The old and the new in Nuremberg
- 22 Jun 06, 01:47 PM
NUREMBERG - Cultural excursions don't appear to have been a particularly high priority for fans at the World Cup - there is just too much football to watch.
But here in Nuremberg the situation is different because the area around the Franken-Stadion carries the indelible mark of history.
Quite simply, it is difficult to reach the ground without seeing some reminder of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party, which used the stadium as a marching ground in the 1930s.
Next to the Franken-Stadion is the Zeppelinfeld - the huge field where Hitler held the Nuremberg rallies immortalised in Leni Riefenstahl's film Triumph of the Will.
It does not take a huge leap of the imagination to visualise the area as a military parade ground and, sitting on the steps from which Hitler delivered several significant speeches, history still resonates down the decades.
In the time I spent there, a lot of fans passed through, many having their photographs taken from the podium where Hitler delivered his speeches.
Some pulled silly faces or made bizarre hand gestures, others produced big camera smiles as though stood in front of Big Ben or the Statue of Liberty.
A few people kicked footballs around as they made their way along the huge steps, while the area was apparently hugely popular with England fans while they were here for the match with Trinidad & Tobago.
It is now used as a sports complex and every year hosts the Norisring car race. During the World Cup it is full of hospitality tents.
On the other side of the stadium is the Grosse Strasse, a huge avenue 60 metres wide that runs for two kilometres down to what would have been a huge parade ground - the Marzfeld.
The road is so wide that you can park your car in the middle. Everything created by Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, is on a huge scale.
Dominating the vista from the Zeppelinfeld is the stadium, while at the top of the Grosse Strasse is the Fans Fest.
Both the stadium and the Fans Fest are places of great colour, with a real emphasis on nations coming together to have a good time. The old, crumbling monuments are sober and grey.
It is almost a metaphor for the way in which this World Cup seems to be shaping a new impression of Germany and its people.
I get the impression that while the people of Germany are not in denial about events of the past they are keen to use the tournament to redefine how they are seen.
Tired old stereotypes are giving way to an impression of a modern country populated by a friendly people.
As the tournament's motto says - It's a time to make friends.