Goethe and Schiller, Herder and Wieland, Nietzsche, Fürnberg, Liszt, Bach, Cornelius, Gropius, Feininger, Klee, Itten. Weimar is intrinsically linked with the great names of Germany's and Europe's intellectual past. Both Weimar Classicism and the Bauhaus remain beacons of the extraordinarily rich cultural life that is abundantly and harmoniously manifest in the town.
Although it only lasted around 50 years, Weimar Classicism was one of the greatest eras in European intellectual history. It all began with Duchess Anna Amalia, who drew the great poets and philosophers to the small town despite its distance from the seats of power. Their fame is still associated with Weimar today. Reminders of Classical Weimar include the places where the writers and their patrons lived and worked – the houses of Goethe and Schiller, Belvedere Palace, Ettersburg Palace and Tiefurt House with their fabulous parks, sites associated with Herder, Wittums Palace, where the illustrious round table assembled, the renowned Duchess Anna Amalia Library and the historical cemetery with its royal crypt, where you can see the tombs of Goethe and Schiller. The adoption of Classical Weimar as a UNESCO World Heritage site was based both on the art-historical significance of the town's buildings and parks from the cultural flowering of the Classical Weimar period and on the role of the town as an intellectual centre in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. For all these reasons and more, Weimar was one of the European Capitals of Culture in 1999. Another great epoch that emerged and flourished in Weimar was the Bauhaus, one of the foremost movements in architecture and design of the 20th century and regarded by many as Germany's most significant export at that time. The Bauhaus museum's 300 plus exhibits provide an insight into the work of the State Bauhaus, whose creations have lost nothing of their timeless and simple beauty.
One of the most important reminders of Classical Weimar is the renowned Duchess Anna Amalia Library, which has been restored to its former glory following a devastating fire in 2004. Although 50,000 books were lost forever, the library remains a testament to German and European education and literacy. The baroque house on Frauenplan, where Goethe lived for almost 50 years, is another unmissable stopping point on any tour of Weimar. Today, the house looks largely as it did during the final years of the poet's life. Goethe's summer house in the park on the river Ilm was a gift from Duke Carl August to tie the poet to Weimar – and it was always to remain his sanctuary in the midst of nature. Goethe's talent for overseeing architectural projects is substantiated by the Roman House, which is within sight of the summer house and was Weimar's first neo-classical building. It may not be a classic in the usual sense, but the 'Zum weissen Schwan' restaurant is always worth a visit. Lying diagonally across from Goethe House, it is said to be where the poet enjoyed the odd glass of wine or two. The name Friedrich Schiller most certainly represents the glory of Weimar Classicism: his eleven-year collaboration with Goethe was the heyday of the era. Schiller spent the final years of his life in a town house on what was then the Weimar esplanade. Nowadays the house is furnished with period furniture, some of which is original, while the permanent exhibition entitled 'Schiller in Thuringia' gives a deep insight into his life and work. Franz Liszt, the brilliant virtuoso, also took up residence in Weimar, to the extent that his ambitious touring schedule permitted. He lived in the former court gardener's house, now a Liszt museum, at the entrance to the park. It also fits with the town's liberal, progressive heritage that the Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (whose capital was Weimar) was the first to be granted a constitution in 1816 and that the first republic on German soil was established here in 1919 – the Weimar Republic. It is all the more inconceivable that it was within sight of this place, where Germany presented itself so proudly as a nation of culture, that the Buchenwald concentration camp, the scene of 50,000 murders, could have been built by that very same nation. If you come to Weimar, you should also come to Buchenwald – and pay your respects to the memorial site. Only then will you have seen Weimar in its entirety.
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