After wrapping up our visit to Rothenburg ob der Tauber on the third morning of our trip, we were ready to head to Munich, which was to be our home base for the next several days. Rather than traveling south along the Romantic Road, we headed east to stop in Nuremberg along the way. Nuremberg is the second-largest city in Bavaria, behind Munich. It's a juxtaposition of the old and new, for sure.
Our main destination was the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelaende (DocuZentrum for short). In English, it's the Documentation Center and Nazi Party Rally Grounds. On the land where the Nazis drew nearly a million people to rallies between 1933 and 1938 now sits the museum, built in the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall, which Hitler intended to use as the congress center for the Nazi party.
At the entrance to the building, a glass and steel passageway spears through the concrete facade. This was intended by the architect as a pun on the name of chief Nazi architect Albert Speer, who had devised the plans for the rally grounds.
This is what Albert Speer designed the Congress Hall to look like. The facade was modeled after the Roman Colisseum. It was to have an expansive roof and would have seated 50,000 spectators.
Congress Hall was never completed. One wing is used for the DocuZentrum, and the rest is preserved as a reminder of the dangers of National Socialism. Here's what the interior shell looks like today:
Also on the property were parade grounds, grandstands, a field for military exercises, and a stadium to hold 400,000 people.
The museum itself features the permanent exhibition "Fascination and Terror." Rather than focusing on the Holocaust itself, the DocuZentrum chronicles the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. If you've ever wondered how a megalomaniac like Adolf Hitler could convince so many people to follow him, and even why they adored him so, this museum is a great visit.
The exhibits are displayed in German, but there are free audio guides in several languages which explain each exhibit. The most memorable part for me was the photo below, depicting the thousands of people who attended one of the Nazi party rallies on the property.
From a design standpoint, the interior of the DocuZentrum itself impressed me in the way they married the old brick structure with the modern steel and glass.
Before we left, I had to take a restroom break. I had to share this silly observation with you because it was the first of many of these that I spied in German restrooms.
Yep, it's your own personal toilet brush. I have no idea if individuals are meant to use it, or whether it's just easier for the maintenance crew if there is already a brush inside each stall. Anybody know more about this phenomenon? And, yes, I did take a photograph inside a toilet stall. I'm a weirdo.
After we left the DocuZentrum, we drove (in the rain, of course) to the walled Altstadt (old town) in the center of the city. Jason had been excited to stop by a beer festival going on at the foot of the castle, and I wanted to try a Lebkuchen, which is a traditional German cookie that originated in Nuremberg. I hear it's similar to gingerbread. I had also been lured by photos like the one below.
Unfortunately the experience of driving into the old town ... in the rain ... with German signs ... and not knowing exactly where we were going ... and Jason driving a stick shift ... and nowhere to park ... and the parking garage being way too tight to navigate ... did not bode well for our visit to the Altstadt. Jason got so frustrated that we ended up turning around and heading toward the highway to Munich. No beer, no Lebkuchen, no quaint German buildings. I was really bummed, but the weather just wasn't cooperating for a nice walk and lovely photos anyway. On the way to the highway, our Garmin GPS led us along a most inconvenient route, which led to our frustration, but once we finally reached the Autobahn again, we were headed south to the land of beer halls.
Next up in our vacation recaps is Munich. Stick around!