Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Food is often named after the place it was originally made. You only need think of foods like Cheddar, Stilton, Bordeaux, Wiener (from Wien - Vienna), Hamburger or Frankfurter. I don't really know whether a Hamburger comes from the city.
In Germany a Thüringer Bratwurst is often just called a Thüringer. I remember eating one about 30 years ago in Ostheim, formerly a Thuringian enclave in Bavaria, that was transferred to Bavaria in 1945, i.e. the only place in West Germany that sold genuine Thüringer. Heaven! In my view,  it should be a finger thick sausage filled with coarsely ground meat mixed with spices and taste great.
A few weeks ago we went to our local shopping centre on a Friday to visit the weekly Farmers' Market and wandered in the centre afterwards. To our surprise we found a travel exhibition showcasing various regions of Germany,  Holland and Luxembourg. Every one of the dozen or so stands  apart from one offered information about cycling holidays. Cycling is now a major holiday activity in Germany and for the Germans.  Thüringia was represented by the Hotel Frauenberg in Tabarz, SW of Gotha ( (in German)). The hotel in partnership with two other hotels farther east offers self-guided walking holidays along the Rennsteig, a 168 Km (100 mile ±) trail along a ridge through the Thüringer Wald (Thuringian Forest). We knew a bit about the Rennsteig. It had been divided into three by the Iron Curtain and for many years one could only walk the section in Franconia. Much of the rest of the route was in a 5km restricted zone near to the inner German border in the Communist German Democratic Republic. The route was reopened after the fall of the wall. We've thought for some years that it would be a good walk.  We booked a week in the Frauenburger.  We had four days of walking along the Rennsteig. We were taken to the Rennsteig each morning and picked up in the evening. Every night we ate a magnificent three course meal in the hotel's restaurant, but did not see a trace of the German contender for that king of the bratwurst race, the Thüringer.
After a few days walking we had finished our 40 km chunk of the Rennsteig and decided to take a day off to visit Gotha. We were looking forward to seeing the town and I was looking forward to eating a Thüringer at a stand in the town. We took the ancient tram in the morning from Tabarz to Gotha.
Gotha was spared destruction in WWII and by the GDR planners. The town centre is the kind of  architectural entity that causes modern town planners sleepless nights trying to recreate the effect. (Eat your heart out Poundbury!)  Speaking of the British Royal Family, Gotha town centre lies at the foot of a hill crowned by Friedenstein Castle, owned by the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family, who married their way into all the royal families of Europe including the British. Both Victoria and Albert were members of the clan.
After a wander round the town it was a bit early for a bratwurst, so we walked up to see the castle to look at the rooms, the furniture, the paintings, the theatre and the extensive collections of  artistic handicrafts (of no use, but wonderfully well made). After two or three hours of Dürer, Cranach and carved ivory we were not to put it finely cultured out and left to hit the Market Square and the long awaited Thüringer. I could smell it, almost taste it. We rounded the corner and I saw, to my horror, the  stand was in process of being closed up. What could we do? We were then lucky to find something savoury for lunch. Unusually for modern Germany the shops in Gotha close early on a Saturday starting at 12:00. This is something to watch out for when cycle touring.
The only consolation for the lack of Thüringer was that we were due to walk up the Inselberg (913m) the next day and I had noticed a sign offering genuine original Thüringer as we climbed over the hill on our way along the Rennsteig. There was still a good chance I could sink my teeth into a Thüringer, before we left the province.
There is a cycle tour along the route of the Rennsteig, running along it in part and then crisscrossing it later on, before dropping to the end. It is a serious route, 199km long with steep climbs and descents on unsealed roads, more for a mountain bike than a road bike. There are easier routes in Thuringia:
The long distance cycle route Thüringer Stadtkette (Thuringian Pearls). It's a fairly flat 225 km from Eisenach to Altenburg.
The Werra Valley Cycle route (300 km ±)
There is one for geologically minded souls around the Harz Mountains which offers 400 km of easy cycling.
There is more information on and route planning on

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