Erfurt is the town that Martin Luther went to university. He began law, the career his father planned for him, but after being saved from a near death experience, which he attributed to St Anna (the mother of Mary the mother of Jesus) he swore to give his life to the church. As a result he gave up law, much to his fathers dismay, and joined an Augustinian monastery.
In Erfurt we were able to visit the monastery that Luther lived in. Usually the tours are in German, but we were fortunate enough to arrive at the same time as an American tour group and so we were allowed to join in their English tour of the monastery. It was really interesting seeing where the monks would have slept and walked and singing in the small chapel where they would have sung their morning prayers. The life of the monk was very structured (around singing, prayers and meditation with 7 services everyday) and very isolating (couldn’t speak to anyone). It was interesting to consider how the piety of the monastery life might have influenced Martin Luther’s later work.
In Erfurt we also saw the other very impressive cathedrals and the bridge of shops… literally a bridge which is made up of shops. It was a lovely town to stay in with some beautiful buildings. There were also a surprisingly high number of tourists around. They also sell really good strawberries in Erfurt!
We then went on to Eisenach. This was where Luther grew up and we went to the museum at the house he was a schoolboy at. The house was so small (dimension wise) I don’t know how he didn’t get claustrophobic. There were also some churches and statues in Eisenach that we got to visit along the way.
Just up the hill from Eisenach is the Wartburg Castle. This magnificent castle was the inspiration for the Neuschwanstein Castle (which in turn was the inspiration for the Disney castle!) It was beautiful set up on a hill. The guided tour (in German!) took us through the main living areas of the castle, and particularly focused on the life of Saint Elizabeth who lived there.
At the end of the tour though we got to see the bit we had been waiting for, the room that Luther lived in when he was in hiding from the Catholic church. This was the very room he translated the New Testament from Greek into German. It was not a particularly impressive room, and considering the grandeur of the rest of the castle, it’s no wonder he would have been depressed at times, but the view was pretty awesome. When reading about Luther though, there are a lot of references to his life in exile and the like, it was easy to understand how isolated he would have felt being at Wartburg, looking out over the hills yet not being able to have satisfying contact with the outside world.