Erfurt Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Erfurt

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    An underground walk with torches

    by christine.j Updated Sep 19, 2006

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    Above Erfurt there is a citadel, called Petersberg. It used to be a monastery first and was later transformed into barracks for soldiers.It's huge and you have a great view over the cathedral and Erfurt.There are many underground passages, very narrow, which had been used as escape routes in case of a siege. Erfurt Tourist Information offers guided walks into these passages, the only light coming from torches. I mean the ones with real fire, not a flashlight.We did this walk and really enjoyed it.Not everybody gets to carry a torch, but there is enough light to see. You have to walk in a single file as it's so narrow. Sometimes you can look up and see escape chimneys, even narrower. I felt a lot of pity for the poor soldiers who had to climb out there, wearing their heavy armour, not knowing what would await them once they're out there.

    Today the tunnels are safe, provided people are careful with their torches. You may encounter a few bats and mice and the occasional spider, but apart from this it's quite safe.
    It's a great walk for kids! There were several in our group and they all loved it. Of course they all wanted to carry a torch.

    For those of you who have watched the movie The Lord of the Rings: Sometimes we felt we're right in the middle of it.

    This walk costs 6,50 Euro per adult, 3,50 for kids/students. It's absolutely worth it.
    Make sure you wear good shoes and bring a jacket. And you shouldn't be too claustrophobic.
    We were able to get tickets one hour prior to the walk, but we were told it's safer to book ahead.

    Torches in the underground passages
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    Poor Wolfram

    by christine.j Updated Sep 19, 2006

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    Inside the cathedral in Erfurt you see a candleholder which looks like a man. It's mansize and he is holding up his arms with a large candle in each of them. This is Wolfram. He was a man in 12th century who must have been some kind of criminal. The citizens of Erfurt were very angry with him and sentenced him to stand in front of the cathedral, holding two heavy candles in his arms. By this they wanted to make sure he'd "see the light". You can imagine how heavy the candles must have been and how difficult and painful this must have been for him. After a few Sundays the citizens took pity on him and allowed him to have a candleholder made which looked like him. He had it done in bronze and it's said to have been first free-standing
    bronze statue in Germany.

    Doesn't that look like a painful pose?
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    Woad Barn

    by christine.j Updated Nov 6, 2006

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    One of the goods which had made Erfurt rich and famous as a trading town was the dyer's-weed woad.
    It grew in the woods around the town, was collected, ground,dried and formed into small balls. These balls had to be in barrels for several months, covered with urine ! to give them a nice, blue colour.So instead of going to the toilet people there went to the barrels. Some hotel owners even made money by selling the contents of their chamberpots.During my last visit in Erfurt I learned that it had to be male urine. Female urine didn't work.
    How does anybody find out about this?? I mean, you see a green plant . How does anybody get the idea that these green leaves will make a nice, blue colour when , well, you know what I mean. I guess, I'd never make a good inventor.
    These barrels were kept in the attics and it must have been a VERY smelly affair. This is why these attics had a lot of windows, certainly a lot more than any normal house.
    Today this house is a theatre. It has been thouroughly aired.

    The windows were needed
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    Petersberg Citadel

    by christine.j Written Sep 19, 2006

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    The citadel is not only interesting in its underground passages, but also from the outside. You can walk around and enjoy the view. There are canons standing around and you can still see the many look-outs. The citadel was never conquered.
    The draw bridge has been turned into a cobble stoned street now, but you can still see the main gate with the spiked fence coming out of the ceiling. Next to the drawbridge there is a small door. This was used for latecomers, so that they soldiers didn't have to let the bridge down for just one person. When you look up inside the main gate, you can see holes in the ceiling. From there unwelcome people were covered with hot water. Not a very friendly way to get rid of unwelcome guests.

    One of the cannons the main gate enjoy the view One of the look-outs
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    An unusual doorknocker

    by christine.j Updated Mar 7, 2008

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    Again, I like to look for the smaller details. To me, there are more interesting than the huge cathedral as such. On the main door to the cathedral you see a doorknocker in the shape of a lion.You can see this more often, but this one here happens to be eating a man. I don't know if there is some medieval significance to it or if the artist simply liked to add this detail for some extra thrill.

    Update March 2008:
    I learned from a priest at the cathedral that there are two possible explanations:

    1. It says in the bible - 1 Peter,5,8 - that the devil is like a lion, trying to devour mankind. So if a lion eating a man is part of the door knocker, the medieval artists were trying to say."If you don't want to be eaten by a lion = devil, enter this church here.

    2. If the lion's mane is shaped like the sun, then it's not just a lion but a symbol for the sun = light = God. Especially when the lion is sculptured so much bigger than the man he's eating, this was supposed to tell the people how much bigger God is than mankind.

    So again, as with many symbolic sculptures, several possible and sometime contradictory explanations.

    A hungry lion
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    A Gossip Stone/Klatschstein

    by christine.j Updated Nov 5, 2006

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    When I first heard about gossip stones I thought it was something to punish gossipers.
    But people in Erfurt were much nicer than my thoughts. They knew, people would stop and gossip, no matter what . So they had these gossip stones built at their houses. There are two stones, shaped like a chair, one right and one left of the front door. Instead of having to stand while gossiping, probably with heavy baskets full of shopping, the gossipers could just sit down and enjoy talking about who had done what with whom.
    These gossiping stones can be seen at several of the old houses in Erfurt.

    Sitting down makes gossiping so much easier
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    House to the Green Field and to the Cardinal

    by christine.j Written Aug 4, 2006

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    This is a large house, standing on the Anger, the square in the centre of Erfurt. Its German name is "Haus zur grünen Aue und zum Kardinal". I don't know where this name comes from. About two hundred years ago a famous guest was sleeping there, Russian Tzar Alexander. Today it's a café and an ice-cream parlour.I must admit, when I saw the two statues on the roof, my first thought was one of them was eating ice cream. It was a very hot day in July and everybody was eating ice cream, so it just seemed possible to me. But of course, it's a torch she's holding, not an ice cream cone.

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    The choir in the cathedral

    by christine.j Written Jan 31, 2007

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    I was really impressed by the beautiful carvings of the choir seats in the cathedral. They were carved in the 14th century, with lots of attention to the detail. The men you see on the picture aren't smoking, but playing the flute.
    I think these seats are beautiful to look at, but probably not very comfortable to sit in. But then, in 14th century, you were supposed to sit upright when in church and pay attention all the time.

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    Buy your stamps here

    by christine.j Written Aug 4, 2006

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    The main post office of Erfurt is in the centre of the town, in the walking area.It's the most magnificent post office I have ever seen. I don't know what this building used to be, maybe some VT members living in Erfurt can tell me.

    Some post office, isn't it?
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    Flowers on the water

    by christine.j Written Aug 4, 2006

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    There are many cafés and bistros in the old part of Erfurt,on bridges or near bridges, where you can sit and enjoy the pretty flowers on the water. The gardeners have planted flowers in pots looking like boats, so when there is enough water, it looks like they are swimming. Unfortunately, when we were there, it hadn't rained for some time, so the water wasn't high enough and you could see how the flowerboats were fastened. But it still was a very pretty sight.

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    Beer holes in the houses

    by christine.j Written Nov 6, 2006

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    On some of the old houses in Erfurt you see holes above the doors, about 20 cm in diameter. They are called beer holes, because they were made to show passer-bys when the beer was brewed and ready to drink. If you've read my tip about the woad, you know that the woad traders needed lots of urine. One way to make sure you have enough of this valuable liquid is to drink lots of beer. So the woad traders also started a beer brewing business. They took turns and to indicate which brewery is ready to serve beer, they stuck straw into these beer holes.

    Fresh Beer is here!
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    Early "Gas" Stations

    by christine.j Written Dec 7, 2006

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    Being an important trading point meant lots of horses and carriages arriving in Erfurt. The city had the right for stockpiling the goods for some days, so that everything could be counted, examined and properly taxed. During these days the horses had to be fed, of course. The people who took care of this were paid very well. Their houses and stables were close together in a street which is still called "Futterstrasse" - "feeding street", a sort of early service station or gas/petrol station. The feeders were quite rich and were able to have grand houses built for themselves and their families. In Futterstrasse you can still see some of these old houses.

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    Martin Luther in Erfurt

    by christine.j Written Nov 8, 2006

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    Erfurt University once had a famous student: Martin Luther studied there for four years, from 1501 to 1505. Then, after he was almost hit by lightning he changed his plans for the future and became a monk instead. The monastery he chose was the Augustinerkloster, also in Erfurt. At this time, there were three different monasteries in Erfurt. Supposedly Luther chose the Augustinerkloster because there he could continue his studies.
    There are references to Luther throughout Erfurt:
    On the main shopping square there is statue of him, the monastery offers walks on the premises which include the room he once had and you can visit several churches in which he had been preaching.
    The tour guides of the tourist information can do a "Luther walk", but this is only possible for group bookings. It's usually students of theology who book them.
    Even without a special walk, just being in the very same church that Martin Luther once preached in makes history come alive.

    Augustinerkloster Martin Luther
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    The Baptismal Font

    by christine.j Written Jan 31, 2007

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    In the corner in the cathedral there is a sort of a column, a pillar, reaching up to the ceiling. This is the baptistery. It is supposed to show the connection between the earth and heaven. A few steps from the floor take you up to the actual font, then a long pillar "grows" up towards the ceiling where it ends in a painting of a cloud. This is supposed to be the place where God is. The whole baptisterey is 18 meters high and was built in 16th century. It is certainly a very impressive place to be baptised.

    The Font
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    St Michael's Church

    by christine.j Updated Jan 30, 2007

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    When you compare this small church to the splendour of the cathedral,
    you'll be disappointed. But the Church of St. Michael has seen quite a few of "firsts" in the course of the centuries.

    It was built in 13th century and used both as a Christian church and as a Jewish synagogue. There is a small churchyard, where you can still see tombstones from this time,some with a cross, others with the star of David.

    In the beginning of 16th century a student named Martin Luther was attending service here and a few years later he himself was preaching in this church.

    In the year 1520 the first ever evangelical sermon was held here, three years later for the first time a protestant priest got married in this small church.

    I think it's true to say that these events shaped the course of European history.

    When we were there I noticed a new window, dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg. He had saved many Jews during World War II, but vanished without a trace somewhere in Russia after the war. This window had been given to the church as a donation to point out the special relationship between the Christian and Jewish community in this area of Erfurt. There was also an exhibition about Wallenberg's life, but this is only temporary.

    There is a beautiful organ in the church. Since almost every street in the old part of Erfurt seems to have a church of its own, there simply wasn't enough money to keep all the organs in good shape. The one in the St Michaels church was built in 1650 by Compenius and is called the Compenius organ.

    A few years ago it was in really bad shape, when a visitor happened to see it and managed to raise enough money for a complete restauration.

    This church is one of my favourite places in Erfurt, even though it's not one of the most beautiful. But you can truly feel history in there.

    The Wallenberg Window The Wallenberg exhibition The organ
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