In cooperation with the World Heritage Region Wartburg Hainich
A trip to Eisenach is always a journey into the past: minnesingers from the Middle Ages and world-famous composers such as Bach and Wagner have left their mark on the city at the foot of Wartburg Castle. Luther fled into exile to Wartburg Castle, where he translated the Bible and continued to stand up for his beliefs. But a trip into the nature around Eisenach also takes you back to times gone by. After all, the primeval forest that is part of the Hainich National Park has been here for centuries. So we suggest that you first devote yourself extensively to the cultural offerings. And then head off into the countryside on a bike or hike. Here are five ideas for your visit to Eisenach:
It has watched over Eisenach for 1000 years. It was home, refuge and place of work for outstanding personalities who wanted to create great things and helped determine the course of (art) history. In the early Middle Ages, the famous minnesingers Walter von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach came to Wartburg Castle to recite their poetry. Richard Wagner, who had a soft spot for the Middle Ages, made the so-called Singers' War the leitmotif in his famous opera Tannhäuser, thus helping it to achieve world fame. In the early 13th century, St. Elisabeth lived and worked here, and Martin Luther, who was ostracized by the church and the emperor, found refuge at Wartburg Castle in 1521, where he translated the New Testament from Greek into German in just eleven weeks, thus defying the omnipotence of the church. His demand, which was quite revolutionary at the time, was that everyone should be allowed to read for themselves what was written in the Holy Scriptures. The students who gathered at the Wartburg Festival in 1817 to proclaim their idea of a liberal nation state also took up the banner of freedom and equality.
Even around 1000 years after its construction, the castle is a real meeting place. It has also remained a venue for art and music. There is the art collection started by Goethe, which delights with such valuable paintings as "Young Mother with Child" by Lucas Cranach. There is the harp that is said to have belonged to the last Minnesinger Oswald von Wolkenstein. There hangs a 15th-century tapestry recalling the life of St. Elizabeth. And then there are the popular Wartburg concerts, the summer nights, the theater performances. The spirit of freedom, which was founded by the Reformation and later by the bourgeois movement in the 19th century, can also be felt at Wartburg Castle. This is particularly evident in the Luther Room, where the Augustinian monk set about translating the Bible.
Information about guided tours, the art exhibition and events is available at here.
How must it have felt to be cut off from the world, hidden behind thick walls? With "man in a cube," the renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has created a work of art that recalls Luther's time at Wartburg Castle, where the monk hid for a year as Junker Jörg. The sculpture, which Weiwei made to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, looks like a concrete block that has been cut open. But why is the imprint of a body bearing the artist's features visible in the hollow space? Like Luther, Ai Weiwei has publicly spoken out against grievances. And like Luther, the Chinese artist, who was imprisoned in an unknown place in China for 81 days in 2011, knows the feeling of loneliness and isolation.
The sculpture stands in the courtyard of the Luther House, in the building where Luther lived between 1489 and 1501. "Luther and the Bible" is the name of the permanent exhibition inside the historic half-timbered house. It impressively tells of the life of Luther, who came to Eisenach as a Latin student at the age of fourteen, earned his living there as a singer, and returned to the city in 1521 as an outlaw to find shelter in Wartburg Castle. With its multimedia stations, the exhibition makes it clear that even 500-year-old history can be extremely vivid! For example, visitors can listen to how German dialects sounded in the Middle Ages. And learn that Luther's translation of the Bible not only revolutionized the faith, but also laid the foundation for our modern High German! You can even leaf through the famous Luther Bible - digitally only, but you can still discover some amazing things: For example, that language is not always unambiguous and that it can sometimes be very small words that shape thoughts and thus influence the course of human history.
By the way: On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the translation of the Bible, numerous events and exhibitions on the topic of Luther and the New Testament will take place until the end of 2022. Here an overview of permanent and special exhibitions in the Luther House.
Christmas Oratorio, St. Matthew Passion, Fugue in D minor - Bach's compositions are indispensable in music history! The story of one of the greatest composers of all time began in Eisenach. Johann Sebastian was born here in 1685 and received his first music lessons here. At the age of ten he was already an orphan; later he had to cope with the death of three of his children and his first wife Maria Barbara also died much too early. Music is said to have comforted him and strengthened his faith in God. The permanent exhibition in the Bachhaus tells of his eventful life, his artistic work and his love of music. Original living rooms, historical instruments, sheet music and a comprehensive Bach library take museum visitors back to everyday life in the 17th century. Above all, however, the exhibition is a treat for the ears: In "bubble chairs" one can listen to wonderful music in a relaxed posture, in the "walk-in music piece" bars from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and other important works resound, and in the instrument room a live concert on historical keyboard instruments is given every hour. Good to know: In addition to museum tours, there is also a Bach city tour that stops at important stations in the life of the Baroque composer, such as the main church of St. Georgen, Bach's baptistery.
You plan your visit here.
At the foot of Wartburg Castle in the Helltal valley stands the Reuter Villa with its gleaming white facade, columned entrance and magnificent garden. This is where the poet Fritz Reuter and his wife Luise spent the last years of their lives. The original furnishings in the study and salon provide an insight into the life of the man of letters, who lived and worked in the 19th century and is considered the founder of Low German literature. Today, however, the Reuter Villa impresses above all with its large Wagner collection: letters, posters, newspaper articles, photos and original scores - a whole 20,000 objects are on display here. The centerpiece: the extensive Wagner library, which contains many treasures, such as the original score of the opera "Rienzi," handwritten and with Wagner's notes. Incidentally, the fact that Eisenach, of all places, is home to the second-largest Wagner collection next to Bayreuth is not entirely coincidental: Wagner was deeply impressed by the Wartburg; in his opera Tannhäuser, he even elevated it to the setting of the plot.
The rustling forests, the murmuring rivers, the mountains and dreamy valleys. How nice when culture is so close to unspoiled nature! Just a stone's throw from Eisenach is the Hainich National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So let's get out into the vast greenery - the choice of hikes and bike tours is great, anyway! How about, for example, the primeval forest trails that lead through completely untouched sections of forest, the Rennstein Cycle Path that starts in Hörschel near Eisenach, a hike through the mystical Dragon Gorge or a tour on the Tannhäuser Cycle Path that leads through the Werra floodplains and wonderfully intact villages?
Take a look here.
By train comfortably and without traffic jams to Eisenach: Plan arrival.
Cover photo: Home, refuge and workplace for poets and thinkers: Wartburg Castle watches over Eisenach and is closely interwoven with German history © Eisenach-Wartburgregion Touristik/T. Kromke
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