Thuringia – land of tourism
Landscapes of unrivalled beauty, a fantastic array of castles and palaces, incomparable architectural and cultural variety, and recreational offerings for the whole family – Thuringia has plenty to offer holiday-goers. Hiking in the Thuringian Forest or the Kyffhäuser Mountains in the morning, afternoons spent strolling down romantic Old Town streets or marvelling at the splendour of bygone times at a palace or castle, an evening at the theatre followed by exquisite culinary delights – spending a day with pleasant pastimes like these is easy in Thuringia, where the attractions are all located close at hand. Goethe already sang the praises of Thuringia back in his day: “Where else in Germany can one find so many wonderful things in such close proximity?”
Whether Erfurt, Weimar, Gotha or Eisenach – Thuringia’s cities attract visitors with their mix of history and tradition, culture and recreation, classicism and modernism. Weimar brings together all of the great names in classical literature. Home to the famous writers Goethe and Schiller, together with an assortment of lovely palaces, gardens and villas, the cradle of the Bauhaus was selected in 1999 as European Capital of Culture. Like Weimar, the Wartburg, “the most German of all fortresses”, is also a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Martin Luther once hid out here, disguised as “Junker Jörg”, and translated the Bible into German for the first time, laying the groundwork for the Reformation. And when in Gotha in the world’s oldest perfectly preserved Baroque theatre the curtain rises briefly once a year for the Ekhof Festival, music-lovers from all over Germany flock to magnificent Friedenstein Palace.
Erfurt, today the state capital, takes us back to the Middle Ages, although according to archaeologists its roots date back even further, to the era of the Thuringian Kingdom in the 5th and 6th centuries. Elevated to the status of a diocese in 742 and with wealth stemming from the lively dyer’s woad trade, Erfurt was the scene of numerous assemblies and diets convened by the German emperors. With its unique Old Town, Romanesque and Gothic churches, the splendid patrician townhouses and mighty Petersberg Citadel, Erfurt is today a genuine gem among German cities. This is where Henry the Lion capitulated to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1181, where Luther studied and became an Augustinian monk in 1505; this is where Sweden’s King Gustav Adolf resided during the Thirty Years’ War, and where Goethe met Napoleon in 1808. Set on a hill high above the town are St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Church of St. Severus, which form an imposing backdrop for the traditional “Domstufenfestspiele” theatre festival each summer. And anyone who has ever ambled across the Merchants’ Bridge with its colourful half-timbered houses or basked in the spring sun at one of the many sidewalk cafés in the Old Town will fall in love with this city and its almost Mediterranean flair.
- In the Skisporthalle Oberhof the successful German biathletes can train even in summer thanks to artificial snow, while the hall is also popular with winter sports enthusiasts and cross-country skiers.
Bound up with German cultural and intellectual life just as closely as Erfurt are the university town of Jena and former royal residence cities such as Altenburg, Meiningen and Rudolstadt. Musicians including Bach, Telemann and Liszt, painters like Cranach, Feininger and Kandinsky, writers such as Goethe, Schiller and Wieland left their mark on Thuringia, and even zoologist Alfred Brehm was a state son. This cultural wealth is reflected today in numerous museums and theatres, festivals, traditional markets and folk festivals.
The Thuringians are not only culture buffs, however, but also the German champions in hiking. According to an Emnid survey, 43 per cent of Thuringians regularly enjoy the great outdoors on foot. No wonder, because the conditions for trekking through the “green heart of Germany” are ideal. A varied landscape encompassing mountains nearly 1,000 metres high, vast meadowlands and fields, and virtually endless forests, nature parks such as the Thuringian Forest and more than 16,000 kilometres of marked hiking trails lure one and all to discover the wonders of nature. With its Canopy Walkway through the treetops, Hainich National Park gives visitors a rare glimpse of a habitat normally inaccessible to human eyes. The “Rennsteig” running straight through the Thuringian Forest is Germany’s best-known hiking trail. And the old pilgrimage pathways along the erstwhile “Via Regia” European trade route have been resurrected in Thuringia, marked by the traditional scallop symbol. To name but one more of many natural attractions, poet Theodor Storm once remarked: “If you’ve never visited the Eichsfeld, you’ve really missed something.”
Those who enjoy other sports will also find plenty of options for an active holiday in Thuringia: cycle tours, Nordic Walking, exploring the waterways, horseback riding, water sports, flying and much more. In winter the Thuringian Forest is an “El Dorado” for skiers, with 1,800 kilometres of downhill trails and some 200 kilometres of cross-country runs. Thuringia also offers modern sporting facilities such as high ropes courses in Steinach and Oberhof, unique opportunities such as ski jumping for everyone, and bobsledding like the world champions. A snow telephone provides information on winter sports conditions in all Thuringian ski areas.
Of course, many people come to Thuringia simply to relax and unwind. Some 20 spas and resorts furnish the perfect amenities for an exclusive wellness holiday. A number of excellent natural remedies such as salt and sulphur springs, mud baths, minerals and of course also the good climate make Thuringia an appealing and tradition-rich spa land. With modern rehabilitation clinics, thermal baths and adventure pools, parks, hiking and cycling trails, spa concerts and much more, Thuringia’s spas and resorts cater to guests’ every need.
Information and brochures on Thuringia for tourists, including accommodations and travel, event tips and tickets, as well as last-minute offers are available from the Service Center Thuringia at 0361-37420 or on the Internet at www.thueringen-tourismus.de.
- The Kyffhäuser Monument near Bad Frankenhausen
Castles, Palaces, Parks and Gardens in Thuringia
The small state of Thuringia (Thueringen) – situated in the very centre of Germany – surprises with more than 400 castles and palaces! Often surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens they are real visitor magnets and invite not only to a trip into the past of Thuringia.
Thuringia’s most famous castle is the Wartburg in Eisenach which belongs to UNESCO World Heritage and dates back as far as 1067! Here the great reformer Martin Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German. Visitors find different architectural styles and an amazing interior which even inspired King Ludwig II. of Bavaria when planning Neuschwanstein Castle! Every year, a series of high-class concerts, performances of the Wagner opera “Tannhäuser” “or the “Parsifal” and a beautiful historic Christmas market take place.
In Gotha the majestic baroque style Friedenstein Castle (Schloss Friedenstein) awaits visitors with a wonderful old art collection and the oldest baroque court theatre in the world – the Ekhof Theatre (Ekhof- Theater), built from 1681 to 1683. The historic stage machinery is still working! Each summer, the “Ekhof Festival” features unique opera performances. Around the castle, beautiful English style Friedenstein park and picturesque orangery are lovely places of recreation. Amongst the numerous medieval castles in Thuringia are the Leuchtenburg near Jena, Residence castle Heidecksburg in Rudolstadt (Schloss Heidecksburg) or Greifenstein with falconry in Bad Blankenburg. All of them are regular hosts to medieval festivals.
Especially in the summer time many visitors are attracted to the colorful parks and gardens belonging to many castles: Molsdorf Palace in Thuringia’s capital Erfurt is a former pleasure palace in rococo style which is surrounded by an English garden. Erfurt’s Cyriaksburg Castle – a historic fortress – hosts the only gardening museum in Germany and is situated in the renowned Erfurt Garden Exhibition which is open all year round displaying changing exhibitions, wonderful flowers and plants, a Japanese and a Rose Garden. Weimar does not stand behind at all: The baroque Belvedere Castle lies in a wonderful French landscape park with an orangery, many exotic plants and a small maze. The largest park in Weimar – the Ilmpark – is an English landscape park characterized by the river Ilm. Weimar is twinned with Stratford upon Avon, therefore in Ilmpark visitors find the only Shakespeare memorial on mainland Europe!
The small medieval spa town Bad Langensalza near Erfurt attracts visitors with no less than 7 parks and gardens! Amongst them are the largest Rose Garden in Thuringia, the Castle Gardens, a Botanic Garden and a Japanese Garden with an original Japanese Tea House where visitors can enjoy a Japanese tea time.
The three romantic Dornburg Palaces near Jena were all built in different styles: one in renaissance style with an English garden, one is a rococo palace with a French garden and the Old Castle, a former Palatine, displays Gothic style. Dornburg is especially famous for its beautiful rose garden and the yearly rose festival in June.
Thuringia with its wonderful castles, palaces and gardens is situated in the middle of Germany and can be reached as follows: By plane with Ryanair from London-Stansted to Altenburg, by train from Frankfurt/ Main or Nuremberg (2 hours with the ICE) or via the Autobahn A 4 by car and coach.
Information and brochures on the holiday state of Thuringia, accommodation and travel programmes, event infos, tickets and last-minute offers are available from the Tourist Information Thuringia on the hotline +49 (0) 361-37420 or on the internet at www.visit-thuringia.com.
- The mountain known as the Große Inselsberg forms the gateway to the Thuringian Forest and a regional landmark that can be seen far and wide.