Central Germany is preparing to celebrate 500 years of Martin Luther’s Reformation. You know the guy from his hammering of the 95 Theses on a church door. Of course, apparently, this almost certainly never happened, but it speaks to the many legends, surprises, and uncomfortable truths that surround the man. On one hand he was responsible for giving poorer Germans a voice by creating a modern, universally used form of the language they spoke. Then again, he also sided with the aristocracy during the bloody Peasants’ War (even though his words and beliefs arguably inspired the revolt) and his antisemitic diatribes were later used in Nazi propaganda.
This isn’t anything modern Germany hides from, mind you, nor in their celebration of 500 years of the Reformation. That’s the unique thing about Germany, as pointed out in Neil MacGregor’s mammoth history of the country, Germany: Memories of a Nation. Whereas most countries celebrate only their triumphs, Germany puts its faults and flawed characters out front and center. Martin Luther embodies it all; triumphs, faults and flaws.
You don’t need to be Lutheran or German to appreciate or find interest in the history. I, after all, am as religious as a rock. Still, following Luther’s footsteps by way of the aptly named Lutherweg gives a healthy mixture of enthralling history and a taste of some of Germany’s lesser-traveled yet unquestionably fantastic cities.
During my visit, I made stops in Erfurt, Eisenach and Hainich National Park in Luther’s home state of Thuringia. Below I’ve laid out a collection of photos during my limited trek along the Lutherweg where German history goes beyond Martin Luther. Eisenach, for instance, was one Johann Sebastian Bach’s hometown as well as the site of the 11th Century Wartburg Castle.
Enjoy the photographic trip and stay tuned for some video of the region.
The view of Erfurt from the Brühler Garten.
Walking through one of the many pedestrian plazas full of restaurant patios in Erfurt.
The more decadent, the obviously Catholic Erfurter Dom.
A statue of Martin Luther in Erfurt with Psalm 118:17 etched in marble.
The medieval Krämerbrücke or Merchants’ Bridge that linked Rome to the Baltic Sea following its initial construction in the 12th Century.
Napoleon’s headquarters during his jaunt through historic Germany.
A return to Brühler Garten to hear the echo of the opera at night.
A Thüringer favorite…
…and the Thüringer original.
Modern trams cross through pedestrian plazas in Erfurt.
The cobblestone path leading up into the heart of Krämerbrücke.
A neighbor of the Bauchhaus of Eisenach.
Some of the older buildings and shops of Eisenach’s Karlsplatz.
Inside Eisenach’s Georgenkirche.
Markets are open for business in the heart of Eisenach.
Kids running around the Martin Luther statue in Eisenach at Karlsplatz.
More market shopping in Eisenach.
The leafy view from Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther wrote his German version of The Bible in hiding.
Georgenkirche stands over the city center of Eisenach.
The decadent festival hall of Wartburg Castle.
Cycling one-handed on the Lutherweg in Hainich National Park, doing the “travel writer pose” of pretending I don’t know I’m filming myself.
A typical open field view along the Lutherweg in Hainich National Park.
Finishing the bike ride with lunch at Graues Schloss.
An aerial view of Hainich National Park and the canopy walk way.
The horizon beyond Hainich National Park where tanks once roamed for military training before German reunification.