Marienberg Park lies next to the airport and in the shadows of the planes that arrive into and depart from Nuremberg,
Nuremberg, the town known for toys and lebkuchen and the Christkind, first became my home at the end of 2009. Since the beginning, I’ve always felt at home in the city. There was something of the familiar in Nuremberg for me. It felt right and true, like I had been there all along. That’s not to say there weren’t (aren’t?) challenges and bad days, but the feeling mostly felt right.
But it wasn’t until a year ago that I visited the park. I went with friends who wanted to play basketball, which held zero appeal for me but gave me lots of chances to people watch. I was immediately intrigued by what I saw happening around me.
It’s easy to depend on stereotypes. Biergartens, pretzels and gummy bears. Tall serious men. Blond women.
But the authentic Nuremberg truly pulses with diversity, and Marienberg Park maybe is not the heart of that but is rather an important artery. Arteries bear oxygen to our cells, and Marienberg Park delivers a shot of a diverse life in a most unexpected way.
I sat on the hill, watching families bring their grills, their fresh fish, and their tea kettles into the park. Before this moment, I had never dreamed that a tea kettle would have a place inside a city park, but here they were with nearly every group. Gold, silver, red, ornate or plain. Some of them looked like family heirlooms; all of them were fancier and more beautiful than any kettle I’ve ever owned, and, if you didn’t read it before, they were in a park.
My ears caught the strains of music. To my American ears, brought up on 70s and 80s pop music, the music was unfamiliar and unidentifiable. But it was lovely, and the faint wisps of it complemented the dozen or so languages I heard that day. My family and friends playing basketball were speaking the usual mix of English and German with a man speaking Turkish who was cheered on by his Italian friends.
As I watched the men tend the grills, the one cultural constant regardless of language or dress, the white smoke from each family’s grill sort of danced around before rising up and converging with the other smoke clouds so that they all met in a beautiful confluence of haze and spice and sound before drifting off to the sky and the airplanes above us.
It seemed like a gorgeous way to spend a summer’s day, and I felt like maybe I had missed out on an opportunity by not having been the sort of person who would haul a grill and a teapot to a park. I watched the women set up table games, none of them sold or distributed by Milton Bradley, and noted that there are entire worlds that I know nothing of; their games, their language, their pastimes, and I envied their customs, for having a community where these routines were long standing and important and sacred.
I didn’t dare disturb them although the American in me wanted very much to introduce myself, to ask about the card game they were playing, and perhaps to invite myself for a cup of tea, fresh off the grill.
I’m an outsider and I’m coming to grips with the fact that I always will be. I’m not German or even a European. My German is continually a work in progress. In a city that has been a second home to me, where I sometimes meet resistance in the form of a grumpy bureaucrat or a misread insurance form, it’s like peeling back another layer of the onion to remind myself that Nuremberg is a home for other wanderers, from other lands. As an American abroad it’s easy to forget this. We watch as a Five Guys makes plans to open in the city center, amused to see the most American of cuisine right next to a 500 year old church. Nearly every T-shirt, sign, and song represents something about English speaking culture. As a citizen of a country whose pop culture has taken over the world, it’s often possible to forget the influence of the rest of the world.
I am glad for the perspective.