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 work to restore and maintain the cultural landscape with heritage education and the promotion of the idea of volunteering for heritage.
The practical part consists of several elements:
Over years international volunteers restored a system of historical paths in the Southern part of Belvedere Park around the “Large Grotto”, based on plans from the early 19th century carefully searching for remains of the original paths which disappeared several decades ago, and uncovered and restored their tracks. So, year by year another section of the paths had been rebuilt, and the works in this part of Belvedere Park will be continued and shall be finished during the 2018 project.
Another part of the group will carry out – alternating from day to day – maintenance works in other parks and gardens of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Classical Weimar”, to support so Weimar Classic Foundation, the responsible site management, in works that can be undertaken only manually, such as cutting long-grass meadows on slopes. At the same time the volunteers gain a detailed and varied knowledge about the different parks and gardens of the World Heritage site and the challenges in managing them.
Finally, a third group will work 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. The dry stone walls as the formative element of the garden are ruinous and shall be protected against progressive decay and in the next years successive restored. 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. In the frame of the 2018 project the first steps towards the restoration of the dry stone walls will be undertaken: Plants that damage the walls will be carefully taken away, the walls will be documented, the stones that had fallen down over decades will be collected, their original places determined, smaller areas will be restored and the cap stones will be placed back. The works will be guided by a bricklayer specialised on historic walls and traditional techniques that will provide during the study part additional theoretical knowledge in this field.
The educational part of the project will inform the volunteers about the background of the project, provide knowledge about historical garden and park architecture, traditional gardening and other related topics and will include lectures and guided tours about “Classical Weimar” as well as excursions to related heritage sites. The possibility of free entrance to museums and exhibitions enables individual study. Finally, there will be a public presentation of UNESCO World Heritage sites from the participants’ home countries, which will enlighten the wider public about the idea of volunteering at heritage sites.
The group will consist of fourteen volunteers from fourteen different countries, most of them linked to heritage, either professionally or through their studies, or with an interest in architecture, landscape planning or gardening. Therefore every participant can make use of the cultural background to, and own knowledge about heritage in their home countries, enabling a complex and interesting exchange of experiences, approaches and ideas.
As in all years since 2012, also the 2018 project will be carried out in the frame of the UNESCO World Heritage Volunteers initiative. The project is worldwide that UNESCO World Heritage Volunteers Project that takes place continuously for the longest period.
Furthermore, the project is a part of the overall project “Best practice models of volunteering for European Cultural Heritage” that had been selected by the German National Committee for Heritage Protection, the responsible body for the “European Year of Cultural Heritage” in Germany, as one of only few “projects of all-state relevance”.
The project will take place from July, 28th, to August, 11th, 2018, and will be organised in cooperation with Klassik Stiftung Weimar (Weimar Classic Foundation) and Grüne Liga Thüringen (Thuringian Green League).