There are several intriguing aspects to Coburg that promise an interesting visit.
For close to a half century, from 1945 to 1990, the town of 42,000 found itself on the road to nowhere, almost encircled by the borders of former East Germany. But when the Iron Curtain collapsed, everything changed. Coburg instantly underwent repositioning from the periphery to the center of a much larger Europe.
Modern traders and pilgrims known as tourists are now re-discovering its charms. The transformation continues in a measured German way that's showing fine results.
Who knew that the lineage of Britain’s royal family can be traced to Coburg? It’s true: Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, was a Coburger. And the grand lady herself made a point of visiting the town during each of her 7 trips to Germany. As she famously said: "If I were not who I am, I would have my real home here."
It’s surprising just how much of Europe’s aristocracy is rooted in the Duchy of Coburg. The town’s website video has a fascinating listing (see link below).
In 1531 Martin Luther spent time here as well, living in the Veste Coburg (castle) for five and a half months under the protection of Elector John the Steadfast who petitioned the Diet of Augsburg to accept Luther’s ideas of reformation.
During his stay Luther undertook biblical translations in addition to working on numerous manuscripts. Reputedly a man of the cloth, stein, plate and bedroom, he would appear to have lived a balanced, if somewhat weighty, life.
Our own recent stay at the Romantik Hotel Goldene Traube was more than comfortable. With local clientele favouring haute cuisine, innkeepers Barbara and Bernd Glauben have created a gastronomic oasis. Two actually: the Victoria Grill (did someone mention the Queen?) and Michelin-starred Esszimmer under head chef Stefan Beiter.
Although we arrived during renovations, the culinary masterpieces served up were impressive. Astutely paired Franken wines were a delightful revelation as well. We took note of the post-renovation excellence to come.
Our city guide for a day was Beatrice Hoellein, originally from Asia, married to a German citizen and living near the city. An expert on local points of interest, she led us on a personal tour that began in the Marktplatz.
A raw autumn day led us from statues of the dukes of Coburg atop the Stadthaus to the interior of the Hof-Apotheke (pharmacy), also on the Marktplatz, where we sampled a heart-warming Hof-Likör made with 40% alcohol and 30 herbs. The recipe has remained in the family since the early 19th C, but one of their bottles came home with us.
Within and near Coburg are 4 attractive castles, including splendid Rosenau Castel where Prince Albert was born. Massive Veste Coburg contains a palace within a fortress which is one of Germany’s largest. By comparison, Ehrenburg, Rosenau and Callenburg are palaces without fortifications.
Veste is accessible through the Hofgärten, a pleasant uphill park. Until just a few years ago, the castle still belonged to the descendants of local dukes. The art and antique collections within the Princes’ Palace, secure behind thick stone walls and huge doors, are worth the walk.
At the foot of the same hill sits Ehrenburg, city residence of the Coburg dukes since 1547. Here is where Queen Victoria appreciated the first flushing toilet on the continent – a water closet of mahogany, no less.
The interior is quite splendid in its Baroque trappings, although our view was limited to the Hokirche (chapel) that day.
The man who would become Belgium’s first king, Leopold I, was yet another famous Ehrenburg resident. Composer Johann Strauss was married here in 1887, becoming a loyal Coburger upon being granted a sympathetic divorce from his first wife.
For everyday culture we gravitated back to the Marktplatz to sample Coburger bratwurst, a delicious local specialty grilled over pine cones (not even a distant cousin to Coney Island hot dogs.)
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Story and photos copyright © Gary Crallé 2012. No commercial reproduction without written consent.
Romantik Golden Traube Hotel www.goldenetraube.com or www.romantikhotels.com
Coburg Tourism http://www.coburg-tourist.de/
German Tourist office www.germany.travel
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Gary Crallé is a seriously sociable travel photographer who appreciates wherever he is. With almost 70 countries under his travel belt it’s surprising he hasn’t put on weight. He likes to concentrate on what is good for the body and soul (history & culture, gastronomy, health & leisure) and the spirit within us (geography, self-discovery/adventure). Image-based stories are his passion.
Located: Georgetown Canada
Likes: photography, adventure, gastronomy, history, events, health & leisure