Travel: Poetry, Drama and Beer; Neil Connor Came over All Bohemian on a Recent Trip to Central Germany When He Followed in the Footsteps of the Poets, Writers and Composers of 'The Land of the Thinkers'. However, He Found It Thirsty Work

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil Connor

'Nature!', surmised Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, on one of his many treks around Germany.

'We are surrounded and embraced by her: powerless to separate ourselves from her, and powerless to penetrate beyond her. Without asking, or warning, she snatches us up into her circling dance, and whirls us on until we are tired, and drops us from her arms.'

As with all the great German romantics, Goethe loved the trees, green landscapes and villages of his homeland.

He believed in its cosmic energy, its cleansing and replenishing effect on the human spirit.

And so the poet, scientist and dramatist spent much of his life travelling across Europe, particularly the southern German states of rolling hills, historic castles and fine beer.

Well, even timeless geniuses can appreciate a decent dark beer, especially in the pure form that is offered in Thuringia and Saxony.

Goethe could often be seen in the bars of Weimar, Eisenach and Leipzig supping away as he was thinking of his latest works.

And he was not alone. Eminent writers, composers and philosophers such as Johann Gottfried von Herder, Friedrich von Schiller, Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn and Heinrich Schutz, and even the great reformer Martin Luther, were enlightened and inspired by this cultural breeding ground.

While nobody is claiming that the 'Land of the Thinkers' should be re-named 'The Land of the Drinkers' because of this region's twin charms of culture and beer, there might just be a connection between art and ale that the history teachers might not want to ignore.

Let's look at the evidence. Goethe's Faust, probably one of the greatest tragedies of all time, was created in an ale house in Leipzig called Auerbachs Keller. It still exists today.

Many of the bars around the region have tales of how the young writer used to charm his many women within their confines, always with a glass of wine in hand.

Schutz's house, in the charming village of Bad Kostritz, is two minutes' walk from one of the largest breweries in the region. Now owned by the Becks conglomerate Bittsburger, the brewery still produces the popular Kostritzer beer today.

While the beer in Thuringia and Saxony may rival the finest that Bavaria has to offer, the artistic charms of the region are so overwhelming that the bars are needed as a resting place for culture-vultures recovering from museums and other historical treasures.

Leipzig, as one of Birmingham's twin cities, is a good place to start the trip as its buildings provide probably the most fascinating architectural mix of post-war communism and medieval Hansel and Gretel-style primordalism.

Plonked in the middle of Leipzig is the home of Mendelssohn, which, on display is a leaflet promoting a concert the composer performed at Birmingham's Town Hall in 1846 for the benefit of the city's General Hospital. But one of the most fascinating buildings in Leipzig is arguably the St Thomas Church, which still contains the parapet from which Luther would preach.

However, Leipzig offers the traveller that rare 'stand back' feeling - where tourists can just stop in their stride for a second, stare up at the nearest building and wonder at its history.

The city has its fair share of modern, fully air-conditioned hotels, and among the most popular places to stay is the Leipzig Marriot which is a stone's throw from the main attractions.

However after a good night's sleep it was time to leave Leipzig and go deeper into the German countryside to find more culture.

The next stop was the small village of Bad Kostritz. Situated on the border of Saxony and Thuringia, Bad Kostritz has been stuck in a time warp since the 1800s.

But above the cottages and quaint town houses the chimneys of the brewery provide a reminder of what century you are in.

The old brewery still remains, but it has developed over time to meet the demands of Broad Street and its European rivals. …