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).