Day 2 – Kassel-Nuremberg-Passau-Salzburg

Goals for today:

  • A 670 km trip to Salzburg
  • Lunch and a wander round in Nuremberg
  • A drive along the Danube to Passau
  • Finally arriving in the home of Mozart
Kassel to Salzburg

The first 3 hours were just the monotony of the German autobahn.  Leaving the A7 which I had followed from Hamburg at Würzburg, I headed onto the A3 on a more south easterly course.  I would return to Würzburg on my way back from Switzerland in 7 days time completing the circuit I was now embarking on.  Happily, I had blown off half the days driving before the temperatures began to climb, cruising into Nuremberg right on 12 noon.  I found an underground parking garage 2 mins from the town square where I could keep the car cool and be close to all the sights.  German cities are so well organised and easy to get around even if they have multi-million populations. German efficiency, a pity their English is not better.

Now most of you will associate the name Nuremberg (Nürnburg) with the major Nazi rallies of the 1920s, 30s & 40s, and it being the site of the Nuremberg trials after WWII where many major Nazi officials were held to account and later execute.  However, Nuremburg has a long history with many significant events having occurred here during its history.  It grew over time in importance due to its location on key trade-routes especially on the route from Italy to Northern Europe.  It would become a major commercial hub, that would continue through to the 20th century and the production of war material.

Nuremberg was the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire where the elected Holy Roman Emperors & Kings of Germany held their first official parliament when elected.  In 1632, the city was occupied by the forces of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, where he was besieged by the army of the Imperial General Albrecht von Wallenstein.  After the Battle of the Alte Veste, (Alte Veste is on outskirts of Nuremberg) Wallenstein managed to dislodge the Swedish King who retreated to the north.  In November at the great Battle of Lützen, Wallenstein was forced to retreat but in the confusion following the battle the Swedish King was killed.  The reason I bring this up is that this Swedish King represented the climax of Swedish power in Europe and is still often talked about today.  I am a member of a society (WW) who meets every year on the day of the anniversary of his death to listen to lectures on exactly that period of Swedish History (Stormaktstiden).

Nuremberg held great significance during the Nazi Germany era.  Because of the city’s relevance to the Holy Roman Empire and its position in the centre of Germany. The Nazi Party chose the city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions — the Nuremberg rallies.  The rallies were held through the 20s, 30s & 40s. After Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 the Nuremberg rallies became huge Nazi propaganda events, a centre of Nazi ideals.  At the 1935 rally, Hitler specifically ordered the Reichstag to convene in Nuremberg to pass the Nuremberg Laws which revoked German citizenship for all Jews and other non-Aryans.  A number of arenas were constructed solely for these assemblies, some of which were never finished.  Today many examples of Nazi architecture can still be seen in and around the the city such as the Zeppelin arena.

During the Second World War, Nuremberg was an important site for military production including aircraft, submarines and tank engines.  A subcamp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp was located here, and interns were extensively used as slave labour.  The city was severely damaged in Allied bombing from 1943 to 1945.  On the 2nd of January 1945, the medieval city centre was systematically bombed with ninety percent of it being destroyed in only one hour.  Nuremberg was a heavily fortified city that was captured only after fierce fighting lasting from 17 to 21 April 1945 by U.S. Infantry Divisions which fought house-to-house and street-by-street against determined German resistance.  Despite this intense degree of destruction, the city was rebuilt after the war and was to some extent restored to its pre-war appearance, including the reconstruction of some of its medieval buildings.  However, over half of the historic center and the northeastern half of the old Imperial Free City were lost forever.

I wandered around the city from St. Lorenz Church (b 1477) down and across the Pegnitz River, to the Nuremburg Market Square past the Frauenkirche (b. 1350 Church of our Lady) located on the site of a synagogue that burnt down during the 1349 campaign by King Charles IV against the Jews. The pogrom had followed an outbreak of the Black Plague. Then it was across the square past the Schöner Brunnen (b. 1396; a 14th-century fountain approximately 19 meters high and has the shape of a Gothic spire); on up the hill past the Rathaus (Town Hall) and St. Sebaldus Church (b. 1275; the relics of the saint are contained in a gold casket within the church). He was a hermit and missionary sent by he Pope to evangelise the forests of Nuremberg in the 11th century-

Finally, I arrived at the Imperial Castle (b. 1200s and is actually in 3 parts; the Emperor’s Castle, the Counts Castle & the Imperial City buildings). It is considered to be one of Europe’s most formidable medieval fortifications. All the German Kings and Holy Roman Emperors used the castle. From the parapets of the castle can you obtain great views of the city skyline.

Departing the castle I decide to wander to the Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg trials were held. On the map it look like a 15 minute walk. Slightly misjudged that taking nearly 40 mins. The Nuremberg trials were held between 1945 and 1946, where German officials involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity were brought to trial before an international tribunal. Nuremberg was chosen as the site for the trials for specific reasons: (i) the city had been the location of the Nazi Party’s Nuremberg rallies and the laws stripping Jews of their citizenship were passed. There was symbolic value in making it the place of Nazi demise; and, (ii) The Palace of Justice was spacious and largely undamaged (one of the few that had remained intact despite extensive Allied bombing of Nuremberg). A large prison was also part of the complex. After having a look around there, I decided to save on the shoe leather and take the U-bahn (Rapid Transit system) back to where I started.

Having picked up the car it was time to head for Salzburg but not before a stop on the way out at the grounds where the Nazi rallies were held about 4 km out from the city centre. The area of the complex is massive. What we associate most in the pictures is view of the Nazis assembled on a large dias in front of 100s of thousands – Zeppelinfeld & the tribute platform. This arena was only one small part of the entire area (see the layout map below). Inside the platform was the Golden Hall, a foyer which lead out onto the speakers rostrum on the dais. Today, the dais remains surrounded by modern sports facilities. The Hall of Honour and the Party Congress buildings still exist. The scale of Albert Speers vision for the party arena is enormous and on an epic scale.

Anyway, time to hit the road again and continue south east to Salzburg. I still had probably another 4 hours ahead of me. Not long after departing Nuremberg I arrived on the banks of the Danube. I would criss-cross it several times over the next 120 km (almost the equivalent of a Viennese waltz for a car) on my way to Passau where it would join the rivers Inn and the Ilz.  At Passau it was time to leave the autobahn and head directly south into Austria. A beautiful summer evening’s to drive through the rural country back roads leaving Germany behind and arriving in Von Trapp land.

As I entered Salzburg, I was surprised at just how small and flat the city was although surround on the southern side with the alps as we expect. Hotel found, car unloaded, time for some rest after a long day. David & Steph arrive tomorrow, will be a busy 7 days to come!

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