Rallying around in Nuremburg Düring the Christmas markets

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December 22nd 2017
Published: February 24th 2018
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The end of the road. Nuremburg. If the boat had been using a sat-nav/ GPS, we would have heard those famous words: ‘You have reached your final destination!!’ It started raining, although quite a mild temperature of 7 degrees Celsius. Our organised tour in to Nuremburg was not until 13:30 so we had the morning free to decide if we wanted to go. Other than the more popular ‘optional’ excursion of the WWII tour, one of the more unusual excursions was to a pencil factory!! Nuremberg, I understand, is the pencil capital of the world (not many places can claim that distinction!) for they don’t just have one pencil factory but Nuremberg is home to the two largest manufacturers and distributors of pencils in the world in Stædtler and Faber-Castell.As Stan Laurel once said (for no apparent reason), ‘You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be led’.I tried to explain that joke to the excursions manager but somehow it doesn’t translate very well to Serbo-Croat!! (especially since pencils have not contained lead since 1950s!)

The rain eased off as the morning progressed but it was still miserable and grey. It was therefore time for another tour!! Almost immediately after having set off on our coach for the forty-minute drive in to Nuremberg, our guide, after having introduced himself started with a disclaimer. Nurembergers are among the grumpiest people in Germany. So much so that Snow White wouldn’t have a problem should she ever require a replacement for one of her dwarves!! In fact, these people are even more grumpy and that’s despite being the second largest city in Bavaria. And therein lies the problem. They are only the second largest city. That honour goes to their neighbours and bitter rivals, 100 miles down the road, Munich. Their nemesis. In the 1920s, Nuremberg won 6 German titles making them the most successful soccer club in Germany at the time. Since then, the club has slowly declined and has been languishing in Bundesliga second division obscurity. The bitter pill is that in the past few decades, Bayern Munich has now risen to become the most successful soccer club in German history and is now one of the premier soccer clubs in the world. For this reason, the Bayern fans are constantly poking fun at Nuremberg! Nuremberg is famously (or infamously) renowned for the Hitler rallies and the war trials. Despite having the largest Christmas market in Europe, the headquarters of mega corporations such as Siemans and MAN (and Stædtler, don’t forget!), it is the home of the triple sausage bun and currently one of the worst teams in the history of the Bundesliga, and yet all Nuremberg is remembered for is goose stepping Nazis!! All Munich is famous for is beer and lederhosen yet they come out of this smelling of roses. The ironic thing is that the Nazi movement actually started in Munich!!

As we drove through the suburbs of Nuremberg, the presence of the satellite dish became ever more present. ‘We are just approaching an area,’ started our guide, ‘that has a heavily migrant population’. Just when I thought I’m not too sure if I want to hear the rest of this, he continued: ‘This is evident by the vast number of satellite dishes obliterating the sky line. This is so the migrants can watch TV without falling asleep. After all, light entertainment is not Germany’s forte!!’

The rain was starting to fall again. Drizzle. The windows of the coach, partly
Congress Hall, NurembergCongress Hall, NurembergCongress Hall, Nuremberg

Based on the design of Rome's colluseum
obscured by the rain drops running down in all directions, started to mist up. The sky was grey. It has suddenly gone very dull and miserable. This seemed apt as we drove through Dutzendteich, an area of Nuremburg steeped in some of the darkest moments of the not just Nuremberg but Germany’s history.

The massive greyish building that loomed up on us was the Congress Hall. One of Adolf Hitler’s megalomaniacal visions. Based on Rome’s colosseum, the completion of this mega structure was interrupted by the ‘inconvenience’ of WWII. The plan was to finish this project after the war but things never turned out quite the way Herr Hitler had planned!! Hitler’s plan was to use the Congress Hall for only one supersized rally per year. He didn’t want to desecrate it and use the hall for minor events. So, what have the German’s used the building for since the war??? Minor events including a car lot impound!!! Immediately after the Second World War, the Nuremberg council couldn’t decide what to do with this unfinished construction having such a controversial history. The Congress Hall was already half-built and it was made of granite slabs, so its demolition would be too costly. We drove through a gate into its interior. This is now just a bare brick shell. If Hitler had had his way, the interior of the Congress Hall would have been marble with a self-supporting glass roof. This has since been proven to be a physical impossibility as no self-supporting glass roof would stand the strain of such a vast area. There have been thoughts since to develop the Congress Hall to a soccer stadium, a shopping mall and an entertainments centre but received no vote of confidence because of it’s dark past.

Moving on, we passed the Nuremberg Opera house and succumbed to another ‘Hitler’ story!! He used to frequent this opera regularly. His favourite opera was the seven hour Der Ring des Nibelungen (the Ring Cycle) by his favourite composer Richard Wagner. The opera is said to contain anti-Semitic connotations with racist overtones. It is no surprise then that Wagner was Hitler’s favourite composer!! Even Woody Allen is credited with referring to this well documented fact by saying: ‘Every time I hear a Richard Wagner opera it makes me want to invade Poland!!’

We passed the Palace of Justice where in 1946, twenty-two major war criminals got their comeuppance at what became known as the Nuremberg war trials. Room 600 is still used today as a courthouse. However, major construction work has begun on a new wing. This will become the new court rooms and room 600 will remain empty. Behind the Palace of Justice, we found the city prison. Next to the prison stands a brewery and sandwiched in between is situated a high school which tells you a bit about German priorities!! The Top floor of the school looks out over the prison recreational yard which, it is said, may be good for motivational purposes!!

The rain had stopped by the time the coach pulled up outside the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg. Like most medieval castles this one was also atop the highest point looking down from its sandstone ridge on the rest of the surrounding area. We were being led down in to the city centre. Walking through the grounds of the castle we suddenly took a sharp u-turn that steeply descended to yet another gate. We were now at the foot of the castle at the top of Bergstrasse that led several hundred metres straight down towards the Christmas markets and on to the River Pegnitz. Our guide (I should have really made a note of his name!!) pointed to a brown sandstone building whose apexed roof took up three quarters of its size. At ninety-three rooms, this ultra-modern youth hostel, prior to renovation, was originally part of the castle and now incorporates the imperial stables . The roof contained six rows of windows with six windows in each row. I thought to myself: ‘That’s one hell of a loft conversion!!’

We entered Germany’s oldest and biggest Christmas market at about 3 o’clock and there were already crowds mingling around, hopping from stall to stall. The Market dates back to the middle ages and even in 1616 it was making headlines as the Nuremberg parish minister complained that on Christmas Eve he had to cancel the Vespers and afternoon sermon, because "no one was present” as they were all getting pissed (might not be a direct translation!!) down at the Christmas market!!

We were given an hour ‘free time’ to shop for that unique Christmas present, taste some of the traditional foods on offer, wander from stall to stall supping numerous different types of gluhwein or just wander around taking in the rich atmosphere. One section of the market was dedicated to gifts from around the world: Iran, Turkey, several Eastern European Countries and even our very own Scotland. The stall seemed to be very popular. Whether this was due to the jars of marmalade, packets of oatcakes or tins of short bread, I think not. Everyone seemed to be holding a warm drink. Then I spotted it. The poster advertising Scotland’s take on a traditional German Christmas drink….gluh-whisky!!!

The most famous person that Nuremberg is renowned for who hasn’t started a war is Albrecht Dürer. Dürer was a painter and printer who lived in the 16th century slap bang in the middle of the Renaissance period. It comes as no surprise, then, that he was mates with Raphael and Leonardo. I’m not sure about the other Mutant Ninja Turtles, though!! Whilst the others from my tour were buying $300 music boxes, I decided to set off in search of Dürer’s house. The route took me though some narrow cobbled streets of Altstadt (Old Town) until I hit Dürerstrasse. From there it was a short walk up hill. The street then opened out in to City Gate square. There on the corner stood a three-story, half-timbered house, the bottom half made from sandstone (probably left over from the construction of the castle!!) and the top two stories designed in the Tudor style. The house was slightly lopsided but still standing, nevertheless. This is not only one of the few surviving burgher houses from Nuremberg’s golden age, but even more significantly, it is the only surviving 15th century artist's house in Northern Europe. To me that’s clutching at straws. So, there are plenty of 13th and 14th century artist’s houses still standing in Northern Europe but, alas, no surviving 15th century house. There are a few left in Southern Europe, though!!!

Back onboard the Viking Gullveig, the Captain was still mooching around the ship!! Now that we’re at our journey’s end, he was obviously at a loose end as now he’d finished his job he was still at the front of ‘house’, greeting everyone back from their excursions as he collected the cruise cards from us. From his heroics last night with the locks to now a glorified ticket collector, the man’s a hero!!

Our final evening saw Carla and Roisin’s mum, Kate kick off her birthday celebrations (albeit a few months early) with a complimentary birthday cake and a surprise invitation to ride the Northern Belle; a VIP Orient Express-like train offering complimentary drinks and a seven-course meal whilst chugging through the English countryside. Despite reserving three seats at our table for a Californian family, Anthony, his friend, and her daughter, we didn’t even let the fact that Irene and Marshall who gate crashed and invited themselves to sit at our table, perturb us. When it came to cutting the cake we even offered them a piece. As Carla offered a piece to Marshall he did give her a cursory glance as if to say ‘Why, what have you done to it??!’ You will never know, Marshall! You will never know!

Our final evening’s entertainment was provided by a couple of opera singers. The highlight of the evening was when the soprano addressed the lounge for a gentleman to seduce! I didn’t even have to avoid eye contact as quite a few of the audience immediately called for our friend and everyone’s friend, Anthony.

‘Just sit on this chair and let me do the work and seduce you’, said the Soprano.

The on-lookers, including ourselves, burst in to guffaws of laughter as Anthony came back with the line, ‘I’d like to see you try, dearie!!’

We remained moored in Nuremburg overnight where we stayed onboard before being taken to Munich airport where we were met by a Viking rep who ensured we had no problems with checking in. She even waved us off at the gate!! I left the stupidest thing I did during this trip until the morning of the disembarkation day. As we did not have to leave the boat until 11:00am I decided to go for a walk that morning. On my return, I stepped on to the Viking boat from the quay. ‘Hmm, that’s odd’, I thought, ‘They must have taken the gangway up’. Entering the reception area, I veered right and started to walk up the stairs to the lounge where I’d left the others. Looking up the stairs I noticed they’re moved the Christmas tree AND they had changed the decorations for some different ones. Blimey, they’d even swapped a couple of paintings that adorned the bulk head at the top of the stairs. At that point my reaction was to stop and turn to look back down towards the reception desk. A crew member who had been watching me since I entered, finally said: ‘Can I help you sir?’

‘Bloody Hell!’, I exclaimed. ‘I’m on the wrong piggin’ boat!!’ I stepped off the boat walked the ten yards or so and walked on to the correct boat (after checking its name!!)

So, that’s it. For this boat, it was the last cruise of the season. The Viking Gullveig will sail back to Vienna where it will stay until the spring. Every single one of the fifty-one crew from thirteen different nations contributed to making this trip extra-special although I would never compare a river cruise to an ocean-going cruise because they are totally different experiences and all are extra-special in their own distinct way. (Just some are more extra-special than others!!) For Roisin and I this ended another year that has seen us take eleven trips abroad, taking in seventeen new countries in the process.

I leave you with a quote from the famous raconteur Kate McCabe (no, raconteur is not a posh word for ‘someone who speaks too much’) who once said: ‘I don’t recall sailing through twenty-five locks. Perhaps they go through the locks when we get off the boat!!’

Additional photos below
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25th February 2018

Glad To Be Back
Chris and Roisin, thanks for adding me, again. Great blog and a wonderful trip for Roisin's mum. Looking forward to the next blog, and hopefully some fantastic photos of the aurora borealis.
25th February 2018

Glad you're back!!
Happy that you enjoyed the Romantic Danube (as it was badged) Not my best work as I was up against a deadline before our next one!!! Considering I wasn't going to do a bog for this one, I didn't do too bad! Thanks for the camera settings scale, I'll study it and experiment during our sea days. Speak to you when we get back x

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