So a few weeks ago, planning was going on for a couple of trips with the people that I hang out with – one group was going to London and the other was going to Croatia. The London trip was a little bit too expensive, and the Croatia trip was a “Penthouse Gals'” trip, so I was a bit puzzled on what to do.
So I figured, why not book a solo trip for the weekend?
After thinking about possible destinations and almost booking a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia, I realized that, as my first ever solo trip, I’m probably better off going to somewhere where I know some of the language.
So I settled on Nürnberg, Deutschland (Nuremberg, auf Englisch). I booked a hostel (5 Seasons Hotel and Hostel – highly recommend it for anyone travelling to Nuremberg) and booked a train ticket.
The nerves didn’t really hit me until the morning of. I had a train to Munich, an hour layover, and then another train to Nuremberg – all in all, about 5 hours of travelling. I found another group of UP Salzburgers in the Center who were heading to the train station to take a train to Munich, but their train was earlier. Nevertheless, I headed to the train station about an hour and a half earlier than I needed to (I was planning on getting there early anyways). We said goodbyes and “good lucks” and they were off to Munich, and the “aloneness” really set in as I sat in the train station. As I sat at my platform, it really occurred to me that I’d pretty much only be using German for the entirety of my trip (a prophecy which was fulfilled, I might add).
After about an hour, the train came. It was early.
Was I getting on the wrong train? Nope, the number is right.
Reservations everywhere. Where do I go that doesn’t have reservations but also isn’t first class?
I walked a couple of carriages down and found a fairly empty train but no signs of reservations. Was it first class? I had no clue. I asked a German family, and they ended up having no idea. So I sat and hoped, and I figured that if someone came around with a reservation or someone came to check tickets, I could always sit somewhere else. And if I got kicked out of the train, my Deutsche Bahn ticket allowed me to take any train to Munich from whatever station until 3 am the next morning, as well as any train from there to Nuremberg.
Thankfully though, none of that happened, and I met a couple from Western Washington University, the couple was from Seattle, who were heading to Oktoberfest. We talked over the PNW and our adventures so far, and it was really nice because none of us knew what we were doing – we didn’t know about reservations, the carriage, or anything. But it worked out alright! Unfortunately though, our train got delayed so I almost missed my second train from Munich to Nuremberg, but that ended up turning out alright. The whole train was packed, with people standing and sitting on the floor, because around 40+ schoolkids came onto the train, but the nice German man next to me explained that the kids had no school during the week because of German Reunification Day. The second train was a lot smoother than the first, and I ended up getting into Nuremberg an hour before I could check into my hostel.
I figured I could walk around for a while, but I realized pretty quickly what a bad idea that was because I was carrying a 70L travel backpack and a camera, as well as wearing a jacket, sweater, and jeans. So I hung outside of the German National Museum Nuremberg and wrote for about an hour, then checked in to my hostel (in German, which was pretty cool!), threw my stuff in my room/claimed “my bed” and headed out to hit the town.
First, I walked 4 and a half miles to the Nuremberg Party Rally Grounds (aka the Zeppelinfield). The walk was really nice. I ended up seeing a guy riding a motorcycle and figured it’d be a perfect opportunity to speak German if I could ask him where I could rent a motorcycle, so I went up and said, “Entschuldigung, wissen Sie, wo ich ein Motorrad vermieten könnte?” and he responded with a “Sorry dude, I don’t speak any German.”
Turns out, he was an American soldier from Whittier, CA, stationed in Germany. He and I talked for about 20 minutes about travelling, motorcycles, our experiences in Austria/Germany, and whatnot. It was a really nice conversation with a complete stranger, and the guy was super nice, and he felt really bad because he didn’t know where I’d be able to rent one – he never rents and bought his motorcycle over in Germany (you’re welcome, Mom and Dad!).
So I continued on to the Zeppelinfield, and the rest of the walk was very scenic. I passed the Kongresshalle, which is the largest preserved Nazi architectural structure, and right next to it is the Zeppelinfield.
The Zeppelinfield, to say the least, is huge. It’s quite gorgeous, in a weird way, and standing in such a historical spot was breathtaking (though the whole weekend was full of breathtaking moments at historical spots). There are some intense photos from Nazi Party Rallies held here, but unfortunately due to copyright I don’t think I can include them here. I don’t really understand how it works but I also don’t want to take the chance. That being said, if you google “party rally zeppelinfield,” you’ll see what I’m talking about. Today, much of the structure is standing without it’s Nazi past – you can still walk up to the speaker’s podium, and the two pillars off to the side are both still standing, but minus the swastikas and eagles. The party grounds itself (which you will see if you google the party rally is now a soccer field, but the side stands are still standing, but no one is allowed up there.
After this, I walked over to a currywurst stand nearby and ate dinner by the lake looking towards the Kongresshalle. The lady was a nice old German lady who didn’t speak any English, but she was giving me “German lessons” while I ordered, which I went along with. She was very friendly and the currywurst was by far the best currywurst I’ve had so far – it was cooked to perfection, it was pretty cheap, and the place I ate was beautiful:
After eating, I headed to the Kongresshalle to see the other side (the non-lake side). And it is COLOSSAL:
Unfortunately though, my phone was low on battery so I realized I should probably get headed back quickly so that I didn’t get lost in a foreign city alone with dark coming down fairly quickly, so I headed to my next destination, the Hall of Honor (or Ehrenhalle, auf Deutsch).
The Ehrenhalle is an interesting place historically. Under the Nazi Regime, it was a place of party rallies – HUGE party rallies, I might add, that honored the fallen members of the Hitler Putsch in 1923. In fact, at these rallies, they held the Blutfahne, or the Blood Flag, which had the blood of the Putschists who were killed on it. This flag is now missing and no one knows where it is, but it was honored at the rallies at the Ehrenhalle. There are also pictures that I wish I could include of this but can’t due to copyright, but if you look up “party rally Ehrenhalle” on Google, you’ll see the scope of it.
The interesting part about the Ehrenhalle is that the City of Nuremberg decided to keep the structure and a small memorial outside honoring the fallen soldiers of World War I and World War II, but they converted the party grounds into a park.
After this, I headed back to the hostel, but unfortunately, on the way back, my phone died and I had to rely on asking a nice German lady how to get to the Hauptbahnhof and hoping I didn’t get lost along the way. Thankfully, right as dark settled in, I made it back.
For the rest of the evening, I wandered around Old Town Nuremberg. It’s gorgeous and very lively, and everyone in Nuremberg is SO friendly.
I wandered around for a few hours, ate some food, got some gelato, and practiced night-time photography. It was a really, really good night, and although Nuremberg doesn’t have the “nightlife” of Salzburg, the quaintness and old-ness of it made it feel very cozy. All around a 15/10 day and night, and I got to meet other travellers and Germans alike! I headed back to my hostel around 11 because I didn’t want to keep my roommates up when I went back (turns out no one cares! People were coming in at like 3:00 in the morning). I was really worried my hostel-mates didn’t like me, though, but I’ll get to that later (and why I was wrong about that).
In the morning, I woke up fairly early to get out to the Justizpalast, which is where the Nazi war criminals were tried following the war, in the Nuremberg Trials. I walked out for about an hour to get there, but couldn’t find the entrance (the whole structure is pretty big and it’s still used as a courthouse, so it’s guarded and fenced all the way around).
I saw a group go into a little side entrance and followed them in and turns out that was where I was supposed to be going! I talked to them for a little bit, and it turns out they’re from New York and they were travelling around Germany for two weeks; they were checking out historical spots in the area and they were heading to Oktoberfest the day after. The Justizpalast was fascinating. I got to go into the Courtroom 600, which was where the proceedings were held, and I sat in the area that the American prosecution sat, but it had a perfect view of the entrance that the prisoners were brought through and where they sat:
I heard the opening remarks of Chief Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, which gave me chills, so I figured I’d include pieces here. It’s a bit long but it shows the significance of the trial pretty well:
The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.
[. . .]
In the prisoners’ dock sit twenty-odd broken men. Reproached by the humiliation of those they have led almost as bitterly as by the desolation of those they have attacked, their personal capacity for evil is forever past. It is hard now to perceive in these men as captives the power by which as Nazi leaders they once dominated much of the world and terrified most of it. Merely as individuals their fate is of little consequence to the world.
What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. They are symbols of fierce nationalisms and of militarism, of intrigue and war-making which have embroiled Europe generation after generation, crushing its manhood, destroying its homes, and impoverishing its life. They have so identified themselves with the philosophies they conceived and with the forces they directed that any tenderness to them is a victory and an encouragement to all the evils which are attached to their names. Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.
After sitting in the courtroom and thinking for a little bit, specifically about the historical significance and how it’s still used as a courtroom (like, “How weird would it be to get tried for a traffic ticket in the same room as some of the worst people in history?”), I headed upstairs to the “media area,” which is where the international media sat during the trial. It was pretty cool, because I got to get a fairly close picture to the angle that a famous picture shows of the defendants:
I got to read about the defense strategy and the prosecutors’ strategies, and it was actually really fascinating! It was fascinating to learn about how the prosecutors had to work together and change their strategies (each nation had a different strategy but had to ally together despite already-building tension between the US and the USSR, and there were some conflicting strategies that never got ironed out).
Being in such a place with so much historical significance, worldwide, brings me chills even just thinking about. Sitting in there and hearing audio clips from victims and witnesses, as well as understanding that this trial wasn’t a “set in stone” victory for the Allies and they actually had to work for their case (as in, they had to do it under the Rule of Law and faced some pretty significant effort from the defense team), was fascinating and so, so cool.
After this, I headed back to Old Town, but I took a long walk and purposefully got lost (and then unintentionally lost, when my phone died), but it worked out alright! I even talked to a cool group of German guys for like 15 minutes, only in German (also asking about motorcycle rentals, sorry Mom and Dad!)! They even complimented my German, which was pretty cool! Anyways, here are some random pictures I took on my way back:
So for the rest of my Saturday, I hung out in Old Town Nuremberg again, which was really fun because they had a market. Violinists, clarinets, music, people, good food, cool souvenirs, lots of pictures, perfect weather – what could be better?
It was a really relaxing day! I just strolled around town (I walked over 30 miles while I was there, and burnt holes in the heels of two pairs of socks) and people watched, listened to music, and ate all day. When evening came, I tested out some night photography/some “blue hour” photography and got a few shots that I liked! I found out that shooting at night is REALLY hard, so not a lot came out the way I wanted them to, but it was still a good learning experience:
I hung out, ate more food, called a friend from back home about housing for next year, and headed back pretty late. All in all a 17/10 day. Really breaking the scales. But it was phenomenal. The whole trip was. Having no itinerary, nowhere to be, and being forced to use German to interact with everyone, as well as meeting other travelers, not feeling bad about dragging someone along to a sight I really wanted to see, or not having any pressure to do anything I didn’t want to do was just really nice.
In the morning, I headed to the Hauptbahnhof pretty early, but there was a little bit of a mixup: my train was moved platforms and train numbers (i.e. XY1234) that goes with the train, so I had to ask a bunch of Germans, as well as the conductor/ticket guy, as well as a very friendly old group of German women, who were very happy to see me speaking German, since they could tell I was an American. They were super willing to help and they really reminded me of grandmas, they were so friendly and smiley and it was just really nice. I got into Munich, and the same thing happened, the train was early and it moved platforms, but I only knew because I understood German, so I found a family from Denver, Colorado, and explained to them what was up (our train was nowhere near our previous platform) and they walked with me to my train – turned out, the daughter had studied abroad in Florence for a year two years ago, so she told me where in Italy I should go, which was pretty cool. And with that, I headed back to the ‘Burg, and slept for pretty much the entire train ride to, minus doing some reading of The End of the European Era.
When I got into Salzburg, for the first time it really struck me as being home. It’s hard to explain, but it really does feel like my home now. There’s something about making so many memories in a place that just makes it feel right, and that’s how I feel about Salzburg. Getting off the train at the Salzburg Hbf., I knew exactly where I was going, and after having to maneuver around most of the city of Salzburg a week prior to find a working ATM, I know it pretty well. I’m so incredibly fortunate to be able to spend a year here with such great people, doing so many fun things and making so many memories, it’s hard to even comprehend. I’m seriously considering doing graduate work over here – I met a barista from Illinois at CoffeePress who’s living over here, just working and doing grad work, and that definitely seems like something I’d enjoy doing. Especially because universities, or at least public universities, are free here, and even the private universities are only about the price of a single year of tuition in Portland. Or I could just travel around Europe after I graduate from Portland.
I’ve got a while to think about it, though.
So what do I have coming up in the next few posts?
Well, I just went to Mauthausen Concentration Camp, so I’ll probably put a small blog post regarding that, and we ended up stopping by Mondsee on the way back, which was GORGEOUS. Next week (the 19th of October), I’m heading with a group to Prague, then we have trips to London and Florence in the coming weeks. Later in November, we’re heading to the German countryside and the French countryside, then to Paris, but there are a lot of areas that we’ll miss so I’m going to try to make a trip out to Alsace-Lorraine if possible, and maybe fit some solo trips in here and there.
Mit Liebe aus Nürnberg,