Grabfeld — Witchcraft And The Green Belt

At this point in the game of highlighting the best and brightest of Germany’s cities, towns and villages, I like to play games. When it came to the Thuringian town of Grabfeld, I pretended I was a traveler from the medieval and then another one of the 18th century — and would I recognize the town that it is today.

The answer is a resounding… well…

First off, the town of Grabfeld as we know it now changed its political history back in 2007 — when some 10 villages were combined to make the place you see today. Plus, if I just talked about being from the past or future, they’d have burned me at the stake.

No joke, they took witchcraft very seriously here in the 17th century. Countless people were terrorized and tortured over the course of some seventy years — but that’s just a drop in the bucket of time here in Grabfeld. One of the oldest sites to see are the Bronze Age tombs.

I know, it makes the old churches from the 19th century seem, well, young.

As for its even more modern history, Grabfeld used to lie along the East/West German border. Today the town falls on Das Gr├╝ne Band, or Green Belt, a scenic route along what was once a divided Germany. The folks at the German Outdoor Museum can give you a much better explanation of the Cold War than I ever could.

The town also falls along the Main-Werra Cycle Route, which is a lovely way to see the countryside. While you’re off exploring, you might want to come to Berkach, where you’ll meet up with the town’s charming village church, and its old synagogue and mikveh (ritual bath).

There’s more Jewish history to be found in Bibra, where the former synagogue (built 1846) is located at Hauptstra├če 10, and is close to Oscar Meyer Square — named for the town’s last Jewish resident, not the hot dog people.

As for me being a medieval traveler of Grabfeld, I might remember a castle once being here — which its former walls still are, but sadly the castle is long gone. And for the 18th century traveler coming back to visit, they sure would remember the many half-timbered houses found through all of Grabfeld’s villages.

It’s kinda nice some things never change — although I’m really glad no one’s gonna accuse anyone of witchcraft these days anymore. ;-)

 

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