Europe’s Kulturstadt for 1999rnby Curtis Gatern’^<~’v’W'”‘-”’^^’=i^”-‘””’^rnlj«««'”»^li’|ai..lll’l” |« ” • l i Mrr”ifi’irnf’l?^’?^^’^ •rn-r^j;. 1:1rnfr^w^T^rnHMin.?*tf^w» iiiinwHi.yim*ii*ii ii’W^rnK -^1:^-^4′ irn: t – – ^ I >rn• * l Ml ^ » • • l * 1 l | I •*• 1rnFour years ago, when I made a trip to Naumburg to attend arnphilological symposium devoted to Nietzsche, I was toldrnby one of the participants that, until recently, West Germansrntraveling from Frankftirt on the main west-east railway line hadrnbeen forced to dismount when the train reached the “frontierrntown” where the Federal Republic ended and Erich Honnecker’srnDDR (German Democratic Republic) began and to climbrninto another train in order to reach Leipzig. This inconveniencernwas a sickly symptom of a systematic Abgrenzung (demarcation)rnpolicy, pursued with pathological singlemindednessrnby a “satellite” regime that was determined to prove itsrnMarxist superiority over its bigger, wealthier, capitalistic neighborrnto the west. Today, this absurd anomaly has disappeared,rnalong with so much else, and now trains regularly travel backrnand forth with no arbitrary impediments between Frankfrrrt,rnLeipzig, and the Saxon capital of Dresden.rnThe train on which I traveled this time from Frankfurt, viarnFulda, Eisenach—famous for the Wartburg Gastle in whichrn(in 1522) a carefrilly hidden “heretic” named Martin Lutherrntranslated the New Testament from Greek into German—andrnon past the old university town of Erfurt to Weimar, was calledrnthe Johann-Sebastian-Bach Express. The unlucky DeutschernBundesbahn, recently plagued by several embarrassing railwayrnaccidents, may be a utilitarian instmment of locomotion for thernearless, but in an increasingly culhire-conscious Germany, itrnseems only proper that one of its trains should honor the memoryrnof the great baroque composer who spent eight years (1708-rn1716) as the largely unappreciated organist of the ducal court atrnWeimar and who later, more auspiciously, served for a quarterrnof a century as the cantor of the famous Thomaskirche inrnCurtis Gate is the author, most recently, of a biography of AndrernMalraux (Fromm).rnLeipzig.rnToday, all over the world, great cities are fighting a desperaternbattle to save their centers from being overrun, encumbered,rnand polluted by the all-intrusive automobile, delivery van, andrntruck. Only in towns that have retained their medieval rampartsrn—such as Fez in Morocco, Avila in Spain, Carcassonne inrnFrance—have the municipal authorities been relatively successfulrnin combating a pervasive invasion of gas-propelled metal.rnTo these havens of pedestrian felicity, we should, however,rnadd certain Central European towns that have been miraculouslyrnspared the aesthetic (and, all too often, social) blight ofrnurban industrialization. The “secular” town of Weimar, like itsrnnot too distant Thuringian neighbor, the cathedral city ofrnNaumburg, is one of them.rnGarless travelers choosing to reach Weimar by train are confronted,rnas they step out of the squat railway station to the north,rnby a tree-lined avenue sloping gently down towards the vulnerablerncity center—which, when I visited it last May, was havingrnits entrails picked clean by half a dozen tall, predatory cranes inrna strenuous efiort to meet the awesome challenge imposed onrnit by the Eurocrats in Brussels, who decided some time ago thatrnthis historically worid-famous Thuringian town should be singledrnout and honored as the Kulturstadt Europas—the culturalrn”capital” of Europe during the pre-millennial year of 1999.rnAs I walked down the nondescript avenue connecting thernrailway station to the city center, I was struck by its sole distinctivernfeature: its name, the Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse. Anyonernglancing at a map of present-day Weimar cannot fail to be impressedrnby its distinctly “liberal,” as well as cosmopolitan, characterrn—with street names that pay homage to George Washington,rnSteuben (yes, the same Prussian baron who was present atrnthe siege of Yorktown), Franz Liszt, Alexander Pushkin, Shakespeare,rnalong with a host of German and Austrian celebritiesrnMARCH 1999/21rnrnrn