I’m here to tell you that the entire length of the Werra River can be found totally within Germany. That’s right, Germany gets to enjoy all 300 kilometers of it, without sharing any of it with any other place.
Color me selfish. Well, not entirely — I’m sharing the Werra with you, aren’t I? ;-)
The source of the Werra starts in the Thuringian Forest in southern Thuringia, near the small town of Eisfeld, in the Eselsberg and Bleßberg mountains.
Speaking of Eisfeld, you might think the Eisfelder Schloss is kinda old, since it was built in the 13th century, but that’s nothing compared to the older one that was here beforehand. Eisfeld is also famous for its summer toboggan track (called Sommerrodelbahn), and every Whit Tuesday (right around Pentecost) there’s a huge Kuhschwanzfest (you don’t want me to translate that one ;-).
Of course, this is along the border of the Thuringian Forest, so maybe you’d like a hike before we follow the Werra someplace else.
The Werra flows westward towards 1200-year-old Veilsdorf, a small porcelain producing town with two beautiful churches that look like twins (St. Veitskirche & Trinitatiskirche).
On it goes to Hildburghausen, a town that’s steeped deep in history. It started simple enough, as a Frankish settlement, but then went on to be a vital town along the old salt routes. So that’s how they bankrolled the Royal Palace (built 1705) and the City Church, huh?
You’re still in Thuringia as you make your way down the Werra to Meiningen — just not by motorboat. Sorry, only the last 80-odd kilometers of the river is navigable.
Don’t sweat it, you don’t need a boat to enjoy Meiningen. You can’t take the vessel into the Schloss Elisabethenburg (with its four museums), its Parish Church of St. Johann, or to see all the framework houses.
Bad Salzungen‘s location on the Werra brought it prosperity — and spa goers. The salt springs make for easing tired, achy muscles; and the salt Gradierwerke (from the 14th century) made for big money.
You can enjoy the salt springs or Burg Frankenstein anytime, but the City Festival is held only once a year.
From here the Werra flows up towards Berka (Werra). There’s a big hydroelectric power plant using the Werra’s water to provide power to the town’s populace, as well as electricity to the many half-timbered houses, the Alte Stern (an inn where Martin Luther as well as Kings and Rulers slept), the Old Brewery, and the 15th century church.
This is a really good place to rent a canoe to really enjoy the river. Besides, from here the Werra twists and turns (serpentines, if you will) as it makes its way towards the Hessian town of Eschwege.
Eschwege enjoys not only the river, but a twice weekly market (Wed. & Sat.), as well as a Midsummer Festival (1st Sunday in July). At the end of August (could be early September, though) is the WerraMan — a swimming, biking, running competition that ain’t for the faint of heart.
No special date is really needed to see the former synagogue, the Botanical Garden, or to chill out at the recreational Werratalsee area.
After splashing at the Werratalsee, it’s time to relax a bit more in one of the spa centers in posh Bad Sooden-Allendorf.
The last town in Hesse is Witzenhausen, where they choose an annual Cherry Queen at the Cherry Fair. Too bad it ain’t gonna be me, so I’ll go see Burg Ludwigstein, the half-timbered houses, and the historic Town Hall in this university town instead.
From here the Werra crosses into Lower Saxony at the town of Hann. Münden, which is at the southern most part of the state. Forget that — Hann. Münden lies along the Reinhardswald, the Bramwald, and the Kaufunger Forest.
Too much nature? It’s OK, check out all the timber-frames along the Kirchplatz, the 13th century St. Blasius Church, the Weser-Renaissance Town Hall, or stroll along the Stadtmauer imagining how folks in the Middle Ages were fighting like crazy.
It’s here in Hann. Münden that the Werra flows — together with the Fulda River — into the Weser.
Oh, so that means the water from the Werra’s tributaries like the Schleuse, Hasel, Ulster, and Wehre also flow into the Weser. That just sounds like more of Germany to see before it all finally flows into the North Sea.
Wait… that means Germany doesn’t get to keep the Werra all to itself. Guess we’re not selfish after all. ;-)