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Travel with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Following Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's travel, poetry and life
Here you find museums and events reviving the memory of the poet, and here Goethe spent most of his life, though he travelled extensively including the famous
You obtain the English translations of Goethe's works, biographies and secondary literature from the international booksellers' network for new, used, out-of-print and rare books - Abebooks US/Canada, Abebooks UK or via Amazon US, Amazon Uk.
A lot of older translations of Goethe's works can be found online at the Gutenberg Project.
Depending on the edition, Richard Friedenthal's biography comprises 600 to 800 pages. Nicholas Boyle uses up to 2000 pages for his comprehensive biography, published from 1990 onwards. Nicholas Boyle's 'Goethe. The Poet and the Age' received excellent reviews, you can buy the two volumes via Abebooks UK, via Abebooks US/Canada or via Amazon US, Amazon UK.
'The Cambridge Companion to Goethe' is a concise, comprehensive and authoritative up to date 275 page collection of academic texts on Goethe's times, life, writing and philosophy. The book is available via Abebooks UK, via Abebooks US/Canada, or Amazon US, Amazon UK.
If you enjoy a mix of nature, sightseeing and relaxation for your holidays, have a look at the World Heritage & Wellness Tour.
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Frankfurt today is a fascinating mix of old and new. The city has been Germany's financial center since Johann Wolfgang Goethe's and Amschel Mayer Rothschild's times, and high-rise office towers are standing next to the reconstructed building of the Goethe-Haus and the historic Roemer City Council. At Easter, many people walk along the Main river in memory of Faust's Easter Walk. You enjoy the good life of 18th and 19th century's wealthy burghers in the parks that once surrounded palaces and country homes: The Holzhausen, the Bethmann, the Brentano, the Grueneburg Park. World wide flights stop at Frankfurt airport, so you might as well start your journey from here ... more
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Goethe wrote down his childhood memories in 'Truth and Fiction' - called in a different translation 'Poetry and Truth'. Frankfurt has changed dramatically since then. However, in the Goethe house, in the narrow streets leading to the City's Council and the Cathedral, on the river Main, looking at the excavated foundations of the Jewish ghetto near the Old Jewish cemetery, you still have a chance see Frankfurt through Goethe's eyes.
Goethe was a lawyer, living in his parent's home in Frankfurt, when the novel 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' made him famous at the age of 25. It was a cult book then, and it is a good example of the Sturm und Drang - Storm and Stress - Literary Movement's intense respect for human emotion.
Goethe started the first version of 'Faust' in Frankfurt. Frankfurt citizens still associate the Main river with the the famous Easter Walk of Faust.
Goethe's father was an educated man, who, when a young man, had traveled through Italy, Switzerland and France, bringing back from Rome marble stones, minerals, pictures, books and prints, passing on to his son a passion for reading, a curiosity for science and a longing for Italy.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe was born in 1749 into a well-connected, well-to-do protestant family of Frankfurt burghers. He was the first child of the lively 18 year old mayor's daughter, his father was 39 at the time. In 1750 a sister was born, Cornelia, whom Johann Wolfgang was very close to.
Goethe's father could live comfortably on the income of his wealth, his main ambitions were his art collection, his stones and minerals, his writing on his journey to Italy and the education of his talented son who grasped easily what he himself had had to work hard for. At a very young age, tutored mainly by their father, Johann Wolfgang - with his sister - began to learn languages - Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, French, English - and read the classics. Johann Wolfgang's many interests included religion and science, his drawings and paintings proved him a gifted artist. He went on hiking tours and walked great distances, went ice-skating in winter, could ride a horse, fence, and he danced well. His father had studied law, so in his father's steps at the age of 16, Johann Wolfgang Goethe began to study law in Leipzig, at the same time he took drawing lessons and attended lectures in philosophy and literature.
You get an impression of the atmosphere in Goethe's family in their Frankfurt home. The interior has been preserved since the 18th century, an exhibition demonstrates the importance of visual art in Goethe's life.
Goethe finished his studies in 1771 in Strasbourg. He had written poetry and plays throughout his youth. On return to his parents' home in Frankfurt, working as a lawyer, he took up serious writing. He finished the drama 'Goetz von Berlichingen' end of 1771 and started the first version of 'Faust'. He was part of the young German Sturm und Drang - Storm and Stress - Literary Movement emphasizing subjective emotions and individual genius opposed to social conventions. In 1774 his novel 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' was an immediate success.
When in 1775 18 year old duke Carl August invited Johann Wolfgang Goethe to his dukedom of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Goethe was a 26 year old famous writer who had laid the foundations of his work, a Frankfurt lawyer, an immensely talented and well connected man, about to break off his engagement to Lili Schoenemann, the 16 year old daughter of a Frankfurt banker.
Weimar and Ilmenau
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Weimar's town center has not changed much since the 18th and 19th century. The buildings of Classical Weimar are part of the Unescos World Heritage and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's memory is kept alive in Weimar's buildings, museums and cultural events. Starting from Goethe's garden house, you can follow the poets' steps across the Park on the Ilm river to the nearby house of Charlotte von Stein, walk along a narrow lane to the house Goethe moved into in 1782, and visit the excellent picture gallery in the duke's town palace where you can admire the paintings dowager duchess Anna Amalia bought in Italy on the expert advice of Angelica Kauffmann ...more
A small resort near the Thuringian Forest, in Ilmenau today you find a Technical University and many signposts pointing to trails into the surrounding mountains. You hike and cycle in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's footsteps ... more
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Goethe put tremendous energy into Weimar social life and the management of the Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach state. He was no courtier though, did not really belong to noble society and soon began to feel burnt out.
He expressed his fatigue in the two 'Wanderer's Night Song' poems written in part in the lodge on top of the Ilmenau Kickelhahn mountain in 1780.
After his two year flight to Italy in midlife-crisis, Goethe settled down with an - unofficial - family for the first time in his life. What Italy had meant to him, he shared in the erotic poems of the 'Roman Elegies' written after his return to Weimar in 1788.
Goethe's diary "Italian Journey, 1786-1788" has been translated by another poet: W.A. Auden (and Elizabeth Mayer).
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe fell in love throughout his life, and, especially in his youth, women found him immensely attractive. Marianne von Willemer was 31 when she began to love 66 year old Johann Wolfgang. Goethe by then believed that there would be only world literature in the future, not national literature. He was reading oriental poets when he transformed his love for Marianne into the 'West Eastern Divan' and included - anonymously - Marianne von Willemer's inspired poems.
In Weimar Johann Wolfgang Goethe started off as the scandal of town, court-poet, actor, star and entertainer of the court's social get-to-gethers and festivities, the young duke's companion and councillor. By and by he took over more and more official functions in the running of the state. Living in an idyllic garden house at the park on the Ilm river in the first years of his stay, he got involved in gardening. He continued to write, and he took an active interest in art and science. Many famous people came to Weimar to visit him. In the end, he had transformed the provincial town of Weimar into an intellectual center.
Soon after Goethe's arrival in Weimar, he began a very close relationship with 33 year old Charlotte von Stein, a married court lady, her youngest son three years old at the time. During the 11 years of their friendship Charlotte von Stein kept up appearances so successfully, that despite Goethe's ardent love letters and poems, to this day puzzled biographers are not sure, if anything physical took place or not. Many biographers have compared Goethe's closeness to his sister Cornelia with his love for Charlotte von Stein.
Goethe was convinced of the similarity of any form of life, humans, animals and plants alike. He was more than an amateur in science: In 1784 in the course of his anatomic studies, he proved that humans had an intermaxillary bone. Up to then, this was thought to distinguish man from animal.
In 1782 emperor Franz Joseph signed the noble "von" into Johann Wolfgang Goethe's name. This did not mean high aristocrats considered him as equal.
In 1786, four year's after his father's death, Goethe fled his Weimar obligations to follow his father's Italian journey, incognito, living a bohemian life in the company of Rome's colony of German painters, among them Angelica Kauffmann.
Shortly after his return to Weimar, 27 year old Christiane Vulpius approached Goethe in the Park on the Ilm, carrying a letter by her brother asking for assistance. This encounter was decisive for both. The next day, Christiane, her aunt and younger sister, moved into Goethe's garden house. In December 1789 Goethe's and Christiane's son Julius August was born. Goethe living openly with Christiane caused a scandal in Weimar's conventional court society. They married in 1806.
Goethe started a craze for everything Italian in Weimar. In the year of his return, 50 year old dowager duchess Anna Amalia herself went on a journey to Rome, planned with Goethe's help. She was followed by the philosopher, theologian and poet Johann Gottfried Herder.
On his return from Italy Goethe concentrated on literary life and the theatre, in close collaboration with Friedrich Schiller, who moved from nearby Jena to Weimar. Since then, Goethe and Schiller have become the synomym for classical German literature: You find both statues in front of Weimar's National Theater and both graves in Weimar's honorary 'Fuersten' cemetery.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe passed on his father's longing to his son: at the age of 40, Julius August von Goethe went to Italy, sending daily detailed reports to his father, his wife and his children. He fell seriously ill during his journey, his grave is in Rome. His father in Weimar follwed two years later, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe died in 1832.
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