#AtoZChallenge2015: Weimar

The town nests in the rolling hills of Thuringia, surrounded by woods and battlefields from the Napoleonic wars: Weimar is above all a city of german culture, the rest place of Goethe and Schiller. For us, it is a charming stop on the long road to the capital, a place to remember Werther, the Bauhaus, and the death of the first German democracy…

DSC_0564“Weimar is situated within the valley of Ilm river, a tributary of Saale river on the southern border of the Thuringian Basin, a fertile agricultural area between the Harz mountains 70 km (43 mi) in the north and the Thuringian Forest 50 km (31 mi) in the southwest. The municipal terrain is hilly; the height of the city centre in Ilm valley is approximately 200 m of elevation. To the north, the terrain rises to Ettersberg, the city’s 482 m high backyard mountain. The range of hills in the south of Weimar rises up to 370 m and is part of the Ilm Saale Plate Muschelkalk formation. The eastern, central and western parts of the municipal territory are in agricultural use, whereas the Ettersberg and some southern areas are wooded…

After the Treaty of Leipzig (1485) Weimar became part of the electorate of the Ernestine branch of Wettins with Wittenberg as capital. The Protestant Reformation was introduced in Weimar in 1525; Martin Luther stayed several times in the city. As the Ernestines lost the Schmalkaldic War in 1547, their capital Wittenberg went also to the Albertines, so that they needed a new residence. As the ruler returned from captivity, Weimar became his residence in 1552 and remained as such until the end of the monarchy in 1918. The first Ernestine territorial partition in 1572 was followed by various ones, nevertheless Weimar stayed the capital of different Saxe-Weimar states. The court and its staff brought some wealth to the city, so that it saw a first construction boom in the 16th century. The 17th century brought decline to Weimar, because of changing trade conditions (as in nearby Erfurt). Besides, the territorial partitions led to the loss of political importance of the dukes of Saxe-Weimar and their finances shrunk. The city’s polity weakened more and more and lost its privileges, leading to the absolutist reign of the dukes in the early 18th century. On the other hand, this time brought another construction boom to Weimar, and the city got its present appearance, marked by various ducal representation buildings. The city walls were demolished in 1757 and during the following decades, Weimar expanded in all directions. The biggest building constructed in this period was the Schloss as the residence of the dukes (north and east wing: 1789–1803, west wing 1832–1835, south wing: 1913–1914). Between 1708 and 1717 Johann Sebastian Bach worked as the court’s organist in Weimar…

The period from the start of the regencies of Anna Amalia (1758–1775) and her son Carl August (1775–1828) through to Goethe’s death in 1832 is denoted as the “golden” or the “classical” age because of the high level of cultural activity in Weimar. The city became an important cultural centre of Europe, having been home to such luminaries as GoetheSchillerHerderWieland and Bertuch; and in music the piano virtuoso Hummel. It has been a site of pilgrimage for the German intelligentsia since Goethe first moved to Weimar in 1775. Goethe was also active in civic duties while living there. He served as Privy Councilor to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach for an extended period. The tombs of Goethe and Schiller, as well as their archives, may be found in the city. Goethe’s Elective Affinities (1809) is set around the city of Weimar. In comparison to many major German states, the dukes’ policy was liberal and tolerant in this period. The liberal Saxe-Weimar constitution was brought into effect in 1816…

The time after Goethe’s death is denoted as the “silver” age because Weimar remained an influential cultural centre. The first emphasis was fostering music. In 1842, Franz Liszt moved to Weimar as court conductor. He organized the premiere of Richard Wagner‘s Lohengrin (1850) in the city. The Weimar School of Music was founded in 1872 as Germany’s first orchestra school. Richard Strauss worked in Weimar between 1889 and 1894 as second conductor in the acclaimed Staatskapelle Weimar (the court orchestra founded in 1491). Several of his encores for works such as Hansel and GretelDon Juan and Macbeth were performed by the Staatskapelle Weimar. In 1897, Friedrich Nietzsche moved to Weimar and died here in 1900.

In 1860 the Weimar Saxon-Grand Ducal Art School, the precursor of today’s Bauhaus University, was founded. This was the beginning of academic arts education in Weimar. The institution created its own painting style, the “Weimar School” of painting with representatives such as Max Liebermann and Arnold Böcklin. The Kunstgewerbeschule Weimar was found by Henry van de Veldewith the support of Grand Duke William Ernest in 1902 and represents the other root of the Bauhaus, known as “Das Neue Weimar” (“The New Weimar”) around Harry Graf Kessler. It was a foundation against Prussia‘s restrictive arts policy favouring Historicisminstead of international Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau.

Already in the 19th century, the curation of Weimar and its heritage started. Many archives, societies and museums were found to present and conserve the cultural sights and goods. In 1846, Weimar was connected by the Thuringian Railway. In the following decades, the city saw a construction and population boom (like most late-19th-century cities in Germany). Nevertheless, Weimar did not become industrialised, and remained a city of clerks, artists and rentiers. During the German Revolution of 1918–19 the last reigning grand duke of Saxe-Weimar-EisenachWilliam Ernest, had to abdicate and went in exile to Heinrichau in Silesia…”

About the Weimar Republic… We remember the hopes, the murdered revolution, the legacy…

About the Bauhaus

Image: the Goethe and Schiller monument in front of the Nationaltheater in Weimar (© Honoré Dupuis 2013)

#AtoZChallenge: April 2, 2013 – Berlin

Über den Dächern von Berlin

There is no theme to these posts, other than perhaps geography, as in places, landscapes and people – and of course writing, books, authors and you, reader.  Some cities are more propitious to certain books, whether as one travels to them (those long journeys on fast trains across Europe), or in the new surroundings, as one discovers streets, buildings, history and faces.

Berlin has a special place in this writer’s heart and mind.  The capital of reunited Germany,  her intellectual and youth capital as well as the political one, may well become one day the capital of an enlarged European Federation – from the Atlantic to the Urals, to paraphrase Charles De Gaulle – but this is in a future as yet undeclared.  The city covers just under 900 sqkm, and her boundaries are 234 km long.  The length of her main river, the Spree, is 45 km.  Her population at the end of 2012 was 3,513,026.

Berlin is one city on the long list of the world’s martyr cities of the 20th century: together with many other German cities incinerated by the “Allies”, Dresden, Hamburg, Bremen, Stuttgart, together with Coventry, Leningrad, Stalingrad, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki… and many others.  In Germany’s year zero – 1945 – the city was split, occupied, a hostage in a divided country in ruins.

Berlin has not forgotten anything from her history, from her early development as a medieval trading centre, through becoming the royal capital of the Prussian kingdom, the napoleonic occupation, her transformation into the imperial capital of the German Reich, the cosmopolitan city of the ill-fated Weimar Republic, the destruction of 1945, to the fall of the “Wall”, and now her position in a powerful country at the centre of the European Union.

Reichstag Some of her buildings and squares have more than iconic values: there are for us places of pilgrimage: the Reichstag, burnt by the Nazis, now seat again of the modern legislature – “Dem Deutschen Volke” – shrapnels and bullets marked, the Tiergarten, the Spree, Museumsinsel, the place near Humboldt Universität where the Nazis burnt books, Checkpoint Charlie…

And what book?  It has to be Alfred Döblin’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, written in 1929.  Berlin’s literature is rich, varied and well worth exploring… Perhaps see you there!

Dem Deutschen Voke

Links to the city and her past:

Jewish Museum

Liane Berkowitz

The Guardian’s City Guide

Joerg Von Stein

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