My pointless series of guides to the past continues with two of the more famous town in Thuringia.
I stayed once in the Hotel Elephant. It was creepy to later discover that Hitler's room there had lain untouched since WW II. No-one told them what to do with it so they just left it as it was.
Another 25 km east of Erfurt is Weimar, a city associated in British minds with the decadence of 20's Germany (which in fact mostly took place in Berlin). To Germans, it's one of the main centres of classical German culture through its connections with Goethe, Schiller and a host of other writers, musicians and painters. In one of those little ironies of 30's Germany, one of the most notorious concentration camps, Buchenwald, is just outside this city of art. Today they concentrate on the more cultured aspects of the past and the town is littered with museums and memorials to Goethe and Schiller. The centre of the town, having been spared bombing, is very attractive. In keeping with its prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries, there's a higher proportion of neo-classical architecture than elsewhere in Thuringia.
On Markt, smack in the centre of the old town, is the Hotel Elephant. Its cellar restaurant (10 - 22), recently tarted up, has the vaulted ceiling and appearance typical of a Ratskellar. It possible verges a little on the bland, with little decoration and rather glaring lighting. The food is pretty good and not too unreasonable in price. The beer is draught Ehringsdorfer Pils. Walking over to the opposite side of the Markt and along Dimitroffstraße you come to another square, Herderplein. Here is Gastmahl des Meeres, the local branch of a chain of fish restaurants. They vary in quality (the one opposite the Fernsehturm in Berlin is to be avoided), but this is one of the better ones. In its uncomplicated single room, decked out in appropriately nautical style, there's a good range of seafood at very reasonable prices. Again, the beer is Ehringsdorfer Pils.
Continuing eastward from Weimar another 25 km will bring you to Jena, a town made famous by the Karl Zeiss optical works (and the football team of the same name). Its impact on the town is very evident as, although the town has a long history and a famous university, the factory dominates the town, covering a large central area. The rest of the town looks rather down-at-heel, with the extensive war damage not particularly well repaired. The Marktplatz has been restored, but otherwise there's just the odd original building stuck between a collection of banal post-war constructions. A bit like Frankfurt-am-Main, on a smaller scale.
On Lutherplatz, between the Hauptbahnhof and the city centre is the Schwarzer Bär. This modest old building is, remarkably, the only hotel in town (unbelievable, given that it has a population of over 100,000). The small and homely restaurant (10 - 22) has a limited but ample range of food and sells the local Jena Pils on draught.
Over on the other side of town is Westbahnhof. Looking remarkably like a rural station in the UK, this houses one of the few genuinely pleasant and welcoming Mitropas (10 - 22). It's compact and cosy, without the appearance of having changed a great deal since the station was built. Perhaps its slightly obscure location and branch line character save it from the unsavoury characters who tend to plague Mitropas. It sells draught Jena Pils.
Tel: +49 3643 8020
Tel: +49 3641 4060
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