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Last updated : Nov 2009
Thuringia
Thuringia - TravelPuppy.com
Thuringia (Thüringen) lies between Hesse and Saxony, and is the most westerly of the old ‘East’ German states. Major centres include Erfurt, Jena and Weimar. The wooded heights and slate mountains of the Thuringian Forest make the region an ideal region for walking. The best known hiking route is the Rennsteig which stretches for over 168km (105 miles). The entire region of the Rennsteig is a protected zone and is therefore immune to any industrial or urban development.

A flourishing craft industry and winter sports facilities centred in Suhl also draw visitors to the state. Eisenach, birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach, contains the oldest Town Gate in Thuringia and the Romanesque Nikolai Church.

Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther sought refuge and translated the New Testament into German, dominates the town. The small town of Rudolstadt was known for its cultural life during the Renaissance, hosting plays of the Weimar Court Theatre, directed by Goethe, and founding a renowned court orchestra in 1635 which attracted many of the best classical musicians. It is now a popular stop along Thuringia’s Classic Road. Arnstadt, where the young Bach was an organist at the local church, is the ‘Gateway’ to the Thuringia Forest, with its lush hiking trails and many magnificent views.

Other noteworthy sites in the region include Gera with its Renaissance Town Hall and fine Burghers’ Houses, the castle ruins at Friedrichsroda, the imperial city Nordhausen with its late Gothic Cathedral and Renaissance Town Hall and the picturesque town of Mühlhausen.

Erfurt

The cultural centre of Thuringia, and state capital. Formerly a rich trading centre, its well-preserved, medieval city centre contains a wealth of churches, cloisters and old merchants’ houses. Dating from 1392, the University is one of northern Europe’s oldest. Martin Luther lived as a monk in the city’s Augustinian Monastery, which displays exhibits relating to his life. Erfurt’s museums contain valuable collections of medieval treasures.

Jena

Famous for its optical industry, Jena also offers the world’s oldest Planetarium, nowadays equipped with the latest laser technology. The Optics Museum contains extensive collections of spectacles and Zeiss microscopes. Collegium Jenense, the original 16th-century university building, is also open to visitors. For children, the interactive Imaginata interpretation centre encourages exploration of a variety of topics.

Weimar

The southern 1000-year-old town of Weimar was home to many great men, including Luther, Bach, Liszt, Wagner and Schiller. An important cultural centre of the past, the city experienced its golden age in the 18th and 19th centuries. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived here for fifty years and was a major influence as a civil servant, theatre director and poet. His house is now the Goethe National Museum. Literature enthusiasts should not miss the Goethe and Schiller Archive.

Bach was Court Organist and Court Concertmaster, Liszt and Richard Strauss were both directors of music. There is documentation of their private and public lives kept in hotels and museums in the town. Weimar was also the original home of the Bauhaus architectural school before it moved to Dessau (see the Saxony-Anhalt section). The modern Weimar House multimedia presentation tells the full story of the city. A few kilometres from Weimar, a museum occupies the former site of the Buchenwald concentration camp.