Proposal for a literary walking route in Classic Weimar
I visited Weimar in September 2017 as part of European Heritage Volunteers Program. As I was getting ready for the trip, what came to my mind was the literary giants one would typically associate with. So, I re-read a biography of Goethe and a had a look at Wilhelm Tell.
I was looking forward to discovering this small German town and also learning more about its extraordinary literary heritage. Weimar was a place where lots of writing was done mainly by four famous men: Goethe, Schiller, Herder and Wieland.
I had one day to myself that with an inspiration, wished to come up with a literary walking route in Classic Weimar. Could this be an added value of heritage to Weimar’s appeal? The cultural richness of the city amazed me with every step I took between monuments.
As Goethe, himself wrote:
“Where else can you find so many good things in one spot?”
This day was an opportunity for an experience in situ following a theme and what I had in mind was the demand of more literate and active travelers who wished to visit Weimar. These were the people who sought ways to be in contact with their favorite writers. To my amazement, a way-marked literary walking route in Weimar did not exist. One had to put all bits and pieces together with self-effort to visit these literary spots.
Heritage with a literary dimension could empower the emotional link to the town so a way-marked route in Weimar could highly contribute to the already existing cultural itineraries.
Walking routes inspired by urban themes are ever popular visiting a new city either on a traditional map, listening to an audio guide or following an app. It always helps the traveler if the route is way-marked so that one can just walk from one distinct point to another.
One inspiration to me was the “music route in Leipzig: Notenspur”(www.notenspur-leipzig.de ). The route was realized partly by City of Leipzig wanting to support Leipzig’s music tradition.
I’ve added the literary walking route in Weimar on a Google map as they would be on the way-marked route and practically aimed for a day’s touring in this tranquil German town full of literature, art and architecture. It ended up being five days with 35 spots and then I reduced it to four days and 23 spots.
The first two days of the walk is mainly in the urban city center which is followed by a lovely afternoon in Park Ilm and a last day on a train to nearby Ossmanstedt.
The literary walking route in Weimar has markings for café and restaurants that one can take breaks as they go. I’ve tried adding significant literary points for that purpose, too.
I’ve ended up using most of the original German place names like Goethe’s Wohnhaus (instead of Goethe’s house) but used the English translation for places like Römisches Haus (I used Roman House instead)
So, here we go:
Day 1: Weimar urban center
1. Herderplatz (Herder Square)
It wasn’t easy finding Herderplatz unless you knew it existed somewhere. Herderplatz is a good place to start your walk because it includes the Herder monument and the Herder Church in one place. This square was the old Potter’s Market (until 25 August 1850 – Herder’s 106th birthday) when the monument was erected. The square in front of the church was named after Herder when the memorial was established.
When Goethe moved to Weimar in 1775, his first residence of the Von Kalb family was at the Potters’ Market. This building was damaged during World War II and was reconstructed in the 1950s.
2. Herder Denkmal (memorial)
In 1776, Herder was appointed General Superintendent of the Lutheran clergy in Weimar. He kept this post for the rest of his life. Weimar’s first public monument was erected for Herder – not for Goethe or Schiller as one would expect.
Ludwig Schaller was the sculptor from Munich, and he created the model in his workshop. It’s a bronze statue showing Herder with his right hand on his heart. In his left hand, he holds a paper with his motto: Licht, Liebe, Leben (Light, Love, Life). The position of the head, arms and legs were inspired by the antique statue of Sophocles in Rome.
There’s a similar statue in Riga, a bronze bust modelled after this one because Herder taught in Riga between 1764-1769. It was the first monument to a cultural icon in Riga
3. Herderkirche (Herder’s Church)
City Church of St. Peter and Paul was completed around 1500. People call it Herder Church because of the monument and because Herder is buried inside.
Herder worked here as general superintendent from in 1776 until his death in 1803. The main attraction is the winged altar that was created by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1552; it was completed by his son.
4. Palais Schardt – Goethe Pavillion
Charlotte von Stein was an intimate friend of Goethe’s and had great influence on him. His “Iphigenie” was inspired by her. This house is where she spent her childhood and met Goethe. Charlotte was a little child when her family moved to Weimar, and she was prepared for working as a lady-in-waiting.
There’s a rococo pavilion in the garden built by her father and now houses a collection of historical dolls and houses.
You can enjoy a break at the café with cookies made from recipes from when Goethe lived.
5. Deutsches Nationaltheater (German National Theater)
You’ll be facing the theater building as you stand at this beautifully designed outdoor space called Theater Square which is adorned by the famous monument of Goethe and Schiller.
Original is the 1779 building where Goethe was the director for many years. He created “Weimar Style”, as he trained actors, which is a combination of rhythmic speeches and expressions.
Faust was first performed here in Weimar in 1829 – Goethe sitting at home alone.
6. Goethe-Schiller Denkmal (memorial)
This is a grand monument in front of the National Theatre filling the empty space of Theatre Square. It’s a statue of two figures standing on a stone pedestal that shows the ambivalent friendship between these two great men of German literature. The bronze figures of the Goethe–Schiller memorial are larger than life-size, and both men were given the same height, even though Goethe was quite shorter than Schiller.
I learned there’s an exact copy of the statue in San Francisco which was cast in Germany with money raised by the German American community in the US and opened for public in 1901.
There’s another copy of the statue in a very interesting German “copy” city in China called Anting. This is entirely another concept but worth a read should you be interested.
7. Wittums Palais (Widow’s Palace)
We are still at the Theater Platz, and you can see the beautiful yellow building: Widow’s Palace. It belonged to Duchess Anna Amalia because she needed a place to live after the residential castle was lost over a fire in 1774.
In here she hosted the famous round table talks to exchange opinions and Goethe set up “Friday Society”.
8.Schiller Museum and Schillers Wohnhaus
I walked on Schillerstraße which is a pedestrian area to reach Schiller’s House. This is a great street to enjoy some local life, peek into cafés or walk into great bookshops.
Schiller’s House dating to 1777 is the oldest house on this street and was bought with quite an effort from his side. Unfortunately, he enjoyed his home only for a very short time because he died three years after he acquired it in 1802. It’s worth a visit for its impressive decorations and remember Schiller’s work as you walk around.
9. Ginkgo Haus and Gingko Shop
I was surprised to see these premises during my walk. How is Ginkgo related to Weimar? Why would anyone want to buy items associated with the Ginkgo tree while they were in Weimar? I did not know enough.
It all started when Goethe sent a poem that he wrote to Marianne von Willemer, and he attached two Gingko leaves to the letter. He took them from the garden of Heidelberg Castle. It’s a pleasant surprise to find a copy of the letter at the Ginkgo Museum just below the poem.
Goethe and Duke Carl shared an exotic park and garden culture, and Goethe was artistically inspired by the characteristic form of the ginkgo leaf. His poem Ginkgo Biloba is part of his West-Eastern Divan inspired by Hafis.
This is a right place and time to end your literary walking route in Classic Weimar for the first day. There are many decent places to have a break and contemplate for the next day which will be a bit more condensed and still will be in the urban city area.
Read on for Day Two of Literary Walking Route In Classic Weimar here:
(to be published in January)