ROUTE 2

From Angermünde to Eisleben

Our second route leads us through upheavals that began in Germany and spread the world over. We'll encounter the masters who developed modern German architecture and one of the most important men in European religious history - reformer Martin Luther.

Our journey begins at a natural World Heritage Site just outside Angermünde, a small town only an hour's drive north east of Berlin. A ranger offers tours from the Blumberger Mühle around the otherwise impenetrable Grumsin beech forest. This means climbing and descending along intertwining paths shaped during the last Ice Age. Grumsin forest has been part of the natural World Heritage Site "Ancient Beech Forests of Germany" since 2011, along with four other beech forests in Germany: Jasmund National Park, the forest of Serrahn, the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park and Hainich National Park.

Now we move on to Berlin. We begin our tour of the capital with the six Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, which have been World Heritage Sites since 2008. You need lots of time to see them all, since these estates, much discussed and adopted internationally as models for social housing, are located in seven different Berlin districts! The following housing estates were all created in the years 1913 to 1934, as a counter design to the bleak imperial era tenement buildings: Weiße Stadt, the garden town Falkenberg, the Schillerpark estate, the Wohnstadt Carl Legien, the Britz grand estate with its famous horseshoe layout, and – as a shining highlight – the Siemensstadt grand estate. This estate is unique in Europe, as it brought together the stars of modern German architecture: Hans Scharoun, Hugo Häring and the creator of Bauhaus himself, Walter Gropius. We will come across him again on our journey.

The Museum Island Berlin a World Heritage Site since 1999, offers an architectural counterpoint to the housing estates. Its history begins in 1830 with Karl Friedrich Schinkel's neo-classical design for the Alte Museum. Only the most renowned architects are granted commissions to develop the Museum Island - Germany's most costly center of arts, containing works from six millennia. Most recently, this was David Chipperfield, whose 2010 re-design of the Neues Museum achieved a fine balance between the traditional and the modern. The result is both very controversial and very much worth a visit.

Our next destinations are the sites connected to the Protestant Reformation, a mere 100 kilometers south west of Berlin. One of the major buildings is the Stadtkirche town church in Wittenberg, where Martin Luther used to preach. A tour of the memorials to Luther through the historical town center is like being in an open air museum: it begins at the Lutherhaus, a former Augustan monastery, where from 1508 Luther was both a monk and professor, and it leads all the way to the All Saints' Church, on whose doors he nailed his famous theses in 1517. Those 95 theses, which criticized the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church, caused huge ructions - it is thought to have been the catalyst for the Reformation itself.

Our next stop is down the River Elbe in Dessau. It is here that architect Walter Gropius opened his Bauhaus art college in 1925. To this day Bauhaus is synonymous with the uncompromising modernization of art, design, and architecture. The college building and the Masters' Houses with their colorful interior decorations are two icons of modernism and have been a World Heritage Site since 1996. Bauhaus founder Gropius apparently once said: "my favorite color is colorful." Once in Dessau, you should also risk a look around the corner and walk down to the Elbe. That's where you'll find the "Kornhaus," a lesser known Gropius building, which today is a restaurant that enriches the UNESCO-protected middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve.

Our last stop is Eisleben, which was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1996 together with Wittenberg. The two towns are connected by their Luther Memorials. Martin Luther was born in Eisleben in 1483, and died here too in 1546. Even if no one knows for sure which house he passed away in, it remains beyond doubt that Luther placed the bible at the center of his teachings, and that the ensuing Reformation found followers the world over.