The second stop of our backpacking journey through Eastern Europe was Nuremberg. Brad and I wanted to include Germany and chose the city based on its proximity to Prague. After a four-hour bus ride, which was rather queasy due to our bus driver's incessant lane changes, we arrived. Thank goodness for Pepto Bismol!
We stayed at Five Reasons Hostel, which is inside the old city wall on the south end of Old Town. It's only a short walk from the main train station and a great starting point to explore the area.
On our way to the main square, we ate a classic drei im weggla consisting of three small sausages in a hard bread roll. Nuremberg sausages are special. Laws mandate the tiny links must be no more than nine centimeters in length, made of pork, and weigh 25 grams. The earthy taste and spicy mustard made for a delicious snack that was gone too soon.
We admired St. Lorenz, a medieval church, before crossing the Pegnitz River. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Many of the buildings were restored after World War II to mimic traditional medieval half-timbered architecture.
If you get the chance to visit during Christmas you will get the most out of the Hauptmarkt, an area of the main city center full of vendors. Not much was happening on a Wednesday afternoon, but there were a few stands open in the market selling housewares. The red and white striped awnings mimic the Nuremberg flag.
The Church of Our Lady overlooks the market and showcases its Gothic architecture best at night. We had a lot of fun rubbing the gold ring on the Schoner Brunnen (beautiful fountain) for good luck. Although the fountain is a replica of the Gothic original, its colorful figures and spires are stunning.
The Nuremberg Town Hall offers an audio tour of its 14th Century medieval dungeons which include 12 small cells and a torture chamber. Prisoners were kept here until their trial or execution date. As we walked along the stone passageways, we peeked through narrow openings to the outside that were secured with iron bars. A small glimpse of freedom in a claustrophobic underground prison.
After we refueled at a nearby cafe with cake and coffee, it was time to marvel at the beauty of St. Sebaldus Church. Construction began in 1215, and evokes Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles. Even though the church was heavily damaged during WWII, some of the stained glass windows luckily remained intact. It was heartbreaking to see old photographs of the devastation, but uplifting to see the level of care in the restoration.
I highly recommend the German National Museum with its fantastic layout and free admission on Wednesday evenings. One of its most notable attractions is the oldest globe in the world, known as the Erdapfel (Earth apple). The globe was created in 1492, by Martin Behaim. The globe is covered with intricate animals, flags, and ships which enhance the cartography.
Medieval manuscripts, glazed bricks, and armor are also abundant in the collection. I particularly loved seeing paintings by Albrecht Durer and Lucas Cranach, both influential German Renaissance artists.
For a late dinner, we ate outdoors at the Bratwursthausel next to St. Sebaldus Church. Since 1313, the restaurant is the oldest in Nuremberg and prepares historical Franconian dishes.
We ordered the classic sausages, sauerkraut, and potato salad. The colorful table cloths and view of the market square made the atmosphere hard to beat. Make sure to have cash on hand as credit cards are not accepted.
Our focus for the second day was the north side of Old Town. We enjoyed breakfast at Cafe Bar Wanderer and relaxed outside beneath the Imperial Castle complex. Its location has many beautiful details and a perfect view of Albrecht Durer's home.
After soaking in the scenery, we took an audio tour of Albrecht Durer's House which was turned into a museum after WWII. It was interesting to see his workshop, rooms, and indoor privy he had installed in the kitchen while he was ill. The museum has several copies of his paintings and an exhibit demonstrating the engraving process.
Across the street was an outdoor restaurant, Augustiner Zur Schranke, where we had a light lunch of soup and pretzels with cheese spreads. Unfortunately I can't review German beer since I never acquired the taste, but the Riesling was delightful.
During the Middle Ages, the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg was an important stronghold for the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Charles IV. Due to restoration projects, we had a hard time finding the entrance to the complex. Getting lost was half the fun as we explored lush gardens and stone towers.
The museum conveyed the essential workings of the Holy Roman Empire in an engaging way. The royal rooms and double chapel evoked grandeur while the deep well demonstration showed the importance of water in a secure stronghold. We watched the candle slowly descend the 50 meter shaft down to the bottom of the well. Visiting the area in the afternoon was a great way to avoid the rush of morning tourists.
Before dusk we wandered through two gardens west of the city wall. The Hesperidengarten (Garden of Hesperides) is an Italian style oasis featuring citrus trees and whimsical fountains. A few blocks away is the serene Barockgarten which is worth a quick look. These are ideal locations to read a book or lose yourself in thought.
To bring all of the history we learned to life, a drink in a medieval style tavern seemed fitting. At Finyas Taverne, servers dress in peasant attire to coincide with the rustic decor. Brad drank blueberry wine in a ceramic goblet and I quenched my thirst with a homemade sparkling mint water. Very refreshing!
The craving for American food hit us hard and we decided burgers would do the trick. At Kuhmuhne, we devoured some of the best cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries we have ever tasted. The fresh ingredients, open kitchen, friendly service, delicious cocktails, and free shots made our night! This restaurant was packed and for good reason.
Two days in Nuremberg was just right and I appreciated the relaxed vibe. German people have a lot of pride and you can see it in the careful reconstruction of the city. The quaint streets of Old Town, artistic legacy of Albrecht Durer, and enticing smell of grilled sausages in the air make this Bavarian city a worthwhile destination.