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Germany - Thuringia


A Karen Brown Recommendation
Don’t be discouraged by the sprawling, unsightly suburbs of the old university town of Erfurt, because the heart of the historic town is extremely colorful. Head straight to the town center and park in any of the designated areas in the vast Domplatz. From there, climb the monumental staircase leading up to the triple-spired *Dom (cathedral). Be sure to notice its stunning entrance adorned with fine statues. Inside, look for the beautifully carved choir stalls, the exquisitely detailed stained-glass windows (1370–1420) around the altar, and the 12th-century masterpiece in the south transept, the Wolfram, a candelabrum in the shape of a man. The Dom also contains the tomb of the Count of Gleichen and his wives—yes, wives. According to legend, while on a crusade the count was captured, and only because the beautiful daughter of the sultan fell in love with him was he released with the stipulation he marry her. The wife at home, relieved to have her husband back, accepted the arrangement, and the two women lived happily ever after as sisters. Adjacent to the Dom is the triple-spired Severikirche (church of the Augustinian monks), built between 1280 and 1400. Inside look for the splendidly carved, pink sandstone sarcophagus of Saint Severus, located in the southernmost nave. Walk back down the enormous flight of steps to the Domplatz, crowded with market stalls on Wednesdays. Lining this huge plaza are gaily painted 17th- and 18th-century houses. Cross the Domplatz and follow the narrow, pedestrian-only street, Markstrasse, in the direction of the Krämerbrücke. In a few minutes you come to the Fischmarkt Platz where you find more picturesque buildings, including the attractive Gildehaus restaurant. You might want to have lunch here or else be tempted to snack on one of the tantalizing grilled bratwurst sold by street vendors. From the Fischmarkt Platz continue on foot to the amazing Krämerbrücke (Kramer Bridge). You hardly realize that you are crossing over the river because the narrow bridge (lined by little shops and galleries housed in quaint, two-story, half-timbered buildings) looks like just a continuation of the street. After seeing Krämerbrücke, retrace your steps to the Domplatz to pick up your car. Return to the A4, continue east, and take exit 49 to Weimar. The traffic crawls through the sprawling suburbs but take heart, since after you park your car you are treated to an extremely picturesque city. As you near the town center, follow signposts for the Hotel Elephant—this route brings you to the pedestrian Marktplatz, where you find the tourist information office and the Hotel Elephant (you can drive into the square to drop your luggage if you are staying at the hotel). Weimar’s status as a cultural capital led to Germany’s democrats putting the town’s name on the new republic in 1919. Over the years the town’s princes nurtured those with artistic and musical talents, including Lucas Cranach, Franz Liszt, and Johann Sebastian Bach. Similarly, the court nurtured Germany’s leading writers: Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, and Herder. Goethe spent over 50 years here. He moved into *Goethehaus in 1782 and lived here until his death in 1832 (from the market square take Frauentorstrasse to Frauenplan). His home is, by and large the way it was when he lived here: you see the study where he worked, manuscripts and all, and his bedroom with the armchair in which he died. (9 am–4 pm, closed Mondays.) Goethe frequently dined in the adjacent Zum Weissen Schwan and housed his overflow of visitors here. The Swan has two delightful, cozy dining rooms, an excellent choice for an up-market place to eat. A few streets away lies the Schillerhaus, Schillerstrasse 12, where Schiller came to live for three years prior to Goethe’s death. It was here that he wrote Wilhelm Tell. Behind the house an interesting museum depicts the writer’s life and work. (9 am–4 pm, closed Mondays.) Goethe and Schiller were great friends and a large statue of them together stands outside the Deutsches Nationaltheater on Theaterplatz. The exterior of the Stadtschloss (castle) has been restored, and the wing facing the park is now open as an art gallery that houses, among other things, an important collection of paintings by Lucas Cranach. (9 am–5 pm, closed Mondays.) Cross the river Ilm (on the bridge behind the museum) and stroll though the woodlands and lawns, following the river to Goethe’s Gartenhaus (garden house) which he received as a present from August the Strong in 1776. He liked it so much that he lived there till 1782 and it always remained his favorite retreat. The country-simple furnishings in the garden house are very different from the ornate decor in his later home. (closed Mondays.)
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