Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Nuremberg was marvelous - much better than I had expected. For as much as I consider myself a lover of Germany (after all, German was my major in college), it was embarrassing to realize I didn't really know much about Nuremberg. I wasn't even exactly sure where it was in Germany - was it south? In the old eastern part? (I can't believe I'm even admitting my ignorance about that OUT LOUD. Or on screen. Whatever.) Wasn't it the city that had been basically obliterated by bombs in WWII? (When I mentioned that to the husband, he said, "Uh, Anne? Basically any city of any size in Germany was obliterated by bombs during WWII.") But I realized later I'd been thinking of Dresden.
A little research before we left helped me to know that Nuremberg was in Bavaria, that it had an Imperial Palace, and that it was the city in which Albrecht Dürer had lived and painted. (This time points went to me, because when I mentioned with excitement that Dürer had lived there, husband looked at me and said, "Who?") I was reminded of the war trials, and was to learn after we arrived that it also had former Nazi rallying grounds. We chose not to visit those - too intense, too sad.
And not old enough for my tastes - I love the medieval period. I should, considering in my previous life (i.e., before marriage and kids) I was a doctoral student in medieval history at UVa. I have my masters in medieval history and am even one of those ABD people - you know, the ones who do all the course work and everything they need to do for the PhD, except write the actual dissertation. All But Dissertation. I feel as if that should be an official educational designation.
But I digress. The good news is, Nuremberg is a wonderful place for history lovers to visit, especially those interested in the late medieval and early modern time periods. At least Nuremberg's Altstadt (Old City) is - I'll be honest and admit we didn't tour any other places. And that was fine with me, because with 4 days to blow, I still didn't see everything I wanted to see while in the Altstadt.
What I did do was walk. And walk. And walk. I got more exercise last week than I probably have in months. Oh, the freedom the feeling of a good walk brings. And the delight of walking in a new place, rich with architecture and history, cannot be underestimated. I walked until my feet were dead and my shins were sore and I was exhausted, and I kept walking. Because there was just so much to see, and I wanted to see it all.
I loved being with my husband. I loved being kid-free (even though of course I love and missed my kids). But what I loved MOST about my week in Nuremberg? The times I walked alone. And since husband was busy presenting a paper and listening to other speakers, I had two whole days where by and large I was on my own.
It. Was. Awesome. I was beholden to no one. I could go where I wanted to go, see what I wanted to see. Dawdle or hurry, whichever I chose. I could take a zillion pictures or none at all. I could revel in the rich sights and sounds and scents of Germany.
It made me feel young again, taking me back to the times I'd lived in Germany before - for four months in Wülfrath when I was 17, and for four months in Hamburg when I was 27. My German wasn't nearly as good as it was back in 1999, but it was good enough to communicate decently, listen to tours auf Deutsch, and read signs and pamphlets. (Several Germans told me my German was excellent, which I found highly flattering, especially since *I* knew how rusty it was. I was never once mistaken for an American - and three times people asked me for directions -, which made me proud, as I still had the ability to blend in (as well as, apparently, a friendly and approachable face)).
I walked along the city walls. I took pictures of the towers. I visited churches, and marveled over the soaring columns and vaulted ceilings. I toured Albrecht Dürer's house and even enjoyed the corny English headphone tour. I shopped and drank hot chocolate and bought way too much Milka chocolate. I admired the houses and lifted my face to the air, enjoying the richness all around me.
When I came home, I confessed to my mom somewhat guiltily that my favorite times in Nuremberg were the times I was on my own. She nodded slightly in agreement, smiled at me, and said, "Yeah. It's fun to learn you're still in there, isn't it? You're still your own person. You still exist."
Yes. Yes, it is. Yes, I am. Yes, I do. My main hats I wear now are those of wife and mom. But underneath there is still Anne, the Anne that loves languages and history and books and architecture and castles and cobblestoned pathways and Streußelkuchen and the sheer joy of owning my own time again.
For a while, at least. We had to come home. And coming home was hard - not just the physical exhaustion of traveling, but the emotional adjustment of having to reassume the burdens of every day life. There are certainly pleasures in every day life as well, of course, but one feels the challenges more keenly when one has escaped them cleanly for a week.
But the good news is, I'm still in here. I still exist. And Germany is wunderbar.