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CENTRAL GERMANY

Hesse ThuringiaSachsen-Anhalt


HESSE
The Rhein-Main crossroads. The central location of Hesse in the Federal Republic of Germany prior to the country's unification was a boon to its biggest city Frankfurt (647,000), Germany's main financial centre, and to its industrial fairs. This city is a huge autobahn intersection and railway junction, and it has the vast (17 sq km) Rhein-Main Airport which is the largest freight and second largest passenger airport in Europe. Frankfurt on the river Main accommodates most of the country's large banks and many branches of foreign banks in Germany. It is also the headquarters of the Bundesbank, which guards the Deutschmark's stability.

Industry and beaux arts. The Rhein-Main region is, with Berlin, Germany's second largest industrial centre after the Rhein-Ruhr district. It is home to such firms as Hoechst, Opel and Degussa. Other major industries (machinery, locomotives and wagons, automobiles) have established themselves in the northern part of the state around Kassel. This city has an excellent reputation among art lovers owing to its excellent collections of Dutch paintings and its 'documenta', the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in the world. Southern Hesse is home to the leather industry (Offenbach). This region's centre is Darmstadt with its famous Technical University. From 1899 the Mathildenhohe (art nouveau museum in the Ernst Ludwig Haus) developed into the city's artists' colony.

Frankfurt, too, birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), is a city of art, theatre and publishing. The River Main's 'museum embankment' is constantly growing. Also new in the city centre are the 'Schirn' art gallery (1986) and the Museum of Modern Art (1991). The International Book Fair, at which the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade Association is awarded annually, is the largest of its kind in the world.

Amidst charming landscapes are the university towns of Marburg and Giessen, as well as Wetzlar, famous for its optical instruments. The Bergstrasse and the Rheingau are among Germany's best fruit and wine-growing areas. In eastern Hesse is the bishopric of Fulda, a baroque town of considerable historical importance. The state capital Wiesbaden (257,000) is not only an administrative centre but an elegant spa with a much-frequented casino.

Republican tradition. Hesse has existed in its present form only since 1945. In previous centuries it had nearly always been split up into small principalities. It became a focal point in the 16th century, when landgrave Philipp the Magnanimous became one of the political leaders of the Reformation. Frankfurt was for a long time a free imperial city and the place where German emperors were crowned. The city's Saint Paul's Church has become a national monument. It was there in 1848/1849 that the National Assembly convened, the first democratic German Parliament. It failed, however, because of the power wielded by Germany's ruling princes.

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THURINGIA
Germany's green heartland. On account of its position and extensive forest areas Thuringia is also referred to as 'Germany's green heartland'. The state capital is Erfurt (209.000), which was founded in the eighth century and is proud to be called a 'garden city'. The old part of the city has an unusually large number of Patrician houses, churches and monasteries which make it a kind of architectural museum. Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach in 1685, one of a ramified family of musicians. He died in Leipzig in 1750. Martin Luther hid in the nearby Wartburg in 1521/22. There he translated the New Testament into German - a major step in the development of modern written German. And at the same place in 1817 students called for a united Germany.

Territorial fragmentation, culture and barbarity. Thuringia was particularly affected by Germany's much lamented territorial fragmentation. But culturally this proved to be a good thing since the rulers of even small territories were keen patrons of the arts - albeit mostly at the expense of their subjects who had to pay heavy taxes. By far the most prominent among them was Duke Karl August of Saxony-Weimar (1757-1828). He brought to his court the romantic poet and translator of Shake speare Christoph Martin Wieland (1733- 1813), the poet and philologist Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), and above all Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749- 1832). Thus at that time, around 1800, Weimar was a capital of culture, and not only of German culture. In this city Goethe produced some of his most famous works, including the final version of Faust. Weimar was also home to Friedrich Schiller from 1787 to 1789 and from 1799 to 1805. There he wrote, among other works, his William Tell. Franz Liszt (1811-1886) composed and gave concerts there in the second half of the 19th century. Here the Bauhaus was founded in 1919, a school of architecture which sought to overcome the divisions between art, handicraft and technology. In 1925 the Bauhaus moved to Dessau, and a few years later to Berlin, where, in 1933, it fell victim to the barbarity which followed Hitlers seizure of power. The year 1933 also marked the demise of the first German republic, the 'Weimar Republic', whose constitution had been drafted in Weimar in 1919.

Industry and crafts. In medieval times several Thuringian towns, especially Erfurt, became rich through trade with a blue-dyeing plant, the woad. Other branches of the economy grew up later, including machine tools and precision and optical instruments, which made the city of Jena and the name of Carl Zeiss, the mechanic, world famous. Automobiles have been manufactured in Eisenach for some considerable time (in GDR - times a famous make was the 'Wartburg'). Since German unification the firms of Opel and Bosch have been operating there. Some of the farmland is of the highest quality. Barley, wheat, potatoes, sugarbeet and fruit are grown.

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SAXSONY-ANHALT
Classical central Germany. Saxony-Anhalt is the classical embodiment of central Germany on the rivers Elbe and Saale, covering the area between the Harz mountains, with the Brocken (3,500 ft), the Blocksberg of Goethe's Faust, and the Flaming, a ridge of hills in the east between the Auwiesen in the north and the vineyards along the Saale and Unstrut. Halberstadt's cathedral, originally built in the romanesque style, and the monument to the 'Merseburg spells' which is over a thousand years old, bear witness to a historical continuity from the days of Charlemagne.

In many towns the past has lived on. This region is only thinly populated, particularly in the northern parts, Altmark and Magdeburger Borde, whose loess soil is ideal for farming (wheat, sugarbeet and vegetables). There is an extensive food industry (sugar factories). Nearly one in five of the state's three million inhabitants lives in Halle (310,000), Magdeburg (278,000), and Dessau (101,000). Halle, Bitterfeld, Leuna, Wolfen, and Merseburg, hitherto centres of the chemical and lignite mining industries, are in a phase of radical change as a result of the misguided policies of the former German Democratic Republic. Extensive investment to reverse environmental pollution and create a new infrastructure will have to be maintained for many years - as in all of the new German states. The nucleus of the region's traditional chemical industry is to be preserved, however. The opening of the first Max Planck Institute in eastern Germany, in Halle in 1992, was another step to boost the region's economy.

Testimony to a great past. The decision in 1990 to make Magdeburg, which has a Technical University and a School of Medicine and is a centre of heavy engineering, capital of Saxony-Anhalt settled the traditional rivalry with Halle, at least in this respect. Both cities have a distinctive medieval past. The cathedral of Magdeburg, seat of emperors and bishops, is one of the largest in Germany. The old salt town of Halle, birthplace of the composer Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759), is dominated by the cathedral, the Marktkirche and the Red Tower. The German-American painter Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) captured the city's landmarks with his fascinating modernistic style. His works and those of his contemporaries can be seen in Moritzburg's Staatliche Galerie. But one of the major centres of 20th century art was Dessau, thanks mainly to its Bauhaus school of architecture.

Tangermunde, with its brick architecture, is regarded as the 'Rothenburg of the North'. Wernigerode, a jewel of semi-timbered buildings, is commonly known as the 'colourful town in the Harz region'. The medieval figures depicting the founders of Naumburg's cathedral are early examples of realistic representation. Eisleben is where Martin Luther (1483-1546) was born and died. He was buried in Wittenberg's Schlosskirche, to the door of which he is said to have nailed his 95 theses in 1517. Eisleben was also the home of the famous Cranach family of painters. At the royal court in Kothen Johann Sebastian Bach composed his six Brandenburg concertos. In 1663, the physicist Otto von Guericke, who was mayor of Magdeburg, demonstrated the effects of air pressure using his 'Magdeburg hemispheres'.

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