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 – Neustadt an der Orla

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


The former Augustinian monastery

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

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


Well maintained city centre with half-timbered houses

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

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

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

I found this beautiful carousel horse in a shop window.


The market place

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


Fleischbänke – “meat benches”

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

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

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


Saint John’s Church at the Church Square

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

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

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

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


The historic inn “Goldener Löwe” (Golden Lion)

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

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


Overview of our Thuringia/Thüringen tour

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


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