The J.S. Bach Tourist

1. Introduction

During the sunny first week of August 1995, my father (1912-1996) and I (1945) made a trip to Thuringia and the Leipzig area in order to visit the places where Johann Sebastian Bach lived and worked. Most of these places are in the former German Democratic Republic, which was, rightly or wrongly, not considered an attractive touristic destination before the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. With the exception of Lüneburg and Lübeck (in former West Germany), which I visited in the fall of 1996, we visited all places where Bach lived. We got a good impression of Bach's various environments and took pictures for you to share the experience. What is offered on these J.S. Bach tourist pages is not a travel guide in the usual sense but a series of personal impressions of Bach sites, illustrated with pictures and supplemented with some minimal practical information.

There is, of course, a rich supply of regular travel guides about Germany, general ones such as the reliable Michelin guides and Gordon McLachlan's excellent Rough Guide, but also lots of specialized guides about Thuringia and Saxony. For the Bach tourist, there happen to exist two specialized Bach travel books (both in German):

The Gretzschel and Jung book is a large-format and beautiful picture book, which tells the usual story about Bach's life. Martin Petzoldt's book is more of a travel guide in the normal sense, with lots of information about Bach sites, travel options and opening hours. It is a really excellent guide, scholarly up-to-date and indispensable for the more ambitious Bach tourist. I bought Petzoldt's book at the end of our trip, at the Bach museum in Leipzig. You will miss less, however, if you can get a hold of this book (ISBN 3-928802-24-0) before or at the beginning of your trip.

On the whole, there is a remarkable contrast between the Thuringian sites and the more Northern sites (Köthen, Leipzig). Bach's native Thuringia is hilly, full of forests alternating with yellow fields and with picturesque villages and towns, some of them with half-timbered houses. All towns have good hotels and adequate, be it somewhat monotonous, restaurants at very reasonable prices. It is a region with great touristic potential, not only because of the beautiful landscapes but also because of its compactness: important historical sites, such as Eisenach, Erfurt, and Weimar are all within an hour's drive from each other.

The Köthen-Leipzig area is much flatter, with slightly rolling landscapes at best. I am not aware of any documented homesickness of Bach, but one can easily imagine that Bach missed the beautiful family home grounds sometimes. One indication of such feelings is perhaps Bach's life-long attendance at the regular family reunions in Thuringia.

Leipzig is a rather big city and prices there are more in line with the rest of Germany. In its present form, it is an ugly city, bombed to powder during the Second World War and very inadequately rebuilt and maintained by the other evil empire that threatened European civilization during this century.

Disclaimer, copyright, and acknowledgements

Although I have tried to be as accurate as possible, I do not take responsibility for any remaining errors in the information of these pages (opening hours, etc.). Pictures are made by myself (unless indicated otherwise) and can, for non-commercial purposes, be freely downloaded and used as long as my copyright is acknowledged ((c) Jan Koster 1995). I would like to thank my father, Leendert Koster, for being such pleasant company during our trip. Last but not least, I would like to thank Jan Hanford for the many stimulating discussions that led to these pages in the first place. Please, send corrections, additions, or other comments by e-mail to: koster@let.rug.nl.

Jan Koster

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Eisenach 3. Ohrdruf
4. Lüneburg Heath 5. Lüneburg 6. Lübeck 7. Arnstadt
8. Dornheim 9. Mühlhausen 10. Weimar
11. Köthen 12. Leipzig

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