Exploring Rudolstadt in Thüringen – the tradition of “Ankersteine”

In August 2022, we explore Thüringen. Now we are at Rudolstadt.


Rudolstadt is known for their “Ankersteine” (Anchor Stone Blocks) – their fans are children and adults

This is the Wartburg of Eisenach, built with Anchor Stone Blocks (Ankersteine). 

The Ankersteine were invented by the pedagogue Fröbel and brought to market by the brothers Lilienthal. They started the production  in the year 1882. The factory was closed in 1963 and reopened in 1995.

Anchor Stone Blocks have always been made using the same components, quartz sand, chalk and linseed oil.  

Colours (Farbpigmente) are added: red (for bricks), yellow (for sandstone) and blue (for slate – the best slate quality is called blue slate or blue gold, as we have learnt at Lehesten). The assistant of the small factory shop tells us that toxic ingredients are no longer allowed, and they adapted the colour pigments. 

The building blocks are formed with precision and hold without glue, when building something like the Wartburg or – a bit smaller – the Brandenburg Gate of Berlin.

Officially, the factory can be visited until early afternoon. However, as the days are so hot right now, the ingredients for the blocks cannot be processed in the afternoon. The employees currently start work at five in the morning and stop around midday. Only the small shop is open, where the construction samples and the construction sets are presented, such as this kit that allows children to build their own animals. 

I particularly like the joyful snail in the middle. And, by the way, the “being” with the blue”roof” is a mouse – is that not obvious?

Even Albert Einstein or Walter Gropius played with Anchor Stone Blocks, when they were children. However, I believe, not every child playing with the blocks will become an Einstein or a Gropius. 

The construction kits for creating models of existing buildings are complementary; it is a structured system that allows to grow and rebuild more and more complex models.  They are for children and for grownups. It was a group of (adult) Dutch fans that initiated the resumption of the Anchor Stone production after 1990. 

I buy a fairy tale set and two puzzles (Tangram) that allow to lay various shapes – flowers, swans, butterflies and so on. One month later, I return. I have a chat with the young designer of new anchor stone sets (wonderful, his enthusiasm!) and I acquire the lovely animal construction kit that has just come out in a new version. My nephews will surely enjoy it at Christmas.


Rudolstadt belongs to the porcelain route -what a wonderful exhibition and shop at Volkstedt!

Rudolstadt belongs to the porcelain route of Thuringia. The Manufacture of Volkstedt has existed since 1762. We visit their exhibition and shop.

The products are presented with care, for example the parrot, …

… the vase from the 1930’s, …

… the autumn dinner table set up with much taste for harmony, …

… the table for two, arranged in black and white and adorned with a black panther, …

… and joyful modern porcelain figures.

We walk around, we enjoy, and we forget the time. My friend buys Christmas bulbs, and I find the coffee cups that I have wanted for such a long time.


Strolling through the historical city centre of Rudolstadt

The city centre of Rudolstadt has been spared from the bombings of the Second World War. The medieval buildings are charming.

We park our car on the Market Square. The fountain has been designed by the son-in-law of Schiller in 1859… we will meet Schiller later. 

The Market Square is dominated by the new City Hall (Neues Rathaus) with the characteristic two-storied oriel, built in neo-Gothic style in 1912. 

Marktplatz 9 is the pretty Tuchmacherhaus (cloth maker house). It is a Renaissance building from 1512 and takes its name from the cloth maker Ronneberger who settled here in 1714. Today it is a tavern.

Behind the Market Square, the Rathausgasse starts, and we see the Castle Heidecksburg above it.

Very reserved, the City Hall of 1524 hides in the Rathausgasse. The clock tower was added later, in 1603.

Viewed from the Heidecksburg, we see the old City Hall with the clock tower and the Rathausgasse leading to the Market Square.

The Alte Strasse, is lined with historical buildings such as the restaurant “zum Brummochsen” (humming ox), …

… or this tiny house (number 3).

Richard Wagner lodged in house Nr 47, when giving a guest performance during the Vogelschiessen (literally “bird shooting”). 

The Vogelschiessen has existed since 1722 (hence for 300 years). No “real” birds are shot. It is a funfair that includes the competition to shoot birds made out of wood. To add some education and culture to the “fun”, the duke of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt had the city theatre built in 1793. For some time, Goethe was a guest performer here (1796-1803). 


At Rudolstadt, Schiller fell in love with his future wife, Charlotte, and met Goethe for the first time

With her two daughters, Caroline and Charlotte, the widow Louise von Lengefeld, moved into this house in 1775. 

Here, Schiller got to know the two sisters Caroline and Charlotte von Lengefeld. In December 1787, Friedrich Schiller and his friend visited the Lengefeld family. The sisters and Schiller liked one another. Caroline was already married to Friedrich von Beulwitz, Charlotte, the younger sister, was still unmaried.

In 1788, Schiller returned to Rudolstadt and enjoyed the summer with the sisters. One evening, Goethe visited the family Lengefeld, and Schiller was also invited. This was, when Goethe and Schiller met for the first time, which was more important for Schiller (now 28 years old) than for Goethe (already well established). The intense friendship of Goethe and Schiller started six years later. 

Schiller married Charlotte in 1790.

A pretty small museum has been set up in the Schiller house; it conveys the atmosphere of those days.

By the way, only those who are able to do basket weaving are allowed to sit on this chair … 

Today, there is a coffee place in the lush garden of the Schillerhaus.

A wedding apéro is taking place here. How nice.


It is lunchtime – people stand in line to have a Thuringian Rostbratwurst

Thuringian roasted sausages (Rostbratwürste) seem to be the main diet here. It is lunch time, and people stand in line to have one of these sausages (or perhaps two).

After having had our picnic, we prefer some tasty sweets from the Kaffeehaus Wenzel (coffee house) nearby at the Market Square.


Visiting the Castle Heidecksburg, residence of the dukes Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (almost for 400 years)

The Castle Heidecksburg guards over the city. There is even a small vineyard on this south facing slope.

We drive up to the castle along the road lined with beautiful villas and park our car free of charge.

Just before entering the castle, we see this panel: “Hier entstehen elegante Schlossvillen (elegant castle villas will emerge here)”. 

We wonder, what these elegant castle villas will look like. I believe, the architects are couragious.

We enter the castle through the western gate.  Now I am looking westwards.

A few steps back, I include the “Schöner Brunnen” (“beautiful fountain”) and the horsepond (Pferdeschwemme), where horses were washed and watered. 

The first fortification was built here in 1265. It was enlarged and rebuilt several times and heavily damaged in a fire in 1735. The west wing (top) was redesigned by Knöffel, in late Baroque style. 

The south wing (left) was largely spared by the fire; we visit the wealthily decorated living rooms, repeatedly renovated according to the prevailing taste. 

Near the entrance, Graf Albrecht VII von Schwarzenburg-Rudolstadt (1537-1605) and his first wife, Juliane (1546-1588), are greeting us.

They were one of the ten generations of Schwarzenburg-Rudolstadt that had their domiciles and government seats in the Castle Heidecksburg (1537-1918).

The wardrobe room has a large wall-to-wall cabinet, very practical. The escritoire (secretary desk, left) has been made from maple and plum wood. A Biedermeier seating area is under the window. The styles of various periods have been mixed. 

This is the golden saloon (Goldener Salon) in Rococo style. To the right of the faience oven is the portrait of Louis XIV. 

This room was probably a guest room (Delmenhorster Gemach). The stucco decoration of the ceiling shows Venus in the middle, Hermes to the right and Amor to the left (1636).

The Rococo festival hall (Festsaal) in the middle of the south wing saw feasts with up to 100 guests. It is 12m high and comprises two levels. The court orchestra would play on the balcony.

I particularly like the wallpaper door that integrates with the wallpaper painting of the room and makes the door “disappear”.

The room of ribbons (Bänderzimmer) was the vestibule to the apartment of the countess. Built in 1780, it represents the transition between Rococo and Classicist style. The ribbons connect up the portrait medallions. 

These are just a few examples of the numerous rooms that carry names such as “the red hall”, “the green hall”, “the red corner cabinet”, “the green corner cabinet”, “the white room”, “the blue silk salon” and so on – one room after the next. I wonder, how the dukes could afford this luxurious lifestyle. Thuringia was split up into many, many principalities. For instance, in 1910, Thuringia (12.325 km2) encompassed twice the canton of Bern (5.960km2) and was divided into 11 districts – 8 principalities and 3 districts belonging to Prussia…  each district  had its own castle… how could these “small” dukes afford such a luxurious lifestyle?

In addition to the rooms, the Heidecksburg presents paintings. Outstanding is Caspar David Friedrich’s “Morning Mist in the Mountains”, painted in 1808.

Caspar David Friedrich based his paintings on observations in nature, but he usually did not paint real places. The “morning mist” is a fairy tale landscape, even with a Chinese touch due to the rugged rocks. 


Good-bye Rudolstadt

From the castleHeidecksburg, we have a beautiful view of the medieval city centre of Rudolstadt embedded between the hills in the Saale valley.  

I start to like this small and charming city that I have not been aware of so far.


Overview map of our tour in Thuringia

Rudolstadt is located close to Eyba. Tomorrow, our destination will be Erfurt.



  • Lutz Unbehaun, “Rudolstadt – Schloss Heidecksburg”, Schnell + Steiner, Regensburg 2013
  • Steffi Böttger, “Rudolstadt and einem Tag”, Lehmstedt Verlag, Leipzig 2021
  • Panels in the living rooms of the Heidecksburg
  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen
  • Hans Müller, “Thüringen”, Dumont Kunstreiseführer 1998, p. 208ff

Exploring Weimar in Thüringen – Weimar Classicism, Weimar Republic and Bauhaus

In August 2022, we explore Thüringen. For a week, we stay at the castle Eyba near Saalfeld. After having visited Lauscha and Lehesten in the Slate Mountains of Thuringia from here, we next check out the Via Regia with cities full of history and culture. 

Our first target on the Via Regia is Weimar, the classic centre for culture around 1800, primarily related with the names of Schiller, Goethe, Wieland and Herder. 


Anna Amalia’s Rococo library – this is, how the Weimar Classicism started

What we absolutely want to visit, is the Anna Amalia library that marked the beginning of the period of Weimar Classicism around 1800.

After having arrived at Weimar, we immediately head for the tourist office to buy a ticket for Anna Amalia’s Rococo library, as the number of visitors per day is restricted. We get a ticket for 11:30. Soon we stand in this charming room and admire the books on three levels.

Duchess Anna Amalia von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1739-1807) was highly educated. With her, the golden time of the Weimar Classicism started. She enlarged the library that her husband, duke Wilhelm Ernst, had initiated, and today, the library carries her name.


In 2004, a devastating fire destroyed more than 50’000 books. In 2007, the library was opened up again.

The ceiling fresco “genius of fame” had to be restored after the fire. 

The Anna Amalia library is located in the Green Palace at the Demokratieplatz, behind the statue of Carl August, the son of Anna Amalia.


The Weimar Classicism (at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century)

Anna Amalia’s son, Carl August, reached full age in 1775 and reigned until 1828. These were the years of the Weimar Classicism, with the four main representatives Wieland, Goethe, Schiller and Herder. 

The eldest, Christoph Martin Wieland (1733-1813), was called by Anna Amalia to educate her two sons. His statue stands on the Wielandplatz, but I have not noticed it, though we had parked our car in the garage “am Goethehaus” near the Wielandplatz.  

The second personality is Goethe (1749-1832). Anna Amalia’s son, the young duke Carl August, visited Goethe at Frankfurt and invited him to Weimar. Goethe moved to Weimar in 1775.

Goethe first lived in the “Sächsische Hof” (Dumont, p. 140).

In 1776, Goethe acquired the idyllic house near the river Ilm.

In 1782 he moved to the Frauenplan (square) that is now a museum. 

Goethe started his exchange of ideas with Schiller in 1794. In 1799, Schiller moved to Weimar. His house is also a museum, and the street carries his name. 

The friendship of Goethe and Schiller lasted about ten years, until Schiller died in 1805. Their statues dominate the Theaterplatz. 

Though Schiller was 12cm taller than Goethe, their statues are of the same height, and, in the figurative sense, this is certainly true.

Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) was the fourth of the main representatives of Weimar Classicism. He met young Goethe at Strassburg in 1770 and was a source of inspiration for him. Herder moved to Weimar in 1776. He was the superintendent of the Peter and Paul Church from 1776-1803. That is why the church also carries his name. 

Herder’s statue stands in front of the church.

Inside the Herder Church, we find this altar of Cranach Junior.

Interesting: John the Baptist (dressed in fur) attends the crucifixion together with Cranach (middle) and Luther (left). Christ’s resurrection and defeating the devil are on the same picture. 

The poets and philosophers used to visit the hotel Elephant. Still today, it is a renowned hotel with a lush garden.

The history of the hotel Elephant goes back to the 17th century. Since then, it has received many prominent personalities.


The Weimar Republic founded in 1919

In the National Theatre, the first German Republic adopted the constitution of the so-called Weimar Republic.  

During the Weimar Classicism, glorious premieres took place here, such as Schiller’s Wallenstein or Goethe’s Faust (Dumont, p. 153). 

The classicist building across the theatre, called “Haus der Weimarer Republik“, is a former carriage house. It invites to learn more about the Weimar republic as well as about chances and threats for democracies. Sorely, the Weimar Republic ended up as the National Socialist Dictatorship that shaped ten years of the history of Weimar and of Germany.

Certainly an interesting museum, but not for us today. 


The Bauhaus -beauty and cult

In 1919, Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus at Weimar, with the objective to combine fine arts and craft. It was a new way of thinking about life. In 1925, the school moved to Dessau, and in 1932 to Berlin. In 1933, the school was closed by the Nazis. 

One hundred years after the foundation of the Bauhaus, Weimar opened up its new Bauhaus Museum. From outside, it is a harmonious and sober building. 

We enter and buy our tickets.

The exhibition starts with photos and films about the life that changed so much in the 1920’s. Women became more independent, as the “quick kitchen of the single woman” shows.

Cars became more common. Also, women drove them (my grand-mother did so as well) and some even knew, how to repair them.

The exhibition continues showing the Bauhaus pieces of design that have become cult classics, such as the jar, …

… the “swinging” cantilever chairs, ….

… the cradle, ….

… or the buildings architectured with clear lines.

I buy the book about the museum to continue enjoying the Bauhaus design at home. Fortunately, I live near the Stuhl Museum of Weil that presents many of these classical pieces of design from the beginning of the 20th century.


Strolling through the streets and shopping

In addition to offering so much culture, Weimar is a welcoming city that invites to have coffee – we do so on the market square next to the townhall.

They also sell the so-called Rostbratwurst here that the Thuringians and the tourists love. However, I am not a sausage eater and do not join the lines waiting for their sausage in a roll. 

The shops are inviting, for instance the “Taschentanten” (literally aunts selling bags), …

… the goldsmith “Schädlich” (literally “harmful”, what a name), …

… or the Bauhaus shop, where I buy “Faust I” and “Faust II”; the two gloves will be a gift for a good friend of mine.


Good-bye Weimar

To round off our visit, we stroll through the romantic “Park an der Ilm”. Ilm is the river that flows through Weimar.

It is dinner time. At the Giardino we eat excellent antipasti.

After that, we return to our garage, pick up our car and drive back to “our” castle Eyba near Saalfeld. Weimar was well worth a visit.


Overview map Thüringen

Weimar is located north of “our” castle Eyba near Saalfeld, where we are staying for a week. 


  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen”
  • Hans Müller, “Thüringen”, Dumont Kunstreiseführer 1998, p. 133ff
  • Martin Schmidt, “City/Trip Erfurt Weimar”, Reise Know-How, Bielefeld 2022
  • Eva Schmidt, aktualisiert von Peggy Grosse, “Weimar, Evang.-Luth. Stadtkirche St. Peter und Paul (Herderkirche)”, Verlag Schnell+Steiner, Regensburg 2019
  • Ute Ackermann et alii, “Bauhausmuseum Weimar, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, o Jg


Exploring Thüringen – Lauscha and the tradition of glass making

In August 2022, we explored Thuringia. We have already been at Neustadt an der Orla, Saalberg with Burgk and Schleiz, Plothen with its ponds, the dams of the upper Saale, and Lehesten.

Let us now have a look at Lauscha with its tradition of glass making, particularly for Christmas.


Lauscha, the craddle of Christmas decoration made out of glass

It is said that Lauscha is the cradle of Christmas decoration made out of glass. It all started with a poor glass blower that could not afford to buy fruit for his Christmas tree, and he just made it out of glass. Like these pear, orange, nut and apple…

…and, in addition, glass bells and bulbs.

This is another Christmas tree decoration made at Lauscha around 1930.

Lauscha is famous for Christmas decoration and sells it all year round. 

The parking space is full of cars. Amongst them, I park my Swiss Audi.


The museum of glass making – wonderful

The Christmas World and Outlet building hosts a wonderful small museum that presents glass products and their history. 

When the Roman empire decayed, people in Europe lost the knowledge of glass making. Based on some antique Latin sources, the knowledge was acquired again in medieval times, and glass factories emerged, often connected with monasteries. 

The museum shows various techniques for glass making. 

This is spun glass. The vessel is pervaded by glass threads that can have different colours. 

The technique was invented on the island Murano near Venice in the 16th century.

This glass has been decorated with enamel paintings (Email-Malerei). Using a brush, the colour (made out of bound glass powder) is painted on to the glass and burnt in at a temperature of 500-600 degrees.

Beinglas, literally bone glass, has been blurred with bone ash. It almost looks like porcelain. The technique was invented at Venice in the 16th century.

Once Johann Friedrich Böttger had invented the porcelain, the interest in bone glass declined, with one exception: Artificial eyes. In 1820, the glass blower Lukas Müller-Uri made glass eyes for dolls. In 1832, the medical professor Heinrich Adelmann convinced him to think about making artificial eyes for people. In 1835, Müller-Uri succeeded. From 1844, he presented his artificial eyes at trade and industry exhibitions worldwide. He received numerous prizes. The eyes could be adapted to the eye muscles and were almost indistinguishable from real eyes.

I could not move away  – these eyes looked at me and looked at me …

The production of artificial pearls was another branch. In 1789, 21 factories at Lauscha produced such pearls for the worldwide market. They were even exported to China, East India and St. Petersburg. These pearls look almost real, do they not?

Besides teaching history, the museum shows graceful glass sculptures, such as these dancers …

… or the hunting scene, made around 1935.

A terrarium has been made out of glass… what a surprise, I would never have had the idea to order anything like that… interesting.

In addition, the centre allows to watch glass blowers at work. Our glass blower added a red hoof to a faun that should be seated on a motorcycle. Someone had ordered this. Not exactly our taste. While we watch the red hoofs growing slowly, the glass blower tells us about restaurants and hotels in the area that we should visit. Well, okay, what does my friend always say: “Land und Leute”, meaning: “I am experiencing the country and the people”. 


A look at the shop for Christmas decoration – people buy now, in August

The outlet shop has a huge selection of Christmas decoration, such as these green bulbs and bells, …

… or these winter landscapes.

We move on to other shops in the village to check out their Christmas decoration.

Would you eat these sweets? The shop warns: “Bitte nicht essen! = please do not eat!” 

Later, I am almost tempted to buy some of these decorative fruit plates.

However, I have already enough plates and glass can break too easily, when transported. I do not buy the plates and take a picture instead.


Strolling through Lauscha

The village is cut off from the north by another of those Thuringian construction places that force cars to drive many, many unexpected detour kilometers. 

The houses of Lauscha crouch in a narrow valley. The slates of the Thuringia Slate Mountains cover some of them completely … 

… and decorate others.

I admire the technique. Houses with slate shingles are beautiful and durable.

We return to our castle at Eyba and enjoy dinner in the castle courtyard. 


Overview map of our journey through Thuringia

Lauscha is located in the Thuringian Slate Mountains (Thüringisches Schiefergebirge) south of Saalfeld.

With Lauscha, we end exploring the mountains of Thuringia. Tomorrow, we will turn north to the lowlands. Weimar will be our first target.



  • Explanatory panels in the glass museum
  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen”
  • Hans Müller, “Thüringen”, Dumont Kunstreiseführer 1998

Exploring Thuringia – Lehesten with the slate quarry

In August 2022, we explore Thuringia on our way from Berlin to Switzerland.

Now we visit the slate quarry at Lehesten. We arrive just in time, at ten o’clock precisely, to join the guided tour.


The slate quarry of Lehesten is now a museum

The former slate quarry is now a museum. The lake covers the former surface mine and has a depth 40m. 

This lift once took workers down into the quarry. “Glückauf”, they said to one another, when going down into the quarry. This is, how they wished to one another that they would find valuable slate and that they will return safely.

The house behind the lift hosts the former shaft lifting system. The slates were reloaded on to the mine train.


Slate road of Thuringia and Franconia

Lehesten is part of the slate road of Thuringia and Franconia. Lehesten was specialized on the production of slates for roofs, Steinau made slate pencils and Ludwigsstadt is known for slate tablets for writing. 

Since the 13th century, slate was mined at Lehesten. It was one of the largest slate mines of the continent. In 1889, the quarry was connected to the train system. Between 1870 and 1910, the quarry employed 2500 miners. The slate was sold worldwide. In 1945, Thuringia became part of the German Democratic Republic. It was close to the inner German border, prohibited zone.  Before 1945, workers came from Thuringia AND Franconia, and when the border closed, the workers from Franconia lost their job. 

The mining was ceased in 1999 and turned into a museum.  

The origin of the slate of Thuringia are sediments deposited in layers in the so-called Rheia Ocean about 350 million years ago. The sediments dried out, were folded, pressed, pushed around and shifted. Schubert (“unser afrikanischer Schiefer”) describes this “drama” in four acts in detail. The layer of highest value for us is the so-called “Blue Stone” (Blauer Stein, hence named “Blue Gold” with an excellent cleavage property). I learn that the slate of Thuringia and Franconia is much older than our slate in Switzerland which evolved with the Alps about 50 million years ago. 


The energy centre with the Kompressorenwart (compressor guard)

Exploring the Lehesten mine, we enter the compressor house. The mine made its own electricity. The compressor guard had to monitor the pression, as the panel explains. 

The compressor guard sat in a small room and walked through his compressor house every fifteen to thirty minutes. 

At Christmas, the workers set up a tiny Christmas tree. 


Göpelschachtanlage (Shaft lifting system)

“Göpel” could be phonetically related to the German word “heben” (=lift, this is what our guide said) or to the sorbic word hibadlo or gybadlo .

The shaft lifting system was once driven by horses and later by a steam engine.

The foreman would talk to the workers using this megaphone. 

These are some examples of the shoes and the helmets the workers used in former times.


Cleaving and cutting the slate

The former “Spalthütte” (cleavage hut) is now the visitor centre. Our guide demonstrates, …  

… how the slates were split and ….

… cut. For cutting, he used a tool that reminds me of my paper cutter machine. I am astonished to see, how smoothly it cuts slate.

Templates helped to shape the shingles for roofs and houses.

Tedious manual work.


Slate products

In the villages of the Thuringian Slate Mountains, most houses are covered with slate shingles, as this transformer house at the Lehesten quarry.

However, it is not just roofs and houses … Do you still remember the slate tablets (Schiefertafel) … 

… and slate pencils (Griffel) you used at school? Even in the 1950’s some of us still had them at primary school. 

I never thought about how they were produced before. 

I bought some slate plates at the museum shop that could be used as a cheese board – a nice souvenir and a small gift.


Map overview of Thuringia

This is the overview of our tour across Thuringia. Lehesten is located south of Saalfeld. 

Our next visit will be Lauscha, where glass is produced.



  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen”
  • Dr. Reiner Schibert und Dipl.-Geol. Jochen Schubert, “Unser “afrikanischer” Schiefer”, Geopark Schieferland, Bad Lobenstein 2020
  • Unternehmensverband Mineralische Baustoffe, “Gestein des Jahres 2019: Schiefer”, Leipzig 2019
  • Hans Müller, “Thüringen”, Dumont Kunstreiseführer 1998
  • Homesite Schieferdenkmal Lehesten http://schiefer-denkmal-lehesten.de/
  • Wiki entry Schieferpark Lehesten https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schieferpark_Lehesten 


Exploringen Thüringen – Along the dams of the upper Saale up to Eyba

In August 2022, we visited Thuringia on our way home to Switzerland, from Berlin. I have already talked about our stay at Saalburg visiting the Burgkhammer and the Bleiloch dam. On our second day in Thuringia, we drive along the Saale to Saalfeld, stopping at Ziegenrück and the Hohenwarte dam. 


Looking back: The Burgkhammer and the Bleiloch dams

This is the spectacular photo view of the turn of Burgk dammed by the Burgkhammer dam (below the castle on right hand side, hidden on this photo). We walked here yesterday. 


Higher up, the Bleiloch dam is 65m high and 205m long. This masterpiece of German engineers was built between 1926 and 1932.

Above, the Bleiloch lake is the largest of the lakes of the Saale cascades. Photo taken from the terrace of the Hotel Kranich.


Overview of the Saale dams, also called cascades

The Saale cascades consist out of 5 dams, built in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

  • Bleiloch
  • Burgkhammer
  • Walsburg
  • Hohenwarte
  • Eichicht

On 80km, the Saale dams overcome the height difference of 170m. The reasons for building the cascades were protection against flooding and production of energy.

On their website, the power company Vattenfall lays out the system of dams and lakes of the upper Saale.

With red circles, I have pointed out the places, where we have been: Yesterday at the Bleiloch and Burghammer dam, today at the city Ziegenrück as well as at the Hohenwarte and Eichicht dams.



At Ziegenrück, we have a coffee break. The city is the fifth smallest city of Germany, crouched into the narrow valley of the Saale, where the Dreba joins the Saale. 

We admire the half-timbered city hall.  

Have you noticed the goat on the wall? Well, in German “Ziege” means “goat”… 

Also, the coat of arms of Ziegenrück contains a goat with a castle on its back. Nevertheless, the name “Ziegenrück” is not related to “Ziege” (goat), but to the Sorbian word “Czegenruck”, which means “turn of the river”; the name alludes to the fact that Ziegenrück is located on one of the Saale turns.



The Hohenwarte is the second large dam of the Saale cascades (after the Bleiloch dam). 

It is a touristy attraction, …

… where boat rides are offered. 

From far, we see the pipes that connect to the equalizing reservoir (Oberbecken Hohenwarte II). 


The last dam: Eichicht

We stand on the so-called Blue Bridge (Blaue Brücke) and look upstream towards the last dam called Eichicht. 

From here on, the Saale is just a river … 

… with some lovely ducks. 


Arriving at Eyba at the castle hotel 

We have reserved a room in the Renaissance castle Eyba, located on the hills south of Saalfeld called Saalfelder Höhe. 

A young couple welcomes us. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, they tell us. We move into our small, but quiet room looking into the lush park and look for restaurants in the area.

The room phone rings. ” We have a solution, we prepare a plate with cheese and some cuts, would that suit you?” the couple asks.

Soon we sit in the castle courtyard and have a lovely light dinner, together with other hotel guests that prefer to stay at this quiet place. 

I took the photo of the castle courtyard during a morning walk, when everything had been cleared away.

Eyba is a good starting point for walks on the Saalfelder Höhe, as this signpost indicates. Lositz, Arnsgereuth and Saalfeld are within walking distance. There is a “Ferienwohnung Heidi” at Rudolstadt and there are two physical therapists with the name “Heidi” at Garnsdorf nearby. “Heidi” could point to one of them. It is surely not Heidi in Switzerland. The other destinations (Berlin, Moskau, Rom) seem to be pretty far away… 

We have selected the castle of Eyba near Saalfeld, because we wanted to continue exploring Thuringia, first the slate mountains with the Lehesten slate quarry and then the culturally interesting cities such as Erfurt and Weimar. 




Exploringen Thüringen – Plothener Teiche, the landscape of one thousand ponds

In August 2022, we explore Thüringen. From Saalburg, we drive to the ponds of Plothen (Plothener Teiche) to do a small hike… 

… along the nature discovery trail that is proposed by our Müller guidebook and, as I find out later, also by Bergfex.

So far, I have consulted Bergfex for skiing in the Alps, but they seem to cover lower mountains in various countries as well. 


Plothen – the area of a thousand ponds

The ponds of Plothen are also called “the area of a thousand ponds”, as the plate near the information centre says. 

Benedictine monks have set up 1600 ponds (some sources mention 2000 ponds), as this historical map shows (My photo at the information centre). 

The monks set up the ponds in the 11/12th century to meet the growing demand for fish, particularly during lent times, when it was forbidden to eat meat, but fish was okay.

Today, about 600 ponds are left. After 1990, their original state has been restored. They became a paradise for campers, hikers, bikers and people interested in nature; numerous panels inform about life in this protected nature park. 

The reed sparrow lives in the reed and is endangered by the fact that reed is disappearing. German speakers say “Schimpfen wie ein Rohrspatz” (literally “scold like a reed sparrow” meaning “to curse loudly”). So far, I have never thought about this phrase. Now I have learnt that it goes back to the “Rohrspatz”, a sparrow that lives in the reed and sings persistently and loudly.  


Our walk around the ponds

We park our car near the stilt house. It is closed today. 

We walk along the Hausteich. Across the stilt house, we can see the camping site.

After some ten minutes, we reach the information centre that has been set up with care.

The centre commemorates Alfred Brehm. He is known for Brehm’s Thierleben, a reference book about animals written in the 19th century. He was born not far from here, at Renthendorf.

We continue our way along the Hausteich and get closer to the camping site, as the boat indicates. 

The camping site is a “village”, with some houses firmly installed, …

… and other houses built around caravans.

Some have installed a barbecue near the lake, … 

… others have constructed a small terrace, … 

… and this lighter version of a terrace has been decorated with the sunflower that seems to be a little thirsty. 

Even cigarettes are available here.

So, why stand in the traffic jam to drive to Italy… the paradise is much closer!

We walk through the forest and get to the Fürstenteich, where the red berries of the rowan tree contrasts with the water (Eberesche).

Path closed. We cannot continue our walk around the Fürstenteich.  

We walk back. The ducks hide in the reed, and where we walk, they swim away.

For some time, we walk on a small path along the road. We get to the smaller Klemms pond with another, more luxurious camping site. 

We reach our car, have a picnic and after that continue our way to Ziegenrück, the Hohenwarte and Eyba near Saalfeld, where the hotel waits for us.


Map overview

This is the overview of the places we visited in Thüringen.



Exploring Thüringen – Schleiz with Saint Mary’s Mountain Church

In August 2022, we explore Thüringen. After having walked to the castle Burgk in the morning, we visit Schleiz in the afternoon. 


Schleiz, the residence of yet another German principality

Schleiz was the residence of the former principality Reuss-Schleiz. Located on the hill, the two towers of the castle dominate the old city. 

In the 18th century, the Reuss-Schleiz reconstructed the castle in Baroque style. Johann Sebastian Bach performed here in 1721. The castle was destroyed by a fire in 1837, was rebuilt again and was definitely destroyed in the bombings of the Second World War.

The old mint is a museum today, closed on Mondays, as it is often the case. 

Born at Schleiz in 1682, Johann Friedrich Böttger invented the porcelain for Europe. 

In the years 1869-1876, Konrad Duden directed the high school of Schleiz. We all know the dictionary for German spelling that he initiated. 

Today, Schleiz is known for the “Schleizer triangle”, one of the oldest German motor sports racetracks.


Saint Mary’s Mountain Church – sumptuous Baroque and an enthusiastic guide

Saint Mary’s Mountain Church (Bergkirche Sankt Marien) is located on another hill north of the city. In the 12th century, there was a Romanic church here. In the late 15th century, the church was rebuilt in late Gothic style.

The plate near the door says “open”. A lady approaches us. “Do you want to visit the church?” She is guarding the church, while it is open. She joins us and fills the church with her enthusiasm. It is always a great pleasure to meet someone as enthusiastic and friendly as she was. 

The ribbed vaults from the 15th century reflect the Gothic style. 

Inside, the church has been decorated in sumptuous Baroque style in the 17th century, by Paul Keil. The organ, originally from 1445, has been renewed again and again, and the organ wings were painted in 1620, also by Paul Keil.

In 1896/97 the church was renewed and repainted inside. At that time, the vaults have been adorned as a “sky meadow”, taking into account some remains of the Gothic frescos.

The altar was completed in 1635. Maria and John flank the cross.

The church is an aristocratic burial site, as the so-called Epitaph of Burgk shows. The carved figures represent the noble family of Heinrich II Reuss von Plauen zu Burgk (1608-1639) and his wife Magdalena von Putbus. Above them is the sky with bulging clouds, also carved from wood. To the right and left, two angels guard the children that had died early. 

From behind, from the belfry chapel, I look at the hats and wigs of the family Reuss. Very unique, I have never seen anything like that in a church.

Our guide is proud of this Epitaph, carved between 1642 and 1706.

In the belfry chapel, we admire the late Gothic sarcophagus of Henry XII, the middle, of Gera at Schleiz and Lobenstein (1438-1500). 

His dog rests with him, and he holds the coat of arms with the lion. 

Our guide tells us proudly: “This is the most valuable artefact in our church.”

Across the family Reuss zu Burgk is the loggia, where the counts prayed discretely. 

Anna Dorothea Slevogt died in childbed in 1686. She was young. Her family dedicated this epitaph with the Deposition from the Cross to her.  

Her husband, Professor Slevogt, dedicated a second epitaph to her. Our guide said, he did not want to be considered as mean.

This is the place where the preacher stood (in old German: “Pfarrstand”). 

The roof carries the good shepherd Christ, flanked by John the Baptist and Petrus. Behind them is the vineyard. The carved figure carrying harvested grapes on his back is the only one left from a series of workers at the vineyard. The other figures were stolen after 1990. Since then, the community has opened the church only with a guard, our guide tells us sadly. How can someone be so rude and steel the decoration in a church? 

Behind the preacher’s stand is a wall with portraits of men full of dignity. They are the former preachers of this church. 

The friendly and enthusiastic guard and guide has made visiting Saint Mary’s Mountain Church a very special experience – thank you. 


Good-bye Schleiz

We return to our hotel and enjoy the carefully prepared meal – trout and zander. I have a glass of wine from Bad Sulza.

Tomorrow we will leave Saalburg. We have booked a room at Eyba near Saalfeld as a basis to explore the cities along the so-called Via Regia, such as Weimar and Erfurt. On the way to Saalfeld, we will visit the Plothener Teiche (ponds of Plothen).



  • Wikipedia about Schleiz https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schleiz
  • “Die Bergkirche Schleiz”, Schnell+Steiner Regensburg 2008
  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen”
  • Hans Müller, “Thüringen”, Dumont Kunstreiseführer 1998, p. 199ff

Exploring Thüringen – Walk to the castle Burgk

In August 2022, we explore Thüringen (Thuringia) on our way from Berlin to Switzerland.

Now, we stay overnight at Saalburg to see the upper part of the river Saale.


Approaching Saalburg

As we approach Saalburg, we see signs pointing at “SMS” all over. We drive along tents and tents. What is this?

It is the Saalburg festival called “SonneMondSterne” (hence SMS). It took place from August 11th to August 13th.  40’000 guests attended it. They camped along the Bleichloch Lake. Incredible! I include the article of the local newspaper “East Thuringia” (Ostthüringerzeitung). 

We arrive on the 14th of August, and the area is still full of tents.


Our hotel at Saalburg

We settle at the hotel Kranich at Saalburg that declares to be a four-star place. The cooks ARE worth the stars – the meals they prepare are delicious. And the view from the restaurant terrace is worth the stars as well. 

The rooms are beautifully renovated, but… look at our view from the window: There is the bridge that crosses the Saale with lorries, already early in the morning.

Not exactly the view of the lake that we had expected based on the promises given, not quite four stars. In addition, the hotel manager’s mood was not exactly four stars either. What a pity for the excellent cooks and the friendly service personnel.

Nevertheless, we will stay here for two nights to explore the area around Saalburg.


Walk to Hanging Gangway along the Kobersfelsen closed – rockslide 

We drive to the bridge “Eisbrücke” and park our car. From the bridge, we see the castle Burgk reflect in the river Saale.

Our Müller guidebook proposes to walk to the Hängesteig (hanging gangway) along the Kobersfelsen, which is a steep rock on the river Saale. 

(Source:  Heidi Schmitt 2020)

The access is near the Eisbrücke (6). However, we find the path closed. A rockslide has destroyed the gangway. 

This is the kind of rocks that has slipped off here. We are in the Thuringian Slate Mountains (Thüringer Schiefergebirge). 

We decide to walk to the castle Burgk instead.


Walking to the castle Burgk

We approach the castle Burgk on the left-hand side of the Saale.

Next to the castle, we can see the view tower that we plan to climb.

We cross the dam (11 and 12). A steep path takes us up along the rocks to the castle Burgk and the village (9 and 10).


Burgk – an impressive castle

The castle Burgk was mentioned first in 1365. It changed hands several times. It belonged to the noblemen Reuss until 1945. The kitchen chimney is famous – the largest in Germany – and so is the Silbermann organ (by the German Silbermann organ builder, the brother of “our” Silbermann). However, today is another Monday – the castle is closed. 

We cross the bridge without paying… in former times a person had to pay one Pfenning, a horse and a cow each 4 Pfenning, young animals one Pfenning and a wheelbarrow costed 3 Pfenning. Interesting price differentiation. 

The castle was amplified and reconstructed several times to become the hunting and summer residence of the family Reuss in the 18th century, as the panel in the castle tells us. 

A meeting of the Franks is planned end of August.


Climbing the view tower (Saaleturm)

We go uphill along houses with well-kept gardens.

A Trabbi stands in front of a garage that might no longer be in use.

This must be a pre-war cigarette dispenser. It seems to be still in use.

The view tower promises a view of the sea of Thuringia, which is the nickname of the upper Saale that has been dammed up several times.

From the tower platform we can see the Burgkhammer dam and the castle Burgk. 

The dammed Saale above the Burgkhammer is meandering. 

Dry fields and soft hills to the north…

… and to the east.


Walking back along the right-hand side of the Saale

Along the steep slope on the right-hand side of the Saale we walk back to the Eisbrücke, where our car is waiting. The Saale appears between the trees. 

The marked path leads along the steep slope.

The viewpoint (8) allows to take photos of the meandering Saale.

From between the trees, we look back to the castle Burgk.

We reach the meadow orchard (Streuobstwiese, 7). 

A panel explains the economic and ecological value that meadow orchards have had for centuries.

Soon, the Eisbrücke appears behind the trees.

We drive back to Saalburg, with a stop at the Bleilochsperre that dams the Saale with this impressive wall.

On the upper side of the dam, there is this peaceful lake that extends to Saalburg-Ebersdorf.

This was a wonderful Monday morning! 


Map overview



  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen”

Exploring Thüringen – Neustadt an der Orla

In August 2022, we explore Thüringen (Thuringia) on our way from Berlin back to Switzerland. 

Our first stop – for a coffee –  is Neustadt an der Orla. This is, where people meet, the painting on this wall says: “… hier trifft man sich”.


Meeting people at Neustadt an der Orla turns out to be not that easy: Road blocked!

Getting to Neustadt seems easy: Leave highway A9, take road B281, leave B281 at the exit to Neustadt and follow the signs to the city centre. Well, in reality, it is not that easy. We leave B281 at the exit to Neustadt and end up in front of a driving ban; the access to the city centre is blocked. No further information.

We drive back to the bypass road B281. We see only ONE entry to B281, which turns out to lead eastwards and away from Neustadt (instead of westwards and towards Neustadt). We return on secondary roads, and end up in front of the road block once more.

The lady at the gasoline station tells us, where the second access to the B281 is – we should look for signs to “Saalfed” that is located to the west of Neustadt (Neustadt, she says, is not indicated here). We drive back to B281, find the sign pointing to Saalfeld, enter B281, drive westwards and soon, we reach the “secret” second entry to Neustadt. Sounds confusing? It WAS confusing.

Finally, we are in the city Neustadt “where people meet”. 


The former Augustinian monastery

The former Augustinian monastery has been destroyed in the Thirty Years War, only the church is left. 

Later, a castle was built here. It is now a school. The church is used for cultural events.


Well maintained city centre with half-timbered houses

The well kept medieval city centre has maintained many half timbered houses…

… and the newer houses built in between are a good match.

The city was famous for its carousel industry. The carpenter Adolf Heyn founded a carousel company in 1870.

I found this beautiful carousel horse in a shop window.


The market place

The late gothic city hall with the charming oriel dominates the market place.


Fleischbänke – “meat benches”

Also at the market place, the gate named “Fleischbänke” (literally  “meat benches”)…

… leads to the medieval courtyard of 1475. Only here, on the meat benches, it was allowed to sell meet, which allowed to monitor hygiene. 

Of the 17 meat benches, 9 remain. They have been restored in 2002.


Saint John’s Church at the Church Square

Saint John’s Church is of late gothic style at the Church Square.

Inside is the altar that Lucas Cranach the Elder created for this church in 1511. 

To see the altar, you have to get the key at  the City History Museum (Museum für Stadtgeschichte) during opening hours. Well, today is Monday, and the church is closed. No way to see the altar. We comfort ourselves with the portrait of Lucas Cranach on a house wall.

In addition, we read about the altar in Monumente of the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz: The altar is dedicated to John the Baptist. He stands in the middle, flanked by Simon and Judas Thaddäus. To the left, John baptizes Jesus. To the right, John had been decapitated. The altar was installed in 1513. Martin Luther protected it from being destroyed by the protestants: Icons are allowed to decorate churches, he said, but it is not allowed to worship them. 


The historic inn “Goldener Löwe” (Golden Lion)

The historic inn “Goldener Löwe” has been known since 1599. Goethe stayed here overnight, and in addition the Russian Empress Maria Fjodorowna and the Russian Princess Alexandra, as the plate on the hotel announces.

At the Goldener Löwen, we have a coffee and an ice cream. Afterwards, we continue our way to Saalburg.


Overview of our Thuringia/Thüringen tour

Neustadt an der Orla was our first stop coming from Berlin to explore Thuringia.


Ahead of us are the upper river Saale with the cascades and the cities along the Via Regia, such as Weimar, Erfurt and Eisenach.




At Berlin – The Heidelberger Platz

At Berlin in August 2022, I continued visiting spots that I so far have known only from the metro or S-Bahn stations. I have already talked about the Rüdesheimer Platz. Today, I will explore the Heidelberger Platz.


Beautiful medieval Heidelberg presented at the metro station of U3

Heidelberg has one of the most beautiful medieval city centres of Germany, with the castle ruin above it. The station “Heidelberger Platz” of metro U3 presents photos of Heidelberg and its romantic castle ruin, such as this one. 


The castle of Heidelberg, elegant Renaissance, was the residence of the Electors of the Palatinate (Kurfürsten von der Pfalz). On the photo, we see the ruins of the belfry, flanked by the buildings of the Electors Friedrich and Ottheinrich above the medieval city centre with the Heiliggeistkirche (Holy Spirit Church). The castle was destroyed by the French in the late 17th century. The medieval city centre of Heidelberg is intact, as it was spared from the bombings in the Second World War. 

Let us leave the metro station and see, what the Heidelberger Platz looks like.


The Heidelberg Platz “above the ground”: My first impression – it is just a busy traffic junction

My first impression of the Heidelberger Platz: What an ugly and busy traffic junction. The metro below the ground is intersected by the suburban train (S-Bahn) and the city highway A100, as seen from the multilane street called Mecklenburgische Strasse. A huge and sober Aldi shopping centre rounds up the picture to the left. 

Just the red brick building of the S-Bahn station adds some charm.

This is not a place to rest. Not at all, what the beautiful metro station with the photos of Heidelberg made me expect. Three e-scooters are waiting for those who want to escape from here.


A second look: Some nice and cute details

A second look reveals some nice and cute details.

Still related with the traffic junction, I notice the car wash called “COSY-WASCH” which mixes up English (cosy) and something like German (Wasch). May be, potential clients from Berlin would not understand “cosy wash”; only “wasch” makes it clear to them that they can wash (waschen) their car here. And what is “cosy” about this place? It my be convenient to wash the car at this traffic junction, but cosy

Across the COSY-WASCH is the red brick building of the suburban S-Bahn train station, where a barber has installed his barbershop. He calls it “Barber’s House” making use of the logo of the Berlin suburban train, the letter S, white letter in a green circle. 

What an inviting barbershop!

In the middle of the Heidelberger Platz, people rest in a small park. Huge trees reduce the noise of the traffic junction. After several weeks without rain, the meadow is yellowish-brown.  

The restaurant at the corner is called – well not “Heidelberger” – but “Heidelbeere” (German for blueberry). That sounds almost like “Heidelberg” – almost.

At lunch time, I have a typical meal of North Germany here: Young herring with potatoes, salad and curd (Matjeshering).

Next door, this bear is carrying books, using its paws and its head. The bear’s dress has a somewhat scientific look.

The bear presents the books in front of the Springer Nature building, a German-British academic publishing company that in Germany has its main seat at Heidelberg, and obviously at Berlin, one of its affiliates resides at the Heidelberger Platz. What a coincidence.

A second look at the Heidelberger Platz reveals some nice and cute details, indeed.


Vale un peccato – it is worth a sin – or perhaps better: it is worth a peccadillo

After having visited the busy traffic junction Heidelberger Platz and after having noticed some nice and cute details, I walk along Assmannshauserstrasse, just  for a few meters, and enjoy a delicious Italian meal at the restaurant “vale un peccato”.

I eat delicious spaghetti with mussels and get involved in a deep discussion with another pensioner who in his business life was a professor for political sciences at Berlin. His insights into the current evolvement of history are interesting – I value his differentiating thoughts.