The Free State of Thuringia (Thüringen) is a former GDR state in central Germany, known as the “green heart” of Germany since it’s covered with dense forest, is definitely not the most popular part of this country. I’d guess that most international visitors to Thuringia visit the former site of the Buchenwald concentration camp or are literature mavens who want to see Goethe and Schiller’s Weimar. Sadly, this state is also infamous as a center of Neo-Nazi activity.
Since I have a personal goal of visiting every state in Germany and Thuringia was next on the list and only an hour away by train, Jo and I planned a day trip to the see Erfurt, the capital and largest city in Thuringia. The train ride there was extremely green; I had never seen such a densely forested landscape in my life. Unfortunately, our journey was punctuated by an unpleasant and frustrating number of tunnels. Once there, we randomly bumped into Carina, another English teaching assistant, who was also doing a day trip with a friend who we would bump into several more times throughout the day.
The first thing I did in Erfurt was savour the famous Thüringer Bratwurst, the regional variety of sausage and bread, which consists of quite a long, thick seasoned pork sausage roasted on a charcoal grill and served in a small, ellipsoidal wheat roll and mustard. Safe to say it was delicious and was a suitable breakfast.
After that, we saw the Krämerbrücke (merchants’ bridge) a stone, pedestrian bridge lined with shops and houses which dates back to the 1300s. The crystal clear water of the Breitstrom flows under the bridge, and on the northern side locals relax in the sun by the glistening water.
Other interesting sites in Erfurt included the sprawling Domplatz (“Cathedral Square”), the large Zitadelle. The city itself is notably green with plenty of trees, and the skyline is quite fascinating as the traditional timber framed buildings can be seen in the old town whilst unattractive Soviet-era buildings can be seen in the distance.
For lunch we ventured to Zum Wenigemarkt 13, not far from the Krämerbrücke. Jo had wild boar sausages with salad and fried potatoes and I went for something a bit unusual but regional: rabbit leg with savoy cabbage and Thuringian style potato dumplings. The rabbit leg itself wasn’t very tasty and had a similar texture to chicken without the juiciness. I also tried the Kellerbier from the famous 500-year-old Thuriginian brewery, Köstritzer, which wasn’t very authentic since it was clearly filtered, and later had a real Thuringian-style beer, the Schwarzbier (“black beer”).
After lunch, we did some relaxing and people-watching by the Breitstrom in the sun, and when it got a bit warm, we headed off to grab something cold and refreshing. We found an Eiscafé (ice creamery slash café) in the Domplatz where there were a group of about six men, who clearly looked like Neo-Nazis, enjoying a large family-sized bowl of ice cream and fruit. There’s something very uncanny about seeing a group of muscly, tattooed Neo-Nazis all sharing a fruity cold dessert amongst families and tourists.
Afterwards we came across an AfD (the German equivalent of Australia’s nationalistic, xenophobic One Nation party) event and corresponding counter protest and perused a bookstore but were super tired and almost fell asleep on the train back home.
All in all, Erfurt might be one of the most underrated cities in Germany I’ve been too. It’s a beautiful, relaxed green city which tends to draw German tourists as opposed to internationals with an interesting regional cuisine. However, the undeniable presence of Neo-Nazis and other far-right nutters seems to be the major drawback.