When arriving at the airport, bag packed and ready to embark on my first official solo adventure, I also arrived at the most intense feeling I’ve had in quite some time. I could not have been more genuinely happy to be in my own company. What a realisation.
For the record, Manchester airport of a Friday night has an air of drunken anticipation about it which feels like nothing else you’ve ever experienced. Not only is it Friday, capital ‘F’ absolutely required based on the amount of significance that British people place on this particular day of the week, these people are in an airport. That seems to eradicate their usual natures into something (or someone) else. They no longer feel the need to be themselves because they are now “international”. They are borderless. The rules no longer apply. Endlessly fascinating on a level entirely separated from the usual drivel we spend most of our lives watching on the television. Sorry Sir David (Attenborough, obviously), you are clearly exempt from this sweeping, scathing judgement of our nation’s televisual offering.
My experience of this hedonistic frenzy was a somewhat wobbly Frenchman who, in his haste to disrupt our slow but steady passage through security decided that instead of his own boarding pass he actually really needed mine. No harm in the end as I was able to get a replacement printed without any undue stress involved but you get the idea. Chaos potential all bundled into one of those convoluted airport barrier systems which funnels a concoction of overly warm, tipsy holiday-goers around a variety of increasingly airless holding pens is a recipe for absolute disaster.
All’s well that ends well though because we Brits love a good queue. Honestly. It gives us the welcome chance to practice our sighing, our muttering and, most importantly, our twitchy suitcase shuffle. It’s the latest national dance. We’re over Morris Dancing now – we’re just too international for that. We Northerners get so excited about this dance that sometimes, we even take our coats off. Unbelievable.
The flight went off without a hitch (a pleasant surprise if you know who I was flying with) and I arrived safely in Nuremberg. This was it, I was in an entirely new country all by myself. Feeling oddly confident, I sparked a cigarette and wandered over to the traditional giant map found outside of most airports and tried to get my bearings. It may have been that my map-reading skills have vastly improved with no practice whatsoever, or it may have been complete fluke however, whichever it was I managed to establish not only where I was but where I needed to go. And I worked out how to get there all by myself. Good job really since I had nobody else to rely on but I think this was the very reason that I managed, simply because I had to. It could have been overwhelming and stressful but in actual fact it was strangely liberating.
Not to play on stereotypes but being in Germany, naturally, the underground train system was efficient and logical, meaning I was able to easily establish which line of the U-Bahn I needed and get myself directly to what I later learned was the old ‘Red Light’ district of Nuremberg. No worries there as to be honest, I imagine that’s where all the most interesting folks would be hanging out anyway.
The city centre of Nuremberg is fully enclosed by a wall but instead of feeling barricaded in, it makes the city feel special and selective – my hostel was tucked away just on the inside of this wall. Five Reasons hostel comes highly recommended, being centrally located, impressively clean and offering a wide range of free and very reasonably priced services. The staff were all wonderfully helpful and friendly as well which really, is the difference between a good and a bad hostel. If ever you happen to be at a loss for a bed in Nuremberg, get yourself over to Five Reasons for the night.
Having arrived on a Friday night, the first logical activity following unpacking (throwing my rucksack into a locker) was of course to find myself a drinking establishment. Not sure if this is a British thing or just a notion of those who lack confidence but there is something about having a drink in your hand which makes you feel like you might just be able to do anything. Or at the very least chat about doing anything with a bunch of complete strangers most of whom don’t speak the same language as you. I’m fully aware that it’s a terribly bad habit and that I may as well be a leper according to the reaction given to me by some people but I’m sorry, smoking is the absolute best way to engage in a social interaction with somebody completely new. It’s so simple, because you already have something in common with that person. At the very least, you can ask if you can borrow a lighter and away you go. Chatting. This is not something to be taken lightly! I’m not suggesting you all take up smoking as there are some pretty serious health risks associated but you could pretend perhaps…
I met some wonderful people that night, one of whom will forever hold a special place in my heart. To have built such a connection with someone on my very first solo adventure really solidified why I’m doing this, and why it’s so important to be brave enough to visit places on your own. Starting out alone means that you aren’t spending your time waiting for certain things to happen and specific expectations to be met – rather, you allow the natural creation of the conditions required to let something spectacular happen, all of its own accord.
On my first official day as a tourist, I essentially spent my day haphazardly wandering around the city, with a vague intention of seeing the castle. I’m sure it’s more sensible to make a proper plan but I actually had a great time just floating around. I ended up in Lorenzer Platz outside of a stunning church; St Lorenz. This beautiful building is a great example of Germany’s restoration, both mental and physical, following the devastating effects of WW2.
Wandering around this square also allowed me the ideal opportunity to sample the most German of snacks, the pretzel. This simple Bavarian knot is the best way to satisfy hunger on the move, especially when it’s filled with Swiss cheese!
Next stop on my non-agenda was The Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, which despite being at the top of a hill (which felt extra steep when tackled on a hangover) was entirely worth the climb. Imposing, 11th century and feeling like a stronghold of the city’s vast history, this impressive location is a must-see on any tourist’s sightseeing list. Occupied by many an historic ruler during its long history and cumulating in a restoration following the inexplicable damages of the war, these walls hold many secrets and look out onto the burgeoning, positivity-filled vista which now makes up the city of Nuremberg.
Wandering back down that stupidly steep hill it felt like time to eat again and since I was feeling ever-so touristy, couldn’t quite bring myself to deny a bratwurst craving when it hit me. I found an amazing spot, Bratwursthaeusle, which bar a couple of other choices served only that most traditional of German foods. Cooked to order over a traditional beechwood smoked fire and served with homemade potato salad and finely spiced sauerkraut, this was the perfect way to end my day.
Waking up well-rested to my final day in this amazing city, I finally felt ready to tackle Nuremberg’s most serious of histories. I was both impressed and amazed by how accepting of its own history the city really felt and, after a visit to the Palace of Justice, had this view only confirmed further. Visiting Courtroom 600 you feel not only overwhelmed by the trials which occurred there but the way that the course of history itself was altered by what went on within those four walls. The marble entranceway contains statuettes depicting Roman law, German law and Adam and Eve and their increasingly significant ‘fall from grace’.
The museum housed within The Palace of Justice was informative and interesting, and filled with fascinating artefacts and statements from the infamous trials. A haunting and well-documented collection on which I am barely qualified to comment. One thing really stuck with me though, a reporter commenting on the first showing of the video recordings of the conditions within the prisoner of war camps, stated simply that his “pen was unable to record such atrocities”. That to me, seems like the only response which could possibly come out of such an occurrence.
My next and final stop was the Documentation Centre, home to the site upon which Hitler’s party rallies took place. The scale and scope of Hitler’s plan becomes both clear and, almost horrifyingly, impressive. When you see the level of power and infiltration he achieved by simply pursuing his ambitions it becomes frighteningly clear how easy it was for him to get to where he did. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not for a moment saying that anything he did was okay, just that such sheer determination has and will rarely be seen again and that the result of that determination was literally world shattering.
The level of atrocity committed can never be underestimated, understood or forgotten.
His power and control was all-consuming and the reach of his evil knew no bounds.
For the good of more people than it’s possible to imagine at this point though, Nuremberg has turned its face towards the future and moved along from the past. It hasn’t forgotten and there’s no pretence or hiding going on, the path has just been paved for a new generation to create some new history.
A shining example of this newly paved path is the way of Human Rights, located just around the corner from Five Reasons. There are thirty pillars, each of which is inscribed with a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in both German and a second language. Nuremberg could not have installed a more poignant, and defiant, statement of its future direction.
Auf Wiedershen Nuremberg, until next time.