Discovering northern Thuringian towns

Good things come in threes

To see as much as possible in the shortest possible time. Those were my friend Charlotte’s stipulations for our weekend trip. She’s keen on cute towns with a medieval vibe – cobbled streets, half-timbered buildings and enchanting little lanes are very much her thing. They’re totally instagrammable, as she is fond of saying. It just so happens that this fits in really well with the break I had planned anyway: hopping from town to town enjoying a bit of culture along the way. So off we go!

Exploring Eisenach

Our trip starts in the home of the Wartburg – in more than one sense. There’s Wartburg Castle, of course, sitting in splendour above the town of Eisenach, but there is also another Wartburg. This is an East German car which was produced in Eisenach during the days of the GDR. Unfortunately I have been unable to persuade Charlotte to visit the Automobile World Eisenach exhibition, even though car making in the town goes back all the way to 1898. Never mind. Instead we roam the streets of the town centre, where we inadvertently gain some other historical insights. We immediately spot the Luther House, one of Eisenach’s oldest and most beautiful timber-framed houses. Even I can tell that’s definitively worth a photo. It also has a lovely little courtyard with ornate, colourful balconies.
It’s not very far from Luther to Bach, both literally and metaphorically. A few steps take us to St George’s Church, where Luther used to preach and where the infant Johann Sebastian Bach was baptised. The late-Gothic font is highly ornate and very pretty. It’s quite impressive to think you can still be baptised in the same place as Bach.
A bit further on we come to Bach’s House. This museum adds a musical note to our little trip. We listen to a live concert featuring baroque instruments – performed once an hour – enter an ‘immersive musical composition’ and relax in bubble chairs as we enjoy Bach’s works. The garden right next to the house offers further opportunities for relaxation.  

As green as it gets

Gardens are also the theme for our next destination: Bad Langensalza. If Charlotte can’t find anything suitable for her Instagram account here then I’m stumped. The town has ten parks and themed gardens, never mind the pretty town centre with its colourful buildings and cobblestone squares. I’m sure I’m on to a winner. 
We start on a Far Eastern note. Charlotte walks through the beautifully designed ‘Garden of Bliss’ with wide eyes and a keen focus. This evocatively named Japanese garden is divided into different sections, each one more lovely than the last. Our favourite is the pond garden, complete with a wooden bridge, zigzag walkway and colourful koi carp teeming in the water below us. Charlotte wants to come back in April – that’s when the cherry blossoms are out. A staff member at the entrance was raving about it.Just across the road we immerse ourselves in a sea of roses. The Rose Garden is home to more than 450 different species and varieties. I hardly know what to smell first. And Charlotte doesn’t know where to begin to take pictures – should she start with the rose-covered pergola, the rose arch, or perhaps the cute pavilion surrounded by blossoms? We ‘scale’ the lookout hill and are rewarded with splendid views across the entire Rose Garden.

Medieval to the max

And so we reach the last item on our itinerary: Mühlhausen, the town of spires, gates and churches. Medieval charm wherever you care to look – simply fabulous. We have a lovely little walk along the old town wall, which comes complete with a tower and gates you can actually walk through. The inner Frauentor gate takes us straight to the Church of St Mary. Even the exterior of this imposing church is a sight to behold, a fine example of the Gothic style. St Mary’s is the second-biggest church in Thuringia, after Erfurt Cathedral. We also visit the Church of St Blasius, another gem, this time with a hint of a French influence. Beautiful towers, a large rose window over the entrance (that reminds me of the rosettes at Notre Dame), and magnificent stained-glass windows near the high altar. And we’re back to Johann Sebastian Bach once again, who used to play the organ at this church. As for me, I’m playing second fiddle, because Charlotte is taking photos non-stop. But I take that as a compliment.

 

Cover picture: ©Tino Sieland, Welterberegion Wartburg Hainich

Wartburg Hainich World Heritage region

Centrally located in the heart of Germany, between the Unstrut river and the Werra valley, the World Heritage region of Wartburg Hainich is home to numerous attractions. There is plenty more to discover in addition to Eisenach, Mühlhausen and Bad Langensalza, Europe’s most floral town.