At first, our visit to Weißenfels was not under a good star. It rained continuously. But as we all know, there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. So we set off for our appointment with umbrella and rain jacket.
We were greeted by a wonderful city guide who made us forget the weather with her stories and knowledge about Weißenfels and captivated us. Her stories made the town’s history come alive, varied and exciting. Thank you very much!
Criss-cross through the town of Weißenfels
Our little tour started directly at the city park of Weißenfels.
City Park on Nikolaistrasse
Today’s city park has quite a varied history. Originally, the area lay outside the city and served as a shooting trench. In 1522 there was a plague epidemic in the city and the existing cemeteries were no longer sufficient. Without further ado, the area outside the city was used as a cemetery.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the area was transformed into a city park. Some of the graves that are significant for the city’s history have been preserved.
The grave of Novalis
Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772 – 1801) was a personality from Weißenfels.
He was known under the name Novalis. He was a writer and philosopher and wrote countless poems, essays and records on history and politics, philosophy, religion, aesthetics and the history of science during his life.
He died at a very young age and was buried in Weißenfels. His grave can be found today in a small demarcated part of the city park.
Not far from Novalis’ grave is a 1.40 metre high statue of a boy. He stands on a pedestal with the inscription: “Weil’s mich freut” (“Because it makes me happy”) and that is exactly how he looks.
In 1905, a sculptor from Schkopau was commissioned by a Zeitz pram manufacturer to create a sculpture for an exhibition.
The mayor of the city had a second casting made for the city park. Fortunately, a Weissenfels resident saved the statue during the Second World War and hid it in a cellar. After the end of the war, the city boy was put up again.
The city boy received his name “Schusterjunge” (cobbler boy) from the people of Weißenfels. It is a reminder of the town’s connection with the cobbler’s trade.
Our path leads us on to the Goethegymnasium. We stand in front of an imposing neo-baroque building that used to be located on the monastery grounds outside the city.
Duke August von Weißenfels founded the Gymnasium illustre Augusteum here in 1664 in the building of the former monastery. Only noble boys who would one day become civil servants were taught. The boys spent at least two years at the public school and received instruction in theology, law, medicine, Greek, Latin and Hebrew. In addition, the curriculum included natural sciences, mathematics, geography and history. The school could boast of having eminent teachers, whom the duke brought to his school from many regions of Germany.
With the end of the ducal line, the school lost its patron. The number of pupils dropped abruptly, until in 1763 only 10 pupils were still learning here. The teachers no longer received a salary and left the school. The school was closed after 130 years.
Lessons came to life in the school building almost 100 years later. A varied school history followed, sometimes with more and sometimes with fewer pupils, and the type of school also changed several times. A grammar school has been in the building since 1991.
The St. Claren monastery is located in the direct vicinity of the Goethe grammar school.
Originally, nuns of the Poor Clares order, the female branch of the Franciscans, lived here. In 1539, the convent community dissolved and continued to be used as a Catholic monastery from 1540.
From 1664, the building served the public school Gymnasium illustre Augusteum.
The late Gothic choir of the chapel can be found today in the new cemetery. The building was demolished and rebuilt there as a chapel. At present, the main building of the monastery is empty.
It’s a pity that you can’t visit this beautiful facility. The building looks very interesting.
Having already seen Novalis’ grave, we now come to the Novalis House during our guided tour. The von Hardenberg family lived in this baroque house in Klosterstraße until his death.
Today, there is a small museum about Friedrich von Hardenberg on the first floor.
On our second visit to Weißenfels, we were lucky enough to have a brief look at the museum. The life and works of Friedrich von Hardenberg are presented in three rooms. Not only his artistic work, but also his scientific work is dealt with. Very interesting indeed!
One of the rooms where you can read and discover a lot today was von Hardenberg’s death room. I remember it very positively because no attempt was made to recreate the room in a contemporary manner. Today, no one knows exactly what it looked like back then, so the visitor is not “pretended” to see anything.
The small garden with the pavilion is particularly beautiful. In summer, the Novalis roses bloom here, a specially bred type of rose with a slight blue tinge. Unfortunately, the rain had destroyed the last beautiful blossoms.
Museum opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10-17 h
Pedestrian zone with city history fountain
Through small alleys we reach the pedestrian zone of Weißenfels. Here stands the town fountain. An artist from Aachen designed this fountain on behalf of the city of Weißenfels. It tells the history of Weißenfels with its depiction. You can discover, for example, the duke and his wife, musicians like Bach and Schütz (both were active in the town), the Novalis flower (representing the town’s literary figures), regional plants (lime, oak, wine, cabbage) and the cobbler’s seamstress with fairy tale representations (cobbler tradition).
There really is a lot to discover if you take some time and look at the scenes more closely. Some of the figures are even movable and invite you to change the overall appearance of the city fountain.
The city’s pedestrian zone invites you to linger. Here you can sit comfortably in a café and watch the hustle and bustle.
After a long construction period, Weißenfels’ market square has become a real gem. We were in town shortly after its completion and were able to enjoy the colourful hustle and bustle here in the early afternoon.
Even after such a short time, it is easy to see that the people of Weißenfels have created a great place here that is suitable for events and a cosy get-together. When we were on the square again towards evening, the adjacent restaurants were well filled and children were playing on the square.
Promenade with Schuhmann’s Garden – Restaurant Tip
Our path leads along the promenade in the direction of the Saale. We pass Schuhmanns Garten.
Schuhmanns Garten is an inclusive and barrier-free conference and event centre with a restaurant and a small hotel with 20 rooms. The historic building, probably dating from 1870, was originally an excursion and dance pub.
We were allowed to eat here and take a closer look at the house. There are flexible meeting rooms and a cosy restaurant. Fortunately, the rain had let up and we could sit on the terrace. The restaurant offers fresh and regional dishes, which we liked very much.
Boat rental Weißenfels
We also discovered a nice leisure tip in Weißenfels, boating. For landlubbers like us, it was a lot of fun to go boating on the Saale. After a short briefing, you sail alone on the river. You get a nice impression of Weißenfels from the water. And when you sit at the wheel for the first time and can’t really keep your direction, the fun is guaranteed!
Those who prefer to travel a little slower can also rent a pedal boat or a rowing boat.
We had a great day in Weißenfels an der Saale with a city tour, a castle tour and the Heinrich Schütz House. Thank you very much!
Disclosure: The day in Weißenfels an der Saale was a day during a press trip to the Saale-Unstrut region. The report corresponds exclusively to my own impressions.