Liz Coggins travels to the cultural heart of Germany

If you love the arts and music then Weimar in the cultural heart of Germany should definitely be on your holiday agenda.

Liz Coggins travels to the cultural heart of Germany

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.

I took the flight from Gatwick travelling down to London on East Coast Trains very speedy and comfortable route then with a friend by car to my airport hotel.

I chose from the Holiday Extras airport hotel and was so glad I did staying at the Courtyard by Marriott. It’s so near the terminal you can see the planes but not hear them in this modern, light and soundproof hotel. Having stayed in dozens of airport hotels I can honestly say this rates as the best I have experienced for a long time. I didn’t feel as if I was in an airport hotel but more in an excellent four star.

The rooms are airy, modern and so comfortable. The hotel has an atmosphere of peace and quiet and you can even hear the birds singing in the grounds. It’s the first hotel you reach coming off the motorway and the valet parking is a boon. You can eat at any time of the day but dinner in the hotel’s restaurant is to be recommended – portions and service are excellent as is the choice and presentation of the cuisine. After opting for an early snack I made my way to the terminal having booked my lounge with Holiday Extras making for a seamless getaway.

After a quick boarding procedure I was off and next stop 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 as a monk which 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.

Weimer 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 is title of Classical Weimar

Schiller and Goethe were two of its most famous citizens and you can still visit their houses whilst 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 as its a great chance to discover the past and present of these artists.

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

Bach was not the only composer to base himself in Weimar. 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 one of the most luxurious but intriguing hotels in Germany 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 and has enjoyed a stream of visits from the rich and famous since.

The hotel has been refurbished many times but yet still retains a strong elegant art-deco style in its salons, rooms and restaurants. But its down in the candlelit Elephantenkeller, where Goethe, was known to enjoy a glass of Madeira, where you will feel the atmosphere of times gone by.

Staying in this hotel is like stepping back into a world of old style elegance. The Restaurant Anna Amalia has an idyllic garden terrace and services wonderful cuisine with impeccable service. Afternoon teas at the hotel are so sumptuous and breakfasts are to die for. The wood panelled library with its soft leather chairs by the crackling fire place is perfect to relax and enjoy and after dinner drink in whilst the modern Davidoff Lounge has a great view over the market place.

Enjoy Thüringen specialities such as dumplings, rostbratwurst washed down with one of their famous beers whilst listening to readings or dramatic presentations about Goethe’s life and loves.

But its not all art and culture of 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 including Australia 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 of Wagner’s opera within the historic castle walls from April to September.

And the magic of Weimer never ends even in the winter as 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.

Fact File

Liz Coggins travelled to Weimer courtesy of the German Tourist Board

and East Coast Trains to travel to London Kings Cross.

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/

East Coast Trains run a regular service from Leeds to London

www.eastcoast.co.uk

Holiday Extras – The Courtyard by Marriott Airport Hotel

www.holidayextras.co.uk

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