Erbach in the Odenwald – the ivory city with medieval charm

In August 2022, we are on our way from Berlin to Switzerland, via Thuringia and the Odenwald.

Now we are in the Odenwald, where today we have seen the Castle Wildenburg and the Abbey Church of Amorbach. On our way back, we stop at Erbach, the city of ivory carving. 

We park our car and cross the river Mümling lined with half-timbered houses.

We stand on the Market Square. The protestant City Church of Erbach (1750) can be accessed through the gate called “Städtelbogen”.

The City Hall is from 1545. The statue is called Räibock and commemorates the day labourer Johann Adam Fleckstein (1849-1917). He was a known character at Erbach. He worked as a carpenter, as a messenger or he waited at the train station to serve incoming passengers as a porter. The citizens liked his odd humour. He wears a servant’s cap and a carpenter’s axe and a saw. 

A second monument decorates the Market Square. It is Duke Franz I zu Erbach-Erbach (1754-1823). He was probably the most important duke of Erbach. 

The dukes of Erbach resided in the Castle, built from 1736-1902 (first in Baroque and later in neo-Baroque style). The castle we see today was built reusing foundation walls and the oak posts of the former moated fortress from 1140 that later was reconstructed as a Renaissance castle to finally become the Baroque castle of today.

The donjon from the year 1200 has remained, the Gothic pinnacle is from 1497. 

Today, the castle presents the antique collection of Duke Franz I and the collection of ivory artefacts.

In 1783, Duke Franz I introduced ivory carving to Erbach after having travelled through Europe for six years. On his educational journey, he saw collections of precious ivory works and also learnt how to process ivory. Back at Erbach, he set up his own ivory workshop.  Ivory became an important economic sector at Erbach. The rose of Erbach won a prize at the World Exhibition of Vienna in 1873. Erbach attracted artists, became the German ivory centre and founded the school for ivory carving in 1893. Because trading elephant ivory has been restricted since 1973, the artists now use mammoth ivory that mostly comes from Siberia in Russia. While in former times, ivory shops could be found in almost all streets of Erbach, I now only find Jürgen Schott’s workshop on the internet. 

On the Market Square, we visit the shop of Jürgen Reimer, also an ivory artist. I like the finely carved animals. 

Nearby, I notice this boy telling his father “Vadder-do!” meaning “Dad – this way!”. It seems to be urgent for dad.

Where does “Vadder” (father) have to go to so urgently? The children’s town rally offers three options for the answer: (1) the church, (2) shopping (3) the toilet. Now, it is your turn to guess…

We have a different solution; we take a seat on the Market Square in front of a nice restaurant to round off our visit with a coffee.

We leave the charming medieval city, again crossing the river Mümling.

From our two hours visit, I will keep good memories of the historic ensemble of the medieval city of Erbach. May be, I would have to return to explore more medieval streets, the pleasure garden with the orangery along the river Mümling and the workshop of Jürgen Schott.  

Tomorrow, we will return to Switzerland, after four wonderful weeks of travelling: Riedlingen, Ulm, Nebra, Berlin (here I enjoyed the eye twinkling of the City Cleaning Service and commented about the Heidelberger Platz), Thuringia with Neustadt an der Orla, Castle Burgk, Schleiz, Plothener Teiche (ponds), along the dams of the upper Saale, Lehesten, Lauscha, Weimar, Rudolstadt, Erfurt, Arnstadt, Eisenach, Schmalkalden, Steinau an der Strasse, and the Odenwald with Lindenfels, the Castle Wildenberg, Amorbach and now Erbach. 




Amorbach and its Abbey Church

After having climbed up to see the Castle Wildenberg, we visit Amorbach and its Baroque-Rococo Abbey Church.


Amorbach is a small medieval city in the Sandstone-Odenwald

Known in the 10th century as Amerbach or Amerbach, the settlement evolved around the Benedictine monastery and became a town in 1253. We are in the Sandstone-Odenwald; dark red sandstone bricks characterize the buildings, such as the catholic church St. Gangolf, built in the 18th century. 

The City Hall, covered with slates, is from 1479. I could not find out who the man is that sits on the bench in front of the City Hall.

Next to the City Hall we have lunch in the Ristorante Pizzeria di Marina.

Around us are medieval houses. The Internet contains a long list of notable buildings at Amerbach.

 On the way to the Abbey Church, we come across the former monastery mill (Klostermühle) that was built in 1448 as the inscription above the gate says. It was the mill and bakery for the monastery. Now it is an inviting coffee bar


The Amorbach Abbey Church – have we seen a cock on the belfry?

Abbeys are catholic institutions, and I have never seen a cock on the belfry of a monastery church. I rub my eyes. This IS a cock. Let us look into the history of the abbey to understand, how the cock ended up on this belfry. 

The Abbey of Amorbach is from the 8th century. It was one of four abbeys that were founded in Carolingian times to bring Christianity to the Odenwald. In 1446, the abbey acquired the relics of Saint Amor and Saint Landrada and became a pilgrimage site. In 1740-1744, the Abbey Church was reconstructed, whereby the Romanesque west towers from the 12th century were incorporated. 60 years later, in 1803, the abbey was dissolved and given to the duke of Leiningen as a compensation for the lands left of the Rhine that they had lost to the French. The principality of Leiningen was founded, and the abbey became the residence. The noblemen of Leiningen originated from Palatine near Dürkheim, and they were protestant. They handed the Abbey Church over to the (Protestant) parish of Amorbach. The principality of Leiningen ceased to exist already in 1806. It was passed over to the Grand Duchy of Baden (Grossherzogtum Baden) and in 1816 to the Kingdom of Bavaria. The noblemen of Leiningen still own the abbey today. 

Now, we know, why there is a cock on the belfry of the Abbey Church: The church has become Protestant and many Protestant Churches show the cock on their towers.

This is the bird’s eye view of the abbey that I found, when visiting the church. 

Inside the church, we find an overwhelmingly rich decoration – late Baroque/early Rococo.

Six red marble columns frame the altar picture that shows Mary arriving in heaven. Above the black beams is the Holy Trinity. The statues of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, flank the altar.

The iron screen was made in 1748-50.

The organ was set up in 1782 by members of the organ-building Stumm family; it was at that time the largest organ in the world.

In front of the organ is the plain protestant communion table.

The frescoes mainly tell the story of Saint Benedict.

Impressed by the rich decoration, we leave this place full of history. Our next target is the ivory town Erbach, not far from here.



The Staufian Castle Wildenberg on a hill near Amorbach

In August 2022, we travel back from Berlin to Switzerland, visiting Thüringen and the Odenwald and staying with an old family friend near Heidelberg.

Now, we have walked up a steep path and stand in front of the Staufian Castle Wildenberg (Burg Wildenberg), located on a hill in the middle of the forest.

We are in the Odenwald near Amorbach; the area belongs already to Bavaria. 

Source: Wikipedia entry about the Odenwald (,_Serie_A-de.png).

Above the entry gate, the coat of arms, two wheels with seven spokes and three stars in two fields, welcome us.  

The castle was the seat of the noblemen of Dürn. 

Ruprecht von Dürn founded the castle in 1170. He belonged to the close circle of Friedrich I Barbarossa (1155-1190). Ruprecht was from Dürn, today called Walldürn. The coat of arms of Walldürn contains a wheel with six spokes. Perhaps the wheel above the entry gate (though with seven spokes) is related to the noblemen of Dürn. I could not find anything about the stars.

The Dürn enlarged their Castle Wildenberg in 1220.  In the late 13th century, the noblemen of Dürn sold the castle to the Diocese of Mainz. The Diocese installed the local administration of the territory here. The panel says that the castle was damaged during the earthquake of Basel in 1356. Interesting. Did “our” Basel earthquake reach the Odenwald, about 300km north of Basel? This is new to me – very interesting – and I could not find sources on the internet that would give me more information about that. 

The castle has been a ruin since 1525. At that time the farmers burnt it down in the German Peasant’s War (Deutscher Bauernkrieg). 

We enter the castle. This finely engraved column decorates the entry.

We continue to the inner courtyard separated by this wall that was added in the 15th century.

We approach the entrance to the palace (Palas) in the northern part of the castle.   

The palace (Palas) is 200m2 large. On the ground floor are the winter rooms with the fireplace, about 9m2 large. 

The fireplace is finely decorated.

Historians assume that Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote parts of his medieval romance Parzival here, as he emphasized that the fireplace in the Castle of the Holy Grail is much larger than the fireplace in the Castle of Wildenberg. No one at the Castle of Wildenberg had ever seen a fireplace as large as the one in the Castle of Holy Grail, he wrote in his Parzival.

The second floor of the Palas, added in 1220, is famous for the early Gothic arcade windows. They brought light into the hall that was probably used for festivities in summer.

We did not feel like leaving this beautiful place full of history.

But it is lunch time, and we are getting hungry. We take the steep path down, where our car is waiting for us. Our next target is Amorbach, where we hope to find a restaurant and where we intend to visit the famous Abbey Church of Amorbach.




Lindenfels – the pretty dragon city clustering around the medieval castle

On our way to Switzerland, from Berlin and Thuringia, we spend one night at Lindenfels in the Odenwald.


Some pretty spots in the city of Lindenfels

Lindenfels is located on 360m in the Odenwald north of Heidelberg. It is a spa resort…

… with pretty half-timbered houses …

… and some cosy gardens.

This shingled house has an interesting history that is explained on the panel: It was an inn and a brewery, acquired by Michael Rauch in 1850.

At that time, Lindenfels founded its tourist organization, and Rauch was one of the founding members. Peter, the youngest son of his nine children, took over the inn before the First World War. In 1949, Peter’s son, Heinrich, carried on with the inn. From 1969, Heinrich’s foster daughter Else lead the inn with her husband. The inn was closed in 2003. Recently the great-great-grandson of the original buyer, Michael Rauch, has bought the house back.

By the way, five members of the family Rauch emigrated to America in the 19th century. They have many descendants, and their name is pronounced “Rauk”.

What a tradition!


The castle Lindenfels guards over the village

Above the village are the ruins of the castle Lindenfels.

The castle was founded in the early 12th century by duke Berthold Junior. He was the bailiff of the monastery Lorsch (not far from here). In 1277, the castle was taken over by the Electoral Palatinate (Kurpfalz with the centre Heidelberg).

The nucleus of the original castle from the 12th century has been preserved as a ruin.

In the 14th century, the small city Lindenfels emerged around the castle. Up to the 16th century, the Electors (Kurfürsten) of Heidelberg used the castle as a secondary seat.

As the information panel in the castle shows, it was an impressive castle in 1634.

The Electors enlarged the castle of Heidelberg in the 16th century, lost interest in Lichtenfels, and the castle decayed. The citizens obtained building material here.

As the panel shows, by 1891, the castle had become a ruin.

We climb up to the lower defensive wall and take a photo of the Odenwald hills. We are in the crystalline, western part of the Odenwald (see post scriptum).

Now we are on top of the ruin, again enjoying the view of the Odenwald.

Emperor William First is venerated with this monument.

“To our beloved emperor”, the people of Lindenfels say thankfully. I cannot find out, what he has done for Lindenfels.

In the castle, there is this huge sycamore (Bergahorn), a natural monument. Beware of hornets, the panel on the mighty old tree says!

The foundation of the Savings Bank (Sparkassenstiftung) of Starkenburg is setting up the summer open air cinema which will take place this weekend.

I do wish you good weather for the weekend! I would have liked to watch the film of Monsieur Claude with his sons-in-law from all nations and all religions.


Lindenfels – the dragon city

Lindenfels is located on the Nibelungen hike (Nibelungensteig commemorating the Song of the Nibelungs). In the song, the dragon Fafnir was killed by Siegfried.

In 2010, the city named this lump of rock “dragon rock” (Drachenfels). On 25th of November 2009, it had broken off under the castle, slid down, destroyed two castle walls and stopped here above the spa gardens.

A dragon guards the “dragon rock”.

In 2010, Lindenfels participated in the competition “ab in die Mitte” of Hessen and won the first prize for their project “Lindenfels – the town of dragons”. The city opened the dragon museum (Drachenmuseum) and organized a parade of colourful dragons. The dragons of the parade now decorate the city and the hiking paths around Lindenfels.

We come across this dragon the colour of which may have faded in the meantime.

Under the castle, Siegfried fights the dragon Fafnir. It is a rather abstract interpretation of Fafnir and Siegfried.

We leave the dragon city Lindenfels with its castle, gorgeously located in the hills of the Odenwald.


Post Scriptum: Short insight into the geology of the Odenwald

This is the morphological map of the Odenwald, north of Heidelberg and with the small Odenwald (Kleiner Odenwald) in the south around the river Neckar.


Source: Wikipedia entry about the Odenwald (,_Serie_A-de.png)

In the Lindenfels castle, a panel divides the Odenwald into the “crystalline” (western) and into the “sandstone” (eastern and southern “small”) Odenwald.

In Lindenfels, we are in the crystalline Odenwald. Here, the Odenwald is like a window giving insight into lower levels of the earth crust, as Peter Rothe, p. 77, writes. What we see, is crystalline bedrock (kristallines Grundgestein), mostly various kinds of granite.

This is, in a nutshell, what happened: About 300 million years ago (late Palaeozoic), the Variscan mountains evolved here. The rocks were transformed both by pressure and temperature becoming what we call crystalline bedrock. The bedrock was covered by sediments. About 50 million years ago, the area was lifted which caused it to break apart. Part of the “broken” area dropped down by 3000 meters and formed the Rhine valley rift. The western Odenwald mountains “lost” their sediments; they were eroded and deposited in the Rhine valley. The crystalline bedrock, uncovered from the sediments, provides insight into lower levels of the earth crust. The bedrock consists of various kinds of granite (magmatic rocks) that invaded the existing metamorphic rocks from below. Geologists observe the stripes of the “original” metamorphic rocks (gneiss and mica slate or Gneis and Glimmerschiefer) amidst the prevailing granite rocks (map in Rothe, p. 78). The more resistant granite rocks remained as mountains.

The soil is rich in nutrients. Broad-leaved forests and agriculture dominate the landscape.

The eastern and southern Odenwald is different. It is dominated by sand- and claystone (Sand- und Tonsteine). They are sediments deposited, when, in the Mesozoic, the area was covered by lakes and traversed by rivers (about 240 million years ago). I came across this sandstone rock at Neckargmünd on the river Neckar.

The sandstone Odenwald is low in nutrients and covered by conifers. The landscape is dominated by table mountains.

Later in the Mesozoic, the eastern Odenwald was a seashore, as shell limestone (Muschelkalk) and sea fossils tell the geologists.

This post scriptum is a short insight into the geology of the Odenwald. Not being a geologist, I tried to understand the overall picture that Peter Rothe gives about the Odenwald in his book “die Geologie Deutschlands”. It was the old family friend that we visited south of Heidelberg who gave me this book. Her mother was a geologist and so was my mother. Thank you so much. My mother would be happy, could she watch me diving into this well written book. I admire, how geologists can read the landscape and some vertical sections to derive the history of the earth from them.

We will next explore some cultural sights at the Odenwald with the old family friend.




Steinau an der Strasse – the city of the Brothers Grimm

In August 2022, we are on our way back to Switzerland, coming from Berlin and Thuringia. On the way, we stay one night at Steinau an der Strasse.


Steinau an der Strasse – is this a noisy place? No, “Strasse” commemorates the medieval Via Regia

First, I frowned at “Steinau an der Strasse“. Why “an der Strasse” (“on the road”)?  Is it a noisy place with the houses lined up along a busy road? No, not at all. It was one of the cities on the medieval trade route Via Regia (from Frankfurt to Leipzig and beyond), and this is why it has the attribute “an der Strasse”.

These are some meters of the original cobble stones; it must be a bumpy experience to travel on such a road.

The cobblestones, retrieved nearby (between Salmünster and Steinau), were installed in the city in 2006, as the panel says.

In 2007, Steinau opened a museum about the Via Regia, the trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig, as the Stadtchronik (town chronicle) on the Steinau homesite says.

Twinkling with an eye in 2007, Steinach installed the milestone that welcomes travellers (Reysende) and invites them to spend some Euros in the shops, inns and restaurants (läden, herbergen und tavernen) so that these will not be in need henceforth (auf dass diese fürderhin nit noth leyden).

We conform to this wish. We spend one night in the friendly B&B Burgmannenhaus on the Market Square (called am Kumpen).

On the ground floor, the shop “Wilde Speisekammer” sells local specialties, including venison products, as the owner is a hunter. The owner tells me that the guards of the nearby castle once stayed in this house (“Burgmannen” can be translated as “castle men”).


The Brothers Grimm lived at Steinau

In the Amtshaus (administration building), the bailiff (Amtmann) Philipp Wilhelm Grimm lived with his family from 1791-96. His sons Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm later became world-famous as linguists and fairy tale collectors. The Amtshaus was built in 1562. It is a museum today.

Fairy tales are present all over at Steinach. This house has been painted with fairy tale scenes, such as Hänsel and Gretel, Snow White, Red Riding Hood (Rotkäppchen), the Wolf and the seven little Goats or Gänseliesel (Liesel with the geese).

On the Market Square, the fountain tells more fairy tales, such as Frau Holle (Mother Holle).

Dragons also belong to the world of fairy tales and legends.

In 2006, Steinau received the official attribute Brüder-Grimm-Stadt or city of the Brothers Grimm.


The city centre has been well preserved with medieval half-timbered houses

We stroll along the streets of the city centre and find well preserved medieval half-timbered houses. This is the view of the main street.

The “Kemenate derer von Hutten” (bower of the von Hutten family) was built in 1557. It was reconstructed in 1732 to serve as the Lutheran parochial house, as the plate on the house explains.


Market Square with City Hall and Saint Catherine Church

The City Hall was built in 1561.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the city saint. The first church was built here in the 9th century. What we can see today is mainly late Gothic from 1481-1511. I find the two naves interesting, as seen from the castle.


The Renaissance Castle

The Renaissance castle of Steinau was built in 1528-55. It was a representative building for the duchy of Hanau (Obergrafschaft Hanau). Temporarily it served as residence of the duke, later it became the seat of the duke widows. Steinau was the centre of the duchy of Hanau.

I like the staircase in the castle.

Today the castle is a museum. It makes the life of the former dukes of Hanau-Münzenberg revive. In addition, it hosts another exhibition about the Brothers Grimm, besides the museum of the Brothers Grimm in the house, where they once lived.


Our culinary experience at Steinau

We have dinner at Ali Baba. It is a small Turkish restaurant, well liked and visited by the people from Steinau. I do not remember, what I have ordered. But I remember, I enjoyed the meal, and I enjoyed the service provided by the extremely friendly and hard-working wife of the house.

Our breakfast was served in this cosy small dining room in the Burgmannenhaus. It was a delicious small breakfast with fresh fruit and yogurt.

After one night, we leave the welcoming small city Steinau and der Strasse; our next destination is the Odenwald.

Perhaps I will return one day to explore the museum of the Brothers Grimm (in the house, where they lived), the Museum Steinau (about the Via Regia) and the Renaissance castle (about the life of the dukes and again about the Brothers Grimm).



Exploring Thuringia – Schmalkalden, the centre of the protestant movement in the early 16th century

In August 2022, we travelled in Thuringia. Our last city in Thuringia was Schmalkalden, where we stopped for lunch.

In the early 16th century, Schmalkalden was the hot spot of the reformation. Here, some protestant dukes and protestant free cities founded the Schmalkaldic League (Schmalkaldischer Bund) to defend themselves, when being attacked by catholic armies (1530). The leaders were the dukes of Hesse (Hessen) and of Saxony (Sachsen). In 1547, the League was defeated by the catholic imperial army of Charles V and some allies he could recruit from the protestants. However, the protestant religion was already well established, and the Peace of Augsburg confirmed that in 1555.

On the Old Market Square, the coats of arms of some of the members of the Schmalkaldic League remind of the days, when Schmalkalden was the centre of the protestant movement.

At school, we have learnt about the Schmalkaldic League. Then I never thought that the name “Schmalkaldic” denotes a city, namely Schmalkalden. It is located at the southern border of Thuringia, south of the Thuringian Forest (Thüringer Wald), where the road starts to climb the mountains. Originally, Schmalkalden did not belong to Thuringia, it was part of the duchy Hessen until 1866. The people here speak with the accent of Hessen.   

Let us look at this small city.


Medieval half-timbered houses at the Altmarkt (Old Market Square) and in the narrow streets around it

The city centre of Schmalkalden has been well preserved. 

Medieval half-timbered houses surround the Altmarkt, the Old Market Square.

The City Hall had been installed in the Gothic stone bower (Steinerne Kemenate) of 1419. 

It was in the audience chamber behind the arched window, where the Schmalkaldic League was founded in 1530 and where the League met until 1543.  

Also, in the narrow streets around the Market Square, medieval half-timbered houses have been preserved.

Since 1664, the Rosenapotheke has provided their services in a building from the 15th century, located at Steingasse 11. 

Luther was also at Schmalkalden. 

During the 1537 meeting of the League at Schmalkalden, Luther stayed on the second floor of this house for about two weeks.


Late Gothic Church of Saint George (Georgenkirche)

The late Gothic Church from 1437 (accomplished in 1570) is located next to the historical City Hall. 

Luther preached here in 1537, during one of the meetings of the Schmalkaldic League.

The guard of the church is very proud of the Cantionale, a collection of spiritual songs, handwritten in 1599 by Andreas Ostermaier, court conductor (Hofkapellmeister) of duke Moritz von Hessen. 

For us, the guard opens the cloth covering it. 


The Wilhelmsburg above the city

1585-1590, the duke of Hessen-Kassel constructed the Renaissance castle above the city, to stay here for hunting and in summer.

The four-wing building clusters around the quadratic courtyard. 

The chapel is closed; we would find the wooden Renaissance organ inside. It is the original, built in 1587-89 and can still be played.

Along the wall, we admire the castle garden, laid out on terraces.

The steps lead down to the city.

We eat some delicious sandwiches and sweets in the bakery and café bar Endter in the city centre.

After that, we leave Thuringia and continue our way Hessen, to Steinau, and later to the Odenwald near Heidelberg.


Exploring Thüringen – Eisenach with Wartburg, Bach, Luther and dragons

In August 2022, we explored Thüringen. Along the Via Regia, we have visited Weimar, Erfurt, Rudolstadt and Arnstadt. 

Now, we are at Eisenach, for one afternoon and one morning. We want to learn more about Bach, get a feeling for the castle Wartburg, walk in the old city centre and go for a short hike in the picturesque dragon’s canyon.


Our first target: We want to learn more about Johann Sebastian Bach – in the Bach Museum

Our first target is the Bach Museum, where we want to learn more about Johann Sebastian Bach. The museum is located on the Frauenplan in the yellow house from the 15th century and in the attached modern extension from 2007. 

Around 1900, the Bach Society had acquired the medieval house on the Frauenplan, because they believed, Johann Sebastian was born here. The museum opened in 1907. However, some years later, it became clear that Bach’s father Ambrosius had acquired another house at Eisenach, where Johann Sebastian was born. This house does no longer exist. 

The statue of Bach stands in front of his museum. He is now the mature man with the Baroque wig. 

He is no longer the young lad stretching out on the market square of Arnstadt, where he had started his career at the age of 18.

The visit of the Bach Museum begins in the room of instruments. Various historical instruments are demonstrated, such as this clavichord. 

A surprise is the small organ for house concerts, where the player looks at the audience, not at the organ pipes turning his back to the audience. 

The museum illustrates Bach’s life and culminates with the information room. Hanging armchairs invite to sit down and listen to music, … 

… and around the “plaza” in the middle, I find videos about Bach’s music and about music in general, wonderful for amateurs like me. 

I learn about the well temperament (wohltemperierte Stimmung), about suites or about the life of Bach… I completely forget the time, until I am alone in this room. Is the museum going to close? I find my friend in the cafeteria. I join her and recover with a cappuccino.

A month later, I visit my friend, the clavichord builder, at Berlin. He tells me that there are many ways of well-tempered tunings, and he prefers Werckmeister III (Werckmeister had defined the concept in 1681). My friend demonstrates a clavichord that he has recently tuned, and I can hear the combinations of keys that “work” and the combinations that do not “work”. Well, I get a faint idea of the concept and I admire my friend’s sense of hearing and applying it to his instruments.


Our second target: We want to get a feeling for the Wartburg, and we look at it from “our” hotel terrace

We settle in the wonderful hotel Haus Hainstein in the noble hill area under the castle Wartburg. We have lunch on the terrace. The table has been reserved for us under the name of “Peter Erbs”. 

Well, “Peter Erbs” is almost right. I have two last names “Peters Erb” which is somewhat unusual, I admit. Ernst would have enjoyed seeing this.

From the terrace, we have this view of the Wartburg under blue sky. 

We return for dinner. At dawn, the Warburg looks even more romantic, …

… and now, it is night. I am still sitting on the gorgeous terrace of our hotel.

We sleep in these comfortable beds, …

… and, early in the morning, we look at the Wartburg once more, now from our room.

The hotel “Haus Hainstein” IS to be recommended! For the location, for the atmosphere and for the friendly service.

The Wartburg originates from the 12th century. Then, it was the residence of the mighty dukes called Ludowiner. Around 1200, minstrels met here, such as Walter von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach. In 1521, Luther was hidden away under the name of “Junker Jörg”. He was under imperial ban, and the duke of Weimar wanted to protect him. Luther used the time in his “prison” to translate the bible into German creating the basis for the modern German language. In the year 1817, students from Jena and Leipzig met in the Wartburg and asked for a united homeland, after having fought against Napoleon. Around 1840, the dukes of Weimar started to renovate the Wartburg adding romantic elements that were not all based on historical facts. Some of the romantic additions were removed later. 

We have not visited the Wartburg, we have just admired it from afar, from “our” terrace. Just looking at it gives a feeling for the mighty castle that has never been conquered. Perhaps I will visit it another time.


Our third target: Get an impression of the old city centre of Eisenach – Georgskirche (Saint George’s Church) and Market

The Market of Eisenach is dominated by Saint George’s Church. Construction started around 1200 and ended around 1900. Hence it is a mix of styles. Bach was baptized here in 1685, and Luther preached here in 1521, when, already under imperial ban, while he was returning from Worms on his way to the Wartburg.

Next to the church is Saint George’s fountain, erected in 1549 (Renaissance). Knight George is killing the dragon.

Across we can see the city castle (late Baroque, completed around 1750). The dukes of Sachsen-Eisenach resided here for just eight years. After that, the dukes of Weimar installed their government in this building. Furthermore, the castle hosts the historical museum of Eisenach. 

The red City Hall building originated from 1502. It had to be reconstructed after a fire in the 17th century. Then, the stairs tower was added. 

This half-timbered house is called Rodensteiner, with the bookshop”Leselust” (“reading pleasure”) on the ground floor. The building dates from the first half of the 17th century. It was a wine tavern, much visited by Joachim Ringelnatz around the year 1900.


More walking in the old city centre: Karlsplatz (Charles Square)

The triangular Karlsplatz (Charles Square) is dominated by the Romanic Saint Nicolas Church (St. Nikolauskirche) and the Saint Nicolas Gate. 

From a small park, Luther watches over the Karlsplatz. He seems to be thinking, cross-armed.

In the south-west corner of the Karlsplatz, I admire the Stadtapotheke (city pharmacy); it has been a pharmacy since 1800. 

We walk down Johannisstrasse and find the “Schmales Haus” (slim house, Johannisplatz 9). Built about 250 years ago, it is just 2.05m wide. In 1974, Klaus Trippstein bought the house, renovated it and lived in it. After his death in 2017, his son offered it to the city of Eisenach. The house is a tourist attraction. Oh yes, it also attracted us.


Still more walking in the old city centre – towards the Lutherhaus

When walking to the house, where Luther once lived, we come across this window, carefully decorated with flowers. The house is covered with slate.

Later, my friend disappears in this shop that sells laces from Plauen, which is another city in Thuringia.

My friend likes the modern interpretations of tiny point- lace (I have learnt from Cathy that “laces” are for shoes). She buys scarfs and small tablecloths – gifts for the family and for friends at home.

Around the corner is the Lutherhaus. Luther lived here with the family Cotta, when attending the Latin school. After the war, the late Gothic building was reconstructed in the original way. The exhibition is closed today; it is another Monday.


And more strolling in the centre: Elisabethenkirche (Elisabeth Church)

Elisabeth of Thuringia is venerated as a Saint. At the age of 14, she was married to Ludwig von Thüringen who resided in the Wartburg. She soon started to care for people that were sick or in need, even more so, after her husband Ludwig had died on the Fifth Crusade. 

She died in 1231 and was canonized four years later, in 1235.

The neo-Gothic Elisabeth Church of Eisenach is a quiet place, …  

… with solemn simplicity.


More Churches in the city centre: Predigerkirche (“Preacher’s Church”)

On the way to the Predigerkirche (Preacher’s Church), we see idyllic backyards, …

… and nicely decorated slate houses ….

The Predigerkirche (“preacher’s church”) is now the museum for prehistory and religious medieval sculptures (closed today, still another Monday).

The building is from the 13th century and was part of the Dominican monastery.

Interesting is the “organ” presenting some music of Bach in front of the church.


Our fourth target: Hike in the Drachenschlucht (dragon’s canyon)

In the morning, we feel like hiking in nature. Our “Müller” recommends the Drachenschlucht (dragon’s canyon). Indeed, the canyon is attractive, sometimes so narrow that two persons cannot cross. 

The canyon widens up again …

… and becomes narrow once more.

At the end, stairs lead up to the main road B19 and to the hotel Hohe Sonne on the Rennsteig, which is the famous hiking trail across the Thüringer Wald.

The cars on the road B19 can be heard all the way… but while driving on the B19, you would never believe to be so close to such a picturesque canyon.


Map overview of Thuringia and the places visited

Eisenach is our last overnight stay in Thuringia.

We have seen the dams of the upper river Saale, the Slate Mountains with Lehesten, Lauscha, Schleiz and the Plothen Ponds. Furthermore, we have explored cities along the so-called Via Regia, the medieval trade route – Rudolstadt, Weimar, Erfurt, Arnstadt and – now – Eisenach.

We next move on to Frankfurt, with a lunch stop over at Schmalkalden (still in Thuringia) and an overnight stay at Steinau (already in Hessen).




Exploring Thüringen – Arnstadt, the charming city of young Johann Sebastian Bach

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

Now we visit Arnstadt, the charming city, where Johann Sebastian Bach had his first engagement at the age of 18 years.


Memories of young Johann Sebastian Bach

On the market square, young Johann Sebastian Bach sits casually laid-back on a chair. Or what is it exactly he sits on? 

He looks at the City Hall …

… in front of the Cloth Halls (Tuchgaden). The bronze sculpture was made by Bernd Göbel, in 1985.

Behind the trees is the New Church of Arnstadt. Here, Johann Sebastian Bach examined the new organ of Friedrich Wender, for four Thalers. Bach was then, in 1703, 18 years old. Very young. But the musicians of the Bach family were well-known at Arnstadt. In the following month, he started work at the New Church of Arnstadt. He stayed until 1707. 

During the services, Bach had to play the organ in “his” church, which was third in the hierarchy of the churches of Arnstadt. He used his free time for intense studies, which laid the foundation for his career as the outstanding composer we remember him today. Then, he was young and a bit tumultuous. He called the ungifted pupil Geyersbach “Zippel-Fagottist”(Geyersbach was a not the most talented bassoonist) and he invited “eine frembde Jungfer” (an unknown maiden) on to the organ gallery. Repeatedly, the consistory admonished him. They reproached to him that he extended his vacation staying at Lübeck beyond the four weeks allowed. As a matter of fact, Bach stayed longer to listen to organ player Buxtehude during Christmas time and to learn from him. 

At one time, the Bonifatius Church stood here. It had burnt down in 1581 and the ruins remained for a hundred years. They were pulled down and the New Church was built in 1676. The stones of the Bonifatius Church were reused. Now, I understand, why, from outside, the New Church makes an “old” and non-Baroque impression on me. The inside decoration was upgraded and painted in 1776; the colours of then were restored in the year 2000. I like the joyful and friendly yellowish atmosphere. 

For Bach’s 250th birthday, in 1935, the New Church was renamed to Johann Sebastian Bach Church. My friend buys all CDs of Bach organ concerts available.


Medieval city with half-timbered houses and city gates

Most houses of Arnstadt were built after the city fire of 1581 – in Renaissance and Baroque style. The city was ruled by the dukes of Schwarzburg, until 1918. They introduced reformation in the beginning of the 16th century.

The Internet has a list of the historical houses of Arnstadt. Let us look at some of them.


Some historical reminiscenses at the Markt (Market Square)

Going uphill through the Ledermarkt with the half-timbered Rathausklause …

… we reach the Markt (market square) with the Town Hall that shows Dutch influence (1583).

On both sides of the clock under the gable, we can discern two figures, Maria and Bonifatius, probably saved from the Bonifatius Church, after it had burnt down in 1581. 

The Cloth Halls dominate the eastern side of the Market Square. 

Arnstadt – like Erfurt – flourished due to trade and blue dyestuff obtained from the woad plant (Waid in German).

One of the former Cloth Halls is the Café Marlitt. Born at Arnstadt in 1825, Eugenie John published best sellers under her pseudonym Marlitt, the most famous of which is called “Goldelse” (translated to English as “Gold Elsy”).  

The house “Zum Güldenen Greif” (Golden Gryphon) is another historical reminiscence on the Market Square. 


More history on the Riedplatz 

On the Riedplatz, the Hotel Goldene Sonne (Golden Sun) tells us on the blue plaquette that it was a frequent meeting point for members of the Bach family in the 18th century. The hotel (nicely spelled the French way, “hôtel”) was first mentioned in 1497. 

Nearby, Christopherus decorates the wall of the house “Zum Grossen Christophorus” (1574).

At the half-timbered house called Zum Hut (the Hat), we have a coffee, with the view of the Marktstrasse.

The Riedplatz ends with the Riedtor, the city gate. To the left is the Gothic Jacob’s Tower; it remained from a former church.

Parts of the southern city wall have been preserved, …

… with the Neutorturm (literally: New Gate Tower).


In the Indian restaurant Ganesha, we have our lunch break with a delicious Tandoori meal

At lunch time, we visit the Ganesha restaurant, what a surprise! In the middle of Thuringia, we find a delicious Tandoori meal, prepared with great care by immigrants from India that receive their guests with friendly enthusiasm.


The Liebfrauenkirche 

The Liebfrauenkirche was built between the 11th and 13th century. The first belfry has been started in Romanic style and completed in Gothic style. The half-timbered house is the old paper mill.   

The second belfry in the background is Romanic from bottom to top.

The north gate presents the crucifixion scene.

While the nave is mostly Romanic, the choir was rebuilt in the late 13th century in Gothic style.

Inside are some treasures from the 15th century, such as the Gothic altar (1498) with the coronation of Maria and the saints Laurentius and Bonifatius.

It is a winged altar which opens like a book to present scenes from the Passion of Christ. Interesting: The Last Supper takes place around a round table, as I found it at Berat in Albania.

The altar was taken from the Oberkirche that was decaying in the 19th century. 

Other treasures are the baldachin of the baptismal font (16th century), the painted iron door (1340) and …

 … the beautiful Madonna of Arnstadt made from lime wood (1415). 

These men carry the tumba of the duke Günther XXV of Schwarzburg-Blankenburg (ca 1330-1368) and his wife (tumba from 1380).

The pulpit is carried by Moses holding the commandment tablets, a set up that I have never seen before (Renaissance, 1589).


A quick look at the Oberkirche (Upper Church) which is about to close

The Oberkirche (Upper Church) was built as part of the Franciscan monastery in 1246 and finished in the late 14th century (Gothic). After the reformation, in 1538, the monks left the monastery. The church was used as a protestant church. It was renovated again and again up to 1760. After that, it started to decay. In 1977, the church had to be closed; it was in such a bad state. After 1990, the church was repaired step by step and in September 2020, it was reconsecrated (Krötzner,p. 47). It has been in use again for two years now. 

I cannot believe that services in this beautiful church have restarted only two years ago. The painted Renaissance galleries (completed by 1600 (Kratzer, p. 28)) make a wonderful, solemn atmosphere.

Furthermore, I expect the dukes Schwarzberg-Arnstadt and their court to appear in their premier seat at any minute (Kratzer, p. 32).

Well, the church is closing. After having caught just a glance, we have to leave the church.

We confort ourselved by looking at the Hotel Zum Stadthof, another beautiful half-timbered house.  It is just across the Upper Church. 


Round off – strolling through the Schlosspark

Arnstadt was the residential city of the dukes of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt until 1716.

We stroll through the Schlosspark (castle park) that seems to have dried out this summer.

The dukes of Schwarzburg resided in the Castle Neideck, now in ruins (except for the tower) …

… and in the New Palais, famous for the porcelain cabinet “Mon Plaisir”. 

Here we see the roof of the New Palais and, in the background, the tower of the Castle Neideck. 


Overview map of our tour in Thuringia

We have a coffee at the Riedplatz of Arnstadt. Arnstadt, the city of young Bach and with the medieval city centre and the churches was well worth a visit! 

We return “home” to Eyba to spend our last evening in the castle courtyard. 

Tomorrow, we will drive to Eisenach. We have reserved a room at the Hotel “Haus Hainstein”.



  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen”
  • Hans Müller, “Thüringen”, Dumont Kunstreiseführer 1998
  • Hans-Ulrich Orban, “Arnstadt, Liebfrauenkirche” ,Verlag Schnell + Steiber GmbH Regensburg 2008
  • Thomas Kratzer, “Oberkirche Arnstadt”, Oberkirche Arnstadt e.V., Arnstadt 2021
  • Gottfried Preller, “Arnstadt, Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Kirche”, PEDA Kunstführer, Passau 2015
  • Martin Geck, “Johann Sebastian Bach”, Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbeck bei Hamburg 2020


Exploring Thüringen – Erfurt with the Krämerbrücke

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

Now we are at Erfurt, primarily famous for the Krämerbrücke (“merchants’ bridge”), and much more…


The Krämerbrücke (merchants’ bridge) is a bridge that looks like a shopping street

The Krämerbrücke (Merchants’ Bridge) is a shopping street crossing the river Gera. It is a tourist hot spot. 

From the side, this “shopping street” turns out to be a bridge, as seen from the south …

… and from the north, with the Ägidien’s Church above the Wenigemarkt. 

The river Gera bends here, split into several arms. The trees stand on a small island with a path called “Dämmchen” (literally “damlet”). 

The first bridge here was built in 1156, and, in 1325, it was made from stone. The Krämerbrücke belongs to the medieval Via Regia trade route network of Europe, from the river Rhine to Silesia (and beyond). The ford in the river Gera eases crossing (=Furt, Erfurt is called “Er-Furt”). 

The Krämerbrücke is not the only “shopping street” bridge in Europe; think of the Ponte Vecchio at Florence and think of Le Pont des Marchands at Narbonne (same name as at Erfurt: Merchants’ Brigde). 


The Petersberg – the nucleus of Erfurt with a monastery (~700) and the Carolingian Imperial Palace (~800)

The Gera ford was favorable for settlements, already in prehistoric times.

On the Petersberg (Peter’s Mountain), the Benedictine Peter’s monastery was founded in the year 706, with the church Saint Peter and Paul. It was a missionary centre that brought Christianity to the area. In 802, medieval documents mention a Carolingian Imperial Palace on the Petersberg.

In 1664, the archbishop of Mainz converted the Petersberg into the citadel that we see today. With its eight bastions, the construction is based on Italian knowlegde about fortress building. In the liberation war of 1813, the citadel and the monastery were damaged severely.

This is the entrance to the citadel, … 

… next to the bastion with the inscription “Erfurt”. 

In the background, we see the military barrack and in the foreground St Peter’s Church. 

We leave the citadel, with the view of the cathedral and St Severus’ Church.

Under the citadel, there is a vineyard, and wine is sold here. 

However, this place seems like a tourist trap to me. I decide not to buy wine here.


The Cathedral Hill (Domhügel) with St Severus’ Church (Severikirche) emerged shortly after the settlements on Peter’s Mountain

From the citadel on Peter’s Mountain, there is a wonderful view of the airy Cathedral (Dom) and the more solid St Severus’ Church (Severikirche).

The Cathedral Hill (Domhügel) was settled shortly after the Peter’s Mountain. In 836, medieval documents mention a convent for nuns (it does no longer exist) and St Mary’s Church. In the same year, 836, bones of St Severus arrived at Erfurt.

Let us first look at the Cathedral. Replacing St Mary’s Church, the Cathedral was built in 1154 and completed in Gothic style. 

This is the view of the nave with the organ and with the Gothic paintings on the columns.

I have focused on the painting of the adoration of the Magi. It has been completed in 1522. 

The medieval windows in the choir are the originals from around 1400, almost completely. 

This is the unicorn altar from the beginning of the 15th century. It shows Maria with the unicorn. She is surrounded by Saints.  

Beside one of the gates, the apostles invite to enter the church – I have selected the six apostles with Peter as their leader holding the keys.

Beside the second gate, we see the wise and foolish virgins – I have chosen the foolish virgins (törichte Jungfrauen); their gestures clearly show desperation, as they have missed to fill their lamps with oil, and now, the gate to paradise is closed for them. 

Above the entry, the Archangel Michael is killing the devil.

These are just a few outstanding examples taken from the marvellous Cathedral.

The relics of St Severus arrived in 836, and they also needed a church. The church we see today was built in Gothic style, in the late 13th and in 14th century. Compared with the airiness of the Cathedral, the church looks like a fortress to me. 

The most important artefact in the St Severus Church is the sarcophagus of St Severus, created in 1365. The bones of St Severus, bishop of Ravenna (342-344/46), are kept here.

The so-called “Taubenwunder der Bischofswahl des heiligen Severus” (pigeon miracle of the bishop election of St Severus) is presented  on the sarcophagus. I can clearly see the pigeon above the head of St Severus. Dumont (p. 121) describes the pigeon miracle: When the cloth maker Severus joined the bishop election, just as a spectator, a pigeon settled on his head. This was taken as a sign of God, and Severus was elected bishop.

St Mary’s altar was created in 1510. Mary is surrounded by Saints (from left to right: Maria Magdalena, Katharina, Barbara and Ursula)

I like these expressive sculptures of Saint John the Baptist … 

… and Maria with Jesus on her arm, both surely Gothic as well.

These are a few details of the beautiful St Severus Church to give you an impression.


Erfurt – city of merchants and blue dyestuff producers (Waid) on the Via regia: Exploring the old city centre

At the foot of the two hills (the Peter’s Mountain and the Cathedral Hill) and along the bow of the Gera arms, the city of Erfurt evolved. The first market was on the Cathedral Square (Domplatz).

Today, a festival is being prepared: On 19th of August 2022, “Die Ärzte” will be here during their summer concert tour. Their music is called “planet punk” – interesting. The sound tests are deafening for us. I wish a great evening to the young people that will enjoy the concert.

When the Krämerbrücke (Merchants’ Bridge), the city expanded along the bow of the river Gera. Beyond the trade business, Erfurt was successful in producing textiles and, in particular, the blue dyestuff called “Waid”. The dye was extracted from the Isatis Tinctoria or woad plant (Waidpflanze). The city flourished until 1500; both clerical and civil Erfurt benefited. The decline started, after Vasco da Gama had discovered the sea route to India. Now, the blue dyestuff indigo was imported from India, which destroyed the market for the blue dye made out of woad. 

Market places evolved around the Merchants’ Bridge (Krämerbrücke).

The Fish Market west of the bridge was rebuilt after the fire of 1472. Some Renaissance buildings line the market.

This is the Town Hall.

The red house in the middle is called “Zum Breiten Herd” (“wide stove”, Renaissance from 1584).  

The second remarkable Renaissance building on the Fish Market is called “Zum Roten Ochsen” (1562). Above the gate, the ox shows clearly, this IS the house of the “Red Ox”. 

Strolling through the small streets of the old city centre, we find charming half-timbered houses.

This is another example of half-timbered houses along the Marktstrasse.

The half-timbered Renaissance house Sonneborn (1536) is now used for weddings; it is the civil registry office. What a picturesque setting for the wedding photos. A shop next door offers the required photo services. 

The Sonneborn house was probably used to store woad dyestuff, and so was the Waidspeicher Haus (woad storage house).

The fountain tells fairy tales. Just right for the child that has left his (or her) pushchair next to it. 


Anger, the main market for blue woad dystuff

The Anger is a surprise for me. “Anger” denotes a square. It is an old German word for “a shared village green, perhaps with an oven or a fish- pond”. However, the Erfurt Anger is a street that ends as two squares, and it follows the bow of the Gera. It is a pedestrian area with trams, rolling along prestigious buildings from four centuries (16th to 20th century).  When Erfurt flourished until 1500, this was the place where the woad dyestuff was primarily traded.

We entered the Anger north-east. This is, where it begins, dominated by the main postoffice (Postamt), a Neo-Renaissance building (1895).

Another remarkable building is the Baroque Kurmainzischer Packhof (1711), now an art museum. 

The square narrows down and looks like a street. 

One of the charming business buildings are Anger 23 (a mix of Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau) with the posh fashion house Papenbreer on the ground floor.

I wonder, what Bismarck has to do with this building; his statue stands on the pedestal, and I can see no relation to “Peter Pane”.

Well, I learn, Anger 33 was a hotel, where Bismarck stayed overnight in 1850. In 1900. The hotel was torn down and replaced by the Neo-Gothic building, now called “Bismarck House”; this is how Bismarck joined Peter Pane. 

Between the “newer” buildings, the Bartholomäusturm (Bartholomew Tower) stands out. It is, what remains of the church named after Bartholomew. 

In front of the tower, the Waidbrunnen (woad fountain) reminds of the once successful dyestuff production and trade at Erfurt.

The Anger ends as another triangular smaller square with this Neo-Renaissance building 39/40 (1899). The fountain with the obelisk is called Flora Fountain.

Across is the Late-Gothic Wigbert Church.

What an interesting setup. The Anger is a square that starts as a square, continues as a street and ends as a square. I am quite scared by watching the trams amidst the pedestrians.

It is about ten a.m., and it is hard to find a place for coffee that would strengthen me after having driven for one and a half hours to get to Erfurt from Eyba. The Anger seems to be an area to do shopping and business, the places to rest must be somewhere else at Erfurt.


Having a rest – delicious lunch at Pavarotti and a pleasant cup of coffee with ice cream at the Red Elephant

Well, we find nice places to rest.

Lunch we have on the Fish Market, at Pavarotti’s Italian restaurant. My spaghetti dish is delicious. We are served by one of the best waiters I have seen for a long time, what a pleasure to watch him. As the chief waiter, he serves us with great attention, AND he manages the other waiters discretly, practically unnoticed by the clients.

Later, we have coffee at the “Roter Elephant” (Red Elephant”) in the small streets of the old city centre.

What a charming place! The Red Elephant has asked children to paint red elephants. The children’s drawings decorate the restaurant.

Nearby, I find the shop “for spendable omas”. I have two spendable grandmothers (omas) in my family and think of them.


Not to miss out – Jewish treasure, in particular the wedding ring

In the cellar of the old synagogue, we visit the exhibition of the Jewish gold treasure that was found accidentally by construction workers in the year 1998. The treasure weighs 28 kg.  The masterpiece is the wedding ring that was only worn during the marriage ceremony, an outstanding goldsmith artefact. Two hands laid into one another at the bottom of the ring, Gothic arcades on the top with two griffins and dragons, finely chiselled.

No photos allowed; I included the link.


Round off – walk to the Augustinian monastery

It is almost five o’clock. We round off our visit at Erfurt by walking along the river Gera looking at Schildchen’s mill, …

… more half-timbered houses, …

… and dogs enjoying the water.

The Augustinian monastery has already closed its doors, but …

… we meet the custodian. “We come from Switzerland”, we tell him, and, for us, he reopens the door to the church …

… and to the chapter room with the vaults …

… and the (original) tiles. 

He disappears, and now we seem to be locked in. We circulate around the cloister looking for an exit … 

… and, after some time, we find a door that opens.

We have a quick evening meal near the Merchants’ Bridge. Strengthened, we pick up our car close to the Anger and return “home” to our castle at Eyba near Saalfeld for another quiet night.


Overview map of our tour in Thuringia

Erfurt was a long drive from Eyba. Tomorrow, we plan to see Arnstadt, which seems to be a shorter drive away from Eyba.



  • Heidi Schmitt, “Thüringen Reiseführer”, Michael Müller Verlag 2020
  • Dina Stahn, “Bädeker Reiseführer Thüringen”
  • Hans Müller, “Thüringen”, Dumont Kunstführer 1998
  • Martin Schmidt, “City/Trip Erfurt Weimar”, Reise Know How, Peter Rump GmbH, Bielefeld 2022
  • Website of Erfurt:

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