Sunday, June 4, 2017

Revealing the hidden beauty of Gotha

I had a long list of reasons to visit Gotha, most of them the result of my political and history lectures, but with so many attractions to discover in Thüringen like Erfurt or Jena, it seems that I never had enough time for a proper journey. However, this May, things changed and after so many years I was finally here...
The area around the train station was almost empty, although it was a sunny Sunday day. As Gotha is the fifth largest city in Thüringia, there are maybe chances that I will not only visit an empty city, but also find a way to interact with the local people as well, part of my plans to work my German one conversation at a time.
On the way to the central area, crossing empty streets with only two or three cars or bikes running fast once in a while - we pass near an impressive building labeled as the Deutsches Versicherung Museum - German Insurance Museum. Given the pioneering work Germany developed since centuries in this field, it would have been interesting to have a look inside, but unfortunatelly, the museum is closed on Sundays.
However, there are so many other things to see which are free and open to everyone all round the week. For instance, the impressive Orangerie, considered one of the biggest and most beautiful in the German-speaking realm in the middle of the symetrically designed English gardens. 
One can spend hour after hour in this park area, with its vast green areas and small lakes and islands, where you can have a picnic or read a book under the summer sun. The adventurous can also visit the famous local attractions of Gothaer Kasematten, as in the case of the insurance museum, there were no tours scheduled during my stay so I was out of travel luck this day.
The colourful houses of the old city of Gotha look inviting from one of the panorama points around the area, but as for now, me and my friend, we want to see more from the famous Baroque castles which made this city famous among the castle-lovers.
On the other side of impressive doors designed in the exuberant style of the Rococo, there are more secret gates to explore.
On the other side, there is the equally famous Friedenstein - Rock of peace - castle, whose construction started during a time when this part of Germany was coping with the Thirty Years Wars. Nowadays, it has around 38 rooms open for exhibitions, among which an impressive numismatic collection which places Gotha on the same foot in this respect with famous cultural destinations like Dresden, Berlin or Munich
With so many interesting choices ahead and so little time, we decide to visit the recently reopened Ducal Museum - Herzogliches Museum - which was added to the Friedenstein Museum in the second half of the 19th century. Its latest look is the result of dramatic renovation work that ended in 2013 when the museum was re-opened to the public.
The classical balance of the facade reminds of an Antique temple, the usual architectural outfits for museums built in the 19th century. In the logic of the Enlightement, the museums were temples of science and knowledge, therefore their role to educate the masses and share the wisdom of ages through impressive collections from all over the world.
This logic is followed accordingly at the Ducal Museum, hosting a diversity of collectionsm from Egyptian mummies to Meissen porcelain and European pottery.
One of the most impressive in terms of diversity and execution is, for me, the cork-made reproduction of famous buildings. The collection was created in the 19th century, and it can easily compete with any recent creations made using sophisticated architecture programs. 
Another tour of the immense gardens are a good opportunity to discuss about progress of the human mind across centuries.
We are in Gotha for almost three hours and what we did was to discover castles and beautiful gardens, which is a noteworthy hobby, but maybe there is even more to see in the city. Time for some urban sightseeing! The famous 72-meter waterfall built at the end of the 19th century, a creative and sophisticated construction for that time allowing water to fall from the top of the hill through a system of channels in the middle of man-made gardens is a staple of the city and creates a beautiful perspective to the urban landscape.
The old cobblestone streets are inviting to a step-by-step, camera in hand discovery of Gotha.
The beautiful waterfalls are surrounded by season's flowers, beautifying the stone-made surrounding the fountains. 
At the end of the alley divided by the waterfalls which starts from the top of the hill there is the former city hall, a Baroque construction dating back in the 17th century. It doesn't equal in volume any city hall construction I've seen until now - and Germany offers a wide array of choices in this respect - as it is relatively small, but the proportions are well used to play the decorations in a very elegant way. 
The top of the buildings around are communicating in a concerting way, creating a fairy-tale impression. If you are an architecture lover, you should definitely visit this part of Gotha because the visual dialogue between buildings and different streets is unique.
The large cobblestone streets are ending up bordered by colourful buildings so close to each other that the windows seem to touch each other when open. Wild trees rooted in the stones create an unexpected effect into this geometrical labyrinth of buildings.
The doors are another element to follow and explore in the old Gotha. In the old times, the symbols and representations were aimed to clarify the social and economic status of the residents.

Between the 17th and 19th century, Gotha was a center of culture, science and arts, and the traces of those times of glory are visible not only if you visit the expansive museum collections. The eclectic style of some buildings are a proof that many of the residents were familiar with Italian fine architecture and wanted to re-create at home memories gathered during their travels. As usual, travel opens the mind and hearts for diversity and cultural encounters. 
The relatively small amount of people on the street at this time that bothered me at the beginning of the journey could be a blessing as your trip to Gotha can be fully tasted without taking care too much of finding the right people-free angle for a photograph or being unable to properly see an interesting corner because of the many groups listening to the directions of the guide. You can easily breath and travel slowly and there is no hassle to jump from a place to another. 
But even the slow traveler needs to eat and from this point of view, my choices weren't necessarily the most inspired. For lunch, I had a Vegetarian lasagna at Bellini restaurant in the center, with a beautiful view over the Baroque red city hall, which compensated the relatively lack of taste of my meal. The afternoon coffee I took at Konditorei Loesche that probably I visited too late in the day for enjoying some fresh Schiller cones which I wanted to have for the sake of some long-forgotten childhood culinary memoires. 
With the perspective of another three-hour trip back to Berlin, we have a last stop at the Orangerie on the way to the lonely train station. The gardens in full bloom are generously spreading beauty all over the place and this last memory is strong enough to always make me think about Gotha as a place where would love to return to discover even more hidden beauty! See you soon...

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20 comments:

  1. Gotha has been an less heard destination. However, this blog post is a real eyeopener! Thanks for sharing the historical anecdotes.

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    1. Thank you! I am happy when I can share my discoveries, especially in Germany! :)

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  2. Gotha is so picturesque! I loved the contrast of green against the colorful houses. Each picture is postcard quality. You covered a lot in 3 hours :)

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  3. What a picturesque place, looks like a fairytale. Your lovely photos really inspire me to go there. Good luck practicing your German

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  4. Gotha looks so enchanting and seems to be straight out of a fairy tale. The town posesses the typical old world charm that is so unique to many towns and cities of Europe. Would love to stroll around this beautiful place.

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    1. Gotha is very charming, indeed! Hope to share soon new posts about Germany destinations!

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  5. Honestly, I never knew and have not even heard about Gotha. Gotha looks beautiful as well as non touristy. Your pictures are beautiful esp the panorama of colorful houses. Would love to visit this place in future.

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    1. Thank you! I am glad I revealed (another) hidden gem of German travel!

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  6. Gotha does seem like a perfect place for admiring architectural pieces. There are various things to see. Glad you were able to have a proper journey in that beautiful place. Would also love to go!

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    1. Ty! Let me know if you can make it! Actually, if you plan to visit the Thüringen area of Germany, it is a great idea to include Gotha, together with Erfurt, Weimar or Jena as part of the itinerary! :)

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  7. Heard about Gotha for the first time and it looks like a great place to check out. It seems to be a hidden gem for sure. Being a history buff, I would definitely want to visit this some day!

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    1. Thanks! Gotha is definitely a place with many histories to tell!

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  8. Gotha ? never really heard of Gotha until i read this, will definitely add this to my travel list ..

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    1. I am glad it helped to reveal another beautiful destination in Germany :)

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  9. Wow! I would love to visit Gotha! I didn't know much about it until this post.

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    1. Thank you! I hope you can make it one day!

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  10. Wow that place is gorgeous! Germany is really full of gems!

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