Vintage travel books acclaim GOTHA as the richest and most attractive town in Thuringia. Leaving aside the question of whether their authors had visited Weimar or Erfurt 25km east, it remains a handsome if low-key small town whose looks were buffed in the eighteenth century as the courtly residence of the House of Saxe-Coburg, the dynasty better known in Britain as the House of Windsor – the British royals sensed the public mood during war with Germany and rebranded itself in 1917. The legacy of that glorious heyday is Schloss Friedenstein, the main reason to visit just as it was for Voltaire or Goethe and pals during the Enlightenment, its collections just as erudite. However, the town also serves as a handy gateway to the Thuringian Forest – and if first impressions count there are few better ways to arrive than by historic tram, the Thüringerwaldbahn, which departs from Gotha’s Bahnhof.
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