Near my home, a meandering riverside path leads from the trendy GoHo district to the oldest part of Altstadt, which itself means old town. My first glimpse of this part of the city was following that path on the first sunny day in weeks. Old stones and worn wood held up vine-covered walls. Although this part of town was new to me, the picturesque buildings and winding cobbled streets had fascinated many observers before me.
But the funny thing about Nuremberg is that even the old things are new. There are blocks etched with worn dates like 1607 and 1545, but the buildings that hold those blocks were rebuilt after heavy bombing. Some things were rebuilt, some things built a new, and some things are brand new. Even old stones have new mortar here.
There are buildings made of glass and iron, and squat buildings made of lurid painted concrete. There are buildings that are still going up, rising like crocuses through the dirt and snow. There are post-war buildings that are both too old to be modern and too new to be ancient, and there are ancient buildings rebuilt anew with what remained of the old.
In that oldest part of Altstadt, Saint Sebald church stands rebuilt on its own ancient grounds. The church is a living monument to the rebuilding of old things. Posters and prayers detail the destruction of the old church and the drive of an entire city to raise it from its own ruins. The rebuilt church stands now as it stood for hundreds of years. Its impressive façade appears as an exact replica of the church in the grainy poster-sized photos of its previous incarnation.
But if some worm hole lead the man who carved the original stones, or the first person to paint the elaborate triptych to the rebuilt church, I am sure they would note the nicks, and scratches, the misplaced block and the miscolored cloak. But only the insider would notice these differences and things this beautiful still warrant rebuilding.
We are not so unlike the city of Nuremberg—we are destroyed, and we rebuild. But, not every stone can be saved, not every building can be replaced. Some things must be replaced, and some new things must be built. Some things are rebuilt from their own wreckage and from the outside appear exactly as they did before. It is only from the inside that we can see the differences—the shifts and changes that come with rebuilding. For those of us who have really lived, our lives are cities of new old things.