Remains of a prehistoric settlement, the ruins of an early medieval fort, and a large castle destroyed in 1227 by Landgrave Heinrich Raspe testify to the important role played by Ettersberg hill from an early point in time.
Weimar’s 478-metre-high “local mountain” was the preferred hunting grounds of the Weimar princes. During the years 1706 to 1711, Duke Wilhelm Ernst had a simple three-winged hunting lodge built in Ettersburg on the foundation walls of what was once a convent of canons, founded in 1084, and later an Augustinian monastery. In the middle of the forest, a “hunting star” was laid out with ten straight rides extending radially from a central hub, and an additional small lodge was built, known as the Brunfthofschloss.
One of the paths led directly to the Old Palace and the new Corps de Logis, completed in 1738. This New Palace, commissioned by Duke Ernst August, was surrounded by Baroque parterres. After her son Carl August came to power in 1775, Anna Amalia chose Ettersburg Palace as her summer residence. A lovely “sentimental“ park landscape was created around the building. The aged tulip tree growing in front of the armoury hall still delights visitors today.
Goethe, Wieland, Bertuch and Herder were frequent visitors to Ettersburg Palace, where guests could enjoy music, readings, dances and animated literary discussions. The goings-on at what came to be known as the “Nation of Ettersburg Palace” lent the locale an aura of both fame and notoriety. Duchess Anna Amalia had a theatre built for this Court of the Muses in the banquet hall of the Old Palace, where Goethe produced plays such as “Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern” (1778) and “Iphigenie auf Tauris” (1779). Attracted by the serene atmosphere at Ettersburg, Friedrich Schiller completed his “Maria Stuart” there in spring 1800. Guests at a grand hunt held in 1808 on Ettersberg hill included Tsar Alexander I, Emperor Napoleon I and numerous German princes. When Carl Alexander and his wife, Princess Sophie of the Netherlands, took up residence there in the mid-19th century, Ettersburg once again became a prominent centre of intellectual and artistic encounters. Through the presence of figures such as Franz Liszt, Hans Christian Andersen and Friedrich Hebbel, Ettersburg experienced a second heyday.
Eduard Petzold, appointed as Weimar court gardener in 1844, was enlisted to extend the park and remodel it in the English style. His master, Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, himself laid out the so-called “Pückler-Schlag” in 1845, a forest meadow some 900 metres in length reaching up to the peak of the hill, one of Europe’s most important garden landmarks. Ettersburg’s landscape park is a singular example of Prince Pückler-Muskau’s bold and sweeping concepts for artistic landscaping.
In 1998 Ettersburg Palace and Landscape Park were declared part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site “Classical Weimar”. From 2004 to 2006 the palace was revitalised by its new owner, Bildungswerk BAU Hessen-Thüringen e.V., and the complex has now found new uses as an academy, conference centre and cultural site. At the end of the Pückler-Schlag the “time lane” set up in 1999 along a former hunting path leads all the way to the Buchenwald memorial site.