Monday, August 22, 2016

Nürnberg, Germany

Nürnberg (Nuremberg in English) was another one of those places that we went to our first year here when we were still trying to figure out how to do the whole travel thing and ended up missing out on seeing parts of the city that we really hoped to because we hadn't figured anything out yet.  

Our first visit to Nürnberg was for the Christkindlemarkt- Germany's largest!  We really wanted to kick off our very first Christmas here with a bang, but weren't exactly sure how to go about it so we signed up for a day trip through MWR.  Depending on the trip, going with MWR is a really easy way to see a lot of places without the hassle of planning (or parking, if you're my husband).  But MWR gave us a lot of time to spend at Germany's largest Christmas Market, too much time.  And having never been to one before, we had no idea what exactly was offered at a Christmas market, or how much time we would need at one.  Apparently, there are only so many circles you can make around the exact same Christmas trinkets before you start to get bored and decide that you've had enough Christmas for one day.  By the time we realized that we could branch out and see more of the city, it was too dark to see the Nazi Party Rally Grounds like we had hoped, so we promised ourselves that we would go back as soon as possible.  

Almost three years later, we finally made it back.

We couldn't resist wandering around the Old Town getting reacquainted with a truly great city before heading out to the parts we went back for.  Everything looked different in the light of incredible weather, and not completely covered in all things Christmas, but we still remembered our way around and giggled at how fast almost 3 years have flown by.  

We decided to focus most of our weekend on the parts of Nürnberg we hadn't seen yet, especially the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, because anything related to the Nazi Party are things you won't see anywhere else in the entire world.  But not all of our trips can be about the things that only Eric and I want to see, even if we swear up and down to our teen aged daughter that it's important for her too and we promise she will enjoy it!  {For the record, swearing up and down about the importance of a historical site to your teenager doesn't work.  She will still roll her eyes at you.}

Isabelle has a tender heart for animals.  God spent extra time infusing a whole bunch of compassion into her heart when He was masterfully designing the most special girl I've ever known, and it is so neat to watch.  It doesn't matter if a creature has eight legs and makes her mother climb the walls in terror, or if they're slimy and not cuddly whatsoever, Isabelle sees them all as equally adorable.  But what is truly amazing, is that animals respond to her differently than anyone else I've ever seen- it's like they can see something in her that's safe for them.  I'm telling you, it's amazing.
Eric and I are trying our darnedest to nurture and support her love of animals in a way that she can use as an adult- we hope to guide her towards animal welfare in some capacity for a career someday.  But.... Isabelle is only 13, so I am very sure her interests will change a million times before she becomes an adult, and ultimately, the path she chooses will be between her and God.  But while her love of animals continues to thrive, we thought we would take her to the tiergarten (zoo)!  

Gawd, I love him!

Our special special girl.

We spent most of our time in Nürnberg at the zoo because a zoo makes my girl so happy.  And because not all of our trips can be about the things that only me or Eric want to see.  We know how important it is to balance out our trips so that Isabelle gets to have the sort of experiences that she wants to have too.  We knew that after we spent an entire day at the zoo we could take Isabelle to the Nazi Rally Grounds without having to drag her since she would still be so excited from having been around animals all day.    

What is left of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds today are the Große Straße, Zeppelinfeld, and Kongresshalle, covering 4 square miles around a small lake within the city limits of Nürnberg.  Or at least, those are the buildings that we saw because Rick Steves said to.  As a whole, the rally grounds were intended to show the power and grandeur of the National Socialist Party.

The Große Straße ("the Great Street") is a big open granite parade road that was built in 1939 by Hitler's architect Albert Speer, but never used.  It points towards the Nürnberg Castle, symbolizing the link between the city's role in medieval times and it's role in World War II.  I role my eyes every time I learn about Hitler's symbolism because anything that Hitler tried to make meaningful is disgusting and silly to me.  I mean, if the man had any capacity to find meaning in something, he found it in something stupid like the direction a road pointed.  But whatever, that's what Google says so I figured it was worth mentioning.  The straße is more than a mile long and 130ft wide and made out of gray & black granite pavers.  It was supposed to be much more grand than it ended up being, with a hall of pillars or something, but due to the start of the war, it was never finished.  Today, the parade road is used for parking when there are events at the fair grounds.  But when there are not any events going on it's just a blocked off wide open space to walk around in, which was what we did.  I so badly wanted to twirl because it was just wide open and the weather was gorgeous, but twirling didn't seem appropriate... so I didn't.  But I wanted to.

Zeppelinfeld (or Zeppelin Field in English) is east of the Große Straße and is probably what most people recognize from history books- it's where a lot of Hitler's speeches and large parades of soldiers were filmed.  It does not look like what it did when Hitler gave his speeches- it's not nearly as grand as it was in its heyday, but it was definitely worth seeing!  The field could accommodate up to 250,000 people!  The tribune where Hitler stood overlooking the crowd is still there, but it is illegal for anyone to stand on the platform and use any type of Nazi gestures in any way, shape, or form, even if you're just joking.

I included a picture that I grabbed off of Google of how the grandstand looked 75+ years ago for comparison's sake, but I didn't feel right posting any more than just the one because.... I just didn't.  So if you want to see what it used to look like you can Google it too.  And to be honest, it's worth a Google!  The giant swastika that used to be above the center of the building was destroyed in 1945 by American troops, and then pillars and other parts had to be removed for safety reasons as the years went on, but you still get a very good idea of how giant and vast it used to be.

For comparison's sake.....

While we were in Nürnberg the first time, we toured the Dokumentationszentrum (Documentation Center) and actually really enjoyed it!  The one in Nürnberg and the one near the Eagle's Nest were absolutely amazing at explaining how the Nazi Party formed and how it could go as far as a Holocaust.  If you're interested in Nazi history at all, you really should visit a Concentration Camp and a Documentation Center- these places are meant for us to learn and understand the most awful parts of history so that they never happen again, and they do an incredible job of that!  
But we felt good about our first visit and didn't need to visit the Documentation Center again, instead, we spent the afternoon climbing the stadium stairs, making a circle around the small lake at the center of the Rally Grounds, and admiring the Kongresshalle that looks a lot like the Roman Colosseum.

Eric, Isabelle, and I got to see everything in Nürnberg that we had missed out on the first time!  At first I was a little annoyed at having to go back to another city we've already seen before, because when there are a million places to see, and a short amount of time to see them all in, I just felt like we should be seeing somewhere different.  But I was wrong, our weekend in Nürnberg was time well spent!  We got to spend time reminiscing over the past three years and how fast they've gone, and we got to see the city with different eyes and experience it in a totally different way than the first time!  

As our time in Europe comes to an end, I can't help but appreciate the poetics of ending our chapter in Germany the same way we started it.  Everything is ending.... in the most perfect way I could have ever hoped for.

1 comment:

  1. Isabelle seems to have such a sweet and gentle spirit! Whenever you talk of her love for animals, I always think of St. Francis of Assisi..."If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."