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What You'll See at the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg

The Imperial Castle of Nuremberg sitting on its hill with the odd juxtaposition of a modern parking lot in front of a medieval castle

Although the sun was shining brightly, it was bitterly cold as we walked up the steady incline towards the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg. When we reached the base of the castle, a parking lot stood just before it, posing an odd juxtaposition of modern and medieval. We were early, the castle hadn’t opened yet, but there were still school groups already posing for group photos in the frost bitten castle gardens. I admired their youthful daring as they leapt onto craggy rocks for selfies. I was timidly walking on the inclined cobblestones, wondering where the handrail was.

What You'll See at the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg | Double-Headed Imperial Eagle Ceiling Mural

Heathen Tower and Stables from the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, Germany

Inner Courtyard & Kunigunden Lime Tree
Sebastian and I were hoping that perhaps the ticket area had a heated waiting area, and ventured in towards the castle’s inner courtyard. After all these years, Germany’s castles still make my jaw drop. I was torn between wanting to take pictures while there were few tourists in the viewfinder, and wanting to find heat. We found the inner courtyard and saw several other like minded couples sitting on frozen benches looking at the Kunigunden lime tree 3.0. The original tree was replaced in 1934, but that planting did not have enough space for the roots between the rocks, and the current tree was planted a few years ago.

The Kunigunden Lime Tree in the Inner Court of the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, Germany

The Legend of the Kunigunden Lime Tree
“The Empress Kunigunde planted it, says the legend, some seven hundred years ago. For once, when King Henry was a-hunting, he came in the pursuit of a deer to the edge of a steep precipice, and this in the heat of the chase he did not perceive, but would have fallen headlong had not a lime-branch, at which he grasped in his extremity, stopped and saved him. And he, recognising the special protection of the Most High, broke off a twig of the lime-tree in remembrance of his wonderful preservation, and brought it to his anxious wife, who planted it at once with her own hands in the earth, and it soon grew into a beautiful tree.” Excerpt From: Cecil Headlam’s “The Story of Nuremberg,” published in 1901 and available for free as part of The Gutenberg Project, click here.

Always punctual, an elderly German gentleman walks slowly with keys jingling in hand towards the ticket office. Our cold colleagues started to gather behind him. We bought our tickets, and went back out to the inner courtyard to enter through the Knight’s Hall. It was an expansive stone room devoid of furniture. On the wall with the windows overlooking Nuremberg, there was a moving illustrated border wallpaper of the imperial processional. I looked around and wondered how we would get into the next exhibit, as the only door in the hall was so impressive and authentic looking there was no way it was intended for our use. It receded into the wall with a pointed arch, and being at the top of a few steps it seemed so tiny. All around the door frame was a gothic mural of Emperors on either side, and Christ on the cross over the top of the arch. When someone else reached for the door handle, I still hung back, suspicious an alarm would sound. Instead, only an obnoxious squeak from the hinges and a smiling attendant greeted them from the other side of the door.

The Romanesque Double Chapel in the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, Germany

Double Chapel
The door opened to the double chapel, the lower level. It's in the Romanesque style and survived the bombings of WWII for the most part. Graceful, simple columns connect the two levels, the lower for the court, and the upper for the Emperor. You can even peek down below your feet into St. Margaret’s Chapel. It wasn’t accessible to tour. In the back corner we found a stone staircase to continue up to the Emperor's level of the Chapel.

The Dining Hall now has modern exhibits explaining the Holy Roman Empire in the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, Germany

Imperial Hall and Apartment
The next room was by far my favorite. They allocated the space that was the original dining hall for the Emperor and lengthened it an additional third and created a wonderful and modern interactive exhibit space that explains how the Emperors were elected in the Holy Roman Empire. It always seemed a contradiction to me that Emperors were elected, and not inherited. The German lands are unique compared to the United Kingdom and France in this aspect. This exhibit really brought the distinction to clarity to me. Do you understand how Emperors were elected? Let us know in the comments. We may do a post about the process in the future.

Imperial Castle Museum, a branch of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum
After going through a few more smaller rooms of the Imperial Apartment, we stepped into the Bowery. Here was endless artifacts from history, coins, toys, weapons, armor, shields (with deflection marks!), a throne chair, and more.

Suit of armor of a member of the patrician family Rieter, end of the 16th century, on display in the Imperial Castle Museum, a branch of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany

Sinwell Tower & Deep Well
If you’re not opposed to steps or heights, definitely climb Sinwell Tower. The view of Nuremberg is fantastic, and they have black and white photos of how the city looked after WWII for comparison.

The Sinwell Tower and its beautiful views of Nuremberg | Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, Germany

For the Deep Well, you visit with a guide at assigned times, and yes it is more than a really deep hole in the ground. The guide pours water down the well so you can hear how long it takes for the water to splash. Then the guide lowers a candle all the way to the bottom with a video camera all while sharing the history of the well. It was really interesting and definitely worth the time.

Planning Your Trip to the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg
To do everything, tickets are 7 Euros. You can choose your own adventure and visit for less. Walking through the courtyards and gardens is free. Audio guides are an additional 2 Euros. Prices subject to change. Be sure to check the website for the most up to date prices and hours.
Imperial Castle of Nuremberg Admission Prices
Imperial Castle of Nuremberg Opening Hours
Printable English Brochure

View of the Heathen Tower and Inner Court of the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, Germany

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Why are the Colors of the German Flag Black, Red, and Gold?

Why are the Colors of the German Flag Black, Red, and Gold? Luetzow Free Corps and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn provide some clues.

It is not clearly documented how the three colors black, red and gold became a part of the German flag. However, we will take you back through the early undocumented history until today.

German Flag Color Symbolism Theories
• There are different interpretations regarding the meaning of the German flag colors, black, red, and gold.
• One interpretation argues it was inspired by a song with a text of, "Powder is black, blood is red, golden flickers the flame.”
• Another interpretation suggests "black and gold" was the color of the old empire, and red symbolized the blood spilled in the fights for freedom.
• Similarly, another interpretation goes on to say the order of the colors symbolizes German history, "Through night (black) and blood (red) to the golden light of freedom.”
• Others see the red color as a symbol of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, which, in the early German history, crowned emperors and kings.

According to the rules of heraldry (the design of coat of arms), the German flag would not exist in its familiar form. In order to ensure the identifiability of a coat of arms at greater distances, heraldry distinguished colors and metals, with yellow representing gold. This means that colors in a coat of arms cannot touch as they have to be separated by metal. In this respect, the German flag color order would have to be black-gold-red.

German Flag Speculated Beginnings
The earliest legend of the flag dates back to the time of the Napoleonic Wars, specifically 1813-1814, and a group of volunteer resistance fighters, known as Lützow Free Corps, who took any civilian clothing they could find and dyed them uniformly black. With gold buttons, red cuffs, and black uniforms, on volunteer fighters from all over Germany and Austria, it is thought this is where the inspiration of the flag colors came from.

Another theory is that Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, a German gymnastics educator, designed a black, red, and gold flag in 1812. Jahn, an outspoken nationalist, had also participated in the liberation war against Napoleon, and the black, red and gold colored flag he designed was allegedly carried in battle.

Documented History of the German Flag
Napoleon still ruled during the early 19th century, but the German Campaign battle in 1813 liberated the German states from the domination of the French and led to a reorganization of Germany in 1814. The German Confederation was founded with 37 individual states and four free cities under the presidency with Austria. This new form of government, where the new nation was controlled by a different country, had many critics longing for a unified, self-governed Germany.

Among these critics was the fraternity of the German city Jena, which had their fraternity flag colored black, red and gold. This flag became a symbol of protest against the paternalism of Austria. Among other things, the German citizens demanded the freedom of the press and freedom of opinion. To restore order, the Austrian government finally gave in and an all-German parliament was established in Frankfurt at the so-called Frankfurt Parliament in the Paulskirche. Black, red and gold was declared the official flag of Germany.

During the Nazi regime, which started in 1933, the National Socialists first supplemented the German flag with their swastika and later used a flag with the swastika on a red background.

After the end of the Nazi dictatorship and WWII, it was obvious to return to the flag which had become a symbol of freedom for Germany, even though Germany was divided into East and West. To distinguish itself from West Germany, the East German government added a coat of arms to their flag in 1959. The coat of arms showed a hammer for the working class, the circle for the thinkers, and a garland of corn for the peasants. With the end of the GDR in 1989 this variation disappeared. Since then, the simple "black-red-gold" scheme applies to the entire country.

The German Flag Today
Even today, the German flag or it's national colors are infrequently seen in Germany compared to many other European countries. Remembering the use of a flag as a propaganda tool during the Nazi regime is still present in the heads of the German people. In recent years, however, there has been a cautious resurfacing national pride, which makes it normal for Germans to claim their country and to show the national colors, especially at international sporting events, like the 2006 World Cup, which was hosted by Germany, or after winning the 2012 World Cup.

2006 World Cup in Berlin, photo by Alexander Husing, flickr user azrael74 with Attribution 2.0 Generic

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Photo Credits: 1890 illustration of Prussian Lützow's Free Corps by Richard Knötel (1857-1914). | 1852 lithograph of Friedrich Ludwig Jan | 2006 World Cup in Berlin, photo by Alexander Husing, flickr user azrael74 with Attribution 2.0 Generic .


What You Must See at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

In the adjoining building to the Goethe House, and up the stairs, squirreled away in fourteen jewel-tone rooms are paintings, busts, and ephemera from the time of Goethe, revealing his colleagues, friends, adversaries, and rulers. What a genius lens to view a person’s life! If you take the necessary time, no more than an hour, to visit the galleries, you’ll see the painting styles change as Goethe witnessed them.

Goethe’s lifetime saw late Baroque, Rococo, Enlightenment and Sensibility, literary Storm and Stress movement, Weimar Classicism, and Romanticism. There are examples of all these movements in one place. It’s impressive the wealth of the experience in such a small collection. One of the most important Fuseli collections in Europe, a trail blazing German woman artist whose story is nearly impossible to find, and THREE Caspar David Friedrich’s landscapes in one small room.

The German painter Caroline Bardua...who was she? Her three portraits of the Von Arnim sisters hang in Room 11 of the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

The adjoining Frankfurt Goethe Museum is a graphic arts collection, library and a manuscript archive. While the nonprofit group Freies Deutsches Hochstift furnished and opened the Goethe House in 1863, the complementing Goethe Museum opened 34 years later in 1897.

Remember that beefy, 22-page English brochure in the gift shop for 1.50 Euros? You’ll be so glad you bought it. It provides the overview of each of the 14 gallery room themes and explains the relationships Goethe had with the subjects for a majority of the works on display. I’m only going to focus on three rooms, and I’ll elaborate on what you’ll find in the brochure.

The painting Mad Kate by Henry Fuseli on display at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum represents the Sturm und Drang movement

The Sturm und Drang Movement Visualized
Room 3 | Johann Heinrich Füssli: New Paths in Historical Painting

(German birthname: Johann Heinrich Füssli) Henry Fuseli's paintings were a revolutionary thrill to behold during Goethe’s lifetime. A great example of being at the right place at the right time, when writers, including Goethe, and musicians were rebelling against the Enlightenment ideals and exploring human nature and emotions, cue Fuseli with his dramatic, emotional paintings bringing to life Shakespeare’s plays and supernatural forces. His explosive depictions resonated with what others were reading and composing. He is most famous for his renditions of ‘The Nightmare.’ The first version (1781) was so impactful he made several variations of the work, and the Frankfurt Goethe Museum collection has the 1790-1791 variation.

Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare painting was so popular he did several variations. The Frankfurt Goethe Museum has the 1790-1791 variation.

Who Was Painter Caroline Bardua?
Room 11 | Clemens Brentano, Bettine and Achim von Arnim

I was delighted to see in Room 11 a triplet of stunning portraits of ladies that was painted by a female artist I’ve never heard of. Her name is Caroline Bardua. Unfortunately the accompanying text was in German and only had the names of the subjects, dates, materials, artists, the basics.

Portrait painting of Maximiliane Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

Far left, Maximiliane von Arnim, the oldest daughter of the Bettine and Achim von Arnim.

Portrait painting of Armgart Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

In the middle is her younger sister Armgart von Arnim, and on the far right is the youngest Gisela von Arnim. Gisela later married the son of Wilhelm Grimm, and became famous for her own fairy tales. The sisters had their own literary salon, Kaffeter Kreis, Maximiliane was the President. Caroline Bardua painted the three sisters’ portraits in 1845.

Portrait painting of Gisela Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

A basic google search on Caroline Bardua brings up tidbits; she was a middle-class female artist who supported herself, and sometimes her sister too, with her art! Very rare, and very hard to do! So many webpages were quick to point this out, but I couldn’t get much farther than that.

Finally a breakthrough thanks to Google Books search, I found a well-sourced biographical entry on Caroline Bardua. She sounds like such a cool, brave, independent lady, and Goethe helped her career. There’s no mention of this in the Museum, and there really should be! Goethe’s recommendation helped her get into the Weimar Academy where she studied for three years under Johann Heinrich Meyer. Then, Goethe gave her a letter of recommendation to study under portrait painter Gerhard von Kügelgen. She lived to be 83 years old and was a lifelong, self-supported painter. If you’d like to read more about her, she’s on page 209-2012 in the Dictionary of Women Artists: Artists, A-J.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Caspar David Friedrich
Room 12 | Romantic Landscapes

If you’re a Caspar David Friedrich fan, then you’ll be tempted to skip straight to Room 12. I don’t blame you.

The Evening Star by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

The Frankfurt Goethe Museum has three similarly-sized landscapes by Friedrich, The Evening Star, Swans in the Reeds, and Willow Bushes in the Setting Sun. There’s debate as to whether Goethe was a fan of Friedrich’s, but does it really matter? The brochure points out that Goethe’s feelings were ambiguous. However, it was thanks to an early career competition prize Friedrich won, which Goethe was a juror, that legitimized Friedrich as an artist. History can’t have one without the other. I’m disappointed in how my cellphone shots turned out, and then the public domain ones I found aren’t any better. You really just need to see them in person, they’re stunning. It’s challenging with such high contrast paintings with a lot of dark areas to see the detail in reproduction. However, in person, every brush stroke is delicate, and looking at any one of these pieces is to be transported into the scene, emotions in your throat, classic Friedrich.

Have you been next door to the Goethe House, where Goethe was born? We'll fill you in on the highlights, just click here.

Where? When? How Much?
You can reach the Frankfurter Goethe House and Museum by all subways and interurban trains stopping at ‘Hauptwache’ within five to ten minutes walk. Car parks are located in the immediate surroundings. The address is Frankfurter Goethe-Haus / Freies Deutsches Hochstift, Großer Hirschgraben 23-25, 60311 Frankfurt am Main.
Typical hours for the Goethe House and Museum are Monday through Saturday, 10am-6pm, and Sunday from 10am-5:30pm. Admission is 7 Euros. Check the official site for available discounts and group prices.

Swans in the Reeds by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

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Willow Bush in the Setting Sun by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

Ultimate Cheat Sheet to the Goethe House in Frankfurt

The windows are wide open in the birthplace of Frankfurt am Main’s favorite son, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. A cool breeze shimmies its way in, stirring up historical smells. You only hear the sound of the wooden floorboards creaking under your feet and in neighboring rooms, and further away a student tour group is laughing. Ongoing construction site white noise from next door, the soon to be German Romantic Museum, foretells of historical fun to come in 2019.

Why Do You Need a Cheat Sheet to Visit?
There are very few descriptive signs hanging because the nonprofit group, which oversees the Goethe House and Museum, Freies Deutsches Hochstift wants to keep the presence of the house as authentic as possible. This means you need to either do some homework before visiting, succumb to an audio tour for 3 Euros extra, or, split the difference and get the beefier English brochure for 1.50 Euros and use that as your tour guide. Currently there’s only German tours on weekends, and no English tours at all.

My American education only mentioned Goethe in passing, and I imagine many others will relate. It seemed as though our English teachers had a hard enough time teaching us Canterbury’s Tales, Beowulf, and Shakespeare’s countless plays, they didn’t quite make it to Goethe’s oeuvre.

I’ve gathered together and simplified what you need to know in order to get the most out of your visit, but I do recommend buying the beefier English brochure. It is well produced and designed, as well as easy to pack and a great souvenir. The brochure goes room by room and discusses more highlights and goes into further detail.

Family is What Makes This House a Home
Johann Wolfgang Goethe and his sister Cornelia grew up in the top tier of Frankfurt’s society. They both received excellent, private educations. It was expected that Goethe would be a lawyer like his father before him. He went as far as finishing law school and opening a private practice when his literary career made him a celebrity.

Top 10 Historical Events You Need to Know About the Goethe House
1. Sold | Goethe’s grandmother on his father’s side (Cornelia Goethe), bought the property in 1733
2. Birth | Johann Wolfgang Goethe was born August 28, 1749
3. Birth | Goethe’s beloved sister Cornelia Goethe was born 1750
4. Renovation | Goethe’s father (Johann Caspar Goethe) renovated and combined two half-timbered houses into one spacious, Rococo-style home from 1755-1756.
5. French Occupation | Royal Lieutenant François Théas de Thoranc occupied the house from 1759 until 1761 during the French occupation of the Seven Years’ War, and had local artists visit to paint for him. As a result, Goethe watched Johann Georg Trautmann work on his Joseph Cycle paintings.
6. Writing | Goethe wrote “Goetz of Berlichingen” in 1773 and “The Sorrows of Young Werther” in 1774
7. Sold | Goethe’s mother sold the house, furniture, and her husband’s collections in 1795.
8. Sold | The house was acquired in 1863 by the Freies Deutsches Hochstift, “A Society Devoted to the Liberal Arts.” They began reassembling and recreating the home’s original furnishings.
9. Bombing | After the 1944 bombing raid, the house and Goethe Museum was completely destroyed. Furnishings and objects had previously been evacuated and were saved.
10. Rebuilt | Meticulous reconstruction from 1947-1951 led to the house and museum being reopened in 1954.

Must-See Highlights of the Goethe House By Floor
Ground Floor Highlights
1. Kitchen |The house still has it's original water pump linked to a well in the cellar, pure luxury in a time most households depended on a public well!

Goethe House in Frankfurt still has its original water pump linked to a well in the cellar

2. Staircase | The first four sandstone steps of the staircase on the ground floor are original, (survived the 1944 bombing.) The massive staircase and spacious landings were part of Goethe’s father’s renovation. Look for his parents’ initials in the ironwork of the railing on the first floor.
3. Blue Room | The framed oilcloth wallpaper hanging on the wall is from the house before the renovation, and allegedly acted as a tarp over the kids’ beds in the attic during the construction work.

The framed oilcloth wallpaper hanging on the wall is from the house before the renovation | Goethe House Frankfurt

First Floor Highlights
1. Peking Room, also called Red Room | Behold the fabulous loud wallpapers with flowers and animals that imitate Chinese and East Asian styles!

Peking Room has fabulous loud wallpapers that imitate Chinese and East Asian styles| Goethe House FrankfurtI love the room heater/fireplace in the Peking room | Goethe House Frankfurt

2. The Northern Wing Cabinet | There’s a portrait of the French Lieutenant Thoranc who occupied the first floor of the house from 1759 until 1761 during the French occupation of the Seven Years’ War.
3. Grey/Music Room | The Goethe family group of four was very close, and music was very important to them. Cornelia (sister) was excellent on the piano, the father played the lute, Goethe played the cello, and the mother sang. Above the red, upright pianoforte is a portrait of the Goethe family by Johann Conrad Seekatz. The five cherubs in the background symbolize the parents’ five other children who died very young.

Portrait of the Goethe family by Johann Conrad Seekatz hangs above the red pianoforte in the Grey Music Room | Goethe House Frankfurt | Room Photo of Pianoforte by Flickr User Soohyang.Song

Second Floor Highlights
1. Goethe’s Father’s Library | These books are scandalized by the idea of ebooks, and suspicious as to why they’re behind glass, lonely, and locked up!

Goethe's Father's Library is scandalized by the idea of ebooks, and suspicious as to why they're locked up! | Goethe House Frankfurt

2. Cabinet of Paintings | Goethe loved art and especially the Dutch traditional style. He kept his art collecting local, and supported Frankfurt masters, Trautmann, Schütz the Elder, Juncker, Hirt, Nothnagel, and Morgenstern, as well as Darmstadt court painter, Seekatz.

Goethe loved art and especially the Dutch traditional style. He collected local Frankfurt & Darmstadt painters and displayed them in the picture room | Goethe House Frankfurt

3. Astronomical Clock | Not original to the house, it was in Privy Council Wilhelm Friedrich Hüsgen’s home, where Goethe admired it when he was young. There is a dancing bear in the lower peephole that acts as a signal for winding up the clock. It was built in 1746.

Third Floor Highlights
1. Poet’s Room | Here, with it's original standing desk and a writing desk, is where Goethe wrote his early works.

Poet's Room with the original standing desk. Here is where Goethe wrote his early works | Goethe House Frankfurt

2. Puppet Theater | Goethe’s puppet theater he received when he was 4 years old, yes really! It’s survived. Worth climbing all those stairs? You bet.

Goethe received this puppet theater when he was four! | Goethe House Frankfurt

3. Western Attic Room | When the French Lieutenant Thoranc who occupied the house from 1759 until 1761 during the French occupation of the Seven Years’ War, he had many Frankfurt artists to visit and work in this room. Goethe watched Johann Georg Trautmann create his Joseph painting series in this room. They’ve since been returned from Thoranc’s estate to be displayed where they were created!

Johann Georg Trautmann created his Joseph painting series in this room, and now here it is displayed again | Goethe House Frankfurt

But wait! There’s more! Here's what to expect at the adjoining Goethe Museum.

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler