A musical trip to Nuremberg

14.07.-16.07.2017

In July 2017 a great opportunity appeared for me to travel to  Nuremberg for the very first time, as my local choir joined the Nuremberg Philharmonic Choir to perform the Carmina Burana twice on the 15. and 16th July. The chance of seeing a new city and singing this great piece was too good to decline.

With an early start at 8:30 we left Cologne by bus to travel the 450km. The journey was scheduled to be 5 hours. Unfortunately it seems we hit every single traffic jam on that route, so we only arrived in Nuremberg just before 4pm.

The whole group stayed at the Great Western Hotel near Central Station. The location was very good (5 minute walk to the train station, and the stop for the tram line 5 is just outside. Rooms are not large, but clean. The rooms at the back even have a little balcony to sit outside. The breakfast buffet is actually ver nice, with a mix of cold and hot dishes. A nice place to stay.

The delayed arrival meant I had only around 1 1/2 hours between checking-in and leaving the hotel for our rehearsal in the evening. Instead of taking the time to get some well-deserved sleep I took my camera and headed off to the city centre. The location of the hotel was great, just a 5 minute walk to the beautiful central station (the view slightly disrupted by the scaffolding and the road work in front of the station).

Managing to get on the other side the little stretch of old city wall got my attention – and so did the little gate. Crossing the old stone bridge above the footpath below the wall I entered the Handwerkerhof, a yard behind the city wall containing some beautiful buildings and cobbled streets. The buildings are homes to some shops and restaurants, so it is very touristy. But nonetheless, it is a lovely place for a visit. And yes, I walked in circle twice to enjoy it not just once….

After maybe being a little bit too touristy I was finally on Königsstr.  – the road I aiming for as it led to the one place I tried to cover during my short walk –  Laurenzkirche. Though I was surprised – the buildings along he road were beautiful, especially the former Mauthalle (custom hall) at the start of the pedestrian street on the left side – now home to a brewery hall. Keeping my head up to watch the houses on both sides I nearly missed the apparently small Laurenzkirche – which is in fact the largest church of Nuremberg. And despite the fact that Bavaria is mainly catholic, it is a protestant church. Forgiving this circumstance ( 😉 ), it is a beautiful building, especially the front. So for me it was worth the little walk from the hotel. Besides, from the square I also got a nice view of the castle which I was planning to visit the following day (despite travelling a lot, I still have the grand illusions that my plans will actually work!!!).

So turning around I followed my footsteps back to the hotel. Though I added a stop to buy one of the popular snacks of Nuremberg. A bun with three Nuremberg sausages. Well – I should have bought one with 6 sausages. Three were not enough for the bun in my poor opinion.

However, after the little snack I thought it would be a good idea to buy a pretzel for the rehearsal. Unfortunately, I made my usual mistake. After passing several stalls on that road selling a variety of pretzels I went to the last one, and obviously this one didn’t had the ones I wanted to try. So I somehow managed to ended up with none. Seriously, passing hundreds of stalls (I might exaggerate a little bit).

In the end I managed to arrive just in time to get back to the hotel in time to change and get to the bus for the rehearsal. As it was rather warm in the city centre I decided to keep my ¾ shorts and short-sleeve shirt. I regretted that decision very soon!!!!

Our rehearsal and concert took place at the Serenadenhof , which is the official home of the Nuremberg Philharmonic orchestra. And it is located behind the NS Documentation Centre and part of the old construction of the NSDAP. You cannot have a more historic location I guess. The concert area is actually a small courtyard, the walls surrounding the yard covered in green leaves. It looks lovely and has a great feel for a concert. Though if it rains and it is a bit windy it can be cold, especially if your dumb enough to wear a ¾ shorts and a T-Shirt for a rehearsal that lasts until nearly 22:00.  If freezing is not bad enough, we were informed about a time change for the rehearsal the next day, which meant my little plan was thrown out of the window as well.

In utter need of a jumper I headed back to the hotel after the rehearsal by tram (nice connection from the NS Documentation centre to Central Station) and feeling better prepared for the weather I joined a few others to find a place that was still serving food after 22:30. We somehow ended up in front of Laurenzkirche again, which is a lovely sight at night as well as the view towards the castle. And the choice for dinner was a pasta chain with OK food. It was warm, good-sized portion and decent prices. So for a late night dinner you could not complain. Getting a bit wet as the rain returned I was glad to be back at the hotel for some sleep.

The following morning I took advantage of something I usually do not get in the hotels I stay – full breakfast.  Plenty of bread, warm and cold meat and coffee (the less is said about the milk incident that happened the better I feel – though there was no mentioning that a glass should be used for the Latte Macchiato, so I cannot be blamed for the spilled milk!!!) made sure I felt filled and ready for another long rehearsal. Though I realised too late that I left my jumper once again in my room. I clearly have not learned from the previous evening.

During the long (and once again cold) rehearsal we had thankfully an hour break during that I used to walk to the planned congress hall of the NSDAP next door to the Serenadenhof. Their plan was to have a huge hall fitting 50.000 people – double the size of the Colosseum in Rome, though it was never completed. But standing in this unfinished area you can only imagine how large it should have been. It looked massive from the inside, with the circular walls surrounding you. You get even a better impression of the size when you are on the other side of the lake with the whole complex in plain view. I would certainly recommend visiting it.

Thankfully the rehearsal finished a bit earlier, so I had now three hours time to explore a little bit more of Nuremberg. I left the hotel and followed my steps from the following day. The exact same route I hear you ask? No, to mix things up I used the underpass from the station – otherwise it would have been boring. But after this I had a deja vu: Handwerkerhof, Königstraße, beautiful buildings and St. Lorenz. Here the tape stopped and I was able to experience new sights….

I just followed the pedestrian road, passing now several larger store (I am sure there are enough women out there who would be delighted about it – I just wasn’t….).  Soon I reached the Pegnitz river, and from the bridge you get some nice view towards the little river and the beautiful Heilig Geist Spital. This former hospital has been well restored after the war and is now a restaurant. This lovely building and the blue colour of the river offers a great view from the bridge. And it thoroughly deserves all the photos and selfies taken from here (and I am not just saying it because I took a few as well…).

Another thing I realised after crossing the river as that the area seemed to be more touristy.  Suddenly there were tourists shops everywhere. If you need some souvenirs, you will certainly gets them there.

But I must also admit, that the area here is just cute and beautiful. Passing rather impressive buildings you are entering the main square of Nuremberg (Hauptplatz), home of the famous Nuremberg Christkindlemarket. However, there was no Christmas market when I visited the town, just the normal market with stalls selling fruits, other food and even some craft beer (one stall I couldn’t pass without buying something…).

At this square you can also find the catholic Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche). it is smaller than the Laurenzkirche, but still a lovely building with nice interior. Obviously I could not resist a small visit inside.

On the other side of the market, next to the registry office, is another famous landmark of Nuremberg – a restored replica of a 14th century fountain. It is a very popular background for photos taken. And yes, you can get some nice views of the fountain and the square in the back.

From here I followed the road towards the old city hall, which is a lovely building restored after the war. I might have said it before, but the reconstruction work that took place in Nuremberg after the war is impressive. The city hall is just lovely, especially the . Opposite the hall is another large church, the protestant Sankt Sebaldus. The church looks lovely and impressive from the outside, due to a service taken place I was unable to walk inside though. While the church is worth a visit, then the “square” north of the church is it, too. The older buildings and cobbled street provides a lovely addition to the church. And yes, it is another popular place for photos as well.

Finishing the sightseeing tour for the day I decided it is time for a late lunch / early dinner before the concert. The weather was good enough so I took a seat at “Zum Spießgesellen” at the city hall. The indoor dining area is actually inside the city hall, the outdoor area is between the city hall and registry office. Being in a proper place it was time trying another local speciality – “Schäufele”. This is a roasted pork shoulder and according to a colleague of mine one dish I MUST eat. Served with traditional potatoe dumpling and a dark beer sauce it was indeed a very tasty meal. So while I assume that this restaurant is mainly visited by tourists, the food here was good. And so was the local dark beer I had with the food.

Feeling refreshed and filled it was time to return to the hotel. But not without stopping at a stall at the market to buy a red beer from a small brewery in Nuremberg. It would be rude not getting some beer for home. And to increase my popularity I also bought some Lebkuchen for my colleagues. Keeping the office happy can be very tricky (and expensive!!!!).

And then it was concert time. Unlike the previous night the sky was clear, and the Serenadenhof was nearly sold out.  For the first half of the concert I was actually able to enjoy the Accordion Orchestra (yes, instead of a traditional orchestra we had one with accordions and drums). And the Serenadenhof is truly a great place to listen to some beautiful piece. Though I must admit I never thought I will hear the song Brazil played by 2 dozen accordions. It was fabulous.

After this very enjoyable part it was time for the Carmina Burana. Despite performing hundreds of time for various choirs across Europe, it is funny that I still get nervous before such concerts, especially if I only rehearsed it for the very first time 2 weeks earlier. But once again it was an amazing experience. It was wonderful to sing this great piece. And this beautiful locations, whose green walls were highlighted through the lights, just made it better. The audience thoroughly enjoyed it, and so did everyone performing. This is the time you realise why you invest so much time for this hobby.

After the concert we all headed to the other side of the lake to Gutmann am Dutzendteich for a well-deserved late night beer and some food. I must admit, having the choice I would now always choose Sauerkraut to the Nuremberg sausages instead of potato salad. Though the beer was a fantastic treat for my dry throat!!!

Resisting the temptation for sleeping a bit longer, I got up early the next morning to have another lovely breakfast and headed out to take advantage for our free morning.

Following the approach from the previous day I followed the exact same route as the day before until I reached the City Hall to continue my journey to reach the castle.

After the city hall I turned left towards Sankt Sebaldus Church and then right again to follow the road leading up the hill where the castle is. And I must admit, the 3-day journey was worth it. The little square in front of one of the old gates is very beautiful. The old-style houses around the square, the old city wall and the statue in front of it. It all looks wonderful. From here I followed the path towards the stairs that lead you to the entrance to the castle gardens. The view from here is not bad either.

I really liked this section. Little flower beds, benches underneath trees and from the wall of the castle you have some great views over the city. And the whole time the castle is looking over you. My favourite section was clearly the little yard that I like a platform offering views on three sides, and the yard itself filled with colourful flower beds. With the sun out it is just so peaceful and beautiful.

Form the yard I followed the path that led me to the section of the city wall you can actually enter. It is not a long stretch of wall, but nonetheless it offers a great view of the Old Town of Nuremberg. It is very easy to just watch the scenery, or to fill the memory card of your camera very quickly.

Unfortunately I realised that it was time to return to the hotel, so I followed the remaining section of the path that led me out of the castle to the old city wall gate. From here it was easy to get back to the square in front of the city wall, and then start my return journey. Now I realised how many things I missed – like a tour through the old cellars / tunnel underneath the Old Town. Oh yes, I could have easily spent more time here. Thoguh at least I was able to taste something else I have not seen ebfore – local Schneeball (German word for snowball). It is pastry, though I prefer the less cripsy versio in Cologne.

At least I was lucky to experience something special. While I passed Laurenzkirche there was a Glockenspiel of the bells, which apparently doesn’t happen too often. So I took some time to listen to it, like everyone else on the busy square now. I think it was a worthy end of my touristy part of Nuremberg.

Once again back at the Serenadenhof I used the free time before the concert to walk around the Dutzendteich to visit the Zeppelinplatz. The walk to the square was actually very nice, the trees providing enough shade from the sun and little signs providing interesting information about the wildlife and history of the lake.

After 15-20 minutes I arrived at the infamous Zeppelinplatz. The square was built by the NSDAP with the main purpose for military parades of the Wehrmacht. Surrounding the square were stands apparently accommodating 200.000 people, the main stand with the stone building and a massive Swastika providing place for the leaders of the party and the armed forces. Today only the main stand and some sections of the other stands are still standing. The huge Swastika at the main stand is missing though, as the Allied Forces blew it up n 1945 to represent the end of the Third Reich.

Though, even today the size of the square is rather impressive, and you can only imagine what it looked like over 70 years ago. I headed up onto the main stand to get a better view of the square. Once again there were signs explaining the history of the square (that is one thing I liked in Nuremberg – they really took the effort to provide plenty information about the various sites, which is a great thing for tourists). Besides, standing was experiencing a site of the most terrible time of German History, and should be included in a visit to this beautiful town.

Due to some time constraint I was not able to continue the walk around the lake to the Serenadenhof and instead just backtracked my steps until I arrived on time for a quick rehearsal before the concert, while the Serenadenhof filled once again. I must admit, seeing the yard during the day was a different experience to the previous night. It was still nice, but not as impressive as an evening performance. Though, the weather was perfect, sun shining and no wind.

Thankfully, the orchestra and the choir matched the surrounding and it was another wonderful concert, clearly enjoyable for the audience and the performers. Though, it is not difficult to enjoy the orchestra pieces and the Carmina Burana. Not sure I could ever get bored with doing this.

After the successful concert it was time for the choirs to have a few drinks and snacks at the Serenadenhof. I like the post-concert tradition of choirs of having a drink, talking and maybe doing one or two more songs. After over an hour it was time though to pack our bags and to start our return journey back to Cologne. A wonderful weekend in Nuremberg finished on a high note.

Overall I liked Nuremberg. It is a really beautiful city, and I am impressed that such a large part of the city was restored. It was a shame that I had only limited time to explore the sites here, and I could have easily stayed one or two more days to see more of it. But at the same time I am glad I was able to join two great choirs to perform at the Serenadenhof twice. I have done concert at various impressive locations, but this open-air concert in such a location was something special. And I can only recommend to come here for a concert if the opportunity occurs.

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