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Check out our  tour
“In the Footsteps of Martin Luther

In the Footsteps of

Martin Luther

 

History, vision and beauty in Germany

 

Martin Luther's Crest

 

Note: Wherever you see inserts like [80km] in the text, these tell you the approximate distance we expect to drive up to that point on that day. These figures are accumulative, i.e. if you see something like [324km] behind the city where your hotel is for the day, it tells you the total amount of km covered on that day. 1 km equals approximately 0.63 miles.

 

 Contents

  • Itinerary

  •  

 

 

Day 1   Departure from the USA and overnight flight to Europe.

 

Day 2   Arrival at Frankfurt airport in the morning. Your English speaking tour guide and your bus driver are waiting to welcome you to Europe. Board your private deluxe motor coach that will be with you for the entire trip. Cold drinks, a PA and radio/tape/CD system, air conditioning, a bathroom… it’s all on board.

 

After driving east for about 2½ hours we’ll arrive in the city of Eisenach [206km], already one of the major Luther sights: It is here that little Martin spent 3 years as a student, finding food and shelter in the house of Ursula Cotta. The house is still there today. Later, on his way to and from the crucial imperial diet of Worms, he preached in the local church, the Georgenkirche. Most importantly, however, it is here that he became the “victim” of a fabricated hold-up, and was taken as a “prisoner” to the proudest castle far and wide, the Wartburg. It is here that, under the protection of the local prince, he spent some 10 months as “Junker Jörg” in this “mighty fortress” which later reappeared in a hymn which is sung still today, as you well know. His greatest achievement during that time was to translate the New Testament from the Greek into German – something so bold it was considered obscene by many. We will visit the castle and enjoy a guided tour that will take us to the room where Martin Luther lived and worked, but you will also get a good idea about the castle’s importance for German history at large.  Now it’s only a short drive to the Erfurt area [approx. 273km] and to our first hotel. Dinner at the hotel.

 

Day 3  – Breakfast will be at your hotel – as always on this tour. Most hotels these days offer a rather generous buffet breakfast that far exceeds the once common “continental breakfast” of hard rolls and a bit of jam.  This morning is devoted to Erfurt, yet another city closely linked to Martin Luther. In his early years, he attended the university of Erfurt, which after all is one of the three oldest universities in Germany. After he had taken a vow to become a monk, he entered the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt and lived there as a monk for 6 years (1505-1511). It is also here that he celebrated his first mass, and the story is told that he felt so unworthy he hesitated for a long time to begin the ceremony, sitting on a stone bench to the side of the altar. That bench is still there today, and as we visit the monastery and church you may sit on it, too.  As we further explore the city you will also see the unique ensemble of two churches, the Cathedral of Mary and the Severi  church. 

Cathedral of Mary & the Severi church

You will also walk up the vast outside staircase leading up to those two churches – a sea of steps so large it is regularly used for theatrical performances – in 2005 e.g. to perform once again the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”. One of the most curious sights in Erfurt is a bridge by the name of Krämerbrücke, which is completely covered with houses.  You’ll walk across it.

In the afternoon we would like to take you to the little city of Eisleben [91km], which is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem and the Jerusalem of the reformer.  On November 10, 1483  Martin was born in what was then the “Lange Gasse” (Long Alley); the next day he was baptized in the nearby church of St. Petri-Pauli. After an uneventful childhood he then set out to change the world forever, traveling to a vast number of places in Germany and abroad. By some strange twist of fate he returned to Eisleben as an old man, his purpose being to help make peace between the two ruling families of the area. After three weeks he finally succeeded; one day later, on February 18, 1546, he died in the house by the Andreas church square, now known as Luther’s death place, and also a place devoted to his memory. We will visit all three places.  Return to your hotel; no organized dinner.

 

Day 4   This morning we are on our way to Leipzig [140km], one of the most important cities in this part of Germany. First and foremost, Leipzig is the city of Johann Sebastian Bach, musical genius who worked as cantor at the Thomas Church for more than 25 years.

Statue of J S Bach

The boys choir that he trained and led, is still in high demand all over the world. When talking about Leipzig, other attractions come to mind: The Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus), one of the nicest secular renaissance building; a café by the name of “Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum“ (Arabian coffee tree), the oldest café in Europe; and – surprisingly – the massive railway station which has in recent years been converted to one of the most modern and progressive shopping malls in Germany.

But Leipzig is also the cradle of the 1989 peaceful revolution, which ultimately led to the reunification of the two German states. It is often forgotten that the exciting events of that time have their roots in the “prayers for peace” that had started seven years before at a church in the center of town, the Nicolaikirche. This church remained a meeting and focal point until the end, and indeed the role of the Protestant church during those critical months and years has not yet been fully explored at all. It is, however, not far fetched to assume that the peaceful unruliness of the population against their government of oppression was, in part, rooted in the spiritual revolution known as the reformation some 450 years before. We will endeavor to organize a meet-ing with one or more persons (hopefully including the pastor of the Nicolai church) who are witnesses of these events, and can shed some more light on recent history.  

In the late afternoon we continue our journey to the city of Wittenberg [210km], which was without a doubt the spiritual center of the Lutheran reformation. Dinner and overnight in the area.

 

Day 5  Today is fully devoted to Wittenberg: Visit the Schlosskirche (castle church) where according to legend Luther nailed his 95 theses to the entrance door, intending to invite to a scholarly discussion, but in fact sparking off what is probably the most significant paradigm change the Christian world has ever seen. Inside the church, visit the graves of Martin Luther and Phillip Melanchthon. Then walk over to Luther’s house: the reformer lived here from 1508, and was joined by his wife Katharina in 1525. She gave him a gate as a present for his 57th birthday, which you can still see today and which shows the Luther rose, the coat of arms of the reformer.

Luther's door

Katharina and Martin kept an open house in Wittenberg, inviting students, professors and visitors alike, probably developing a prototype of a protestant pastor’s home that still has its influence today. The living room, it is claimed, is pretty much in its original state… so you’ll get a good idea what life may have been like in the 1500s.  Other places will also be visited.  The balance of the day is free for individual activities; your tour guide will assist you. There is no organized dinner today.

 

Day 6   It is said that behind a great man there often is a great woman. This is certainly true for the woman in Martin Luther’s life: Katharina von Bora. She is an interesting person, keeping invisible in the background for the most part, yet smart, courageous and highly influential. In order to find out more about Katharina we’d like to take you on an excursion to

Katharina von Bora

the nearby town of Torgau [50km], last of the “Luther cities”.  The city was much appreciated by Luther himself (He said, “The buildings of Torgau by far surpass those of antiquity in beauty, even the temple of Salomo was made of wood only”), and as Torgau has basically retained its 16th century face you’ll like it just as much as Martin himself.  After her husband’s death Katharina continued to live in Wittenberg for 6 years until in 1552 the pestilence broke out in the city. She fled to Torgau, only to die there in the same year. The place where she lived is now a museum devoted to her, which we will visit. We’ll also visit the castle church in Torgau, which was consecrated by the reformer himself in 1544 and which is generally considered to be the very first newly built Protestant church in the world. Further details will be announced later.  Return to your hotel in Wittenberg or area and dinner.

 

Day 7   Full day excursion to Berlin [110km]. Upon arrival, a  local guide will take you on a 3 hour tour of Berlin: major sights will be featured such as the Reichstag parliament building, the Gedächtnis church and the Brandenburg Gate. But we will also try and find traces of the city's recent history, take a fresh look at Checkpoint Charlie, and pay a visit to Berlin's "Lower East Side" - Kreuzberg. The balance of the afternoon is free for individual activities: Maybe you want to visit the fascinating new Jewish museum, stroll along the Ku-Damm boulevard, or check out the famous KADEWE department store – the largest of its kind in Germany - with its breathtaking deli department. No organized dinner today – return to your hotel in the evening.

 

Day 8   A long day of driving lies ahead of us today as we change from the northeast of Germany to the very south – the beautiful area of Bavaria. For the most part we will go along the Autobahn system, so while we have some 580 km to cover at least we’ll be going at a fair speed of 100km/hour, traffic permitting. En route we’d like to take in one city as it is closely connected to the reformation: This is the city of Augsburg where on occasion of the imperial diet in 1530 the newly emerging Protestant part of Christianity stated their beliefs and convictions in a document that is still relevant today – the Confessio Augustana or “Augsburg Confession”. Unfortunately the meeting hall where Melanchthon read out this important manifesto in front of the powerful of the Holy German Empire of German Nation, no longer exists – but one tower of the original castle building is still there. And while we’re there we’ll peep into the Cathedral, and time permitting visit the unique “Fuggerei”… which puts Bill Gates to shame easily. We now proceed to out hotel somewhere in Bavaria (probably in the Peiting/Oberammergau area) for dinner and a well-deserved overnight.

 

Day 9   This morning, motor to the Füssen area and be prepared for one of the highlights of your trip (and a brisk walk up the hill): the famous "wedding cake" castle Neuschwanstein [36km] built by a king who - some say - was mad ...  or maybe he was just very sad? Decide for yourself - see the inside of this breathtaking Schloss on a guided

Neischwanstein Castle

tour. On the way back we intend to stop at the Wieskirche, the well-known “church in the meadow” - generally considered one of the finest baroque/rococo churches north of the Alps, and also a place of pilgrimage. Our final stop today is in the famous village of Oberammergau [81km] where the Passion Plays are staged every 10 years. Catch a glimpse of the festival hall, admire the pretty murals on many houses, and watch the world-renowned woodcarvers at work. Return to your hotel in Bavaria for dinner and overnight.

 

Day 10   A full day excursion to Munich [70km] is on the agenda today: Bavaria’s proud and beautiful capital will entice you with the majestic Frauenkirche (church of our  lady), landmark of the city; it will surprise you with one of the most charming open air markets Germany has to offer – the Viktualienmarkt. Munich will impress you with its massive city hall that features the famous Glockenspiel (chimes) (… although, between us, it’s not really that old), and it will lure you into its temple of beer-inspired Gemütlichkeit – the Hofbräuhaus. We will show you around some sights outside the city center (such as the 1972 Olympic grounds or Nymphenburg Castle), and then assist you in exploring the inner city. Return to your Bavarian hotel in the evening - no organized dinner.

 

Day 11   As we begin to travel north again today we can offer you a visit to the famous Steiff teddy bear factory in Giengen. They have a unique museum there, and also their factory outlet is well worth a visit. Then continue to Rothenburg [274km], the romantic mediaeval wonder. Dinner and overnight at a hotel in or around Rothenburg.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Day 12   Rothenburg ob der Tauber certainly is a gem: cobble-stoned alleys, century-old buildings, an altar that was artistically carved almost 500 years ago, magnificent city gates, a wall all around... it's like stepping into a fairy tale. Your guide will make sure you get some idea about Rothenburg: walk on the city wall, visit the (now Protestant) church with its famous Holy Blood Altar, and see the area where the castle once was – now a beautiful garden with a wonderful view into the Tauber valley. After that you are free to explore the town, and in particular Käthe Wohlfahrt's all-year-round Christmas Stores. If interested your guide will take you to a local potter who makes crockery in the typical “daisy” style of the area. Second overnight at your hotel in or around Rothenburg. No organized dinner.

 

Day 13   As we leave Rothenburg this morning we travel west and past the city of Heidelberg to Worms [205km], where we should arrive late morning. Of course you have heard of the imperial diet of Worms in 1521, before which Luther was called to retract his teachings. Luther refused. An order was issued for the destruction of his books, and he was put under the ban of the Empire. More bluntly: he was a dead man. Hence the rather drastic action that saw him end up in Wartburg Castle. Just like in Augsburg hardly anything of the meeting hall is left (a coincidence?), but the cathedral is once again worth a visit. Also, Worms has been the place of one of the most famous and important Jewish communities, so famous in fact that Worms at times was nicknamed “Little Jerusalem”. In the afternoon we continue a little further north to the Rhine area [266km] for dinner and overnight.

 

Day 14   The final day in Germany is devoted to the beauty and drama of the Rhine river. In the Rüdesheim area, board one of those Rhine steamers in order to leisurely float down the river, past vineyards, castles and steep slopes. Meet your bus again in St. Goarshausen and motor up the famous Loreley rock, a dramatic piece of slate causing lots of headaches to the passing boats right from the times German legends began. Enjoy the breathtaking view into the river valley before we continue a little further to the city of Braubach where we’ll visit the Marksburg [80km], probably the most attractive and interesting castle on the Rhine: among other things, learn how the knights were able to refrigerate their foodstuffs well into the summer;

Marksburg castle 2

see a genuine chastity belt; and find out how a mediaeval mousetrap works. On our way back we’ll stop in one of the well-known wine places like Bacharach or Oberwesel. Return to your hotel for a grand farewell dinner.

 

Day 15 Transfer to Frankfurt Airport [approx. 50km] – it is now time to say goodbye, or rather "Auf Wiedersehen", to your tour guide and your driver. Departure to the USA.

 

 

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We count a total of 13 overnights in Europe.

List of overnight places:

Place

No. of nights

Erfurt

2

Wittenberg

4

Bavaria

3

Rothenburg

2

Rhein area

2

Total overnights

13

 

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