Friday, 22 September 2017
Hot and cold in Nuremberg
In previous years the third weekend of September has seen me visiting the Canterbury Food & Drink Festival, in order to sample some of the Kentish Green Hop Beers on sale there. A group of friends (the same crowd who have attended for the past few years), went along along today, and following a day of warm sunshine, I wish now I had joined them. However, with the need to clear my desk before going away, and also not wishing to use up too much annual leave, I reluctantly went into work. You will therefore have to read about Nuremberg, instead.
I have been to Nuremberg several times. Most of these visits were when I was passing through, as I have used the city’s airport as a convenient gateway to several destinations in Germany; most notably Bamberg, but also Forchheim and Regensburg. I have also visited Nuremberg’s famous Christmas Market, whilst on a coach tour.
My visit at the beginning of June 2015 though was the first time I had actually stayed in the city, and I have to report that I really liked what I saw. My family-run hotel was conveniently situated just a short walk away from the Hauptmarkt and just slightly further from the massive Imperial Castle which towers over the city. The latter, of course, was the venue for the Fränkisches Bierfest; which was the main reason for my visit to Nuremberg.
Nuremberg is the second largest city in Bavaria, but it is also the capital of Franconia; a region which was once a separate state, until Napoleon came on the scene. Its inhabitants, like those of the rest of Franconia, see themselves as Franks rather than Bavarians and tend to disapprove of the macho image portrayed by their southern neighbours. Interestingly though, many Franconians (Franks) will support Bayern Munich when it comes to choosing a football team!
There is plenty to see in the city, including several museums (the transport and toy museums are particularly well worth seeing), art galleries and some fine old churches, but for me the most interesting, and also the most impressive, are Nuremberg’s fortifications. These date back to medieval times and as well as the massive Imperial Castle (Kaiserburg) which over-looks the city, the old city walls are well worth a look.
I have walked along the north-west section, and there are two massive stone walls separated by a deep and wide ditch. I am not sure if this would have been filled with water during the medieval period, but the defences would have been sufficient to deter even the most determined of invaders. The inner section of wall is covered in places, to provide shelter for the defenders. A number of the old city gates remain, and these are fortified with various towers etc.
Up until the early 1945, Nuremberg had one of the best preserved medieval townscapes in Europe, but unfortunately around 90% of the old city was destroyed, in a devastating raid carried out by the RAF in February of that year. With the end of the war, just two months away, you have to wonder at the mind-set of men like Arthur Harris. This surely was destruction, just for the sake of it; and if further proof was needed, "Bomber Harris" carried on his campaign of indiscriminate carpet bombing, almost to the end of hostilities.
After the war, much of the old city was rebuilt in a modernised version of the original style, with the most important buildings re-built true to the originals, but walking about it is still possible to spot the original medieval buildings which survived the raid.
I have only drunk in a handful of Nuremberg’s pubs, and on my most recent trip, only one. I had singled out a pub called Hutt’n as the ideal place for a meal plus a few drinks on my first evening in the city. Not only did the pub offer one of the best ranges of beer in town, but the menu also looked enticing. The first thing I discovered was Hutt’n has moved to larger premises, near to the castle. The second though was it was absolutely packed; both inside and out, so there was no chance of a table. Not to worry, I wandered along to the beer festival instead.
I returned to Hutt’n the following day, whilst waiting for Fränkischerbierfest to open. I called in for a quick Rauchbier fix. Even at this early hour I had to sit outside; no problem under a shady umbrella in 30˚ of heat. I went for a smoke beer from Fischer.
Although perhaps not quite as smoky as that of Schlenkerla, the most famous and best known Rauchbier, the example from Fischer still packed in plenty of smokiness and certainly hit the spot so far as I was concerned. It was good sitting there under the shady umbrella watching the world go by, and seeing people struggling up the hill in the 30˚ temperatures, but tempted as I was to stop for another, I had a potentially heavy afternoon's supping ahead of me, so decided to call it a day.
I was due to meet up with local beer enthusiast Erlangernick, at the festival, as he had offered to act as my guide. Nick is an American who has lived and worked in Germany for a number of years. He lives in the nearby town of Erlangen; hence his name. I had been put in touch with Nick by fellow blogger Tandleman, and after exchanging emails and text messages I had arranged to meet up with him at the festival.
You can read about my experiences of the festival here, but as it happened Hutt’n was the only Nuremberg pub I visited on that trip. The rest of my drinking took place at the festival, in Bamberg or as part of the excellent tour of some of Franconia’s finest Bierkellers which Erlangernick took me on.
I visited two other pubs on my first visit to Nuremberg, which took place in December 2007. The contrast in temperature could not have been more striking, as it was bitterly cold. I was in the city, as mentioned earlier, as part of a coach party on a brief visit to Nuremberg's world famous Christmas Market; the Christkindlmarkt.
It was too cold to spend time walking around the stalls, so I headed up the hill to the Schwarzer Bauer, which is the tap for the tiny Altstadthof Brauerei next door. It was nice and cosy inside the pub, and after enjoying a couple of mugs of the house-brewed beer, I was loath to step back out into the cold. However, I wanted to see Nuremberg's magnificent Imperial Castle, and can report that this massive structure, is well worth visiting.
On the way back to the coach pick-up, I just had time for a quick glass at Gasthaus Schranke; a fine old, half-timbered pub, just down from the castle's main gate and in the shadow of its imposing walls. The place was packed and in view of this, people were drinking outside, standing at tables which had been converted from old wooden barrels. I joined them, in-spite of the cold, and waited for the waiter to come and take my order.
Gasthaus Schranke now appears to be owned by Augustiner of Munich, but 10 years ago it sold, amongst other beers, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier from Bamberg. Despite having enjoyed this magnificent "smoke beer", earlier in the day, at the Schlenkerla Tavern, in Bamberg itself, I just had to have one last glass, before rushing back to board the coach.
It seemed a fitting way to end this whistle-stop tour of Bavaria's second largest city.