A Bauhaus Tour of Weimar and Dessau
The Bauhaus School – from the German bau (construction) and haus (house) – was probably one of the most important and revolutionary driving forces in the 20th century in the fields of art, design and architecture. In the short space of merely 20 years, a team of inquiring artists and architects, influenced by the social movements of the time, managed to overturn the prevailing way of conceiving art and architecture and their relationship to society. Their achievements include laying the foundations for industrial design, graphic design and modern architecture. What’s more, they even put forward and saw implemented an alternative educational model which was ahead of its time. A host of figures succumbed to such innovation and each contributed their grain of sand, including Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy, Marcel Breuer and Lyonel Feininger.
A good way of taking stock of that brilliant past, which we are now so indebted to, is by visiting two cities where the movement was based –Weimar and Dessau.
Weimar – The First Steps
Weimar was the first of three centres of Bauhaus activity. No wonder, then, that this city had already been the hub of the German Enlightenment and a meeting place for intellectuals. The Bauhaus was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius, who took his first tentative steps in the Haus Hohe Pappeln, a school of arts and crafts designed by a pioneer of modernity, Henry van de Velde.
The only building in the Bauhaus style still standing in Weimar is the Haus am Horn, built in 1923 and designed by Georg Muche, a painter and lecturer at the Bauhaus. The building was designated World Heritage of the 20th Century in 1996.
Located in the Theaterplatz is the Weimar Bauhaus Museum, a moderately sized venue devoted to the Bauhaus. A much more spacious centre is due to be inaugurated in 2018.
Dessau – The Boom
In 1925, Walter Gropius was forced to close the school in Weimar for political reasons, but he received the necessary support to move it to Dessau. Fortunately, in the case of Dessau, there are lots of buildings that have survived to the present, including the school itself, regarded as a masterpiece of European rationalism. When preparing the groundwork for your tour of the various Bauhaus landmarks in the city, we recommend you browse this website to check the times and to book your tickets, as not all the areas are admission free.
Bauhaus Building (Bauhausgebäude).The work of Walter Gropius, this is the most emblematic of the Bauhaus constructions. Built in 1925 and 1926, it is made up of various interconnecting volumes, each with a different function. Building work involved the use of industrial techniques and a striking feature of the design is the glazed frontage.
Masters’ Houses (Meisterhäuser).Located near the school, this ensemble of four residential buildings was home to the masters: Gropius, Moholy-Nagy/Feninger, Muche/Schelemer and Kandinsky/Klee. Their interiors are open to the public, except for that of Gropius, which was destroyed during the war.
Törten Estate. The work of Walter Gropius, this ensemble of 300 houses was built in 1920 in the south of Dessau. Commissioned by the City Council, it is a prototype of a housing estate and was intended to act as a model for social housing.
Kornhaus. More playful in design, this restaurant and pub overlooking the river Elbe was designed by Carl Fieger, a draughtsman in Gropius’ practice.
Berlin was the last of the Bauhaus centres, where it was located from 1932 to 1934. However, the rise of National Socialism would put an end to this brilliant core of creativity and innovation, driving it to other countries, but the mark it left has survived until the present.
From Leipzig it is an easy train ride to both Weimar and Dessau, where you can steep yourself in the Bauhaus. Check out your flight here!
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Walpurgis Night – Revisiting the Witches’ Trails
Walpurgis Night – the night of witches or, in German, Walpurgisnacht– is held at the transit from 30 April to 1 May in much of central and northern Europe. May 1 is the feast of St Walpurga, the patron saint of countrywomen and servants, and patroness of conjurers. Legend has it that this is the last time witches can celebrate their heathen festivals after the darkness of winter, and they have the whole night to do so.
One of the most popular sites for this ritual is Brocken, the highest summit in the Harz Mountains (some 50 km from Leipzig, Germany). This peak is often shrouded in dense fog, endowing it with an air of mystery. It even gives rise to an unusual effect known as the Brocken Spectre – an optical illusion that can appear in any fog-clad mountains, by which an enlarged shadow of the observer, surrounded by an iridescent halo, is reflected onto the clouds. The effect is actually created by the diffraction of cloud droplets. This also helped to magnify the legend of the witches in the place mentioned by the German writer, Goethe, at the beginning of his best-known work, Faust, when he describes the scene of the witches’ night celebration on the slopes of the Harz mountains. On Walpurgisnacht, participants assemble at Brocken around a large bonfire and spend the night singing and dancing. The festive ritual is purported to drive off evil spirits. Witches’ night is celebrated at all villages in the Harz Mountains, where the inhabitants dress up as witches and demons, while street markets, fireworks, parades and concerts are organised. Check out the programme listing all the Walpurgis Night activities in Harz.
The Harz Mountains – Following in the Witches’ Footsteps
Accounts from the Harz are not limited to witches. This mountain range in Lower Saxony is an impressive nature reserve featuring some of the really beautiful spots. The mountain trails wind their way between steep cliffs and valleys, ash forests, and networks of villages, palaces and castles dating from the time of the Saxon Dynasty. It is northern Germany’s resort of choice for cross-country skiing and hiking, traversing the natural habitats of the red brocket, deer, lynx and wild boar, as well as the white-throated dipper, black stork and peregrine falcon.
The Harz is criss-crossed by a network of over 8,000 kilometres of well-signposted nature trails, making it a paradise for hikers. While the Harz National Park itself is practically uninhabited, you will come across a few hamlets and restaurants offering genuine, typical German cuisine – the stellar dish of the region is roast potatoes with spices. One of the trekking routes, known as Harzer Hexenstieg (Witches’ Route), is a trail running some 100 kilometres from Osterode, through Brocken, as far as Thale. Halfway along the trail, at a place called Torfhaus, the witches’ trail forks along a stretch known as “Goethe”. Indeed, the poet and playwright walked this same route some 200 years ago.
Fairytale Villages in the Harz Region
The Harz Mountains are also dotted with some charming 16th-century villages, rich in history and legend. Of these, we have highlighted the following:
Goslar. At the foot of the Harz range lies this picturesque medieval town, known as the “Rome of the North”. It was the residence of German kings and emperors until 1253. The historic town and the old Rammelsberg mines, situated on the edge of the town, are listed as World Heritage sites. Also listed by UNESCO is the nearby Upper Harz Water Regale (Oberharzer Wasserregal), one of the world’s largest and most important pre-Industrial Revolution energy-management systems. Its 107 dams and reservoirs and over 300 kilometres of water channels provide a stunning backdrop for the Harz mountain hiking trails.
Wernigerode. This, the nearest town to Brocken is noteworthy for its striking hilltop castle and its medieval houses elaborately adorned with wood carvings.
Thale. Situated in the picturesque Bode Gorge, overlooked by the Hexentanzplatz, a lofty hilltop which can be reached by cable car. Hexentanzplatz, meaning “witches’ dance-floor”, was once a place of worship in Saxon times, sacred to the forest and mountain goddesses. Here you will find various landmarks associated with witches’ legends, in addition to the Walpurgishalle Museum.
Quedlinburg. Just 10 kilometres from Thale lies Quedlinburg, the first capital of Germany and an important town during the Middle Ages. It currently holds the largest concentration of half-timbered buildings in the country. An interesting fact is that this town was ruled by women for 800 years.
You aren’t scared, are you? Come and see it for yourself. Check out our flights here.
Text by Scanner FMmore info