Small in stature, EISENACH, 30km west of Gotha, abounds with the big hitters of German culture. It is the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach and the refuge from which Martin Luther shaped German Protestantism. Goethe and – with a bit of poetic licence – Wagner get a look in, too, thanks to the Wartburg, not just a UNESCO-listed castle whose thirteenth-century court inspired an opera, Tannhäuser, but a cradle of culture that’s hard-wired into the national psyche. Indeed, such is the heavyweight punch of the small town that everyone rather overlooks the fact that Eisenach is also an amiable place which wears its cultural legacy lightly, not to mention a good launch-pad from which to explore the Thuringian Forest just south. Its compact Altstadt is best enjoyed at walking pace – and as the town is on every coach-tour itinerary in Thuringia you may not have any choice about it.

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