Nürnberg Germany and the Altstadt Festival
This blog describes our trip to Nürnberg.
We arrived in Nürnberg on Friday after a flight from Dublin to München. We then took the S-bahn and local (Regional) train from München to Nürnberg, about 3 hours total. Not a very stressful day and we arrived mid to late afternoon.
The Regional train was significantly cheaper but also had significantly more people. Carol and I got a seat together but only because Carol asked an “older lady” to swap seats (which she did grudgingly) but we still enjoyed the ride, our snack and the views.
Lunch for the Train, bread, meat, cheese
After arriving in Nürnberg we immediately went to our hotel, a five minute walk from the train station, to dump our luggage and then headed to town.
A park around the Corner from Our Hotel
Our hotel was Hotel Busch and is a standard German budget hotel: clean, sometimes a little worn, with an en suite bath and toilet. It was €85 a night with breakfast. The breakfast was the standard German – fresh rolls, lunch meats and mild cheeses, eggs, lots of coffee or tea, juice, fruit, cereal, yogurt, .... well worth the €6 each. I think I drank more than €12 of coffee each day. The hotel was right outside of the old town or Altstadt. It was about a 10-15 minute walk to the thick of the festival or one could have taken the U-bahn to the center of town and it would probably have taken the same amount of time, maybe a little less.
Our Hotel, Hotel Busch
One of the reasons for our visit to Nürnberg was the Altstadt (or Old Town) Festival so Friday afternoon we went for a walk around the city to get to know the city and the grounds of the festival, quite a bit of exercise. Of course at about 4:00, we found a place for Kaffee and Kuchen. The name was Cafe Beer but no beer here, just lots of sweets.... all very good. We actually broke our informal rule and went back to this place again during our visit. We then walked some more ... had a bier .... walked some more, and at about 7:00 found a very neat looking restaurant. Raubritter. The food and service was good, the beer and the decor were excellent. I had two mugs of Cloister Bier (a local Keller) with dinner, a very smooth and yeasty beer ... didn’t taste pasteurized.... more on this later. Carol had the pork with a dumpling. I had the snails with würst ... all pretty good ... and for under €50.
First Evening Dinner
We then headed to the Altstadt Festival concert in the Hauptpmarkt and this was an experience…
As my family and friends know, I have been trying to learn German for the last couple of years with some success … very little ... or at least I thought. In Nürnberg, I was able to try out my German language skills despite the atrophy from the last year of non-use.
Going to a concert after a couple of Cloister Biers (Keller beer that is 9% alcohol vs the usual 4+%) was either the right or the wrong thing for my language skills. We went to see a band called the Night Nurses, an all women band performing R&B and some disco that was a pleasant surprise. As many of you may know, even outside the US, English is the language of most pop music; folk music is usually in the local language.... not always true, but mostly, and many Germans move seamlessly from German to English and back... OK …
Put a few high alcohol biers together with some minimal language skills and a concert where the performers mostly sing in English but sometimes switch the words to German when it works and move between German and English between songs and one gets a surreal experience. For instance it took me a while to figure out that the band was singing “Baby Bitte”, instead of Baby Please ...I would follow the English between songs and some of the German and I would all of a sudden get a HUH when I didn’t understand the German anymore....sort of like hitting a brick wall... very interesting experience.
The Night Nurses
Above the Concert
So we closed down the town at 10 pm after starting with beer in mid-afternoon.
The second day in Nürnberg we started by looking for information about the Altdstadt Festival parade route. There appears to be no direct translation of “parade route” from English to German... so this took longer than we planned. We eventually figured out the parade route, found a sidewalk cafe and sat waiting for the parade. Yes, the parade was that low key... but also that good. The parade was mostly through a walking mall (streets with no cars allowed) and there were no curbs, so no place to line up to see the parade. We were able to sit at our table and get an unblocked direct view of the parade. The weather cooperated with temps in the range of 20-22C, high 60’s to low 70’s F.
The parade had “wagons” from the locally breweries, the local reenactment groups for the different eras of the city from the prehistoric to the era of Austrian-Hungarian empire, the bands for each of these eras, ladies and gents carrying evergreen branches who were doing the dance of the coopers (barrel makers), more beer wagons, the local artisans (pretzel makers), classic cars,…. You get the idea. A lot of fun and very high quality.
After the parade, we wandered around town and generally followed the parade to the festival grounds ... it was time to eat again, so we went to the Pyraser beer pavilion ... had great ribs and Keller beer. The ribs were almost as good as Texas but the beer was much, much better. We started talking with a couple at our table, they were from Nürnberg and quite proud of their town .... rightly so ... bought me a shot of Schnapps ... very good ...with high alcohol Keller beer and the Schnapps it was time for a nap....
Woke up in time to head back to town and break our usual rule of not returning to a restaurant during a visit, but Café Beer was on the way and the dessert was that good. We then did some more walking (is there a theme here?) ... and then went to dinner at an institution in the town, Behringer’s Bratwursthausle, very good with a limited menu ... you can have beer and you can have cheese spread and you can have wurst .... that’s about it. Lot’s of choices for beer (and wine), some choices for cheese spread, but you only get to choose the number of Nürnberg wurst you want. The cheese spread is called O’batzder and went very very well with the German bread and the Tucher Heffeweisse that Carol had and the Dunkel beer I drank.
Dinner at Behringer’s Bratwursthausle
The band that night was an ABBA impersonation band ... usually not my favorite kind of music entertainment, but I was pleasantly surprised as the band did very well and was very much appreciated by the crowd. My sense is that ABBA was much more popular in Europe and Germany than in the US, although they were popular in our day.
On Sunday we started out with Mass at St. Klara. This appeared to be a “satellite church” of the main church, Frauenkirche (The Church of Our Lady ...). The Mass was great, a family Mass, and was much less formal than we were expecting.
The Mass music was provided by a band/orchestra of about 15 or 16 young adults and a few adults .... brass, violins, piano, guitar, .... About half appeared to be of Asian decent ... excellent music. Most of the participants and all of the families were gathered around the altar at the front of the church, the priest started the Mass sitting crossed-legged on the floor, then proceeding to lay on the floor and stretch to “get the wiggles” out (as best Carol could determine) .... you get the idea .... very, very informal but very, very nice ... not very German.
For lunch we grabbed a wurst from a stand at the Festival Market and started our walking tour, booked at the Tourist Information center. It was about 12 Euros each and well worth it. The tour was scheduled for two hours and went for close to four. There were just four on the English tour, the two of us and a couple from Australia. Even though it was four hours, the time flew. I’d recommend this highly to those on a self-guided vacation…. We learned a lot … the Germans even had “zoning codes” in the middle ages … During the time of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Nürnberg was probably the most important city outside of Wien (Vienna)…Nürnberg considers itself more Franconian than Bavarian … still a sore point after several decades …. and we had a beautiful view of the city from the castle.
Views during our Walking Tour
To recover from the long walk of the tour we “opted out” of Kaffee and Kuchen and had meat and cheese plate and beer for our “snack" … a great way to start the evening. The Keller bier almost “whipped my butt” again, but we carried on. The beer helped me to finally find the outdoor music venue, the Katharinenkloster … Excuse me (in German) … Wo ist Das? (as I point to the name of the place on our pamphlet) … rechts – right, links – left …and watch the hand motions…no problems … I’m surprised Carol had any doubts. :-) Beer helps one to get over their inhibitions.
We watched a great brass ensemble (I guess that’s what it is called), about 6 or 7 brass instruments/musicians and a drummer. They played classic and pop instrumentals…. A soothing way to start the evening.
We then headed to the festival grounds and had a not very memorable dinner but the beer was great.
Tried the main concert venue again … appeared to be a local school group … with a few adults helping out …. Very professional sounding ….
On Monday we took the U-bahn to the Museum at the location of the Nürnberg trials, the initial and highest level trial of the Nazi war criminals after WWII. The actual courtroom was closed for the day, as it is still a working courtroom. The museum was very eye opening and very well presented, as if presented by a team of lawyers. The whole museum was in German but this was actually helpful as we were able to listen to a translation of the museum exhibits from our English audio tour. If it had been in English we would have been tempted to skim some of the text. Carol and I were surprised that almost all the evidence presented at the trials was documentation created by the Nazi Germans themselves. It was astounding how much textual documentation like meeting minutes and orders and stuff that were found as well as pictures and movies that at times were taken by the same people who were being tried. I would recommend this if you visit Nürnberg.
We decided to opt-out of Kaffee and Kuchen again and went for bier and cheese and sausage at Zum Spiessgellen, again … definitely breaking our rule again … . Afterwards, we took in another concert at the open-air theater. For Monday evening it was a “blues band” (one of my favorite types of music), the Blue Notes. I thought they were very good and a great way to start the evening.
After the concert we headed to another Nürnberg institution, Bratwurst Roslein. We were getting a little tired of the Wurst by then, so Carol had a great schnitzel (German equivalent of Chicken fried steak) and I had the Liver dumplings with sauerkraut … very delicious … also went for an upscale bottle of Franconian red wine, €25.
Dinner at Bratwurst Roslein
A couple of thoughts from our Nürnberg visit:
1. I’d highly recommend this city to anyone visiting Germany, particularly if they have limited time. It is very German and despite the protests of our tour guide still very Bavarian. It is large enough but not overwhelming.
2. Despite what one might read in the US newspapers, Germany is not hurting from the “Euro crisis” (unlike Ireland and others). I’m sure some are hurting just like any capitalist country, but it wasn’t obvious. It gives a little understanding of the “chip on the shoulder” of those from Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Greece.