GERMANY  |  Lahn Valley, Germany Travel Guide
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Wetzlar

Altstadt (old town), Wetzlar, Germany (cc)
 

Wetzlar

Wetzlar is a small town on the river Lahn, with an extensively-restored and tightly-packed medieval town center with half-timbered houses and stone buildings and an unfinished, 13th-century Romanesque cathedral of some renown. The town actually has scores of historic buildings set upon an interesting array of formerly commodity-centered squares – such as Iron Market, Grain Market, Butter Market and Fish Market – as well as one of the world's largest and most famous public libraries devoted entirely to fantastic literature, Phantastische Bibliothek Wetzlar. There's also a supremely ancient stone bridge across the Lahn here, the 13th-century Alte Lahnbrücke.

Still, despite its historical and visitor-oriented offerings, Wetzlar is famous principally for three reasons: law, literature and photography. Of the first it can be said that Wetzlar was the seat of the Reichskammergericht (Imperial Court), the highest court in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which was originally established in 1495 in Speyer, but fled in 1689 in the face of the advancing French troops during the War of the Palatinate Succession, and settled in Wetzlar until the dissolution of the empire in 1806. Next came the town's association with literature, which was indirectly tied to law; for in 1772, a young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe arrived in Wetzlar to complete his legal training at the Reichskammergericht, but during his stay he wrote and published a slim novella, The Sorrows of Young Werther, which caused quite a stir and brought visitors by the hundreds to this small town to see what the fuss was all about, in turn establishing Goethe as a literary genius. And finally, in 1914, Wetzlar became instrumental in the development of popular photography, with local inventor Oskar Barnack's development of the first small-format (35 mm) film camera, which subsequently went into serial production here in 1926 as the Leica. That legacy has since given birth to optical industries such as Hensoldt binoculars and Siebert microscopes which continue to flourish in Wetzlar.

Wetzlar is situated on the northern edge of the Taunus in the German state of Hesse, on both banks of the river Lahn. It is 33 miles (53 km) north of Frankfurt, or 22 miles (35 km) southwest of Marburg. It has a population of about 52,000

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Last updated May 9, 2012
Posted in   Germany  |  Lahn Valley
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