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: https://www.erfurt-lese.de/sehenswuerdigkeiten/

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.