Our arrival in Nuremburg was greeted with a short bit of free time to wander and explore the city on our own. It was Tiffany Louk’s birthday, and so I made it my mission to accompany her on her birthday adventures. We visited the market square, which hosted no market this day as Ascension Day is a German national holiday. There was a small Italian market down the street near an ice cream shop, so of course we had to grab an ice cream. Wandering back up toward the castle, we stopped at Albrecht Durer’s house. It is one of the few buildings that survived the enormous American and RAF bombing raids during WWII. It is a beautiful half-timbered structure, but entry was rather expensive. And, as we later learned, it holds no original Durer artworks. We then visited the free parts of the Nuremberg castle structure, which itself actually consists of 2 castles. Tiffany and I gave in, spent a little money, and climbed the tower to experience the aerial view of Nuremberg, which was fairly impressive. It is not the most gorgeous city in Germany by any means. Nuremberg was totally wrecked by WWII. As the homeground of much of the Nazi Party and a critically important industrial city for the German war effort, it was a choice target for Allied bombers. Very little of the city remains original; rather, it has been restored piecemeal. But it still remains an attractive city by my standards.
After finally finding a way across the castle moat, we returned late to our guided tour. Which, of course, took us on exactly the same path we just meandered through, only backwards. Nonetheless, it was an interesting learning experience to discover the importance of the Nuremberg castles, a place where every German king and emperor known hosted an imperial diet. This meeting of national leaders was politically very important for setting the tone of their reign.
On the far end of the city, the Nazi Party rally grounds still stand. Near Zeppelinfield one can overlook the pond Dutzendeich and see the Congress Hall. It was built as a tribute to the Roman Colosseum, to inspire the vision of the Third Reich as a renaissance of imperialism. It is enormous and ostentatious, for sure, but also unfinished, ugly, and made of crumbling red brick under the facade. The northern wing of the building now hosts the Nazi Party Rally Grounds Documentation Center with historical exhibits. Across the pond, the Zeppelinfield itself is the location of iconic images of enormous numbers of Nazi soliders marching with Hitler standing on the Zeppelinfield grandstand in the background. Three years ago, on this same Castle Singers trip, I walked up to the very platform where Hitler once stood giving convincing, powerful speeches of a new world order led by a unified German Third Reich. The place felt haunted, by the deaths of millions and by the suffering of the world in a second world war. Haunted by the incredible evil that was inspired by one man’s vision.
I stood there again on this day. Hanging from the platform was a knitted blanket with a rainbow on it, laurels hanging on both sides, and a message of peace, love, and equality embroidered in the fabric. The place felt less haunted somehow. Germany is still repairing the damage done, and their national identity may never fully recover. But the people themselves are through with supporting evil, and that inspired me with some hope.