Friday, August 31, 2007

Weimar, a City Without Soap, and Buchenwald

Weimar isn't a place I probably would have thought to visit on my own, so I was glad to see it on our tour route. We left Berlin early and went straight to Weimar, went through a lot of traffic, and made it with just enough time to have lunch before meeting for tours. A few of us ended up at a combination doener/Chinese food joint. There was a lot of confusion regarding our orders. Then the Greek guy went to the bathroom inside and saw that there was no soap and everything was generally sketchy. In the end everyone managed to get the right food and no one got sick, so I guess the place was all right. (That day.) I had to use the restroom but didn't want to go there after the soap incident, so Damon and I went to get some goodies at a bakery and used the restroom there. It also had no soap. I began to think Weimar had taken on a soapfree policy of some kind. Then later, I saw a street called "Soap Street" (only in German). Perhaps that's where they are hiding it all!

Weimar Aug 2007

We were again offered both English and German tours and this time we took the German option. It was harder to understand and I probably missed a lot, but the group was smaller than 10 people so it was more manageable in general. Damon asked a couple of questions, though, and the guide seemed to treat him like he was stupid, so who knows, maybe English would have been better :/ See the photos for info on what we saw on the tour! The thing about Weimar is that most of what they showed us...actually, perhaps all of what they showed us was only famous because of who is associated with it - Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Luther - and not famous on account of being architecturally cool in itself. In that sense I think it was probably the least interesting place we visited, although it was still very nice as is obvious in the photos! Oh, and the drivers were insane. I almost got ran over by some people who then shouted obscenities at me. The friendly East again :) People did seem to be a bit more rough-edged in general.

Our hotel turned out to be nowhere near the town center, so after we checked in and had dinner, there wasn't really anywhere to go but the hotel bar, where we all paid too much for crappy cocktails and were merry.

The next morning we first visited Buchenwald, a former concentration camp. It was a work camp rather than a death camp, though over 50,000 people died there of overwork, starvation, disease, and at the hands of "doctors".

Buchenwald Aug 2007

We saw a movie there telling some history of the place and then had a tour with a very good, informative guide. What was the most disturbing about it was having to face the fact that people in Weimar and other nearby towns probably actually did have a pretty good idea that the conditions in the camps were completely inhumane. I always try to tell myself that people just didn't realize what was happening. Before the crematorium was built at Buchenwald, bodies were sent down to Weimar to be cremated. Within the period of time this was done, the number of bodies cremated from the camp was several times more than the number of bodies from the city of Weimar cremated - a clear indicator that people were dying there in unusually high numbers. They must have also seen the state of the bodies. So awful.

Our tour took us inside the crematorium. After it was built, they decided they liked it so much, they used it as the prototype for the ovens at Auschwitz. However, the ones at Auschwitz were destroyed, so many people come to see the ones at Buchenwald as a way of paying tribute to their relatives who died at Auschwitz. Inside the crematorium are several memorial plaques placed by families and organizations, flowers, and chains of paper cranes.

After the end of WWII the Buchenwald site was used briefly as a prison by the East German government, then it became a memorial to the communists who resisted the Nazis, a prominent one of which was shot at Buchenwald.


  1. Damn, my east germans are letting me down! And after reading this I may never eat in Weimar again...

  2. Eurotrippen: hehe, just take some soap with you and ask them to wash up before preparing your food :)


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