We climbed up to the A9 150meters above Naumberg (and sea level) and headed south through forests, up slow gradual inclines. At 500 meters Bertha clocked up 1000 trip miles and we celebrated with a roadside soup in Frankische Schweiz.
Spring or ‘Fruhling’ seemed a long season away and the only things growing appeared to be the ice in the field-side ditches and the mistletoe twining itself in giant balls in the tops of the trees. In Nuremberg we headed straight to a free camping spot we knew of at the edge of the city’s park, formerly the Nazi party rally grounds.
The annual Volksfest was in full swing and dodging the many stalls selling fried German fairground favourites we went up in the Nuremberg ‘eye’ to get a full look at the layout of the city and the scale of the historical rally site. A warming glass of gluhwein was most welcome!
Walking the city the next day we admired the significant post-war reconstruction of the centre which had been devastated by bombing meted out by the allies in a concerted effort to destroy the cultural heart of Nazism.
The city, like Berlin, makes information about its dark past freely and easily available. Archive photography is used to great effect at historically important sites and information is provided to read in German and English. The medieval street pattern was clear from high up on the ramparts of the Imperial Palace, one of the most important centres of the Holy Roman Empire and home to the treasury of the German kings who chose it as their preferred residence during the Middle Ages.
The Nazis chose Nuremberg in which to base their ideology of the ‘third Reich’ as the inheritor of the seat of the old Imperialism. In the 1930s the city was still culturally important but also crucially working class. The New Socialist Party held mass annual gatherings under the guise of celebrating German working men and women but aimed at growing hatred of people in other social groups which were seen as living an undeservedly better life at the expense of the native Bavarian communities.
At these rally grounds the scale of the PR effort to sell these concepts to the public was clear. More than 200,000 people would attend these gatherings at any one time.
A half-finished Kongresshalle based on Rome’s Coliseum towers over the surviving four square kilometre site which also includes the decaying but awesome grandstand arena of the Zeppelinfeld where Hitler Youth, SS officers, Party members and officials alike paraded to Hitler and his cronies.
The allies symbolically blew up the giant stone swastikas that topped the Corinthian-styled columns, which have since been demolished for public safety.Whilst joggers, skaters and an impromptu fitness class cheerily cruised and gyrated past us we sat up on the grandstand imagining the scenes shown in nearby black and white photographs of floodlit mass hysteria in front of the Fuhrer. Ghastly.
The heart-warming sight of young locals noisily tramp lining and somersaulting to loud German pop radio at the edge of the field was cheering and we watched the youngsters’ acrobatics whilst pigeon-chatting with the Turkish trampoline owner and waiting for a hot coffee to brew.
Dusk settled over the park and as the ice spread at the edges of the dozen ponds we finished a thought-provoking and enjoyable stay in a fascinating and endearing city.