Kaffee and Kuchen with Goethe and Schiller
Weimar and Goethe are to the German speaking world what Shakespeare and Stratford-on-Avon are to the English speaking world. (more...)
This city was called home by the paramount German poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Johann Friedrich von Schiller, composers Franz Liszt and Johann Sebastian Bach, the painter Lucas Cranach the elder, the philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, just to name the most prominent ones. Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Hans Christian Andersen, Lyonel Feininger and Walter Gropius are no less prominent contributors to the world cultural heritage who spent part of their lives here.
Weimar, in the province of Thuringia and first mentioned in records in 899, is a jewel of a small city of approx. 65,000 inhabitants, located in the middle of the country and easily accessible by train or car. For centuries, it has rightly held the title of a cultural capital and not only since it was European Cultural Capital in 1999.
In the 20th century, Weimar was the cradle of the Bauhaus movement, whose architectural influence is still with us today. In fact, 2009 marks the 90th anniversary of this movement. It will be celebrated with many events, the main one being an exhibition from April 1 to July 5, 2009.
And last but certainly not least, it is home to one of the most famous libraries, the Anna-Amalia library, named after the duchess Anna Amalia von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, recently restored and now again open to the public, after a horrific fire threatened to destroy it completely in 2004.
For anyone interested in the German classics, this charming town is a must-see. Stay at the Elephant Hotel, now a member of the Sheraton Luxury Hotel Collection right on the central market square, or the elegant Russischer Hof on the Goetheplatz. In addition, there are many smaller historic buildings that have been converted into hotels or guest houses, such as Hotel am Frauenplan.
There is a wealth of things to do (by the way, be sure to take a look at the excellent website set up by the Klassik Stiftung Weimar for up to date visitor informatiion): Visit the Goethe and Schiller houses, the Anna Amalia Rococo Library Hall (see note below about reservations), the Belvedere Castle complex, the Herder Church with its magnificent triptych altar by Lucas Cranach the elder, attend an opera performance or concert in the Opera House, and generally explore the nooks and cranies of the cobble-stoned old city and its adjacent parks. You will find numerous antique shops (after all, the city was a magnet for the arts in the 18th and 19th century), art galleries and a ginkgo tree museum.
Established thanks to the initiative of Mr. H. G. Becker, the small, private ginkgo museum is centrally
located on the main square. The ginkgo tree was introduced to German gardens during Goethe's time in the mid-18th century. He was so fascinated with it, that he started a tradition of giving dried ginkgo leaves to his friends, even writing a poem about it to one of his many female "muses". Highly revered in Asia for centuries for its alleged healing properties, it was the first tree to come back to life, less than a mile away from where the atom bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. This tree species, known to be at least 200.000 million years old, older than the dinosaurs, rightly has been named "immortal".
Commemorating a dark chapter of World War II history is the Buchenwald Memorial to the concentration camp set up in 1937 and in operation until 1945. It is located only about 10 km north of Weimar. More than 250.000 inmates from about 50 different nationalities were held there. After the end of WWII, the Soviet regime continued to use the facilities as an internment camp. By the time it was finally disbanded in 1950, approximately another 28,000 persons had been held there (of which ,more than 7000 died).
For English speakers, there is a two-hour self-guiding audio-guide available, at €3; call or email ed.dlawnehcubnull@gnudlemna beforehand to reserve these guides as only a limited number are available.
If you are In the mood for a real gourmet meal go to Anna Amalia Gourmet Restaurant In the Hotel Elephant.
However, Thuringia is well known for its sausages and other "Wurst" delicacies. Enjoy one of these at the market stand on a bun with spicy mustard. The sausage stands are there every day, but the colorful market with its array of local produce and regional delicacies is held on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings. Another charming lunch spot is the home of the famous 18th century protestant preacher J. W. Herder, situated behind his church. Simple, forthright and home-made meals in an historic environment. Be sure to visit the adjoining "Herder Garden", where, in season, many of the vegetables used in the kitchen are grown.
If in Germany, remember to do as the locals do and enjoy Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) at about 4 p.m. The Kaffeerosterei is run by Sabine Zotzmann, one of the few female coffee roasters in the world, who actually roasts her beans on the premises and thus promises the real bean flavor, as well as some excellent home-made Kuchens (the "Ruebli" or carrot cake on Wednesdays is a dream!). Another favorite is the old-fashioned Café am Frauentor, also with an excellent and extensive selection of cakes - one of the really sinful ones is the "Thueringische Schmandtorte" (Thuringian Cream cake).