End of this week the Evangelic Christians in Europe memorize the Reformation day. This event – today widely ignored because it is somehow “religious” - marks a milestone of the European history and development.
We would not be “Europeans” with our values of freedom and democracy, if there wouldn't have been people: which stand for their convincement, which searched for truth and which were aware that mankind is responsible for the things we are doing.
To honour this anniversary, this week´s riddle shows a motive of the core city of Reformation: Wittenberg Lutherstadt, for his relevance sometimes called the “German Rome”.
But to show, that the residents are willingly, not to remain in eternal memory of past glory days, the most atypical attraction was chosen: An old East-German Standard School, today home for the Philipp-Melanchthon-Gymnasium, reconstructed in the 1990's according to designs of Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser and folksy named for this artist.
He designed finally about twelve other objects in Germany, everything worth of a visit.
Travel at a glance
Best period: whole year | General Info: www.wittenberg.de
Visitors, entering first time this little town, will be surrounded by Luther and Reformation like e.g. Weimar highlights Goethe, then Goethe, and after a while of course Goethe. He was here too… But the specific flair of this place may illustrate an episode just happened a few years ago:
A delegation of Italian Bankers visited Wittenberg, and they were surprised about two strange things: That everybody could enter a bank building without security door. And they could not believe, that the man, who was sweeping the pavement in front of a house, was introduced - and greeted by their guide - as the Prime Minister of Saxony-Anhalt government (it was a hot summer day, and government holidays). But he was and still is.
This little anecdote may illustrate, what characterize the unknown secret of the successful reformation: here the people (still) meet each other on eyes level.
Academic conceit or snobbery do not perform obstacles for new ideas, lateral thinking or crude ideas. The mutinous monk Martin Luther was not tutored and did not get muzzled: he got the chance to explain, to continue his search – able, to express his perceptions in the voice of the common people.
And the Elector of Saxony was always well informed and listened the friends of the young man well before trying to decide. This was the situation at the time of the reformation, and it seems that some of this “spirit” still remains.
Today the centre breath history – just 4 places of UNESCO world heritage to find in one street – and the surrounding region offers nature and a certain slow-down-feeling.
The town's centre is to discover completely in a walking mode. Most visitors will come to the ancient Black Monastery, today better known as Luther House. The museum there tells the major facts about the life and the environment of the Reformator.
Beside this place, an old hill – covering the remains of a WWII-bunker – was equipped with interesting mirror-galleries. Staying there grants a good view over the western meadows and to the so-called Luther-oak at the little park eastwards. The romantic story of this oak is to find at the museum too.
Martin Luther was the explorer, the researcher, the popular guy. But what he said in vox populi, his friend and collaborator Philipp Melanchthon mediated into the spiritual world of philosophers and scientists of that period.
His house is to find a few steps in direction to the marketplace. Walking in direction to the imposing tower of the castle church, don't hesitate to have a look to the interior courtyards – they are open and accessible when public.
The most impressive could be the Beyers Court (Markt 6) – today mainly occupied by a restaurant with brewery, but in summer this become a theatre stage. The most romantic place instead would be one of the Cranach´s Courts (Schlossstr. 1).
Two churches dominate the skyline of Wittenberg, both linked with the reformatory activities. The town-church with the twin towers is a little bit hidden behind the domestic architecture.
The author recommends a guided explanation of the altarpiece, and who has good eyes may see on the right motive “Luther Predigt” the puncture at Luther's throat, made by the sword of a Spanish officer during the 30-years-war.
Not to forget the graffiti autographs backside the altarpiece, amongst them a Russian Zar….
The castle-church dominates the western end of the promenades. Famous for the portal with the 95 theses, the author recommends climbing the tower first. Only 289 steps to reach the platform at 63 m altitude – and who has a binocular may benefit of maximum view (for the absence of industrial air pollution).
Inside the church the main sights are Luther's grave and the leadlight windows. At the castle´s courtyard then to find medieval architecture and a youth hostel.
And last but not least in this selection of town sights: The Hundertwasser-school, but situated in the socialist development area.
Who decides to walk there, may pass the Sternstrasse with two interesting points: At civil number 16 – today a guest house - was in GDR period a so called “Jugendwerkhof”, quite similar to imprisonment, of teenagers.
And later the area between Thomas-Müntzer-Straße and Theodor-Fontane-Straße - till 1994 those houses were occupied by Soviet Army Officers and their families. Today hardly to remember, Wittenberg during the post-war-period was a garrison town with a few thousands soviet soldiers.
Their infrastructure based on the former German barracks, they had own shop and own school. And – some scary facts for those who miss a little bit Halloween-feeling this time: As the author – who grew up here – is informed, a nuclear Pershing II missile was programmed for Wittenberg. This means only 5 minutes between detection and detonation.
Otherwise – it was always a suspicion of the population, that in the Fläming hills behind the town one or two SS20 missiles waited for their ignition (or at least the bunker was ready to shelter them).
The river Elbe here was the agreed line for “denuclearized zone” between the major forces of the cold war. Eastside of the river there is still a big complex, habituated approx. one soviet armoured regiment in the past – now it is a recreation zone with a marina.
Not far away – with frequent bus and train connections – another UNESCO World Heritage: the Dessau-Wörlitz Garden-Realm offers unforgettable walks and views. A little hint for nostalgists: the ferry at Coswig is worth of a passage.
The administrative region – similar to a province – offers some more points of interest. Just to memorize the water-castle Reinharz, abroad but rare architecture (and visitors may proof, if this was built according to a year with 4 wings, 52 rooms and 365 windows).
Or from that zone, with one of the ferries, turning back to the other side and try a wine of the most north vineyards in Germany, to find at Jessen, quite to see as the outback of Saxony-Anhalt. And – mostly not seen by tourists – the KZ-memorial at Lichtenburg of Prettin remembers to the dark times of nationalism.
Northside of Wittenberg Lutherstadt the Fläming hills hide some other nice surprise – Rabenstein castle is such a hidden gem.
And who is interested in arts, or just want to try his own sculpture or painting, may have a look to the “Kunstscheune” Stackelitz – an old cowshed became a colorful, inspired atelier, where everybody is invited to live his fantasy.
Ho prefers more passive pleasure may find this finally at the “Park of the Angels” at Bülzig, a small village (but with a train stop).