You don’t have to be a theologian to visit Luther Country and trace the footsteps of Martin Luther, an influential man not only in religion but also in the arts, politics, education, and in shaping the modern German language through his translation of the Bible. Set amid some of Germany’s most beautiful scenery and protected woodlands, the centrally located States of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia boast small towns and villages that will impress travelers with their history, culture, art, and gastronomy.
In 2007, Luther Country began a ten-year celebration building up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, highlighting a particular theme each year and celebrating in the historic cities that dot the bucolic countryside. Whether traveling by car or train, you can tailor your visit to include the numerous sights in and around towns brimming with activities and amenities suited for those seeking to discover the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
Each city in Luther Country offers guests a chance to immerse themselves in this less-traveled part of Germany, discovering some of the region’s highlights such as Eisenach and Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther hid while translating the Bible; Lutherstadt Wittenberg where he nailed his 95 theses to the church door, an event that would change the course of European history; Eisleben, the city in which Martin Luther spent most of his life and where one can visit his birthplace, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you’re an architecture aficionado, don’t overlook Weimar and Dessaus. Aside from being a city that embraced the Reformation early on, Weimar is home to the Bauhaus Museum, and in nearby Dessaus one can find the Masters’ Houses designed by Walter Gropius, also included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
There are several dozen beautifully preserved destinations that can be included in a short or extended visit to the area so you’d do well to book a night or two at some of the splendid hotels found throughout the area. The Elephant Hotel, whose history dates back to the early 16th century and has now been updated with sleek elegance and Bauhaus details, is one of many options for the discerning traveler. And since Martin Luther loved the pleasures of the table don’t miss the Hotel Elephant’s Anna Amalia restaurant, recently named one of the ten best restaurants in Germany and the only restaurant in Thuringia to have achieved Michelin star status. For more traditional fare, seek out some of the emblematic local dishes like the Thuringian Rostbratwurst, which dates back to 1404 and is said to have been one of Martin Luther’s favorite repasts.
With centuries to develop an impressive religious, historical and cultural identity, Luther Country is like no other place you’ve visited. The time is now to take up this opportunity and enjoy what the region has to offer during the decade-long celebration of the Reformation. ■