A HISTORY OF LOVE
History enthusiasts travelling to Thuringia, Germany, will find something worth writing home about
For Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Thuringia represented love, family and politics. They shared a lineage dating back to the noble Ernestine family, former rulers of Thuringia’s territories and contributors to numerous European monarchies. Partly because of this, they were drawn back to this land of forests and palaces throughout their time together. In Albert’s homeland, Gotha, the royal couple spent a lot of time seeing family, concert- going and hunting together, exploring the territory of their predecessors and continuing the Ernestine tradition of intermarriage with other monarchies via their nine children. In doing this, they strengthened Britain’s ties to Europe’s most powerful nations.
…IT’S EASY TO UNDERSTAND WHY THURINGIA WAS HELD IN SUCH REGARD BY THE ROYAL LOVERS AND MODERN TRAVELLERS
Visiting Gotha today is like falling into a bygone era; it’s home to exquisite Baroque buildings which lead up to the impressive 17th-century Friedenstein Castle. Now a public museum, this was the former home of the Saxe- Coburg Gothas and was frequented by Victoria and Albert when visiting the Prince’s immediate family. Gotha, along with its extravagant castle, was where Victoria said she truly felt at home. The castle is still packed with allure to this day. With its Festive Hall, where Victoria and Albert would dance at balls, and its extravagant gardens, it’s also home to the Ducal Museum, founded by Prince Albert’s brother Ernest II. Th is Neo-Renaissance site has some of the fi nest collections of art and Egyptian antiquities, which today’s visitors can appreciate as they learn about this prestigious home. While Albert caught up with his brother in Gotha, Victoria would see the home of her favourite aunt Queen Adelaide in Meiningen. It’s easy to see why the British Queen was so famously captivated by her aunt; a tour of Elisabethenburg Castle here reveals Adelaide’s achievements; like how she introduced the Christmas tree to the British Isles. Victoria, Albert and family would also gather for plays at Meiningen Court Theatre – home of the Meiningen Ensemble – which Adelaide funded herself; it’s a cultural symbol that remains popular to this day.
Thuringia’s appeal goes beyond its royal history, though. Meiningen isn’t far from Erfurt, now a vibrant capital city, where St Mary’s Cathedral and an imposing Baroque citadel are found, both evocative of the region’s Ernestine heritage and great subjects for photographers. Weimar is just next door and is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site that has everything from museums and monuments celebrating Victoria and Albert’s cultured ancestors – like Karl August, founder of the movement Weimar Classicism – to gourmet dining; a great excuse to make a day of exploring here. And to the north-west, through the Thuringian forest, is the pretty town of Eisenach. Amidst the natural beauty of the valleys and greenery here, it’s easy to understand why Thuringia was held in such regard by the royal lovers and now modern travellers. PLAN YOUR TRIP TO THURINGIA BY HEADING TO VISIT-THURINGIA. COM
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