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For its many churches and spiritual centers Luther called Erfurt a "new Bethlehem", his biographer Roland Bainton referred to it as a "many spired city", and still others called it "Thuringia’s Rome." I’ve long known as the city where my wife’s family works and where we would to do our shopping. That’s right, my wonderful wife Paulette and her family are from Buttstädt, which is a small town some 28 miles (45 kms) from Erfurt. But while Paula is talented in many ways, she had never trained to be a #LutherCountry guide and so we never took a tour of the city that Martin Luther called home for many years. So it was fun to take a deep-dive into that history today!
In fact, Erfurt became known as Luther’s "spiritual home," because this is where he studied for many years, dedicated his life to the Augustinian Monastery as a monk in 1505, and was later ordained at the large Erfurt Cathedral. Today, we got the full tour with Luther herself. That’s right, we got to hang out with Kristin Luther from Erfurt’s tourism company who is actually related to the Luther family tracing her ancestry back to Martin’s cousin Adam! We also got a city tour with Mathias who was dressed like Martin Luther for the entirety of our tour. This not only made for some fun photos, but a lot of interaction with people as we walked through the streets and people wondered if it was the Reformer himself who was going for a jaunt in his old stomping grounds.
As Mathias reminded us as at the beginning of the tour, "we all make Martin Luther in our image." That was the theme of the tour as we heard the many stories about Luther’s decision to become a monk, his time at the monastery, his trembling at his first mass, and his time as a mendicant on the streets of the city. While we may not be able to know exactly what happened to Luther along the way, we can still enjoy the many statues, paintings, and memorials that mark his story and remind us of how important Luther has become to German — and international — history and culture.
Martin Luther said that Erfurt "…is situated in the best location. It is the perfect place for a city." The people at the brand new Digital Showroom of Thuringia would agree. The showroom introduces visitors to the place where nature and culture meet — the beautiful and bold state of Thuringia.
As I was talking with the tourist team, we remarked on how too many Americans miss out on all this area has to offer. The Digital Showroom gives you the opportunity to preview and experience the state’s wonders through all five senses. There is a 360 virtual reality experience that takes you high above Thuringia’s tallest castles and mountains and into the deepest crevices of the Dragon’s Gorge. There are also a couple of interactive maps including one with a robotic arm! Even people from here in Thuringia are surprised at all the things they can learn about here at the digital showroom. In fact, we got our own surprise when looking up at their social media stream that features tagged posts from around the region only to see one of my own posts pop-up.
As I said to my father, "another night, another amazing meal and wonderful place to sleep. I could get used to this." Martin Luther came to stay at the Augustiner Kloster in Erfurt in 1505. His bedroom was a simple cell even smaller than his apartment in the Wartburg where he slept on the cold floor with only a straw bed to rest himself at night. We are getting to stay in the monastery as well, but just like at Lutherhaus Eisenach, they’ve updated the beds! That’s a good thing, because our bellies were full again with great Thuringian food.
My dad got to sample some local pork and mustard sauce with his meals at Hotel Zumnorde and Kromer’s Restaurant and Gewölbekeller, but the theme of the day for me was red cabbage and dumplings (Apfel-Rotkohl und Thürnger Klössen). Not only did I enjoy one of the finest examples of this classic Thuringian dish at Kromer’s, but I also nommed on ice cream flavored like red cabbage and dumplings! Like…wha?! The cleverly named Eis Krämer on the famous Merchant’s Bridge in Erfurt blew me away with this fascinating creation and I’ll definitely be coming back for more the next time I am in Erfurt!