THE BGTW'S AGM IN GERMANY'S HISTORIC WEIMAR - NEW OFFICERS INSTALLED, NEW WEBSITE PLANS UNVEILED,
UNESCO SITES VISITED
by Stuart Forster
At its late January AGM and Annual Conference, in the historic eastern German city of Weimar, the British Guild of Travel Writers installed new officers, unveiled plans for a new website and visited a variety of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the surrounding Thuringia region.
“This was a unique opportunity for us to convince the British Guild of Travel Writers that Thuringia is a great place to visit and to promote the region within the United Kingdom,” said Dorothea Schäffler, a sales and marketing executive for the Thuringia Tourist Board.
The region, she pointed out, is now more accessible than ever before to British visitors due to Germania Airlines' new twice-weekly Gatwick-Erfurt flights which allow them to reach Erfurt-Weimar Airport in the heart of Thuringia within 90 minutes.
At the 27th January AGM some 90 Guild members were introduced to their newly elected committee, led by their first American-born chairman Mary Moore Mason (the full list of committee members can be viewed on this website). They also viewed three design options for the new, more outwardly looking Guild website, which will be launched later this year, and heard plans to attract more online writers to the Guild and about future events, such as the gala 4th March launch of the Guild's annual Yearbook.
Members stayed at Weimar's elegant Hotel Elephant, which has hosted the likes of Thomas Mann, Adolf Hitler (who signed the guestbook as a writer from Munich on 3rd July 1926) and Gunter Grass. Many writers, they learned, are drawn to Weimar due to its associations with Goethe and Schiller, whose houses have been converted into museums.
A statue of Henry van de Velde, a key figure in the early development of the Bauhaus movement, stands on the hotel balcony overlooking the cobbled market square. It will be replaced next year by a statue of Martin Luther, part of commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Within Germany Weimar is renowned for its cultural heritage, palaces and parks. It’s also a rewarding destination for travellers interested in 20th century history. A group of Guild members visited sites associated with the Weimar Republic and the Buchenwald Memorial, a ten minute drive from the city centre.
This year’s gala dinner was held in nearby Schloss Ettersburg, a carefully restored UNESCO World Heritage Site, where outgoing chairman Roger Bray and his successor as chairman gave speeches of thanks on the Guild’s behalf.
On 30th January, the last full day of the conference, members had the option of visiting the medieval city of Erfurt, Hainich National Park (a UNESCO’s natural heritage site) or Eisenach, J.S. Bach’s birthplace, and Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German.
This year is the 25th anniversary since the fall of the Iron Curtain that once made Thuringia so difficult to visit. The Guild's conference proved that it’s now accessible and has a rich offering of sites of interest.
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