Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nuremburg, Germany

Nuremburg is the sort of city that you envision when you think of Germany. A large castle, narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses, street cafes bustling with people laughing and drinking beer. I had dinner in a busy outdoor beer garden which was a fine way to kill a couple hours. The city is in the Franconian region, known for hearty food such as grilled finger-sized sausages, sauerkraut, and brown bread. You order the sausages by just saying a number so they know how many to bring. The pretzels freely available here are excellent and rival the Philadelphia street corner specials. The most significant and historical buildings are clustered in the circular Altstadt. Many of the streets are pedestrian only and there is an excellent regional subway system. The city can be explored in one day and it is possible to see most of the key sites on a two mile loop through the altstadt.

Nuremburg currently has about a half million residents. The city is about one thousand years old, having become a Free Imperial City in the 1300’s. From 1356 onward, each new emperor had to convene his first meeting with the princes of the empire in Nuremburg. This was called a Reichstag. The important, powerful history of the city as well as its classic German architecture led the National Socialist Party which brought Hitler to power to make this its rally site and headquarters six hundred years later. Much of the city was destroyed by Allied bombing during WW2, but the city reconstructed or restored many of the most important buildings.

Stadtbefestigung – The city is surrounded by a 5km network of walls and towers. There are four main gates that are massive and require a walk past a variety of defensive fortifications (arrow slits, openings above to drop hot oil).
Mauthalle – Once one of the twelve civic storehouses to protect the population in times of crisis, this building consists of three stories plus another five stories under a steeply pitched roof. Built in 1498, the building now houses a variety of stores and the Barfusser restaurant in the basement.
St. Lorenz Kirche – Constructed from 1270 to 1470, this gothic church is the largest in the city. Flanked by twin towers, this church is visible over much of the city.
Heilig Geist Spital – Established in 1339, this hospital complex was the largest ever gift from an individual in the Holy Roman Empire at the time. Extended out over the river when they ran out of space, this building is still beautiful and is only a small part of a much larger complex that no longer exists.

Hauptmarkt – The main market square is large, surrounded by cafes, and has been used as a market area in the city since 1349. During the summer there are still stalls set up selling fresh flowers and fruit. In one corner stands the Frauenkirche, the oldest church in this part of Germany and in constant use since 1358. The church is beautiful, covered with statues and featuring a large ornamental clock. In the other corner is the Schoner Brunnen, the Beautiful Fountain. Built in 1396 to resemble a gothic spire, it includes 40 statues that reflect the world view of the Holy Roman Empire.
Kaiserburg – Looming on a hilltop on the northern edge of the city is the thousand year old city castle. Home to Holy Roman Emporers for over five hundred years, the castle complex grew and expanded to include countless towers, a very deep moat, and all manner of defensive structures. The walls were at least 25 feet thick.
Handwerkerhauschen – Surviving examples of the tiny houses that the workers in the city used to squeeze into.

Pilatushaus & Tiergartnertow – The square between the half timbered House of Pilate and the tall square defensive tower is full of cafes and was bustling when I went past. I stopped in a small place to try a Rauchbier, translated “smoke beer”. This beer is made with smoked barley and has a distinct mesquite flavor. I have always wanted to try this type of beer but it is only available in a few places the world over.

Albrecht-Durer-Haus – Built in 1420, this was the home to renaissance painter Albrecht Durer in the early 1500’s. It is the typical Nuremburg style, constructed from sandstone on the first floor and half-timber above.

Weinstadel – Originally erected to house lepers, this building is another fine example of what makes Nuremburg special. It is reached via a wooden bridge near where the city executioner lived in seclusion since his job was considered dishonorable. People avoided contact with him out of fear of contamination.

Dinner in Leipzig, Germany

We made a quick trip to Leipzig to take a quick look around, have some dinner, and watch a bit of the world cup. Leipzig is a medium sized city and has some really nice pedestrian areas lined with cafes.
Had dinner at a cafe in the close packed Barfussgasschen (Barefoot Way).
Germany played Serbia and took the win. This country is gripped with football fever and it is fun to be a part of it. The restaurants patched electric lines together to show the game outside. Around each cafe there was a large group of fans yelling and having fun.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Merseburg, Germany

I am on a two week trip for work that is taking me to some new places. Over the course of those two weeks, I will set foot in four countries – Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, I have a lot of work to do in a very short time period, so there will not be much time for sight-seeing.

I flew into Nuremberg, Germany and drove three hours north through some very beautiful country to get to my destination this week. The first hour of the drive reminded me of West Virginia, with lots of rolling hills, sparse population, and many deep forests. As I progressed north and made my way onto bigger highways the terrain turned into gentle rolling hills covered by crops of various sorts. I noticed quite a few wind turbines, the Germans have really jumped in with both feet in trying to reduce oil and coal dependence.

My first week is in a little medieval town in Eastern Germany called Merseburg. I have not been able to much information about this town; it does not seem to be much of a tourist destination. This is surprising though as the town is quite beautiful. It was a major city center six hundred years ago holding a strategic position above the Salle River.
Merseburg has the feel of a resort town that the tourists forgot. The flowers are planted, the streets are clean, the castle and churches are restored, but the streets are empty. There are only a few restaurants in town, two of three left me wishing that I did not eat. My hotel is nice though and the air is cool and fresh.
Old ruins abound in the town. There is an old, stone cloister that looks as though it is haunted. On the edge of town is a crumbling cathedral with an amazing large bell tower that is hiding a water tower.
The streets are narrow and lined with some classic half timber German buildings.

Central in the town is the Merseburg castle, built in the 1600’s. It is distinguished by high stone walls, a deep moat with drawbridge, and a high position overlooking the river. Many high towers with black pointed roofs and crosses stick out above the castle. I believe it was never actually attacked, so it largely served a ceremonial purpose.

There is one important story concerning the castle and a bishop that lived there in the 1700’s. The story is that the bishop took off his valuable, jeweled ring and placed it on a window sill one day while washing. He forgot about the ring and later returned to the room to retrieve it, but it was gone. Knowing that his loyal servant of many years was the only person with access to this area of the castle, the Bishop knew the servant had stolen the ring. Despite misgivings about it, the Bishop had the servants head cut off, even though the servant maintained that he was innocent. A few years later there was a terrible storm that ripped the roof from one of the towers. When the laborer climbed to the top to begin repair, he found a raven’s nest cradling the Bishop’s ring. In his despair, the Bishop declared that forever more a raven would be kept caged in the castle dungeon. While over the years the raven was moved to a more humane outdoor cage and given some company, there is still a raven caged on the castle grounds.
The Merseburger Dom is a large cathedral built into the castle wall. From the outside it is impressive, but it is only open for visitors when I need to be at work. The Dom was stared in the 1400’s and only completed two hundred years later.

In front of the castle is a nice park with formal gardens that used to host royal balls. Opposite the castle is the garden house, a large building designed especially to house large outdoor events. Today it is still a popular spot for weddings.
The city hall was built to echo the style of the castle, with high spires topped with black roofs.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

2010 Columbus Rescue Run

Each year PetPromise holds a 5K run to raise money for humane solutions of pet overpopulation. They fund sterilization clinics, shelters, and education. The cause is a good one that just about anyone could support.

Elly, Sammy and I attended. Elly to run the 5K, Sammy and I were there for the free bagels and ice cream. It is the first run I have seen where dogs accompanied their owners on the run.

We had a good time until balloons started popping and Sammy went into sheer panic mode. She hid under the bagel table and wouldn't come out.

Elly can in 59th place out of 430 women racers, completing the run in 30 minutes and 42 seconds.

Sammy was a bit confused why everyone was running when there were no balls being thrown.

POTD - Columbus Asian Festival

Picture of the Day - Columbus Asian Festival. All I can really say is yum. Amazing delicious food. It is not often I get a great sticky rice, and there it was in abundance. On an unrelated note, a call during this event was my first time treating a stroke victim. Another exciting event was a drive by shooting while we were packing up at the end of the day, though luckily the shooter was better at pulling a trigger than hitting anything.

Columbus 2010 Pride Parade

Some events are just too fun to pass up. Now that we live in the trendy part of town, it is possible to walk to all sorts of madness (more on the move in a future post). One weekend a year is reserved for the Pride Festival, a celebration of all those who are not straight. It is a fun festival, but the masterpiece is the parade. It is over the top and there are some sights just not fit for this blog. That being said, here are some of the sights I managed to record on film (digital film that is).
All sorts of people marched in the parade. Some were allies.
Bruno showed up and got drafted into pulling around this lovely lady.

The flaggots were very popular and brought to mind my old marching band days. The coordinated movements were impressive and the crowd roared in approval.

The Macy's balloon showed up.
One of the floats was occupied by the queens of the Festival. Like the royalty they are, they primped and ignored the approving crowd.

And finally, the float the best sums up the event. Really, we mustn't forget that we are in Ohio, a state that is mostly farms and wide open places. This float was pulled by an ancient Farmall tractor. Check out the interesting guys in the foreground.