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We’ve arrived in Frankfurt and are headed to Schmalkalden for our first tour and taste of #LutherCountry. But before hitting the road in our Avis rental car we have to grab a bite to eat. Good thing there are “Backstuben” (bakeries) at regular intervals along the way. My dad had his first taste of a quality German sandwich and fell in love!
Schmalkalden is a charming city with a 1,139 year history too often overlooked by Americans hurrying through #LutherCountry. But it’s a gem that no one should miss for its long tradition, picture-perfect German architecture (especially the “fachwerk”), and connection with Martin Luther’s narrative.
Today, we had the opportunity to go on a city tour with a local expert who showed us all the sights — big and small. While Schmalkalden lies on the sunny side of the Thuringian Forest it was a rainy Autumn day today, but that didn’t stop us from beholding the beauty of the city as you can see! One of the greatest gifts Schmalkalden has to offer is its rich history. Today, we toured the city hall (“Rathaus”) which dates from 1419 and was the spot where the powerful Schmalkaldian Alliance met between 1530-1543. Luther presented his “private creed” — the Schmalkald Articles — to the gathered princes and powerful representatives gathered there in 1537. We also got to see the abundance of “fachwerk” on the houses and learn more about the history that makes Schmalkalden what it is today, including the slab of “pig-iron” affectionately illuminated in the Neustadt.
Above all the excitement of Schmalkalden, the greatest gift we were given was the opportunity to stay in the house where Luther resided when he came to Schmalkalden. Martin Luther stayed here as a guest from February 7-26, 1537 during the momentous meeting of the Schmalkaldian Alliance as guest of the Hessian bursar Balthasar Wilhelm, who was also an aspiring reformer. Today, the building is marked with a plaque from 1687 showing the symbols of the Reformers — a swan and rose for Luther and Phillip Melanchton’s seals.
Not only do we get to stay in the actual house (can you believe it?!?!), but we got to enjoy the company of some folks from Schmalkalden as we were treated to a medieval-inspired dinner and “table talk” about Martin Luther, the city’s history, and the food, drink, and activities that he and his compatriots would have enjoyed at the time. After much good food, local beer, and fine conversation we are hitting the sack after a long, full, day #TestingLutherCountry. Thankfully they’ve updated the beds since the 16th-century! :)