An elusive attraction, sobering visit, and cultural exclamation point!
Left early for Eisenach, the birthplace of J.S. Bach, domicile of Martin Luther, and, perhaps most importantly, site of the Wartburg Fortress, where Luther hid for 300 days after the Diet of Worms in 1521. It is here that the translated the New Testament into German. After 40 years of traveling back and forth to Germany, I’ve somehow missed visiting this important site. One can see the Wartburg from the train, but I’ve not ever spent time in Eisenach.
By the time I got to Eisenach there was freezing rain and all the streets and sidewalks were like an ice skating rink. No buses were running to the Wartburg due to the weather, but I decided to slide around town and see if things cleared up. After all, there is always the Luther House and Bach House to see, as well as a charming city center. After about 45 minutes of carefully making my way and watching several people fall, I finally made it to the Bach House. It’s a great museum, especially if you’re a J.S. Bach fan. At 11:30 I had a personalized 1:1 demonstration of four period instruments, which was an added bonus.
At the end of the visit, the ladies at the gift shop/ticket counter were kind enough to call up to the Wartburg to inquire about the situation. Of all days, the Wartburg was closed due to weather. So, I made my way back through town, had lunch, and made my way back to the train station and Leipzig. So, after 40 years, the Wartburg remains an elusive attraction. Perhaps better luck next time.
Today’s travel excursion went smoothly, especially when compared to the ice event from the day before! The destination of the day is the important city of Weimar, where Goethe spent a great deal of his life, as well as Friedrich Schiller (text to “Ode to Joy”) among others. Here is another travel highlight that has somehow not been on the agenda before.
Upon arriving, I boarded a bus to visit the concentration camp Buchenwald, which is located on a forested hill (hence Buchenwald = Beech forest). I spent two hours walking the compound (which is huge) and similar to the camp of Sachsenhausen near Berlin, it was used after the war by the Soviets as a prison, thereby creating layers of atrocities. Approximately 58,000 people died here during World War II. Of particular note was the building where inmates gave up their personal belongings, as well as the crematorium. Even the most vocal of school groups became somber while in this section of the death camp.
Following the visit, I returned to the city center and spent some time walking around and seeing a few of the sites. There are numerous museums in town where one can spend days, but my purpose for this visit was to get a good orientation so I can maximize my time on a return visit. Of course, there was the requisite Christmas market as well, which added to the atmosphere. I did get to see the famous altar painted by Lucas Cranach the Younger in the city center's church of St. Peter and St. Paul, also known as the Herderkirche.
I returned to Leipzig and took a nap before heading to concert #5 of my tour: the world famous Thomanerchor, a boys choir whose home is the church where J.S. Bach was music director and is buried. The Thomaner are the oldest cultural entity in the city of Leipzig, and the concert took place in the Thomaskirche. En route to the concert I stopped and visited a memorial to the Jewish synagogue in Leipzig - it was particularly moving with the menorah for Hannukah. These were fitting culminating events to a wonderful week exploring this corner of Germany.
Heusenstamm und nach Hause
Today featured a return to the Frankfurt area in preparation for the long flight home. Getting to see friends in Heusenstamm near Frankfurt makes the task of packing and preparing to leave more palatable. The trip has exceeded my expectations, including 5 wonderful concerts, numerous Christmas markets and several cities that were explored for the first time.
Row 1: Bach House and Museum; Marktplatz; icy street in Eisenach
Row 2: smallest half-timbered house in Germany (according to locals)
Weimar & Leipzig:
Row 1: Thomaskirche in Leipzig; Buchenwald concentration camp; Leipzig synagogue site
Row 2: "To each his own" at Buchenwald; Cranach altar in Weimar; Goethe and Schiller statue in front of National Theater in Weimar