Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Tale of Two Cultures

Rooftops and the spires of St. Lorenz, Nuremberg, Germany

Flavors of Alemania

Imperial Castle in Nuremberg
  dating from 1000 
Friends from DC emailed an invitation to meet them at the termination of their river cruise in Nuremberg, Germany. We surprised them and booked a flight and an apartment in the old town through Airbnb and set off for four nights. We who have quickly grown accustomed to the blue skies and sunny days of Madrid landed in the gray, cold drizzle of Bavaria.

Pegnitz River flows through
 center of Nuremberg's old town

We arrived from airport to apartment on the U-Bahn (subway) and clattered with roller bag up the cobblestone street a couple of blocks to meet the lovely couple renting the spanking clean, well-equipped, bright apartment. From the balcony, we could look out over the red tile roofs of apartment blocks in yellow, taupe, gray, green. In the distance, the windowed, green copper spires of St. Sebald's church and to the far right wearing twin copper dunce caps, the spires of St. Lorenz. They provided street maps, directions to markets and sightseeing, and left us to explore. Or if you're with Rich, to find a place for lunch.

Click on photos to enlarge.

The cold and damp contrasted with the bright lights and people swarming through the Christkindlesmarkt, kiosks sprinkled throughout the old town. Markets selling handmade holiday trinkets and Lebkuchen cookies and wooden nutcrackers. Booths offering tiny Nürnberg sausages, of which I sampled three to eight each day. Kiosks selling plastic stars with lights inside or glühwein (spiced hot wine) or wreaths and poinsettias or fruit fresh, dried or candied. Among the booths from other countries, Atlanta, GA, represented the U.S. The crowd included tourists, but also locals, lots of strollers carting children with gingerbread stained faces, lots of teens, lots of all ages. Each night a brass band serenaded from a bandstand in front of the Frauenkirche where the Glockenspiel high overhead performed each day at noon. (With a bit of patience, you can watch the Glockenspiel on YouTube.)
Frauenkirche with Glockenspiel
beneath the clock
Rich and crowd watching
Glockenspiel watchers

We connected with friends Nancy and John Yanish on our second day. Nancy and Rich met 40 some years ago in Germany, so John and I heard lots of stories. Together we tromped through much of the old town in search of restaurants offering authentic German food and atmosphere. For me, that means sausages and sauerkraut. I usually order according to the side dish, and in Germany, that means either sauerkraut or red cabbage on my plate. And I love the salads with vinegar-marinated vegetables-- green beans, beets, shredded onions, winter tomatoes that should never be served at all, and cucumbers that taste like Mom's. 
Nancy Yanish and Rich

In Nuremberg, we talk, stay warm with mugs of glühwein, walk the old streets, talk, people watch, drink pilsner and dunkel and weisenbeer, talk, eat grilled sausages with sauerkraut in crispy crusted buns, peruse the market wares, and wander through St. Lorenz with its stunning medieval art, more a marvel because the art survived the destruction of Nuremberg during World War II. 
John Yanish

During the war, valuable art and artifacts were stowed in a tunnel beneath the Imperial Castle to protect it from bombing and looters. The castle sits at the high point of the city and forms the focal point of the old  town wall. In its heyday, the town was the best fortified of any in Germany. The castle tower exhibits photos of the city's destruction during the war and through the windows you can see the present and past in proximity. 

When I go to Nuremberg again, I will visit the Albrecht Dürer House, the Nazi Rally Grounds (recommended by Nancy and John), the Nuremberg Trials Memorium, and I will eat lots more tiny bratwurst and sauerkraut. But seeing the city with Nancy and John and getting to have extended conversations in English made the city a special memory.

The Lure of Flamenco

For my birthday in November, I chose Casa Patas, considered by many the best flamenco venue in Madrid. For good reasons. The tavern and intimate theatre offer excellent views of the performers whether assembling in the restaurant or performing on the small stage allowing close views of feet, fingers and sweat on brows. 

First, guitarists with long thin fingers caress the strings, slap rhythm on the guitar body. The music, all rhythm, enchants, seeps inside and the body hums. Then the singers, not confined by the guitars, voices rise and fall, individual words float free, the  
hypnotic vocalizations swim about the small room. 

Finally, the dancers, man and woman, stylized, haughty, aloof, sensual, merge with guitar and chant and snap of fingers, clap of hands in the tap, click, stomp, clack of heels and slap of hands on wood. Voice, strings, dancers rise and turn and blend and passion surely spills into the streets. Mesmerized by motion and sound, enraptured by the spectacle, I feel tears rise even now. Primeval music like folk, fado, Greek, Turkish, hora, whirling dervish, all tie at gut level to tradition to a meld of music and movement and meditation. The rhythm is internal, mind, body, soul, all experience, sound and emotion and ageless.

In my next life, I have long planned to be a chorus line dancer. No more. I'm going to wear long black skirts and petticoats that spin and arc and scarves of multi-colors and pin back long, gray hair with a comb tipped in gold, slip on clunky heeled shoes with straps and dance flamenco until my knees disintegrate.

If you come to visit us in Madrid, I promise you Casa Patas.

Nuremberg Mystery Photos

On one bridge over the Pegnitz, Rich and I discovered many, many padlocks, most engraved, hanging from cables in the railings. Click the center of the photo on the right to see the initials on the padlock. Love declarations? Promises? Engagement tokens? Woulda beens? What do you think? I prefer engraving padlocks to carving initials in every beech. 


  1. OMG! You write so well, I can almost taste the sausage in Nuremberg. And then to throw in the flamenco.... It's almost as good as being there! No other tourists can write like this. I hope you'll collect the year's thoughts and do a book. Oh--and the padlocks ARE declarations of love. There's a bridge in London (forget which) that is in danger of collapsing into the river due to the weight of all its padlocks.

  2. Great descriptions Sally. As Louanne said, the locks are lovelocks! And they are proving very destructive--who would have thought. A French friend of mine reports that they are also weighing down some bridges in Paris.

  3. My sister Terri wrote: "They are love declarations. You lock them on the bridge and throw the key in the river as a symbol of lifelong commitment to each other. If combination locks were used, I'm assuming the couple wasn't real sure."
    Great to know more about our random discovery.