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Spice of life Nuremberg
2002 / October

Have you ever tasted lebkuchen? Although these biscuits flavoured with various spices are sold all over Germany at Christmas, I associate them most of all with Nuremberg. The origin of these delicious biscuits goes back to the Middle Ages, when the spices they contained embodied the flavour and aroma of prosperity and abundance, so that today they may be regarded as symbols of the city's former importance.
The first written reference to Nuremberg dates from the year 1050, when its name was Noremberg. The town that had grown up around the castle built by Heinrich III received its first charter in 1219. Soon afterwards it was transformed into an imperial free city, and by the end of the 13th century had developed into a prosperous community of craftsmen and tradesmen, with a thriving commercial life.

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Spice of life Nuremberg
2002 / October

Let us return now to those round, brown, fragrant, spicy biscuits. In medieval Europe spices were as valuable as gold, and the tempting spiced dishes which decorated the tables of eminent families were symbols of wealth. Even a tiny peppercorn had miraculous powers, capable of transforming an ordinary piece of meat into a tasty dish. What is more, spices were not confined to the kitchen, but also used for their curative properties. The first lebkuchen bakery in Nuremberg opened in 1395. It is no coincidence that the bakery opened here and that its biscuits were baked with plenty of spices, because Nuremberg was on the main trade route by which spices were brought into northern Europe. This explains why the people here could afford to consume a luxury item of this kind.

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Spice of life Nuremberg
2002 / October
The people of Nuremberg did not only use their money to bake spiced biscuits of course. Medieval Nuremberg was a city of art lovers, and the rich merchant families begrudged no expense in the building of magnificent churches and monasteries, as well as houses for themselves. The Holy Roman emperor Charles IV (1316-1378) lived in this city for many years and loved it dearly. During his reign an edict known as the Goldene Bulle stipulated that the first diet held by a new king should take place in Nuremberg. The emperor also commanded that the state insignia should be kept here.
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Spice of life Nuremberg
2002 / October

The artist Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg in 1471, at a time of unparalleled artistic development. After the city accepted the Reformation in 1525, the Lutheran leader Philipp Melanchthon established a school in the city, which became renowned as a centre of scholarship throughout the West. At the beginning of the 17th century the city reached a new peak of economic and cultural achievement, but in 1806 was annexed by the Kingdom of Bavaria, and like the Sleeping Beauty entered a slumber that lasted for several decades until the arrival of industrialisation. The construction of the German railway connecting Nuremberg and Fürth on 7 December 1835 transformed the city's fortunes, and it began to develop into a modern industrial city. The city you see today is not that of the past. During the Second World War air raids on 2 January 1945 reduced ninety percent of the historic city to ruins.

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Spice of life Nuremberg
2002 / October

It is thought that this attack had a political dimension since Nuremberg was one of the centres of the Nazi Party in the 1930s and the place where the Nuremberg Laws were drawn up, depriving the Jews of civic rights. For the same reasons German war criminals were tried in Nuremberg after the Second World War. The city has not forgotten this dark chapter in its history, and the Palace of Justice where the tribunals were held is now a museum. Today there are no traces of the war in Nuremberg. The historic town centre has been restored, and the castle, town walls and major monuments rebuilt. The city seeks to reconcile tradition with moder-nity, and for this reason attaches great importance to cultural events, as the museums and theatres demon-strate. Nuremberg, with a population of half a million, is part of Bavaria, Germany's wealthiest province, but the city owes its economic wealth to its own high level of development. It is an important centre of production for precision mechanical and optical instruments and electrical goods, as well as motor vehicles, printing, chemicals, timber, paper, textiles and toys.

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Spice of life Nuremberg
2002 / October

The working population of 300,000 is employed principally in the modern technology sector, financial services, and printing, the latter sector being of importance on a nationwide scale. Nuremberg is also Bavaria's second largest economic centre.
In 1997 Nuremberg was twinned with the Turkish city of Antalya. Although not so many tourists visit the former as the latter, tourist numbers are still above average. This is due not only to the sights of Nuremberg, but to the fact that it is at a junction of many major routes. Moreover, not everyone comes on holiday. Last year no less than 126 conferences and 23 trade fairs were held in the city's conference centre. Nuremberg has a lively cultural life, continuing the tradition passed down over the centuries. While Richard Wagner's Meistersinger opera preserves the memory of the medieval music culture of Nuremberg, famous writers like Hermann Kesten and Friedrich Hagen set their mark on contemporary cultural life here.

* Stefan Hibbeler is a freelance writer

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