We visited it on a day-trip from Berlin. Using the ICE Hamburg to München express train it takes about two and a half hours, which isn't too bad.
As you head towards the centre of town from the Hauptbahnhof you will inevitably have to cross the small river Gera or one of its many tributaries.
The river was originally called the Erphes river, 'erphes' being the latin for muddy brown water. In German a ford is eine Furt, so you see that Erfurt is named from being the ford over the muddy brown river.
Nowadays the river looks sparkling clean, and must at least support enough fish for anglers to climb into it in their waders:
|Anglers fishing in the Breitsrom (branch of the Gera) next to the Neue Mühle (new mill) Technisches Denkmal.|
At one time there were up to fifty mills in Erfurt; this is the last,
They were termed 'bare-foot' (discalced) because they were Franciscan monks who followed the rules of poverty set down by St. Francis of Assisi. The life of St. Francis was changed when he heard a sermon about Matthew 9-10 where Christ tells his followers to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and go forth 'without a knapsack, change of clothes, shoes, or even a staff'.
The first Barefoot Friars settled in Erfurt in 1226 and soon after started building a church for their monastery. The present building was last added to in 1400 when it acquired a tower, and though it survived the Restoration and being ransacked for stone to add to the city's fortifications during the turbulent 17th C, it was finally done for by a British bomb on the night of 27th November 1944. It is now being restored.
At the monastery of the Bare-footed Monks
Inside there is a magnificent baroque organ, and from 1636-1673 the organist here was Johannes Bach, father of the so-called 'Erfurt line' of the many musical Bachs (J.S.Bach is the most well known, but apparently there were some fifty notable Bach musicians and composers).
[*apparently. Don't quote me on this.].
|Erfurt Domplatz with Not-barefoot Friar|
|Mariendom (l.) and Severikirche (r.)|
|Statue of Mary and Child|
|St Michael doing some Dragon-smoteing above the entrance to the Mariendom|
|Gothic spires and fancy knobbly bits and stone tracery on the Mariendom|
The Mariendom's companion atop Cathedral Hill is die St-Severi-Kirche, or church of St.Severus. The story goes that in 836, the relics of St. Severus of Ravenna (died 344AD) were brought to Erfurt by the Archbishop of Mainz and housed in a Benedictine monastery where the St-Severi-Kirche now stands.
I guess that's the Severus dude over the entrance. His actual sarcophagus is located inside the church, but visitors are not allowed to take photographs that are for web-publication.
|St Severus. Maybe.|
|Erfurt from Petersberg Zitadelle|
|Vineyard on Petersberg|
|Bastion Killian, viewed from Bastion Leonhard|
|Access bridge (built 1670) leading to the Commandant's House.|
|Peterstor, built 1666-1668|
In a series of manoeuvres much too complicated to go into here (or anywhere) control of Erfurt was given to Prussia in 1801 as compensation by France (Treaty of Lunéville), then controlled by Napoleon's armies in 1806 (the Capitulation of Erfurt), then re-taken by Prussia in 1816. It remained part of the Prussian province of Saxony until 1st September 1944 despite being surrounded by the state of Thuringia. In the last century the National Socialists had a large SS garrison here, and under the Soviets there was a police academy , a motor pool for the Stasi, and barracks for the National Peoples Army (NVA). Since unification, there has been a branch of the Stasi Archives authority.
Passing through the Peterstor are the restored Upper Barracks built 1675, next to a parade ground and reconstructed cannon.
|The Upper Barracks|
|Former parade ground. |
Remains of St Peter's Monastery on the right, now an arts centre
At the foot of the Eastern slope lies the Andreasviertel, centred around Andreaskirche (St Andrew's Church).
|Typical street in the renovated Andreasviertal|
|The heavily restored/modernised Georgenburse|
|The Augustinian Monastery, Erfurt|
If you continue further East from here you come to the cosmonautically-named Juri-Gagarin ring-road. You know that you are in the former Soviet Sector when the Old Town is circled by a road commemorating the first man into space! Instead, you will want to head South from the Augustinian Monastery towards another mediaeval gem, the Krämerbrücke.
An indicator that you are going in the right direction is that the streets get narrower and the houses quainter. Here for example is das Haus zum kleiner Helm - the 'small helmet' house:
|Haus zum kleinen Helm, Erfurt|
|More quaint half-timbered buildings.|
The nearest one is Haus zum Handschuh - Glove House
Soon we got to Erfurt's famous Krämerbrücke or Merchants' Bridge. The first stone version was built in 1325 where the Via Regia forded the river Gera. Its current incarnation dates back to 1472 when it was rebuilt after a fire that destroyed half of the city.
The Via Regia (Royal Highway) by the way, was a vast mediaeval East-West trade route spanning Europe, connecting Paris with Leipzig (where it joined the North-South Via Imperii connecting Stettin and the Baltic with Rome), and Leipzig with Königsberg, Breslau, Kraków, Riga and Novgorod. Not surprisingly then, the crossing at Erfurt was a magnet for merchants, who built their houses and shops on the bridge itself. It is the equivalent of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and the Ponte di Rialto in Venice, and though admittedly not so grand it is still a remarkable sight.
|die Krämerbrücke (Merchants' Bridge), Erfurt|
|Krämerbrücke North Side|
|Krämerbrücke South Side|
|Krämerbrücke South Side|
Like its Venetian and Florentine role-models, there is a road across it lined with tourist shops, restaurants, and residences.
|One end of the Krämerbrücke at Benediktsplatz|
|On the Krämerbrücke looking towards St Aegidien |
- you can climb the church's bell tower to get a good view down onto the bridge.
|On the Krämerbrücke looking East|
|die Mundlandung restaurant and shop on die Krämerbrücke|
And so on to the Rathaus (town hall). By now we were getting a bit Erfurt-weary. You cannot really expect to get the measure of the place in a day, so I strongly hope that we will be returning here in the future to explore some more. The area around the Fishmarkt presented another smorgasbord of neo-Gothic architecture, no small amount of Baroque, and middle-German charm.
|Erfurt Tram am Fischmarkt|
|zum Breiten Herd and das Gildehaus|
|zum Breiten Herd - the Wide Hearth|
|der Anger, Erfurt|
And come back we must! Whether you are interested in Mediaeval architecture, or the history of the Reformation, or just admire picturesque chocolate-box views, Erfurt is a marvelous place to visit. Even if you are barefooted.