Michael Vick ’10 - With the beautiful weather of the past few days, it only made sense to take a day off from class and spend the day exploring another city. Having heard other students talk about how nice it was, I decided to visit Nürnberg (or Nuremberg, for those in the U.S.). I was a bit hesitant at first; my knowledge about the city was limited to the facts that it was the site of Nazi rallies before WWII and the Nuremberg trials afterward.
However, my fears were dispelled the moment I stepped out of the main train station and was greeted by a large tower remaining from the old city wall directly across the street. The Koenigstorturm also stands at one end of the Handwerkhof, where goldsmiths, glass-blowers, and other craftsmen and -women produce hand-made products right before your eyes. Although there’s a sculptor in Goettingen who frequently works on the corner outside of his shop, watching him work pales in comparison to walking down a narrow street and seeing a whole slew of wares being produced in almost every shop.
What I found most interesting about the Handwerkhof, though, is that it stands in the heart of the city, yet it feels as if nothing exists beyond the wall of shops. One has to listen closely to hear the screeches of trains arriving at the station or hum from automobiles outside the square. The square itself is enclosed by a portion of the old city wall, which now serves as the boundary between the more modern city on the outside and the Altstadt on the inside.
Nürnberg also made me realize something that’s been in the back of my mind since I got here. While many towns and cities in the U.S. still have pedestrian zones with small shops — remnants from the town’s past and reminders of its cultural heritage — these areas rarely thrive as they do here.
In my hometown, many a newspaper article present plans for revitalizing downtown; here, the “downtown” areas seem to be the most vibrant, prosperous parts of any city. They teem with life, yet they are also ripe with the relics that give the city purpose and historical value. On any given day in Nürnberg, one can go to the plaza in front of the 700-year-old Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, or one could enjoy a nice meal directly outside the gates of the 900-year-old Kaiserburg (an Imperial fortress built early in the history of the Holy Roman Empire) at the northern edge of the Altstadt.
Perhaps I don’t see it because I’m an outsider looking in, but the conflict between development and preservation that is all-too-common at home does not seem so frequent here. Luckily, all I have to do to find out if my perception is accurate or not is go to a restaurant or cafe, sit down next to someone, and ask!
In photos: Upper right, The walkways were almost deserted as the Handwerkhof was preparing to close. The sign to the left marks the glass workshop, while the sign to the right marks the shop of a leather-worker. At lower left, The Frauenkirche stands at one edge of the City Market, where vendors set up their stalls and tents to sell their products.