I´ve still got some unkept promises. Some of those are to still take You further through Weimar. Now that the poster depicting the Cranach altar in St.Peter & Paul (Herderkirche) is up in my office, I´ve got another incentive to keep those commitments. Well, there are 3 more places in Weimar and one more on its outskirts, that I want to address today.
Firstly, there´s the Duchess Anna Amalia library (and a new website for this), that caught fire in 2004 and lost a substantial part of its treasures. There were old wires, that caused a short – and the whole thing nearly went up in flames. Thank God, lots of the books had been stashed for urgent renovations – and so the damage was by far less, than it could have been. Here´s a link to the Panorama of the place, with views before and after the fire. There´s not much to be added to these wonderful websites, except the enthusiastic encouragement: Go see this for Yourself. It is truly amazing!
Two more are the houses of Goethe and Schiller. Today they are both museums and in good condition, giving excellent insights into the living conditions of these famous exponents of Germany´s classical period.
Another must see in Weimar is the historical graveyard with the “Fürstengruft”. Here You have plenty to see. It´s a big place – thousands of graves spreading wide under ancient trees and over hectares and hectares of well-kept gardens, flowerbeds and shrubs. The ducal vault with the coffins of both Goethe and Schiller too is a somewhat morbid affair – big coffins one next to the other. Not much else. Well, it´s what it come down to in the end – a “little wooden box” as old Arnold Hiestermann put it. The Russian chapel is cute and rather exotic, but not much to talk about either. Now You may ask, why go to Weimar if You can just check it out online. Well, for one thing, the birds singing up in the trees and the fresh air in those green arcades and walkways, but there´s more even. Like meeting with the old architect, who lost his wife recently after sharing much of his life with her in Weimar for more than 75 years. That´s a long and happy dance as he described it. He was a typical German humanist – quoting Latin, getting excited about the classics and even taking photos of some dead poet’s grave (C.A Vulpius – Goethe´s brother-in-law) on that very day. He had the same bright, blue eyes like my father-in-law, displayed the same sharp wit although he was well beyond 90 years old and when he heard that Angelika was a German teacher, he was in his element. Now, You don´t meet such people online. He doesn´t even have email. He shared his house address and invited us to call on him. That´s one of the special take-aways that illustrate, why visiting in person is such so special – even in times of Corona.
Finally, we went through some allies and byways – past the Franz Liszt House (closed due to Corona), the Friedrich Nietzsche Archives (also closed!) and into the parks girding Weimar and following the course of the river Ilm containing Goethe´s Garden house, a Roman house and also the imposing “Sternbrücke” amongst other famous statues: Pushkin, Liszt, Shakespeare to name but some.
Now, one could get the impression as if all is just perfect in Weimar. Well, there are also dark chapters – and on the last day, we confronted one – the concentration camp of Buchenwald. Now, this is a perfect example for euphemism. The camp lies hidden on the hills above Weimar – hidden by the absolutely gorgeous beeches – enshrouding the hills, but also their dark history and the lingering memories. Angelika won´t let me bypass this, so we download the online app and listen in on that frightful chapter of our history before we drive all the way up there – and down the Blutstraße. This was the best way to visit this otherwise deserted place – due to Corona. There were no guided tours – and we saw other visitors without this help rather lost in the ruins and wide-open spaces. Putting this into relation with the British concentration camps for the Boers in South Africa or the Russian and Chinese versions later, there´s lots of brutality and sinister evil festering in such places – very much worse than Mordor or other killing fields. Here people were incarcerated due to ideological incompatibility into the ruling tyranny and system – racial, religious, national, sexual, political criteria. Something, which continued even after the 2nd World War, because the Soviets used this very camp to continue the dreadful practices of starvation, isolation, torture and other forms of killing and murder for years to come. The Nazis were no longer in control. Now, it was the communists. For the inmates it didn´t change much. They were both lethal experts – one as ruthless as the other: Soviet Special Camp No.2. It´s just bad news – and thank God, that we´re living in better times and in safer places – but don´t stop crying for those, who still suffer this kind of despotic tyranny – in N.Korea, China and other dark terrorist hideouts.
On the way out, we slowly recovered. That normally takes time – even though Buchenwald is not as frightful as Auschwitz. Still, the terror gets to You – and it doesn´t want to let go. Much like the dementors (J.K.Rawling) sucking out Your very breath of life. Chocolate helps. We resorted to a local street festival somewhere in a village up in the hills. They were celebrating “family day” or something – and all the villagers were gathered around the grill – munching away on fried meats with potato salad and washing that down with all sorts of traditional brews. Obviously, they had been at this for some time, because they were as gregarious as they come. As soon as we greeted them, they knew, we were foreigners: Welcome to Thuringia! With proverbial hospitality they made us welcome and forget, where we had just come from. In next to no time, we were made at home and special – right there on some village street in the backwaters of the German hinterland.
In the end, we still went to see the “Lutherstone” near Stotternheim. Not much to see – it´s a lot of myths and speculation, but one big stone – and then many brown sun-seekers and other half- or totally naked Germans enjoying the sunshine around the many industrial lakes and dams there. Wonder, what Luther would have said? I´m sure, he would have had a ball! Well, so much for the outing to Weimar – and my promise – to take You to some more sights there. I´m looking forward to the next ride. Until then: Tschüs!