Weimar is a lesser-known town in former East Germany, and unfortunately still retains a connotation to it. Early history has been somewhat trumped by more recent events, such as being next door to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where roughly 240 000 people were imprisoned during World War II. But, today, the town stands as a worthy visit on any German tour, and has a lion’s share of fascinating history, both ancient and recent.
We came for a weekend, an uncharacteristically sunny one for central Germany, and saturated our visit with cultural and historical sites.
First off, it’s a must to check out Goethe’s house, now a museum. Goethe, if you didn’t hear, was a famous German writer and philosopher, not to mention his wealth of other interests and accomplishments. His literature and poetry already made him famous by the age of 25, and he followed this up with various works on botany, anatomy, and color. While he studied law at Leipzig unversity, he found the topic dull and instead chased after poetic and literary adventures. As such, he didn’t manage to finish his studies and eventually ended up at the University of Strasbourg. Over the years, Goethe travelled, wrote, examined, and studied his way into the famous figure he is today. A tour through the Museum and his house makes evident that huge expanse of knowledge which Goethe developed. His library is an astronomical collection of books and literature. Definitely get the Audio guide – you might be a little lost otherwise. The garden at the back of the house is a pleasant surprise – completely ordinary looking, but you can just imagine Goethe, taking a turn around the garden and formulating new theories and ideas. How lovely.
The Park an der Ilm (at the Ilm River) is a gorgeous spot for a stroll and a good dose of green therapy. Nearby are the Goethe garden house, Liszt house, and Russian War Cemetery, where 640 Soviet soldiers died in 1945. As I mentioned the Buchenwald concentration camp is very close to Weimar, and the Russians used this camp post-war to imprison captured Nazis.
The city is full of architecture for every taste – adorable German country houses, Cold War era boxy monstrosities, and Bauhaus movement masterpieces.
If you’re a fan of the Bauhaus movement, then you must check out the Bauhaus museum in the city. Considered the roots of modernism and founded in Weimar, Bauhaus style influenced many following developments in art, architecture, and interior design.
If literature and architecture isn’t to your taste, Weimar hosts numerous concerts throughout the year, a celebration of it’s historically rich music scene. We luckily caught an outdoor orchestra performance of a Lizst composition, an amazing al fresco display of classical music. Lizst, the famous Hungarian composer, spent some time in the city at the invitation of Maria Pavlovna of Russia. Here he acted as both a conductor and teacher to young pianists. For some more modern beats, head to the Weimar Havana club after dark, a smokey Cuban bar with strong cocktails.
For a taste of Alsace in Eastern Germany, head to La Tarte, a little French bistro where we managed to snag the last tiny table. La Tarte cooks up traditional Alsatian food, and we had the Flammkuchen degustation – 4 assorted Flammkuchen (a variety of thin pizza) with salad and a bottle of Cidre for 29 euros. Huge, delicious, and cheap.
Near the gorgeous city park by the river, you’ll find the ruins of a former Nazi administrative building. The building was torn down but the remains were purposely left on the ground where the building stood. It’s an eerie feeling to make your way over timbers and rubble which was once such a significant symbol.
Weimar may be small and little-known but it is a mighty center for the arts, and thankfully not overrun with tourists (yet)!