Modern travellers encounter on all sides evidence of Nuremberg’s 900 years of history, reflecting epochs of proud dignity as well as periods of decline and denigration and combining intellectual clarity with romantic whimsy. Here they find a city illustrative of Germany’s past and present, where the impressive monuments of many centuries of prodigious inventiveness and cultural self-confidence survive amidst the hurly-burly of a modern, dynamic metropolis.
Following the almost total destruction of historic Nuremberg during the second World War, the City council wisely rejected all suggestions to preserve a “tabula rasa” or, as happened in many other places, to erect a purely modern city on the ruins. It decided instead to proceed cautiously with the re-building of the old city, and it did so exceedingly well, as anyone who visits Nuremberg in “Meyer’s Universum” in 1837 sounds equally applicable today:
“Such diversity protects the traveler from boredom which so often afflicts him when he goes to visit the stereotyped cities of our modern age, where every house and every square resemble each other, just like soldiers’ uniforms”. It is open to speculation why, in the words of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Nuremberg was, for princes and sovereigns, “the apple of their eye”. Be that as it may, the emperor Friedrich II decreed in his Great Charter of 1219″ … irrevocably and for all time that no citizen of this place shall have any protector other than Ourselves and Our successors, the Roman kings and emperors”. And Karl IV laid down that every future emperor had to hold his first Imperial Diet in Nuremberg.
Thus the Imperial castle is, for the inhabitants of Nuremberg too, the “apple of their eye”, and they like to refer to the fortress, which took centuries to build, as the city’s “crowning glory”. This is where the emperors resided, and it is from here that housetops with their pointed gables and the tall church spires to the skyline of the satellite towns and the dark green expanse of the vast pine forests named after the two main churches, St. Lawrence and St. Sebaldus.
These churches, testimonials in soaring Gothic to the piety and public spirit of bygone ages, may seem to the uninitiated, at first sight, to be outwardly almost identical; but their interiors are unique “celestial halls” , adorned with magnificent works of arts, of which only the most important can be listed here the “Annunciation” by Veit Stoss, the tabernacle by Adam Kraft and the tomb of St. Sebaldus by Peter Vischer.
On the banks of the Pegnitz, betwen these two great ecclesiastical edifices, stands the Church of Our Lady, on the western facade of which the citizens of Nuremberg placed a delightful memorial to the Emperor Karl IV – the “Männleinlaufen”, an ornamental clock with an ingenious mechanism whereby daily, at noon, the figures of the seven Prince Electors rotate around the Emperor, watched and admired by hundreds of tourists gathered in the square below the “Hauptmarkt” or Main Market. Here, too, is the “Schöner Brunnen” Fountain, celebrated in song and story, with its “lucky ring” artistically welded to the lattice-work. Loving couples delight in turning this ring, fro it is reputed to bring good luck and happiness in young, or even more mature love. Each year, in this selfsame square at Christmas, a fairytale comes true – the world-famous “Christkindlesmarkt“, or Christmas Fair, when this enchanting “town ship of boots and stalls made of wood and cloth” delights the children and transports their elders back to what were perhaps happier times.
The same thing happens a little further on – in the Toy Museum, the very heart of this “metropolis of toys”, while the Germanic National Museum on the Kornmarkt, originally a Carthusian monastery, ofers one of the finest and most important presentations of German art and culture.
Beneath the castle is the house where Albrecht Dürer lived, and here, at the Tiergärtner Gate, is the finest square in Nuremberg – rendezvous, particularly on mild summer evenings, for enthusiastic visitors from all over the world. And having mentioned Dürer, we must also quote some other names famous in the city’s great cultural history – the humanist Willibald Pirckheimer for example, Martin Behaim, Peter Henlein, Hans Sachs, Regiomontan, Anselm and Ludwig Feuerbach, together with Adam Kraft, Veit Stoss and Peter Vischer whom we have alredy refered to.
This list is far from exhaustive and the names do not come solely from the period when Nuremberg was called the “centre of Germany and all Europe” and the ” fatherland of wisdom and the dwellinghouse of genius“.
Even nowadays, Nuremberg retains its position as a centre as far as communications are concerned. It is surrounded by a network of motorways; its harbour on the Main-Danube Canal is the focal point on this waterway linking the North Sea and the Black Sea, soon – in a few year’s time – to be opened throughout its entire lenght; and its airport ranks high among passengers and pilots alike as far as popularity and safety are concerned.
Nuremberg has continued its great tradition in the field of trade and commerce. Companies of international repute have successfully perpetuated the proverbial invetiveness and business acumen of the city’s old inhabitants and have carried the products and the name of Nuremberg to the four corners of the world.
Nuremberg is a good place to live in. It has one of Europe’s finest zoos, its citizens make the most of their various festivities, the local Franconian cuisine is dainty and appetizing, the beer can stand comparasion with any produced in Bavaria and the city’s best-known specialities are fried sausages and gingerbread. The surrounding area has many delights to offer, both scenic and cutural, and anyone who takes time to explore it after having exhausted the manifold attractions of the city will be richly rewarded.
Although Martin Luther was writing ain another context, we may aptly quote his words of praise here:
“Nuremberg shines forth throughout Germany like a sun among the moon and stars”
History of the city:
1050 First documented mention of Nuremberg
1219 Friedrich II confers the rights of a free Imperial town upon Nuremberg
1400 The third city wall, still in existence today, is completed.
1524 Nuremberg accepts the Reformation.
1649 Nuremberg Peace Banquet seals the end of the Thirty Years War.
1835 The first railway runs between Nuremberg and Fuerth
1945 An air raid destroys 90% of the old town of Nuremberg
1945-49 “Nuremberg Trials” of representatives of the Nazi regime.
1966 Majority of rebuilding work on the old town is completed.
1985 Old council chamber provisionally restored.
2001 Opening of the Documentation Centre on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds.
2004 With nearly 500.000 inhabitants, Nuremberg is the second-largest city in Bavaria.