Thuringia heaps up unexpectedly in its northern reaches as the Kyffhäuser. While it requires an optimist to describe these wooded sandstone uplands as mountains – no peak in a sixty-square-kilometre extension of the Harz range is above 480m – their low-lying nature and lack of development make for pleasant walking country. The range also holds a special place in the nation’s psyche as the resting place of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Possibly. Fact – or at least historical chronicles – record that the mighty twelfth-century German king and Holy Roman Emperor challenged papal authority to establish German predominance in Western Europe before he drowned in the Holy Land in 1190. Legend, however, counters that “Red Beard” slumbers deep within a Kyffhäuser mountain and will one day awaken to lead the united German people to victory against their enemies. It is, as the marketing board never tires of saying, where Barbarossa dreams. In more recent history Thomas Müntzer’s peasants’ revolution was swatted aside on the flanks of the Kyffhäuser in 1525.
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