June 9 – 10, 2011
To prepare for Weimar, I briefly skimmed through some of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s works, like The Sorrows of Young Werther and the Faust Part I and II, on Project Gutenberg. Sometimes my passion for traveling will push me into subjects I have absolutely no interest in, such as classic literature, but I do end up broaden my horizon a little, at least superficially.
Even though Goethe is prominently featured across Weimar, his likeness hasn’t descended into the kind of crass commercialism as Mozart’s has in Salzburg. Speaking of which, the atrocious Mozart Chocolate had landed in Weimar, next to a bookstore named after the local writer.
Born into a wealthy family, Goethe had lived a privileged life that afforded him the freedom to develop his writing acumen. After writing the widely popular The Sorrows of Young Werther in 1774, Goethe was invited to the court of Duke Carl August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
Goethe’s former home, which was a gift from the Duke, has been turned into the National Goethe Museum. The €8 admission ticket granted access to eighteen of the building’s rooms and the back garden.
Perhaps influenced by the title character in The Sorrows of Young Werther, I hold an image of Goethe who’s a little fragile (further supported by this tale). The elegant working and living quarters, full of numerous objects from all parts of Goethe’s collection, revealed a sense of delicateness that matched my presumption about the writer. In no way do I look down upon the great writer – to me that’s just how Goethe stands out from the historical figures in literature and music.
Weimar at night
I had brought along my tripod for this trip, and determined to not make myself felt like a retard by carrying the tripod around without using it, I decided to take some night shots of Weimar. As the calendar approached summer solstice, the sun continued to light up the sky at 8:30 pm.
My first stop was the Bauhaus University. Perhaps because it was summer break, only a few students were on the campus. Weimar’s atmosphere reminded me of the American East Coast university towns like Hanover and Amherst, though with a much more beautiful town centre and less impressive campus.
I took a break at Park an der Ilm, where Goethe first home in Weimar is located. The Garden House would remain a life-long refuge and working station for the writer. I lied down on the lawn and observed the subtle change of colour around me.
The sky was getting gradually darker by the minute. I carried my gear and began to shoot around Weimar’s compact historic centre. Already quiet in daytime, Weimar’s public squares and cobblestone streets were devoid of any pedestrian at night. The prevailing stillness engulfed me and emptied my mind – I was only focused on my immediate surrounding and the camera in front of me.
If in the future someone asks me is Weimar worth the long drive from Cologne or Berlin, I will probably reply: “it depends.” I won’t be able to throw out names of landmarks that can generate excitement. But if I ask myself the same question, I will always remember the night when I had the whole town to myself.