Our modest group of 18 professionals, students, and academics wandered through the former Eastern Block with bright eyes and bushy tails (well, at least after the jet lag wore off!). We began our trip at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta by gathering in the atrium, and making sure our film was safe from the harmful rays of the dreaded security machines. Upon arrival in Frankfurt after the not-so-short plane ride, we whisked through the airport to the train for a short jaunt to Weimar - the home of the Bauhaus and Johannes Goethe.
Though we were a bit drained from the trip, we joined our first tour guide, translator, and companion, Annette Krug – an intern with the Thüringisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege. She graciously led us around the city and familiarized us with the sights. Afterwards, our first group dinner introduced us to the local cuisine, which largely consisted of bratwurst, some other wursts, and of course, beer!
The next day, we met up with our other intern tour guide and companion, Sophie Ritz. Together we tackled the Thüringian village of Volkenroda where we examined a Cistercian church dating from the Romanesque period that had been restored and partially reconstructed with glass, steel, and concrete – quite a contrast and quite the amazing project. Later, we traveled to Wartburg “Luther” Castle where we took the expanded tour and were able to view ongoing restorations of several paintings. The castle itself was amazing to view – meandering snake-like high on a hill overlooking the town of Eisenach. We wrapped up with an ice cream at the tourist restaurant and bussed it back to Weimar for Museums Nacht. Museums Nacht is a night-time event when all of the museums in the city are open and free to the public, when beer and a bratwurst can be sampled from vendors on the street, and when the sounds of concerts drift to people from lighted windows.
|Arrival in Weimar||Volkenroda Abbey||Wartburg Castle|
On a more somber note, our group visited the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and had a great brown-bag discussion with our tour guide. The grounds at the camp itself were truly amazing; little but rubble outlines of the prisoner barracks is left on the sight of this work camp, but much remains. The Nazi barracks, the electric fence, and the monumental Russian memorial stand in testament to the long past. None left the concentration camp without a sense of what conflict the site’s curators must experience when attempting to interpret a place like Buchenwald to the public.
|Buchenwald Entrance||Soviet Memorial at Buchenwald|
The next day, our group met with the Thüringian (state) preservation office and their professional specialists in the nearby city of Erfurt, where we were able to get a sense of the various roles the office plays in preservation and in the interpretation of history for the public. Our guided tour around the city was led by Dr. Christian Misch, who showed us many of the medieval treasures lurking in the attics and cellars of restored houses and businesses. After a tasty lunch in one of the medieval houses we toured, Professor Christoph Merzenich of Erfurt University presented his work on the restoration of paintings in a local church. Their combined use of various technologies, new and old, to reconstruct lost portions of the painting was very interesting, as was the ensuing discussion of the pros and cons of restoring portions of the paintings that had been either entirely lost or badly damaged by time and pollution. Our late afternoon tour of Erfurt Cathedral and the ongoing tower stabilization and stained-glass window restorations was great, and we were able to watch as one of the windows was being cleaned in a local glass workshop. Some of us stayed on to sample the Erfurt night life before heading back for our last full day in Weimar.
The last day was a walk in the park – no, really! We joined landscape
architect Dr. Marin Baumann of the Thüringian preservation office for
a guided tour of Weimar’s Ilmpark. And how appropriate that it should
rain in this romantic garden in the midst of false ruins, herds of sheep,
and acres of green vistas!!
|Erfurt Cathedral||Kramerbrucke in Erfurt||Roman House in the Ilmpark|
|Brandenburg Gate||Konzerthaus at Gendarmarkt||Russian Embassy|
on Unter den Linden
The Neues Museum was quite amazing, and our group of shutter bugs was in heaven! Ongoing restorations are so comprehensive that they cannot all be described, but they include interior and exterior renovations. Portions of this amazing museum, originally constructed in the early 19th century, were damaged during WWII. Stabilization of many of the supporting walls and columns are an important part of the project, and steel rods were a familiar sight along with peeling wall plaster and missing staircases. Still, the building retained much integrity, and many of the wall paintings and original columns continue to old up. So much so that we were able to watch a local theatre company put on a play in the recesses of one of the old rooms from scaffolding high above – quite a sight!
in Prenzlauer Berg
|Jewish Museum||Garden of Exile and Emigration||Holocaust Void|
Despite our intense itinerary in Germany, the trip home was much more exhausting! Between the Indy-500 taxi rides and the customs line in Frankfurt, everyone wished they were back at the hotel in Berlin (from whose windows many of us were able to watch a Celine Dion concert each night on a large wall across the street in the beer garden - thankfully, the concert was without music!)
Once we arrived in Atlanta, the verdict was in, the trip was a one-of-a-kind experience – in no small part due to the unrelenting efforts of our Director, Richard Laub, and Dr. Joe Perry, who graciously and without complaint translated many of our German-language tours.
GSU © 2003