Photo above: View of Plaza outside Goethe’s House
Goethe and Schiller are often mentioned in the same breath when taking about Germany’s literary past and pride. It is no accident that both were friends and lived in Weimar as contemporaries. We came to this elite small town to learn more about each of them.
The Goethe Institute’s namesake was already mentioned last year when I attended a month long language class in Dresden (see Day 22 post in August 2014 Archives). I was fascinated by his life story. It began with his love interest, Charlotte, who was seven years’ his senior. He was swept away by her, despite her already being betrothed to another man. He was compelled to write one of the first romantic novels that spilled the beans (or poured his heart if you will), very openly and honestly. He eventually had to go away to Italy for two years to get over her.
The Sorrows of Young Werther recounts his passionate love for Charlotte as a young man. It went viral. Unfortunately, this success later plagued him in life to the extent he regretted writing it. The fleeting romance story didn’t exactly match up to the stature of his deeper thoughts. For me, it added dimension to his life and a reason for learning more about this great philosopher.
It even compelled Thomas Mann to write a story about Goethe’s famous love for Charlotte. In Lotte in Weimar, the modern writer of the 1930’s imagines Goethe meeting Charlotte in Weimar after they are in their sixties. She comes to visit with her sister and daughter, and she meets with Goethe. A faint reminder of Pride and Prejudice, both Goethe and Mann stories have deep psychological meaning despite being early soap operas. They are fascinating stories that examine and delve into German character and emotions.
Although we had been to Weimar before, I wanted to revisit this historically significant town. As a philosopher, politician, writer, artist and humanist, Goethe was a Renaissance man. After seeing his home, we have greater awareness and appreciation for his life and work. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was patrician and hung out with royalty!
1. and 2. Interior of Goethe’s house
3. View of garden from inside house
1. View of scenic Elbe River and Bad Schandau, from train en route from Prague to Dresden (approximately 2 hours by train)
2. View of Prague train station Art Nouveau interior, spotless and spit-shined (also very safe)
More on Schiller and the Bauhaus to come…