In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the small town of Weimar in Thuringia saw a remarkable cultural flowering. Enlightened ducal patronage attracted many leading German writers, composers and artists to the town, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and Franz Liszt, thus making Weimar the cultural centre of Europe at that time. This development is reflected in the high quality of many of the buildings and parks in the surrounding area.
“Classical Weimar” was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1998, the 20th site in Germany to be recognised as World Heritage. “Classical Weimar” comprises twelve individual buildings and ensembles, all of which portray tangible and intangible elements of Classical Weimar’s cultural heritage. Weimar’s City Castle, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, Goethe’s and Schiller’s residences, the Town Church, the Ducal Vault with the Historic Cemetery and many others are included on the World Heritage List.
Weimar’s historical parks and gardens connect the historical buildings and their surrounding grounds and are a key feature in the “Classical Weimar” collection: the Park on the Ilm with the Roman House and Goethe’s Garden House, Belvedere Park with its Castle and Orangery, Tiefurt Park and Castle and Ettersburg Park and Castle.
The European Heritage Volunteers Project “Parks and Gardens of Classical Weimar” has been taking place since 2011. The project aims to combine practical interventions to reconstruct and maintain the historic gardens and parks with heritage education and the promotion of the idea of volunteering for heritage.
The reconstruction part took place at the so called "kitchen garden" at the southern edge of Belvedere Park that had been arranged in the 19th century as a combined fruit, vegetable and flower garden. Time has had its hand on this garden, and some of its elements have been lost to nature’s way. Nonetheless, the traces of the original designs remain. This year the participants overtook the works left by the project in 2019 of carefully uncovering and helping to restore a pathway that ran through the kitchen garden. The participants reconstructed stone elements of a stairway and cleaned debris leading into the kitchen garden. In addition, the work advanced the reconstruction of the pathway leading to the central area of the kitchen garden, where a small fountain used to be located according to historical records. Eventually, the pathway will be uncovered all the way until the stone wall to complete the narrative of this area of the site, which may be the task for next year’s continuation of the project.
The dry stone walls as the formative element of the garden are ruinous and need to be protected against progressive decay. The structure has been intervened and is being restored progressively in the successive years. Since the dry stone walls are an important habitat for wild bees and other rare insects the restoration needs to be carried out extremely carefully. Within the framework of the 2018 project the first steps towards the restoration of the dry stone walls have been undertaken, which were advanced in 2019; in 2020 the works were be continued. Plants that damage the walls were carefully taken away, the process was documented and the stones that have fallen over decades were collected to be reutilised. In terms of the work accomplished in 2020, the group of participants completed the furthest end of the dry stone wall, focusing on the shaping of the corner stones to ensure the strength of the entire structure and continuing into the works done on the previous year. The works were guided by a bricklayer specialised on historic walls and traditional techniques who provided during the study part additional theoretical knowledge in this field.
The educational part of the project informed the participants about the background of the project, provided knowledge about historical garden and park architecture, traditional gardening and other related topics and included guided tours about “Classical Weimar” as well as excursions to related heritage sites. The opportunity of free entrance to museums and exhibitions enabled in addition individual study.
The project was organised by European Heritage Volunteers, in cooperation with Klassik Stiftung Weimar – Weimar Classic Foundation.