Sunday, July 9, 2017

Erfurt: Additional notes

Of all the sights I enjoyed most on my recent trip to Erfurt — and there were many — the one that made me smile the most was not (as you might expect) the exquisitely subversive Bernd das Brot, the depressive loaf of bread forced to work for children’s TV, but these characters:

This is Captain Blaubeer — his name means “blue bear” and is a pun on the German word for “blueberry” — and his sidekick, the rat Hein Blöd. Or rather, not so much the characters themselves, as the sculpture, which is probably the one that is the most dynamic and fun — I especially like the way Hein Blöd has somehow managed to get his leg stuck in the rowlock.

I should also like to express my profound thanks to the staff of the Augustinian Monastery, who basically gave me free (and, I may say, unsupervised, which was brave of them) access to Luther’s cell. Normally, you have to book a guided tour, but it’s well worth doing that if you’re interested in the life and works of Martin Luther.

Erfurt is at the intersection of the A4 and A71 autobahns, so not too difficult to get to. For rail passengers, Erfurt is Thuringia’s most important hub. There is even a small airport, Erfurt-Weimar, from where the number 4 tram will take you directly into the historic centre. For people who prefer travelling by coach, several routes call at Erfurt: the coach stops are a short walk from the train station, next to the bus station.

I found Erfurt to be easy to get around: its historic centre manages to be on the large side, yet compact enough that I didn’t need public transport.

I should point out that the tower of St Giles’s Church and the steps down to the cellar on the Merchants’ Bridge are not for anyone with physical difficulties (and if you’re in a wheelchair, don’t even think about it).

And that was Erfurt: an absolute gem, if you want my opinion, and a great addition to anyone’s itinerary.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Eisenach: Additional notes

Ah, Eisenach — the subject of my latest video. And for the avoidance of doubt, I should stress that I am talking about Eisenach, the historic town in Thuringia, and not Eisenach (Eifel), the village in Rhineland-Palatinate with a population of 355.

It rained the whole time I was there, which was unfortunate in the sense that I (and my camera) got soaked; but fortunate in the sense that I was able to get atmospheric shots like this:

The Wartburg looking suitably forbidding

This, of course, is the Wartburg, one of Eisenach’s top attractions, and it really does sit perched on top of a hill outside of the town. There is a bus that goes to the Wartburg, and a car park as well; but you can walk to it if you’re reasonably fit. Start at Luther’s school and walk up the steepest road you can see (called “Schlossberg”). Signs will tell you it’s 1.4 km to the Wartburg, and much further up is another sign telling you it’s 1.4 km, which will only confirm the feeling you’ve had that you have just walked one kilometer vertically upwards. (In fact, that second sign is wrong.)

At the point where the path to the Elisabethplan branches off there is a “donkey station”, apparently a 100-year-old tradition. In return for a fee, they’ll take you (or, for the sake of the donkeys, your children) the rest of the way.

Eisenach is on the Bebra-Halle line and is served regularly by ICE trains on the Frankfurt-Dresden run and IC trains running between Dortmund, Berlin and Stralsund.

Erfurt lies on the A4 autobahn which links Dresden with the A5 to Frankfurt; a new autobahn is being planned which will link Eisenach with Kassel.

The historic centre of Eisenach is small, and I did all the filming (including the Wartburg) in a single day. Of course, you’ll most likely want to tour the Wartburg and visit at least a couple of the museums, so you could easily fill two days here.

Definitely see the Wartburg. Maybe pick a less wet day than I did, but absolutely see it.