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Sights

Merchant's Bridge, (c) Thuringia Tourism

The Merchant’s Bridge in Erfurt’s city centre is the only bridge north of the Alps completely covered with buildings and a landmark in Erfurt’s cityscape. The stone bridge is the oldest secular building structure in the city, housing numerous little shops and restaurants since the 14th century ce.

Bridge and ford over the river are part of the Via Regia, the King’s Street connecting the Rhine valley with Silesia, which carried long distance traffic of goods in the Middle Ages and early Modernity.

Once a wooden structure, the bridge was rebuilt after numerous fires in 1293 in stone and the shops lining the bridge let out to traders and merchants. The original buildings upon the bridge were quite small, stalls more than shops. After a fire destroying most of the inner city in the 15th century, the bridge was not only enlarged, the building also were reduced in number, but enlarged in size so that to the shops were added living quarters.

The three-storied half-timbered houses are placed upon sub-structures which give additional storage rooms to the bridge’s shops.

The bridge heads were overlooked by two churches: St. Aegidius towards the Wenigemarkt, and St. Benedictus towards the Fish Market, which has since been torn down and rebuilt as living quarters in the early 19th century.

The Merchant’s Bridge is still a lively shopping street, housing art galleries, chocolate manufacturers, woodcraft shops, book stores and quaint little restaurants. Guided tours offer fascinating insight into the inner life and history of Bridge and city.

Erfurt, Old City

The city of Erfurt looks back on a history of almost 1270 years. It was first mentioned in a document dating to 742 CE, when Irish missionary Bonifatius petitioned the pope to acknowledge a see in “Erphesfurt”. The city was soon to become a central marketplace along the medieval “Via Regia”, the King’s Street, along which goods were sped from to West. Part of the Via Regia led over the Krämerbrücke (“Merchant’s Street”), still one of the distinguishing features of the Old City of Erfurt. The bridge is the longest one in Europe and covered with houses from end to end, deriving its name from the multiple shops selling luxury items such as spices, medicine, dyes, precious metals, silk and paper in the Middle Ages.

To both sides of the Krämerbrücke, excavations have brought to light medieval mikvehs, Jewish ritual baths speaking to the long tradition of the Jewish community in Erfurt. To the south, the mikveh is part of the Kleine Synagoge (“Small Synagogue”), an early modern building that serves as Lecture Hall and cultural meeting place today. The mikveh to the north is in close vicinity to the Old Synagogue, one of the few remaining medieval synagogues in Europe, and dating back to the 11th century. The building is now a museum, housing, among others, the 14th century treasure found during a 2009 excavation.

Among the famous sites in Erfurt are also the Augustinerkloster, a gothic monastery complex built in 1277 and housing the reformer Martin Luther during his time in Erfurt; the Collegium Maius, the old university complex, founded as one of the earliest universities on German territories; the cathedral hill with the twin churches of St. Mary and St. Severus; and the citadel Petersberg, an extensive fort overlooking the old city of Erfurt. The Preacher’s Church was home to mystic Meister Eckhart, while numerous houses in the city are marked out for their famous visitors, among them Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Martin Wiegand and many others.

Today, the contrast between Erfurt's long medieval tradition and its more recent history during the GDR is easily visible in the city skyline: large ‘60s building complexes surround the inner city, commemorating socialist architecture. Though the skyline is marked by numerous church towers, the largest part of the population considers itself atheistic. The city was largely destroyed during WWII, becoming part of the Soviet occupation zone and capital of Thuringia after the German reunification.

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Thuringia Tourism - holiday (vacation) and travel in Thuringia

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