Ask a Local this week takes us to Jena in Germany. Have you heard of this German city?
Annamarie is proud of her hometown Jena and swears she has only met four people on her travels that have heard of it, even Germans sometimes are puzzled as to where it is. I can relate so much to her on this, I always have to explain where my home country is! According to her the location really is nothing unusual being directly in the middle of Germany, but her home state Thuringia is a rather unloved spot for visitors. All the better for you because then you can enjoy its gems without the crowds and watered down restaurants and tacky souvenir shops.
She opens up in Ask a Local about her favourites in Jena and why it should be on your travel bucketlist!
Describe Jena in your own words.
Jena is a city that might not be too well know – undeservedly – but has everything a German city should have. It has a lot of history and it shows. Where else would you find revolutionary thought leaders, scientific discoveries and world wide exported products? Modern puristic buildings are standing next to medieval churches, parks are just a short walk away and mountains surround the cityscape. Whether you are a self proclaimed cofficionado or outdoorsy hiker, there is something for everyone.
What’s the best thing about living there?
It’s so condensed. You can get to the city centre from every suburb generally within 20 minutes (even thought that seems a lot for some locals), parks are everywhere and a walk in nature, mountains and meadows is just as close. Also, I like the medieval buildings we have preserved and still use.
What your favourite time of year in your hometown for you? Why?
My favourite time would be September/October because then the warmth of the passing summer comes up one more time and heats the days up nicely but leaves the nights cooler and the trees sprayed in colour. I love collecting leaves and chestnuts underneath the castle ruin, which I can see from my own room window.
Is there one place visitors shouldn’t miss seeing?
The tower! It has undergone quite some change throughout the last 50 years and has always been ridiculed and made fun of. Only recently do we “Jenenser” (people born in Jena – don’t confuse with “Jenaer”, which is people having moved here) seem to embrace it, having put a shopping centre at its base and a fancy restaurant and lookout on its top.
What is your favourite spot?
That one is easy! I love to escape the city noise and clear my head in the old Johannisfriedhof, which is a former cemetery turned park. Once you pass though the surrounding stone walls, everything is quiet all of a sudden. No sounds except for birds, rustling leaves and tree hopping squirrels. It is also a great place for sublime photography. Fact on the side: it has the grave of Carl Zeiss, whose company most likely made the glasses you (or a friend of yours is) wearing.
If you happen to be here in late spring, make sure you attend the Kulturarena, for which musicians from all over the globe and different genres are coming. We had stars, such as Travis, Marit Larsen and Patti Smith. And you can see the latest artsy short films as well as lots of other things as well.
What’s your favourite local dish?
Klöße all the way!! They are different in each region and I love them all. But wait, what you actually and absolutely MUST TRY is the best sausage in the whole wide world: Thüringer Bratwurst. I’m not kidding. It is amazing and only really good when you buy it in the state of Thuringia of which Jena is a part.
Do you have a favourite local place to eat/drink you would share with visitors?
Oh, several. I love the restaurant Zum Grünen Hirsch, which not only has historical value but also a proper savoury German cuisine: veal with real gravy, red cabbage and potatoes. For the best view over the city while you enjoy a nice dinner with regional wines or beer, try the Hanfried or Scala if you have a lot of money. If you want to try out different cuisines or types of establishments, visit the bar street Wagnergasse at night!
How about a favourite local coffee/tea shop?
For the best crushed ice drinks and yummy hot white chocolate as well as coffee, head over to “Black Bean”. By the way, German tea is (fruit) infusion based and not black or green. You can stir in sugar or drink it pure. Classics are peppermint, herb and camomile, even though I prefer fruity ones (such as apple and pear). Get the leaves in the shopping centre Goethe Galerie.
What three local words every visitor should know?
Well, German to be sure. But that’s a tricky question for me because I don’t even speak dialect. The only real words I know are:
- “ge” [like get without the t], which means “isn’t it”
- “Mutschekiepchen” [mooh-tcheh-keep-chen] which is “ladybug”
- “Thüringer” [teering-a] which is short for Thüringer bratwurst
Why should someone visit your city?
First of all, it has many beautiful sights and lots of nature. Did you know we have 7 wonders (including a three-headed dragon and a head that might cause doomsday)? It is also a great starting point for a day’s hike, day tours in the vicinity (more castles) and to discover other nearby towns. Within under an hour you will reach the state’s capital and tin 20 minutes the cultural capital with lots of pretty parks, roses and baroque buildings. A sad thing to visit, but popular with international travellers is the former concentration camp that is close to Weimar (30 minutes away by car).
What advice would you give someone visiting your city?
Get a bike! The public trams are good but so hot in summer and crowded in winter and the prices rise all the time. You can bike everywhere and won’t have trouble finding a parking spot in the city like that. If you want to come by car, park a little bit outside the city on the Paradies Parkplatz. Also, don’t forget to check out the Fuchsturm (literal translation: fox tower), St Michael church and Jentower for a 360°C view.
I could go on and on about it, but before I bore you, I just leave you with a hopefully good impression and maybe even curiosity to see it for yourself.
Annemarie definitely shows her love and excitement for her home town! Jena sounds like the perfect off the beaten track kind of city to visit for a real German adventure. If you have any more questions or are indeed liking it, let her know, she would love to hear your opinion about it! Write a comment, check out her blog Travel on the Brain or find her on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks Annamarie for helping us put Jena on the map
Until the next Ask a Local…Happy Travels my friends!