Sorry for the lack of recent posting, I went away on holiday a couple of weeks ago to Germany and feel like I have been playing catch up ever since. As I have some free time now I thought I would share with you my recent European adventures! The holiday was a coach trip to Bavaria, stopping in Belgium on the way in and the way back, and we have several excursions over the week to see many gorgeous Germans towns and stunning sights.
We visited two different Medieval towns, both of which had been severely damaged by the Allied bombing in the Second World War and extensively re-built. This gave the town the most amazingly picturesque look, so lovely and cute, full of half timbered houses, and stone buildings with colourful wooden shutters on every window. Even just walking around these towns was such a lovely experience, let alone discovering the different attractions they each had in them.
Our first excursions was to Nuremberg, where we wandered around seeing sights doing touristy things. First we walked through the lovely town up to the Imperial Castle, which was full of some really nice armor and weaponry! I had to have a geeky moment and have a look at the environmental monitoring device in the castle museum (I just find it very interesting to see how other places do what we do).
Also on display there is a copy of the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman emperor, displayed floating above a map of the town. In the next room from the crown was an information panel about the affect of the end of the Second World War on Nuremberg, including a picture of an American soldier wearing said crown! The American troops had found the Imperial Regalia hidden in a cave. My conservation head cringes at the thought of such an priceless object being passed around by so many (probably less that clean) hands, or what the Holy Roman Emperors would have thought of their symbol of power and status being treated so. On the other hand I am also slightly amused by the image of the soldiers finding the crown and trying it on. I can’t say I wouldn’t have been tempted myself had I been in the same situation!
One thing we were told we must do was make a wish at the Beautiful Fountain, that’s it’s actual title. This involved making a wish while spinning a golden ring the the iron work around the fountain. Another touristy thing we were recommended to do was try bratwurst, so we went to restaurant the specializes in them, and they were delish! I was a little wary as I’m not a big meat eater but the bratwurst were really nice and I even tried sauerkraut and German beer too, although i can’t say I enjoyed them as much as the sausage!
The last stop on our coach tour of Nuremberg was the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and the Congress Hall This was really interesting not just because of the history happened on these sights but also in the way it had been decided these places would be handled. The Rally Grounds have been left, a decaying structure in the town that people roller skate around and exercise on. There are no notices next to it, there is some information set further back but very little is made of this area designed to display Nazi might and to play to one man’s ego.
The Congress Hall was never completed, I can’t even imagine the scale of the finished projects as the building is huge now but was not even half the intended height when work stopped during the war. It is presented in a really interesting manner, with information boards stood in the center of the structure that is only used for storage today. Through one of the wall of the Congress Hall is a ‘glass splinter’ piercing the original architecture. This is called the Documentation Centre, an exhibition space containing a display called ‘Fascination and Terror’. Local school children are brought to the exhibition center on field trips and the past is confronted, not ignored or hidden. Inside the ‘colosseum floor’ of the Congress Hall on one of the information panels is a piece of glass with an image of what the intended design of the finished building was. It is such a clever way of presenting this information, giving you much more of an idea that words could do.
I think the way these areas have been handled presents such an important message. You have to learn from the past, and you cannot do that by ignoring or denying it. A significant part of the reasons for the Second World War came from the failings at the end of the First one, so remembering all of the past, including the uncomfortable parts can hopefully prevent us from making the same mistakes. These areas have not been glorified, or turned into monuments, but they have not been demolished in an attempt to hide the past. They have been left, with some explanation but no fan fare, for people to see, to remember, and to learn.
Personally I find the history of both the World Wars really fascinating, I think because in the grand scheme of history these events are so recent, but it was such a different world it’s completely alien to me. I remember my Nanna talking about her experiences during the Second World War in Wales and struggling to connect it was the same war I was learning about in school. How could my Nanna have lived through something I was learning about in history lessons? But now that is what pushes my interest further, so many people today did live through something so very different to our lives today.
But what is almost as fascinating as the Wars themselves are they way they are presented today, because of how recent it still is. The historian in me was amazed to stand in that spot in Nurmeberg because of its history, the heritage worker fascinated by how the history was communicated and how others connected with it. I thought the way the Congress House and Rally Grounds now were now a part of their surroundings was a really effective solution to what much have been a very difficult decision to make. It cannot be forgotten or ignored, but it should also not define the future.
Well those are just my thoughts and opinions on the subject! More to come about my European Adventures shortly! (I took way too many photos for just one post!)