Saturday, August 06, 2011

You Say Nürnberg, I say Nuremburg

Typical Nürnberger sausages served three to a bun with mustard.
I need to start this post off with a confession. Last time we were here, I didn't like Nürnberg. I knew it wasn't the city's fault -- it was lots of other things: we found out as soon as we arrived that Rob's grandmother had died; received a snotty e-mail about the kids' dance classes; had a lame French woman in the hotel where we stayed; I was sick; and they were having a special flohmarkt weekend which meant the whole city was covered with tables full of junk -- it felt like a giant garage sale with city walls.
So I was trying to keep an open mind and make up with Nürnberg this time around. We were not off to a good start. Our first two housing options were out (one booked up a year ago, the other under renovation) and Rob and I had chosen an older, hokier place because it claimed to have, unbelievably, a swimming pool. It did not mention anywhere on the website that the entire reception floor had 6'4" high ceilings, nor that the elevator was the size of a coffin and nearly gave some of us panic attacks. I felt badly watching Rob duck between doors. We used the stairs a lot even though we were on the fifth floor. But our apartment was huge, clean, and unbelievably, had three bedrooms and a kitchen too. It is still hard on everyone when we split up and sleep in two separate hotel rooms. I was grateful when Joss wandered in and crawled into bed with us that we'd gone for the old, hokey hotel.
We saw these Nürenburger sausages made entirely out of marzipan and Maddie lobbied hard for them. She claimed that they would make a great lunch. We said "Nein."
We decided to attend church right downtown at the Frauenkirche on the Hauptmarkt of Christmas market fame.
What do these chapel doors seem to say to me?
We attended the 11:30 mass which was packed, and we were grateful to get into the last pew on the side. It was also quite silent, and we only lasted a matter of minutes before we decided it would be better to bring out the iPad once again. It was so nice -- I actually got to pay attention! There is enough standing up, sitting down, singing, and responding that the kids were kept on their toes and Rob said the sermon was the highlight of his visit. It was all about the starvation in Africa and how to help, not just now, but by working to be a cause for good and changing the systems that cause poverty and vulnerability.
We had an hour before we took the students to lunch, and so we went to the toy museum. One wonderful thing about Nürnberg is that distances are tiny and you can get anywhere in the altstadt in a matter of minutes. The kids did not want to go to a museum, but Maddie and I had come last time around and we knew it would capture everyone's attention.
We were right. In between some incredible exhibits on wind up toys, trains, cars, erector sets, dolls and phenomenal dollhouses, they had interactive tables. Joss found the wooden trains impossible to resist. Ditto the older kids and the K'nex table upstairs. And in the attic under the eaves was the most sensational kids playroom ever. All the cool german wooden toys you ever drooled over in the windows and murals painted from wall to wall. It even had a control room where you could turn on lights in the ceiling: sparkling stars, a sun, and a blinking UFO.
Unfortunately there were no pictures allowed in the museum, so you'll have to go there yourselves or look for some illegal ones online.
Since we're on the topic, picture taking has been going through some changes in the decade since we've been doing this. In 2002 there were plenty of places where photography was simply forbidden. When we returned in 2006, we were amazed at the number of museums and castles where you were allowed to take pictures so long as they were personal and done without flash or tripod. This time around they are using a foto bereich which means they charge you an extra fee and you get a photography permit. I predict that soon the foto bereichs will be the norm and that they are going to become more and more expensive. [In fact, for future study abroads, it might be wise to get 3 or so designated student photographers and pay for their photography permits rather than worrying about paying for the whole group.]
And my favorite moment: distinguished German oma with snow-white hair comes up to her husband with a marble in her hand asks if he wants to play the magnetic soccer table with her. He says "sure!" and they sit down and have a great time.
For lunch we met the students at the Heilig Geist Spital, because who wouldn't want to eat over a river in a great building like this? Used to be a hospital and it used to house the symbols of the Holy Roman Empire. Now it's a restaurant and a retirement home.
The students are good folk. They were staying in a similarly third-choice youth hostel where all the lights were motion-activated and went off after 15 seconds. Which meant that if you didn't want to go to the bathroom in the dark, you needed someone outside the door waving their arms madly in front of the sensor four times a minute. They had all schlepped out much earlier and much further to attend the LDS ward. I know this group a lot less than the others because we're together for half the time, but I'm continually impressed (and surprised) at how they mix and mingle. It seems like they're always in new combinations at our group meals and at least from this distance, they seem clique free.
After lunch I tried to put Joss down for a nap. He was running a big sleep deficit and was entering the spin cycle on his descent into insanity. It took over an hour, but he finally dropped off and Maddie stayed with him while Rob and I dragged the two boys out to see the Nazi Documentation Center. They were not excited to go.
So Nürnberg was the headquarters of the Nazi party in the run up to WWII. This is where they would have huge party rallies, like the Republican/Democratic conventions, except that they also got out the tanks and guns and paraded around the troops. And had lots of drinking and traditional dancing and a general good time.
This is the entrance to the Nazi Documentation Center now. It's a transparent, piercing view through the old building, exposing the past to today's visitors.
This would have been a huge auditorium, but it was unfinished. The Americans actually tried to blow this up after WWII and it was so solid that nothing really happened. It was made from rocks quarried by concentration camp workers. They didn't know what to do with it. They built an entire subdivision over the marching grounds. You can still go out and see the zeppelin launch pad.
It was an effective exhibit, but we had to field a lot of questions from students that we didn't know anything about. Rob gently explained that there are people fascinated by Nazi history, but he merely scratches the surface -- knows just enough to teach his class each semester and little more. Because he doesn't want to.
So maybe we traumatized the students. But they're young and resilient.
We came back into town and switched out kids: let Will and Sebastian rest while we took Joss out for a walk. I have to say that I love Nürnberg's oriole windows. They have many of them, each one more beautiful than the last.
This weekend was some sort of music festival. There were live performers everywhere, from plazas to restaurants to this trio in a tunnel. I decided that Nürnberg has festivals and markets because they're trying to cover up their hauptmarkt which really needs a facelift.
We needed to find dinner for the troops and when we saw these guys toasting turkey and bread on a skewer with a blow torch, we knew they'd go for it. Quite tasty, actually.
Joss had finished the spin cycle and was just a garden variety maniac after his nap.
Interesting venue for a celtic ensemble. This is the St. Sebald church.
We brought turkey skewers and gelato back to the kids and swam around for an hour or so. Rob bought me a burnt candied almond flavor that was smashing, but he got himself a limoncello which tasted in Maddie's words "like WC Ente" (a toilet cleaner).
Check out that groovy vibe. There's a TV! There's a bar! There's a guy changing in front of the kids! Turn around kids! (I didn't take a picture of that. Quit looking for it in the picture, you pervert.)
It is unbelievable, isn't it!? That's really all the kids need to be happy right now. Just a few hours in a swimming pool.

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