Germany: The state of the arts

Weimar was home to cultural figures like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe whose home is pictured here
Weimar was home to cultural figures like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe whose home is pictured here
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If you love the arts and music then Weimar in the cultural heart of Germany should definitely be on your holiday agenda. Liz Coggins reports.

Firmly established on the central German cultural map for hundreds of years, Weimar in the state of Thüringen is home to 16 UNESCO world heritage sites and is easily accessible from the UK with twice-weekly flights by Germania airlines to nearby Erfurt.

Only a stone’s throw from Weimar, Erfurt is well worth exploring with its beautifully restored half-timbered buildings and classical town houses and the historical Merchants Bridge. Martin Luther lived in its Augustinian monastery and it now houses an exhibition on the man and his works. Erfurt’s St Mary’s cathedral and St Severus’ Church are particularly impressive and in August and September the cathedral steps are transformed into a huge stage to host an opera or musical.

Weimar itself is a beautiful town with its narrow cobbled streets, historic buildings and parks, one of which houses the only Shakespeare monument in Europe.

But the jewel in Weimar’s crown is its association with some of the most famous sons of art, music and literature. The town has a remarkable plethora of poets’ houses, monuments, palaces, museums, collections and manuscripts that earn it its title of Classical Weimar.

Schiller and Goethe were two of its most famous citizens and you can still visit their houses while Bach and Liszt lived there for a good ten years.

The Bauhaus art movement was founded in Weimar and the Bauhaus museum houses over 10,000 items spanning every genre of design and, if you have the time, take the museum’s walking tour.

The Bach family were a strong influence in Weimar – Johann Sebastian Bach lived there for 10 years when concertmaster at the court chapel in Weimar and both his sons were born there. Hence the series of Bach events throughout the year including Weimar’s annual Bach Festivals in April and May.

About 140 years after Bach, Franz Liszt took on a position at the Weimar Court and lived there until his death, transforming it into one of Europe’s musical centres. Today you can visit Liszt’s flat, now a museum, and see his original Bechstein grand piano.

And if all this culture isn’t enough, the famous Duchess Amalia Library beckons with its intriguing history and beautiful Rococo Hall in blue and gold. The conducted tours of this library are in such demand by visitors from all over the world that pre-booking is absolutely essential.

Weimer is home to the five-star Hotel Elephant. This is a place where statesmen, thinkers, artist and composers including Liszt, Bach and Wagner have stayed since it opened its doors in 1696. In 1939 the hotel was made famous when Thomas Mann chose it for the setting of his novel Lotte in Weimar.

It has been refurbished many times but yet still retains a strong elegant art-deco style in its salons, rooms and restaurants. But it’s down in the candlelit Elephantenkeller, where Goethe was known to enjoy a glass of Madeira, that you will feel the atmosphere of times gone by. Enjoy Thüringen specialities such as dumplings, rostbratwurst washed down with one of their famous beers.

But its not all times gone by in Weimar. Every August for 25 years Weimer has held its own Arts Festival. With its varied repertoire of contemporary dance, plays, concerts and exhibitions it attracts artists, writers and companies from all over the world and is fast gaining a reputation as a platform for new works and projects.

Opera lovers are not forgotten around Weimer as Wartburg Castle is nearby. The castle is said to have hosted the legendary singers contest dramatised by Wagner in Tannhauser. Whether it did take place or not no one knows but there are still performances within the historic castle walls from April to September.

And the magic of Weimer never ends even in the winter. It was home to the first public Christmas tree in 1816 and during Advent the Town Hall becomes a giant advent calendar and its Christmas market fills the square.

• Liz Coggins travelled to Weimer courtesy of the German Tourist Board

For full details about the Weimar, the festivals and the surrounding area visit www.germany.travel

The Hotel Elephant is part of the Luxury Collection of Hotels

elephantweimar@luxurycollection.com

Germania Airlines www.flygermania.de/en/