Thursday, June 23, 2011


Driving east from Leipzig is a drive through the 'green' - 'intellectual' - 'enlightened' heart of Germany, the Thuringian Forest. The trees whisper Bach, Luther, Goethe, Schiller, Lizt, Nietzsche, Bauhaus (and speaking of houses - the House of Windsor, exceptions make the rule) and on and on.

Off we went with Weimar, Erfurt and The Wartburg circled on the map. Actually, TomTom is running this trip from my iPhone, and just as well - the alternative (a navigator and just an old fashioned piece of paper) would by now have become unpleasant. How does this little tiny thing sitting on the dashboard know every address in Europe, every little laneway, every speed limit, some of the speed cameras (though not the one entering Leipzig, ooops), and now, everywhere we've been.

Weimar - a dalliance with democracy and the home of arguably the greatest renaissance man of them all - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It is the most beautifully presented of any of the small towns we visited. Almost surreal. Spotless, soft pastels shining in luke warm sun after a morning rain shower, leafy, quiet, and only a smattering of tourists.

Those handsome fellows above should need no introduction, not to anyone visiting here, where they lived and died.

Goethe's house in the orange one in the middle, now of course a museum with all the trappings

and sitting opposite Schiller's yellow house (below), eating waffles with forest berries, thinking how civilised the whole comfortable scene appeared, it was uncomfortably easy to forget that Buchenwald was just a few kilometres away.

Next stop Erfurt, little river town, centre and capital of Thuringia, born of St Boniface, in whose Augustinian monastery Luther studied, and host to a thriving university campus. Whatever we expected of this medieval town, it wasn't a New Orleans style jazz festival, a far cry from Weimar, with streets thronging with crowds, jostling, trams gently gliding through, and locals doing what locals do - sitting on benches drinking beer listening to music.

With Cologne still some hours away, this time The Wartburg was to remain a tower on a hill just outside Eisenach (J C Bach's birthplace) as we flew by on the autobahn.

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