A HIS­TORY OF LOVE

His­tory en­thu­si­asts trav­el­ling to Thuringia, Ger­many, will find some­thing worth writ­ing home about

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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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