If you’ve been following me for a while, then by now you’ll know the first thing I do after any trip is to go through my photos and assess the experience. Sharing my trips is a process and I always prefer to have at least a few weeks between the experiences and me before I start to write about them. The main reason for this is that I want to avoid travel euphoria, which is the feeling we get immediately after a trip when we forget everything that went wrong and tend to overstate how amazing the experiences were. Reviewing my photos is key in this more balanced approach and so today I thought I’d share some of the many highlights from that trip, as originally shared both on my own Instagram account as well as the Germany Tourism Instagram account, which I took over for the duration of my trip along the so-called Martin Luther trail in Germany.
The first stop on my Luther experience was an appropriate one, Wittenberg. 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, making it a great time to visit what are some gorgeous cities, starting with the one that is arguably the most important in the Luther story. It was here in Wittenberg where Luther famously nailed his 95 theses to the church door, an event that sparked the Protestant Reformation. I’ve always wanted to visit for the city’s historical value, but I honestly had no idea that it’s so beautiful as well. A warm sunny day helped and the vibrant old town exploded in color, packed with folks out enjoying the weather. At the heart of Wittenberg is this, the Marktplatz. For centuries this is where the most important events in town took place, anchored by the town hall and the towers of the City Church where Martin Luther gave more than 2,000 sermons and even where the first Protestant church service took place. I’m not religious per se, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to attend services in this remarkable building, taking advantage of a special Saturday English service. It’s a unique experience regardless of your beliefs, it’s very much living the history instead of just admiring it. It was also the perfect way to start my Luther adventure.
There’s nothing better than a great view and in Halle that meant climbing the winding steps to the top of the Market Church. Of course it’s always worth the extra effort and even though storm clouds threatened, I was rewarded with stunning views of the city. I’m sorry to say that I knew nothing about Halle before my visit, which kind of surprises me given how important it’s been throughout history. Much of Martin Luther’s story touches Halle but so do the lives of notables names such as Händel, Dürer and more. It’s also just a really nice place to be, even on a somewhat blustery day. Halle though and a few surrounding towns are key to the Luther story, and spending the day exploring them wasn’t only educational, it was also just a whole lot of fun.
The great thing about re-tracing the life and times of Martin Luther is visiting the many towns and cities that were important to him, especially Eisleben. Eisleben is home to both the Luther Birth House as well as his Death House, an interesting quirk of fate that the town served as the setting for the beginning and end of his life. Naturally it’s also just a beautiful town to walk around, adding a special element to what was an engaging and definitely educational day.
A quietly important town in the life of Martin Luther is the peaceful and relaxed Mansfeld Lutherstadt. Mansfeld was one of the smallest towns I visited, but its importance is substantial. Martin Luther spent his childhood in this bucolic place set in the hills and today you can visit the house where his family lived. A few years ago new items from Luther’s family were found and a brand new museum created; a state of the art institution where you can learn all about Luther’s early life. Add to that amazing views like this one from Mansfeld Castle, and it’s a destination worth discovering.
Although my time in Weimar was incredibly brief, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with this classical and remarkable city. I say remarkable for many reasons because, as it turns out, throughout the centuries everyone who was anyone walked along these city streets at some point. In fact, there’s so much in Weimar that UNESCO recognized Classical Weimar as a World Heritage Site, in large part due to the incredible cultural flowering of the 18th and 19th centuries that attracted scholars, artists and writers from around the world. Thankfully you can still see their influence just about everywhere, as well as more modern thought-leaders, like the designers behind the Bauhaus movement. After spending the afternoon just wandering, I find it hard for anyone not to fall in love with Weimar the same way I did.
Look closely at the photo, can you tell what makes this popular sight in Erfurt so unique? Yup, it’s a bridge, the so-called Merchant’s Bridge to be exact. In Medieval times many bridges also had thriving businesses on them, although only a few around Europe still exist. This is actually one of the more notable ones because it includes the longest series of inhabited buildings on any bridge in Europe. The city owns most of the shops on the bridge and only allows merchants selling traditional items or arts to take up residence, reflecting the heritage of the city and region. On top of the shops are apartments and, yes, people really still do live there. The bridge was built in the 1300s and today just 32 buildings are left, flanked on the end by the Church of St. Aegidius, the tower of which I also climbed. I had a great time exploring all of Erfurt, but I think my time on and around this colorful bridge was the highlight of my day.
Wartburg Castle, Eisenach
All week everyone I met told me how much I would love my final stop on the Martin Luther trail and you know what? They were right. Eisenach has certainly played an important role throughout history, whether as Bach’s birthplace or where a Saint got her start. But at the heart of the story is Martin Luther, not only because he studied here, but because later in life it was here, in Wartburg Castle where he hid away from danger and translated the Bible into German. Today the castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a variety of reasons, including Luther, but it’s just an inherently fun place to visit in its own right. I was very impressed by the quality of museums in Eisenach and the castle is no exception. With expertly curated exhibits about both Luther, his influence and the history of the castle, I spent hours here, learning, exploring and just having a great time.