It was constructed in 1896, underwent a complete renovation this year and represents an expert blending of traditional and modern. All 62 guestrooms provide WIFI, a pillow menu, international television viewing, down bedding and deluxe bath amenities. The entire hotel is nonsmoking and breakfast is offered daily. The staff is exceptional and special packages are available online.

The German National Museum was established in 1852 and was heavily bombed during WWII. A new building opened in 1993 and incorporates modern architecture and portions of a Carthusian abbey. The museum is considered one of the best in the world, with a permanent collection in the millions and there is no better place to explore the cultural history of the German-speaking people. Highlights of the massive collection include works by Durer, Tilman Riemenschneider, the first globe and a Nuremberg egg.

Cartographer Maritin Behaim created the 21-inch diameter Behaim Globe in Nuremberg in 1492.  It depicts the equator, one meridian and a host of miniature paintings. The Americas are conspicuously absent because Columbus had not yet returned from his voyage of “discovery”. The globe was first referred to as an earth apple.

A little over a quarter of a century later, In 1524, Peter Henlein made the first pocket watch. The Nuremberg egg was round, cumbersome and no glass covered the face necessitating a lid. It is believed they were originally worn as pendants.

The high Gothic main basilica of St. Lorenz Kirche was constructed between 1270 and 1350 with a presbytery being added in the mid-1400s making it the city’s largest church.  The exterior of the church has twin, 263 and 265-ft., spires and 30-ft. diameter rose window. The main entrance is magnificently adorned with sculptures that introduce the theme of redemption from the Garden of Eden to the final judgment. The interior is decorated with carvings and sculptures the most significant of which are the 1219 Mary and Child, Stoss’ 1518 Annunciation and the 1418 high altar. (German only)  

Several bridges line the Pegnitz River leading from the southern section of the city to the northern. One, the Henkersteg or Hangman’s Bridge, has an incredible story to tell. The wooden bridge was built in 1457, was rebuilt after a flood in 1595, and reconstructed in 1954. The Nuremberg Hangman was an official position that was also hereditary. He was shunned by the people and lived away from them in a tower and six room roofed walkway over the river at its western tip. Frantz Schmidt held the office of Official Executioner from 1573 until 1618 and kept a journal that has provided much information on the office and his life.

Tours of the Hangman’s Residence Museum include the Hangman’s Room the site of the prisoner’s last meals, at that time prisoners ate well the three days prior to execution. Executions took place outside of the city walls at what is today the location of the Main Railway Station.

Nuremberg’s Hauptmarkt, Main Marketplace, is home to the most renowned Christmas Market in the country, first documented in 1628. The market opens the first Friday before the 1st Advent Sunday and runs until Christmas Eve. Nearly 190 stalls, some 200-years old, are festively decorated and selling traditional foods, mulled wine and handicrafts, entertainment and stagecoach rides are offered on a regular schedule. The special Children’s Market includes hands-on activities, child-sized booths, a Ferris wheel and a two tiered carousel.

Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, had the Frauenkirche, Church of Our Lady, erected on the site of a destroyed synagogue, between 1352 and 1362. Our Lady is the oldest extant Gothic hall church in Bavaria. An interior tour showcases the 1445 Tucher Altar. On the western façade of the church visitors are delighted each noon by the Mannleinlaufen, a mechanical clock that was placed there in 1509. The sculpted figures of the seven electoral princes parade clockwise around the emperor honoring him for instituting the 1356 Golden Bull. 

The Rathaus, Town Hall, has several distinct sections. The oldest section is Gothic and faces the Hauptmarkt. It dates from 1332 with a modernization in the 1400s. Jacob Wolff the Younger built a Renaissance addition in 1616. The building was for a time the largest secular hall north of the Alps. It building destroyed in WWII and reconstructed beginning in the 1950s. A 30-minute tour is offered of the dungeons below the older portion of the building. They date from the 14th-century.

The “Beautiful Fountain” is located in the Hauptmarkt. Stonemason Heinrich Beheim completed it in 1396. The 62-ft. column, with four rows featuring 40 sculpted figures, was surrounded in 1587 by an ornate fence that has an attached brass ring. Legend has it that if you turn the ring your wish will be granted.

Albert Durer lived in a half-timbered house built in 1420 from 1509 until his death in 1528. The house is the sole 16th-century artist’s residence in Northern Europe and is Germany’s first artist museum dating from 1828. A docent in the role of Agnes Durer, Albrecht’s wife, leads tours through the reconstructed rooms. Demonstrations of printing techniques are held as well as artwork exhibits.

The rebuilt Historic Art Bunkers, some as deep as 79-ft., were created beneath the Kaiserburg Castle during WWII. The bunkers were the former beer cellars of the castle and they were deemed bombproof and for added protection systems were installed to provide ventilation and protect against fire. These Art Bunkers were used to store Nuremberg’s precious artworks unlike those sought by the “Monuments Men” that contained looted international art. Seventy-five minute tours of the bunkers include the storage area, guardroom and a photographic display complete with authentic WWII audio.

Zum Gulden Stern, dating from 1375, is the world’s oldest sausage kitchen and the oldest still in its original location. The inn is first officially documented in 1419. In 1640 it was named a restaurant in the “high category” and has maintained that status for the past 350-years. Zum Gulden Stern is located near the castle and travelers have dined there for centuries, it was even said, “Who was not there, was not in Nuremberg.”

You can’t visit Nuremberg without walking up Burgstrasse to the Kaiserburg. This castle complex quickly became one of the most impressive castle fortifications in the realm. There are three distinct sections, the Imperial Castle (Kaiserburg), the Burgraves buildings (Burggrafenburg), and the municipal buildings (Reichsstadtische Bauten). It was one the most important places in the Empire and parts of the “Golden Bull,” fundamental law, were written in Nuremberg. These laws applied until 1806 when the Empire came to an end.

As you approach you will come first to the Funfeckturm, a pentagonal tower erected in 1040, the oldest building in the city. One inside the gate there are several sites of particular interest. The Bower, Imperial Castle Museum, was originally erected in the early 1200s and reconstructed after severe damage during WWII. Architecturally the Romanesque double Imperial Chapel is the most important room in the complex. These two chapels mirror one another in a single hall, one atop the other. 


The Faber-Castell Company as founded by Kaspar Faber in 1761 and after 8 generations it continues to be one of the leading companies in the world as well as one of the oldest brand names in Germany. The company, located in Stein, is most widely recognized as the maker of the finest lead pencils and writing instruments but their line also includes business leather goods and a line of environmentally and ecologically pure cosmetics. 

The “Faber-Castell Experience” is comprised of three parts, a two hour production tour, a visit to the museum and a tour of he Count of Faber-Castell’s Residence. Highlights of the residence tour are the large playhouse inside the children’s room, flirting niches in the ballroom, all of the architectural elements and the two awe-inspiring bathrooms. An “unofficial” outstanding experience is a stop to shop in the on-site boutique. On a special note, did you know that graphite is pure carbon, as is a diamond?

With the purchase of a Nuremberg and Furth Card visitors can enter all museums and attractions and ride all forms of public transit without additional cost. Information on the card and all other tourist information is available online.

I wish you smooth travels!

Travel Tip:

Fall is the perfect time to rejuvenate, reinvigorate and revamp for the season ahead and Philadelphia has a new and unique location in which to accomplish all your goals. On September 15th The Rittenhouse Spa & Club – Hair by Paul Labrecque opened in the city’s most luxurious hotel, The Rittenhouse, on the city’s ritziest square. The spa offers eight private treatment rooms, a couples’ suite and an opulent Relaxation lounge. The spa’s regionally exclusive signature treatment, the Hydrafacial, is one of a plethora of comprehensive services.

Paul Labrecque, recognized by Vanity Fair as one of the top three stylists in the nation, is the driving force behind the Paul Labrecque Salon designed to feature 10 salon chairs and a private brow and lash studio. The Paul Labrecque Gentlemen’s Salon & Barber Shop offers custom services for men as well as sports manicures and pedicures.

A day of luxury at the Rittenhouse Spa makes the ultimate gift. Information is available online.

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