An April 2003 trip
to Weimar by drhough
Quote: In the region of Thuringia, Weimar has been a cultural mecca for writers and
philosophers, the birthplace of German literary romanticism, and a World Heritage gem.
The city enjoys what I would call a "legacy of delight." For example, the poet Goethe
designed the city park and filled it with "ancient ruins" he himself commissioned to be
built there in the 18th Century! (Anything to enchant his beloved garden home in the
park!) Another patron of the city, wealthy Duchess Anna Amalia, donated land to widen
and improve the main avenue, now a visitor’s promenade lined with famous statuary and
fountains, trees, and unique, pleasing pavement. Picture-perfect Schillerstrasse
must be one of the most photogenic streets in Germany! Its attractions include the
Widow’s Palace, Schillerhaus, Bauhaus Museum, the German National Theater,
City Museum, and rows of quaint shops. Every street and square in town follows
Attractions span several centuries. Churches date from medieval times and are decorated
with Cranach masterpieces. The Market Square from the 1500’s had its north side
bombed during WWII and was rebuilt with Apothecary and other attractions. The
highlight of our trip was staying at Hotel Elephant (1542), my favorite hotel anywhere in
the world, on Market Square. The homes of Goethe (2 of them) and Schiller and the
Widow’s Palace take us up to the time of Goethe’s death (1837), the heyday of Weimar
as a mecca for thinkers with new ideas. Nietzsche (1844-1900) was also here with his
"God is dead" philosophy co-existing with churches preaching German Reformation
doctrine since the 1500’s. (The Neitzsche Archives are here.) One can’t find a more
interesting or diverse intellectual background!
Visitor Info is easy to find on the Markt.
In the pedestrian zone, signposts on every corner point the way to all attractions. We
hardly needed a walking map, but Visitor Info has them, and so do hotels.
Hotel | "Hotel Elephant, a Sheraton Antique"
This crowd likes understated, intellectualized elegance, so chic modern art and Bauhaus
furnishings contrast with the hotel setting first recorded in 1542. More statuary than I’ve
ever seen in a hotel and on its grounds decorate the lobby, balconies, Anna Amalia
Courtyard, and restaurants (3). This is the place to admire Bauhaus decor, since the
design movement started here and the Bauhaus Museum is here. We toured the entire
building, a showcase for that design movement, as well as for the centuries of Weimar’s
history, since the establishment, located on the center market square, was the center of
life here by 1600.
One of the fine restaurants is named after the Duchess Anna Amalia, friend of the poets
and leader of the city’s social life in Goethe’s day. This formal room extends onto a stone
patio with pond, bronze statuary, and a large elephant topiary in the enclosed courtyard
with weeping trees. We chose the romantic cellar with Thuringian menu for a delicious
late dinner. A third dining room and enticing Marlene piano bar were notably beautiful.
Our room was a suite with sofa and chair on one side of a room divider and sleeping
room on the other. Our bath had the usual three facilities, each divided from the others
with their own partitions--extra nice bath. The best things about our room on fourth
floor were two sets of hinged windows that opened onto center market, where
there was always activity to watch. Service and hospitality were exceptional and included
turn-down, chocolates, and closing the curtains while we were out in the
We especially liked the day clerk at the front desk. She spoke perfect English and always
asked where we had visited each time we went out, which we did often, since all
attractions were just up the streeet. She offered extra commentary on each one and on the
hotel’s history and design, too. Her smile was "lighted," and we hope to see it again! She made an already perfect stay even better.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 22, 2003
Guests in the hotel, we had only to walk downstairs, but an outside entrance is on the
market square. On this weekday in April, many tables were not occupied, and we got a
large circular booth along the wall. I am told that the population of Weimar doubles in
summer and that reservations are recommended in season. A large party near our table
spoke a variety of languages and conversed in groups of two. These were parents visiting
students at the Franz Liszt School of Music just around the corner.
Our large circular booth had the wall above it decorated with a poem by Goethe about
Wasser or water. Other decorations included statues of the poets at the entrances
and busts of them on platforms behind some of the booths. Our menu was in English,
good for me, since this was the first restaurant in Germany where I could read the
descriptions of the dishes. I was so content with this, I read the history of the restaurant,
too. Then came the difficult decision: I ordered one of the dishes with roast beef and
goose livers with mushrooms. The meat with brown sauce was good, and so were the
potato dollars. My companion had Thuringian beef stew with salad and potato dumplings
and was pleased with her meal. We were inundated with bread, three kinds, all warm and
delicious and more than we could finish. Service was impeccable.
When we were finished with our meal, we stopped in the hallway on our way out for
some photos with the famous poets. We’re still talking months later about the pleasant
experience we had at the Elephantenkeller. In other towns, we looked for the
cellars or weinstubens and sampled others, and then we decided that this one was
Elephantenkeller is open year round for lunch and for dinner after 6:00 pm. It isn’t
difficult to find on the center square.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 23, 2003
19 Markt at Hotel Elephant
Attraction | "Park an der Ilm"
When we entered the wood, we knew nothing about it except that it would lead us to
Goethe’s Garden House, his first home that he would never sell because he enjoyed it and the park in summer, even after he moved from the scene. After touring it, we walked back to town via a different path and discovered a large statue in the park. Imagine our surprise at stumbling across Shakespeare so far from home in an 18th Century wood! The bard wasn’t all. Behind him, a partial wall suggested a theater. We climbed up to it, and from there, we saw the entrance to an ancient temple--just the entrance, standing there by itself without any visible means of support. Only when we returned to the hotel did we learn
that Goethe had had these "ruins" built here. A follower of his had placed the statue in 1900. I’m still wondering what statement he
intended to make with this metaphor! Or is it metaphorical at all? Maybe he just liked
We encountered people romping with children and dogs. An occasional bicycle rolled along the primitive surfaces of packed gravel paths, defined by sparse rustic cover just enough to minimize our contact with the damp dirt, not enough to ruin the perfect scene from another time. A mist lay on the River Ilm, and I wished that I had talent as a painter. Even more than the old town center, this idyllic park took me back to another century. The wood is large, and since we were committed to a tour, we didn’t see it all. Two hours here would have satisfied me more.
On the way back to the hotel (2 blocks), we stumbled across more statuary: a
pedestaled bust of Alexander Pushkin, another writer far from home. He surprised us in
an unlikely place, along the sidewalk in front of what appeared to be an ordinary
house. As I said before, everything in Weimar is intended to delight and surprise.
Park on the Ilm-Weimar Park
On The Ilm River
The bakeries in Weimar are superb, and we allowed ourselves to throw all dietary caution
to the wind and visit more than one each morning. One needs no more justification than
this: a person would have to consume a whole bag of German sweets to get the worthless
calories in one American donut! American cereals even have more sugar than a
typical German pastry with creamy or fruity goodness inside. No wonder the bakery is an
important institution in German life, so much more than in ours. And, this fact makes the
nostalgic trip back in time complete. We could be children again and let our innocent
fancy choose our breakfast.
If we had forgotten to visit the bakeries, we would have been reminded as soon as we
stepped out the hotel door, because everyone else in town carried their sheets of wax
paper with treats exposed and half consumed. We hurried to our first tour but found a
cherry torte on the way. An hour later, we got fruit-filled cookies on the way back to the
hotel. This turned into a routine (tour/bakery) which culminated in the best find of all:
our beloved bienenstich can be found at D. Reichenbach at the corner of the
Markt! The egg yolk pudding in the middle was rich, but not very sweet. The
cake was similar to the one we make, only cut in small square portions for one person.
Like some other German sweets, the recipe calls for fine dry breadcrumbs soaked in milk,
rather than flour, and the result is much more satisfying.
Reichenbach’s selection is good. We were so excited about finding our familiar
favorite that we forgot to buy bread, but I remember they had a good selection of that, too.
I also remember the crowds at every establishment we stopped at. Reichenbach
bakery was full of patrons, and the wait required us to take a number. Bienenstich
is worth it!
D. Reichenbach Bakery
Corner of the Center Square
West Virginia, United States