Erfurt’s “Altstadt,” or old town, is not too big, making it easy to explore on foot. We wandered the cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, galleries, pubs, and restaurants passing from one beautiful square to the next. Because it was along a trade route, Erfurt had several markets, so many of the city’s squares started out as marketplaces.
One of the nicest was Fischmarkt Square, the center of the city where the Via Regia intersected another important trade route.
To our left was the impressive Rathaus or town hall. Tourists who had climbed the stairs inside the town hall to its high balcony were enjoying the view over the square.
Woad, a plant grown in the area around Erfurt during the Middle Ages, was the source of an important natural blue dye. The plant was harvested and sold to Erfurt, where it was turned into a powdered pigment. Because the city supplied woad powder to much of Europe, Erfurt became a wealthy and prominent medieval city.
A line of beautiful Renaissance houses to the right immediately caught our eye. Clearly built by wealthy and important people, we later learned that they were homes of traders who became rich from the woad trade.
Nearby, we found another and much bigger square called the “Anger”, which means “meadow” in German. It started out as a grazing meadow outside the city walls and later became the principal trading place for wine, woad, wheat, and wool.
Today, the Anger is the main shopping square and a shopper’s paradise. Sadly, we didn’t have time to explore the many shops. There’s a mix of medieval and modern buildings, with an especially elegant art nouveau building that serves as a shopping complex.
Like Quedlinburg, Erfurt was untouched during WWII and afterwards fell inside of the East German border. The East Germans did not replace Erfurt’s existing buildings with the drab prefabricated apartment blocks they were known for, and the city fell into decay. After the wall came down in 1989, Erfurt was lovingly restored. Everywhere we went, we were impressed with how well the city’s beautiful medieval buildings combine with more recent modern ones.