For a small city, Weimar, in central Germany, occupies a big place in national - and world - history. A hive for the greatest minds of the 18th-century Enlightenment movement in the country, it is considered a birthplace of great ideas and counts some of the most esteemed figures in German cultural history - including writers Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche - among its former residents. It was also here that the constitution of the Weimar Republic was drafted in the aftermath of World War I, inadvertently giving its name to those ill-fated inter-war years, and which in 1930 witnessed the election of the first Nazi minister in Germany. Today, Weimar's cobbled streets are considerably quieter, with the remnants of its at times glorious, at times complex past drawing visitors from far and wide.
As a result of Weimar's illustrious Enlightenment heritage, UNESCO designated the city a World Heritage Site in 1998, with 12 buildings and parks protected by the title, among them Goethe's House, Schiller's House and the Herder Church. The Weimar City Castle, which is also included in the list, is closed to the public until the end of 2021 to allow for renovation.
Among the 'must-visit' of these UNESCO sites is the Park on the Ilm with the Roman House, a large landscaped garden on the edge of the city's old town and the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, which houses over a million books, medieval and early modern manuscripts, and maps, among other items. Its flamboyant centrepiece, The Rococo Hall, was destroyed in a 2004 fire before being returned to its former glory.
Weimar also bears testament to a much darker period in German history, and just a short bus ride away from the centre of town sits the Buchenwald Memorial, on the site of what was once the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Opened in 1937, it was one of the first and the largest concentration camps in Germany, and was used to imprison Jews, mentally and physically disabled individuals, religious and political prisoners, criminals, homosexuals and prisoners of war. In total, it is believed that over 56,000 people perished here by the time the camp was liberated in April 1945.
Later used by the Soviet Union as a "Special Camp" to hold opponents of Stalin and alleged members of the Nazi party, the majority of its buildings were eventually demolished in 1950. Today, visitors can learn about the camp by viewing what remains of the SS areas, and visiting the permanent exhibitions on the site.
The city's market square is a brilliant place to find cheap eats, including Thueringer bratwurst, a type of sausage unique to this part of Germany which is usually served up drizzled in mustard in a bread roll, and best enjoyed with a stein of local beer. Follow it up with a zupfkuchen, which is somewhere between a chocolate cake and a cheesecake.