Beautiful Erfurt

One of the most interesting things about travel in Europe is the discovery of the rich culture and history associated with it. Erfurt, the capital of the state of Thuringia, is no exception. Located near the geographical center of Germany, this
municipality of around 200,000 inhabitants has evidence of human settlement dating from prehistoric times. Erfurt was the scene of many important facets of recorded history as well. The city witnessed the Black Death and subsequent pogroms against Jews in the fourteenth century; Martin Luther went to the university there; Johann Sebastian Bach’s father was born in Erfurt, as was sociologist Max Weber; the city was bombed during World War II, but not as extensively as other places, allowing it to have a preserved medieval city center. Under the Soviet dominion after the war, not much was done to rehabilitate East Germany. But beginning in the latter part of the twentieth century, because of taxes placed on West Germans, funds were provided to rebuild the East, including Erfurt. The result is a lovely, charming town, well worth a visit.

East Germany, in general, impresses and surprises modern-day tourists by its bustling economy. Downtown areas in all of the cities we visited have multi-leveled malls packed with shoppers. Restorers of Erfurt wisely took an old building on Angerplatz in the heart of town and fashioned it into a contemporary shopping center. In fact, from the outside you would never guess what lies within the beautiful Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) structure on the city’s main square. Buyers can purchase everything from fruits and vegetables to clothing in the six-story mall.

A short walk away from Angerplatz one finds the Krämerbrücke (or "Grocers’
Bridge"). Walking across it, one has no idea that it is a bridge because 32 timbered, inhabited buildings line both sides. The original wooden span over the Gera River dated from 1117, but because of fires through the years, it was rebuilt many times. The current stone structure was finished in 1472 and presently has special preservation status in the country because of its historical importance.

At the Domplatz one finds a large square surrounded by shops and restaurants which often holds fruit and vegetable stalls alongside wurst vendors. Up the hill one finds two churches: Severikirche (St. Severus Church) and the Mariendom (the Cathedral of Mary). These unique places of worship which sit side by side are examples of the German gothic style. The Erfurt Cathedral is especially striking with its wooden carved choir and its stunning windows which are over 40 feet high and are considered among the greatest of medieval stained glass works.

Another important historical edifice is the Erfurt Synagogue. Dating from around
the year 1100, it is thought to be the oldest Jewish house of worship in Europe. Although the exterior is remarkably well-preserved, the interior still requires restoration.

Besides all of the sights in Erfurt, there is the surrounding Thüringer Wald, the regional forest, whose Gold Trail is a paradise for hikers. There are also culinary specialties, but I’ll have to save that for next time.

posted under , |


Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home



Recent Comments