Magnificent residences from bygone eras, themed gardens from other cultures, flowerbeds full of blooming plants in all colors, or the green meadow by the lake in the middle of a landscaped park: In Thuringia, you'll find dreamy places to unwind. Here we present five gardens and castles in the Free State of Thuringia.
Thousands of different species of flowers bloom in the egapark in Erfurt. With an area of 36 hectares, the "Erfurt Garden and Leisure Park" is the largest landscape park in Thuringia. It is located on the site of a former fortress on the Cyriaksberg. Situated 45 meters above the old town, visitors have a good view of the Thuringian capital from here. The view is even better from the modern viewing platform on the roof of a restored gun turret.
The site has been attracting visitors and recreation seekers since 1885. In the meantime, around half a million guests come to egapark each season - from the end of April to the end of August. The landscape and the architecture of the pavilions and exhibition halls breathe the spirit of the 1960s. From 1961 until reunification, the park was a regular venue for the International Horticultural Exhibition.
Today you can stroll through 13 themed gardens, such as the Japanese Garden, past colorful seas of roses, lilies, hydrangeas, fuchsias, geraniums ... Or you can take a look at the Great Flowerbed, where 150,000 plants are draped in artistic ornaments. It is redesigned twice a season. With a side length of 370 meters, it is, by the way, the largest contiguous flower bed in Europe.
The 150-meter-long water axis stretches between the listed area and the exhibition areas. You can take a deep breath here to the gentle lapping of the fountains, surrounded by old trees, shrub beds and meadows. Children can romp around the 35,000-square-meter playground, climb rope pyramids and splash in their own water pool. The park grounds also feature a nature trail, the observatory and the German Horticultural Museum. Since 2019, egapark has been part of the "Grand Tour of Modernism," a Germany-wide tour of significant buildings of the 20th century.
From April to October 2021, among other things, egapark will host the Federal Garden Show will take place. For this purpose, the park will be expanded with a new desert and jungle house.
And this is how you get to egapark by bus and train: Plan arrival.
Altenstein Castle and its extensive parkland are located two kilometers north of Thuringia's oldest spa town, Bad Liebenstein. After several renovations, the summer residence of the dukes of Meiningen now appears in the neo-Renaissance style. Curved bent gables, arched windows, semicircular oriels, numerous chimneys and obelisk tops - Altenstein Castle looks like an English manor house.
The interior of the castle has been undergoing extensive renovation since a serious fire in 1982. In 2017, the Brahms memorial was the first to open in the rooms. The exhibition features autographs, first prints and original paintings by the Hamburg composer, who visited Duke George II several times at the end of the 19th century. There is also a Chinese cabinet with snuff boxes and vases.
The 160-hectare park with numerous rock formations, caves and artificial park elements modeled on English landscape gardens extends around the castle. Directly in front of the castle, two typical flowerbeds in the style of the 19th and 20th centuries were created, the carpet and knot bed.
During a walk along the approximately 20-kilometer-long paths, you will discover playful buildings on the rocks, such as the Chinese Cottage and the neo-Gothic Knight's Chapel. From the Morgentor plateau you have an unobstructed view of the Werra valley and the hilltops of the Rhön. The Teufelsbrücke (Devil's Bridge) connects two steep cliffs from which you have an excellent view of large parts of the park and the castle.
With the Luisenthal Waterfall, Duke George I of Saxony-Meinigen, to whom the initial design of Altenstein Park goes back, even had an Alpine landscape built en miniature. The Altenstein Cave is of completely natural origin - with an extension of two kilometers it is the longest in the Free State. You can visit 280 meters.
And this is how you get to Bad Liebenstein by train: Plan arrival.
The approximately 45 hectare Princely Greiz Park extends in the meadows of the White Elster below the Greizer Schlossberg. In the south stands the early classicist summer palace of the Princely House of Reuss. The construction of the residence in the second half of the 18th century was gradually accompanied by the transformation of the formerly Baroque pleasure garden into an English-style landscape park.
Around the Summer Palace there is a flower garden with ornaments in the style of the 19th century and the Pinetum, a collection of rare conifers created before 1800. On the Seufzerallee near the river you can walk under several dozens of winter lime trees. In the north, there is an approximately eight-hectare park lake with planted islands and bays, which, seen from above, resembles an oak leaf. From here, by the way, you have an excellent view of the Upper Castle. Gradually, the park turns into extensive meadows.
The summer palace served as a retreat for the princes of Reuss until 1918. A motto that the noble builders had carved in stone: If you look a little closer at the gable on the south facade, you will discover the inscription "Maison de belle retraite" - house of beautiful retreat. Through the main portal you enter the impressive garden hall: 36 meters long and 7 meters wide. Two columns support the ceiling. In addition, lots of stucco with theater props and musical instruments as motifs. Then as now, exhibitions and concerts are held here.
Since the 1920s, the Sommerpalais has housed the Greiz State Collection of Books and Copper Engravings, with exhibits spanning three centuries, and the Satiricum, a unique collection of around 10,000 caricatures from the former GDR and contemporary cartoonists. Both can be visited at exhibitions throughout the year.
And this is how you get to Greiz by train: Plan arrival.
Gardens wherever you look: What sounds like a cliché elsewhere is reality in Bad Langensalza. With ten parks and theme gardens the spa town on the edge of the Hainich National Park is considered the most flourishing town in Europe.
"Kōfuku no niwa" - in the garden of bliss you enter a piece of Japan. Koi swim in the pond lined with water lilies and water lilies. Cherry trees, azaleas and red maples alternate with their play of colors. Artful bonsais bring about deceleration. In the plant pavilion with tea house you can participate in a Japanese tea ceremony. The Botanical Garden is reached via the Magnolia Garden, where 33 species of plants from East Asia and America bloom from March to July. Yuccas, agaves and cacti grow in its center surrounded by pergolas. The succulent house is home to an overman-sized agave and several elephant feet.
In the rose garden, 10,000 roses spread their fragrance during the summer months. More than 450 species and varieties of the noble flower thrive here, 91 of which were bred in Bad Langensalza between 1950 and 1990. You will encounter different styles of garden architecture in the Friederikenschlösschenpark. Originally of baroque origin, the park has been repeatedly adapted to the spirit of the times. The terraced structure with a semi-circular square provides an unobstructed view of the castle.
The spa park stretches along the eastern ring of city walls. Here you can walk under centuries-old trees, past colorful flowerbeds, always along the babbling brook, which is reminiscent of the course of the former moat. Somewhat hidden behind the city wall is the nature garden of the BUND. This combines a fruit, vegetable and medicinal herb garden on 1,300 square meters.
The tree park - the arboretum - presents itself in changing flower dresses all year round. In addition to the splendor of the plants, you can also see sculptures made of wood and shell limestone and experience music in the concert church of St. Trinitatis. Directly opposite is the Apothecary Garden at the Thuringian Pharmacy Museum. Here, among other things, medicinal plants native to the region grow, which are still used today for the production of medicines. More than 100 display boards in the City-Environs Garden at the Culture and Congress Center show geography, sights and important landmarks in the history of Bad Langensalza.
And this is how you get to Bad Langensalza by train: Plan arrival.
High above the Saale, on a shell limestone rock, stand the Dornburg castles. In summer, the Grand Dukes of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach used to retire to the three estates near Jena back. You can visit the ensemble from April to October. The gardens are open all year round.
The centerpiece of the Dornburg ensemble is the rococo castle built around 1740. Built intelligently on the steep slope, all floors of the pleasure and hunting palace can be reached directly from the terraces of the garden. You'll get a sense of Baroque splendor from the numerous, colorful stuccos in the banquet hall. In the dining room, which was subsequently designed in rococo style, there is a collection of porcelains from Thuringia, the Netherlands and China.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, advisor and close friend of the former owner Grand Duke Carl August, lived in the Renaissance manor house to the south in the late summer of 1828. At the beginning of the 17th century, the original manor house was rebuilt in the spirit of the Renaissance and provided with the typical dwarf houses and the niche portal.
The beginnings of the Old Castle on the northern tip of the plateau date back more than 800 years. The keep dates back to the 12th century, and there is also a late medieval fireplace room. The south wing is a new Renaissance building with massive wooden ceilings and painted ornaments. Today, the Old Castle is used as a conference center.
Rose-rich gardens connect the individual castles with each other: a fact that Goethe is said to have admired. Around the Renaissance palace you stroll through an English landscape garden. The rococo palace is surrounded on one side by a French baroque garden with strict, geometric forms, and on the other side by a lush pergola overgrown with roses.
And this is how you get to Dornburg by train: Plan arrival.
Cover photo: There are more than two dozen magnificent castles and gardens in Thuringia, here you can see Altenstein Castle and Park © Florian Trykowski/Thüringer Tourismus GmbH
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