Famously home to such companies as Schott Glas and Zeiss, Jena offers a remarkable combination of industrial and intellectual heritage, research, innovation and academia. This is as evident in the city's institutions and universities as it is in the bars of the wonderful old quarter, which as cosy as they are traditional.
Light, glass and optics: thanks to the 'big three' – Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott – Jena became one of Germany's leading industrial cities during the second half of the 19th century. Their collaboration produced the Zeiss factory and Schott Glas, both famous around the world. Research and enterprise cemented Jena's status as a centre of science and learning – a status that brings with it some exceptional museums. Chief among these are, of course, the Schott Glass Museum and the Optical Museum, dedicated to the life and legacy of Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe. But there are fascinating museums of literature and art history as well, including the City Museum at Alte Göhre or the Kunsthof Jena gallery. Jena is also dotted with architectural monuments, many of them associated with famous names. For example, there's the Zeiss planetarium that first opened in 1926, or the telescope-shaped JenTower, the tallest building in the city and the second tallest in eastern Germany.
Three other high-rise buildings are of particular interest too, each one helpfully named after the year of its completion: Bau 15 (Germany's first ever high-rise), Bau 36 and Bau 59 are prominent features of the city centre. Jena's idyllic setting in the Saale valley, ringed by steep limestone cliffs, makes it a very special destination. This was not lost on Goethe, who enjoyed regular trips to Jena, spending a total of five years in the city. Fellow writer Friedrich Schiller lived in Jena for twice that time. His summer house on Schillergässchen is a magnet for literature buffs – the oval stone table where he often sat with Goethe remains in the garden to this day. Then as now, the well-kept streets of the old quarter were the centre of social, student and literary life. Today, of course, there are also trendy cafés, excellent restaurants and delightful shops. You can even still see some of the 'seven wonders' of Jena here, such as the ornamental astronomical clock on the town hall and the Draco from around 1600, a terrifying dragon with seven heads thought to represent a board of examiners at the university.
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