Today is German Reunification Day. It's the tenth anniversary. As far as we can tell, it's meaningful only to the politicians; the ordinary folks just think Buildings in the Alte Stadt it's a day off from work. The stores on this Tuesday are closed, and the trains and busses are on holiday schedules. There's a certain amount of tomfoolery going on in the Bundestag, just like political groups anywhere: Helmut Kohl has been taking a few hits, so his party (now the opposition) has been claiming that Kohl should have the credit for Reunification. Once again, the person in the street seems uninterested.
We awoke with the idea of jumping on a train and spending the day in Nuremberg, about an hour away. So we did, again finding a departing train within minutes of reaching the station. We had a minor scare when the conductor mistakenly whipped out his ticket-snicker and punched our Eurail Pass. It turned out to be a light, small, embossed stamp of the date and train number, but we hope it won't happen again--this paper is sufficiently fragile without Elaborate windows extra wear, and we have two months yet to go!
The Nuremberg train station is undergoing massive rebuilding. Plywood panels and walkways wind about temporarily relocated offices and stores, till at last you come to the street. We walked to the German National Museum where we spend most of our day; it is an excellent museum, with something for every interest, well laid-out and lit. It is built over and around a former 14th century Carthusian monastery [and three other buildings], so that every now and then you find yourself facing stones or sculptures or decorations from a historic building, which add a special dimension to the museum displays.
The museum features art and artifacts by Germans over the last eight centuries. We found a number of paintings by Lucas Cranach d.a. (der alter) and Albrecht Durer that were quite beautiful, especially the portraits of unknown Frauenkirche subjects with all their warts and wrinkles!
What caught our attention today were exhibits of old tools and ceremonial objects. The German word "pokal" means cup, but evidently it originally referred to a ceremonial cup. There's also a "becher" which means glass and a "humpen" which is more of a mug. These containers were displayed with fantastic amounts of decoration and sculpture in gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones. The pokal has a narrow stem to support the cup, and generally has a cover on top. A few were in unusual shapes like a bunch of grapes, or a heart, or even a large fish, with the cup-part a chambered nautilus, but the majority were shaped as a covered cup on a stem base.
Because they were so expensively decorated, the pokals must have belonged only to the nobility. We've read about the ancient ceremony of passing the cup -- drink first so your guests will know it isn't poisoned. But the pokals were then adopted as ceremonial vessels by the early craftsmen's guilds, and a lot of the exhibits we saw were devoted to guilds, their tools and regalia. We saw guild pokals hung with little engraved silver medallions, apparently testifying to competitions won at fairs. Finally, we saw pokals evolve to be used as trophies for competitions. But the pokal shape is quite distinctive; it is Ornate fountain neither a loving cup nor a chalice. After we left the museum we saw pokals on display in a modern trophy and engraving store. Not as pretty or as elegant as the ancient ones, but the shape was the same.
Shields were another interesting subject. We saw death shields and coffin shields to honor fallen knights; later we noticed the same shields hung on the walls of churches where the knights were entombed. But shields and crests were also used as signs and ceremonial objects for guilds, often made out of silver and gold, and elaborately embossed, sculpted, and engraved.
The displays went on and on: old apothecary shops and equipment (one had a turtle suspended from the ceiling, the other, an alligator); interiors of rooms; fine furniture; porcelain; etched glass. We were getting dazzled by it all, and we still had another floor to visit. So we decided to get lunch, quit the museum, and walk around town some more. We did buy a softcover book of Durer's work, which we offer to the first requester.
Nuremberg is a large city, almost half a million souls. We walked down to the center of the old city and back to the train station. A light mist was Elaborate old house falling; might get heavier, which would have been too bad for the gang of athletes getting set to race around the cobblestoned streets for the first annual Nuremberg German Reunification Marathon. Some of them already had the tee shirts, though. Tapes were being strung for crowd control, the police were taking their positions at strategic corners, and runners were stretching and trotting.
We walked through a large part of the Old City, noticing the rebuilding. Nuremberg was heavily bombed during WWII. Modern shops and office buildings make no pretense of looking old. In fact there is a lot of glass-and-steel with some imaginative architecture to see. We visited the small Frauenkirche and the larger cathedral and found them both attractive, and we especially enjoyed seeing some of the bridges and fountains as we wandered.
We could have spent several more days in Nuremberg. It has a nifty old wall, lots of which is still standing, along with many museums, churches, and monuments.