Thuringia lies in the middle of the Federal Republic of Germany. The tourism industry also likes to talk about the “green heart” of Germany. Thuringia’s capital is Erfurt, which is centrally located in the Thuringian Basin. The Thuringian Forest and the Thuringian Slate Mountains, the Lower Harz and the Rhön frame the flatter parts of the country with partly fertile soils. The diverse industry focuses on Erfurt, which is also a center of seed cultivation, Jena and Eisenach. The formerly important mining of potash salt in the Werra region is almost irrelevant. Thuringian forest or slate mountains, Kyffhäuser and Harz as well as the cities of Eisenach with the Wartburg, Weimar and Erfurt play a major role in tourism.
The state of Thuringia borders in the north on Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, in the east on Saxony, in the south on Bavaria and in the west on Hesse (Fig. 1). The state covers an area of 16172 km² and has 2.25 million residents (2010). The state capital is the centrally located Erfurt.
After the Second World War, Thuringia was initially occupied by the Americans in April 1945, and in July 1945 the country became part of the Soviet-occupied zone (SBZ). The seat of government was moved from Weimar to Erfurt in 1952. In the same year Thuringia was divided into the GDR districts of Erfurt, Gera and Suhl. The Land of Thuringia was re-established in 1990 by the Land Introduction Act and has been a Free State since 1993.
In terms of landscape, the state belongs to the area of the German low mountain range threshold. The central and north-western part is occupied by the fertile Thuringian Basin and its edges (Hainich, Dün, Hainleite, Oberes Eichsfeld, Schmücke, Finne) consisting of shell limestone ridges. To the south of it lie the Thuringian Forest, where the Great Beerberg with 982 m forms the highest elevation in Thuringia, and the Thuringian Slate Mountains directly to the southeast. In the southwest the Werrasenke is bordered by the Thuringian Forest and Vorderrhön, Hoher Rhön and Grabfeld. In the north, parts of the Harz (Lower Harz) of the Kyffhäuser and the western part of the Golden Aue belong to Thuringia. A small area in the northeast lies in the Leipzig lowland bay.
Several rivers, including the Unstrut, run through the Thuringian Basin; East Thuringia is traversed by the Saale and the Weisse Elster.
The oceanic climate experiences slight modifications due to the versatility of the relief. The climatic favored areas include the Thuringian Basin with its fertile soils, the Orla and Werrasenke as well as the Unstrut and Saale valley. The Thuringian Forest has a harsh climate with high levels of precipitation (up to 1300 mm per year). The high rainfall in the low mountain ranges and the numerous rivers made it possible to build large dams that regulate the long-distance water supply in Thuringia.
With a forest share of 28%, Thuringia is one of the densely wooded federal states.
Population, economy and traffic
With a population density of 151 residents / Km², Thuringia is one of the less populated federal states. According to aparentingblog, the agriculturally structured areas of the Thuringian Basin and the extreme south-west are sparsely populated. The area between Eisenach and Weimar, the mountain edges and the valleys of Saale and Weißer Elster in East Thuringia are more densely populated. As in all new federal states, the population in Thuringia is constantly decreasing due to migration. The proportion of foreigners is low at only 0.4% of the population.
28.2% of the population belong to the Protestant regional churches, 8.6% to the Catholic Church, especially in Eichsfeld.
Education and research are carried out by universities and technical colleges in Erfurt, Ilmenau (TU), Jena (Friedrich Schiller University), Weimar (e.g. Bauhaus University), Nordhausen and Schmalkalden.
State capital Erfurt
The capital of Thuringia, Erfurt, is located in the Thuringian Basin on the Gera. The city with 205,000 residents is the seat of numerous authorities and (since 1999) the Federal Labor Court. In 1999 the re-established university also began teaching. Erfurt also has a medical academy and a college for horticulture and construction. The city is the Catholic bishopric and has several theaters and museums as well as the Erfurt General Scientific Library with the Amploniana, an important medieval collection of manuscripts.
The most important branches of industry are office and machine tool construction. Companies from the electrotechnical, electronic and optical industries as well as the clothing industry are also located in Erfurt. Commercial horticulture with flower and seed cultivation has played a special role for many years. Erfurt is a transport hub with an international airport.
The city is surrounded by the cathedral from the 14th / 15th centuries. Century and the three-tower Severikirche (around 1278 to 1400) next to it. Another attraction for visitors is the Krämerbrücke, built over with houses from the 14th century. In the old town there are several medieval churches and numerous Renaissance houses. There are two fortresses on the outskirts.
Erfurt originated at a ford through the Gera and was one of the most important and most populous German cities in the Middle Ages, around 1500 the center of German humanism, later a place of activity of MARTIN LUTHER.
Industrial production and agriculture play a role for Thuringia including horticulture and tourism play an important role. The focus of arable farming is on the Thuringian Basin, the Orlasenke, the Goldene Aue and the area south of Altenburg, on whose fertile soils sugar beet, wheat and barley are grown. The less fertile peripheral areas of the Thuringian Basin are used for growing potatoes, oats and rye. Tobacco cultivation is also widespread in the Lower Eichsfeld and Werra region. In the Thuringian Forest, Thuringian Slate Mountains and Harz Mountains, the focus is on grassland use (young cattle rearing) and forestry. In the valleys of the Saale and Weißer Elster as well as on the edge of the Kyffhauser, fruit and vegetable growing is practiced to a large extent, around Erfurt vegetable growing and floriculture.
From the LPG to the agricultural cooperative
As in the other new federal states, the conversion from a planned economy to a market economy oriented agriculture in Thuringia led to considerable structural changes. This change can be well documented using the example of the agricultural cooperative in Kirchheilingen near Bad Langensalza in the Thuringian Basin. It emerged from the former agricultural production cooperatives (LPG) Kirchheilingen (crop production) and Sundhausen (animal husbandry). The area under cultivation was reduced from about 4900 ha to 4000 ha. The remaining area is used by smaller farms. The composition of the animal population changed. Instead of the earlier focus on cattle and sheep farming, pig breeding dominates today.
80% of the 74 former employees had to be laid off. An unprofitable company turned into a highly technical and specialized company, which, however, is still unable to generate any profits despite state subsidies.
Measured in terms of sales, the food and beverage industry is of the greatest importance, followed by road vehicle construction with the main location in Eisenach and car accessories, mechanical engineering, the manufacture of metal products, especially small hardware and tools, the electronic industry and device construction, the glass industry, porcelain production and the optical industry. Sonneberg is a center of the toy industry. Special features are the production of clocks in Ruhla, of Christmas tree decorations in and around Ilmenau and Lauscha as well as the printing works in Gotha (cartographic products) and Altenburg (playing cards).
Technology center Jena
Targeted economic and educational support after 1990 led to the development of the Jena technology region, the traditional center of scientific precision equipment manufacturing. After the “Carl Zeiss Jena” combine with 23,000 employees was broken down, several independent companies emerged, among which Jenoptik, Jenapharm and Jenaer Glaswerke developed exemplary. The Technologie- und Innovationspark (TIP) Jena with its close connection to the university, technical college and industrial research institutes offers especially small and medium-sized enterprises, which can react faster to market and technological changes, the best location conditions.
Thuringia has deposits of potash salt as well as rich building raw materials. From the extensive potash mining up to 1990, only one potash shaft remained in operation at Vacha in the Werra district. Potash mining in the other areas was discontinued, as was uranium ore mining, lignite mining and ore mining. There are slate quarries in the Probstzella-Lehesten-Wurzbach area in the Thuringian Slate Mountains.
Important tourist areas are the Thuringian Forest, the Thuringian Slate Mountains with the beautiful Schwarzatal and the southern Harz. In the Thuringian Forest, winter sports play an important role with the Oberhof center. The Rennsteig has long been one of the most popular German hiking routes. Thuringia has important health resorts such as Bad Liebenstein, Bad Berka, Bad Sulza and Bad Langensalza. The Wartburg near Eisenach and the “classic” Weimar are tourist magnets of international standing and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The central location makes Thuringia an important transit country for west-east and north-south traffic. After the regaining of German unity, the partially interrupted railway, motorway and road connections to Hesse and Bavaria were re-established. The most important railway junction is Erfurt, where there is also an international airport.