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Germany - Thuringia

Eisenach

A Karen Brown Recommendation
The town of Eisenach is located on the edge of the vast stretches of the Thuringia Forest. Take exit 40 from the A4, go into Eisenach, and follow the well-signposted route to your destination, *Wartburg, one of Europe’s finest Romanesque castles, perched atop a wooded hill southwest of town. After driving through Eisenach, you will see a “Wartburg” sign indicating a narrow road to the right that weaves up through a thick forest to the parking lot, from which it is a ten-minute walk up the hill to the castle. Note: If you have reservations to spend the night at the Hotel auf der Wartburg (see Hotel Descriptions section), you can bypass the barrier at the parking lot, drive up the pedestrian walkway to the hotel, leave your luggage, and then park your car at the hotel parking area. To visit the castle, buy your entrance ticket, cross the moat, go under the portcullis, and into the courtyard to stand in line to purchase a second ticket for the guided tour of the castle (buy a guidebook in English to help you understand this German-only tour). It was Wartburg that inspired Ludwig II to build his fanciful Bavarian castles and Richard Wagner to write his opera Tannhäuser. The restored castle is largely Romanesque but furnishings, artwork, and tapestries are original pieces from the medieval to the baroque eras of this castle. One of the most interesting rooms in the castle is the Elisabeth Gallery where six large frescoed murals depict the tale of Elisabeth, a Hungarian princess who came to live at the castle in 1211. She died at the tender age of 24, but became a legend due to her work with the peasants—nursing those who were ill and helping the destitute. Fortunately, Eisenach’s other interesting place to visit, Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthplace, *Bachhaus, is easy to find. After leaving Wartburg, drive back toward Eisenach. Just a few minutes before entering the main part of town, turn left on a street signposted Bachhaus and follow the road to a tree-shaded square with a statue of Bach set in a tiny park. Facing the statue is a cheerful, mustard-yellow house where Johann Sebastian Bach lived as a boy. The tour of Bach’s home is not structured: follow the well-marked signs throughout the house, which is furnished in much the same style as it was when Bach was a child. The tour ends at the chamber music room where every 20 minutes a program of Bach’s music, both live and taped, is cleverly woven together with a presentation about his life and work. To sit in this lovely, small music chamber dappled with sunlight filtering in from the garden while listening to Bach’s music is indeed magical. After the demonstration, you may choose to walk through the flower-filled garden to another section of the house in which Bach memorabilia and sheet music are displayed. (1:30–4:30 pm, Mondays; 9 am–4 pm, Tuesdays through Fridays; 9 am–noon and 1:30–4:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays.)
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