Weimar is a small yet pretty town of around 60,000 inhabitants. Its fame, however, extends far beyond the borders of Thuringia. Foreigners generally associate Weimar with the ill-fated Weimar Republic; founded here in 1919, but ruled from Berlin where it floundered in the early 1930s after the Nazis came to power.
Still, for Germans as well as the average tourist, visiting Weimar is all about classicism. Although never a large town, and never of real strategic importance, Weimar attracted artistic talent for centuries. During the late 18th century, under the reign of the talented Duchess Anna Amalia and later her son Carl August, the Duchy Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach reached its classical period and for a few decades, this town of less than 5,000 was the center of intellectual thought in Germany. The Duchess came to power in 1758, and acquired the services of Christoph Martin Wieland to educate her son. The greatest coup was inviting the brilliant young, but upcoming, writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He would stay in Weimar from 1775 until his death in 1832, playing a major role not only in the arts but also in the administration of the duchy. He attracted other writers such as the dramatist Friederich von Schiller and the theologian Gottfried Herder. These four elevated German literature to an unknown level, leading to the period generally referred to as the classical. For most German tourists, and students of German, visiting Weimar is primarily a pilgrimage to the sites associated with these writers.
Through the centuries Weimar also attracted other talents such as Lucas Cranach the Elder, who died here; Johann Sebastian Bach, who was organist and choirmaster in Weimar from 1708 to 1717; and Franz Liszt, who, beginning in 1848, filled the same position as Bach and created a famous musical school that currently bears his name.
In the 20th century, Weimar played a major role in the foundation of modern architecture and design. From 1902, Henri van de Velde, the Belgian exponent of Art Nouveau, worked in Weimar. After the First World War, the Bauhaus was founded in Weimar under the leadership of Walter Gropius. However, the ideas of the Bauhaus were too radical for the conservative town and by 1925 Bauhaus moved to Dessau.
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