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„Then I realised what made the area so dear to me - the country! the Ettersberg!“
Goethe to Charlotte von Stein, 16 July 1776
Ever since Ettersburg Castle and its park grounds were built at the beginning of the 18th century, the estate was frequently used by the ducal family of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach as a hunting manor and favoured summer residence. Anna Amalia regularly invited her close circle of poets and artists to join her there. The spacious landscaped park with its cultivated grounds and so-called “Pückler-Schlag” is a jewel of garden landscaping.
Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxony-Weimar began building the hunting manor on the north face of the Big Ettersberg at the beginning of the 18th century, a project that was later completed by his nephew Ernst August. The estate served as the hunting grounds and summer residence of the ducal family until their abdication in 1918. It was here they received such illustrious guests as Franz Liszt and Hans Christian Andersen.
After 1919 the building was used for various purposes, e.g. as a state juvenile education facility and officers’ school. In 1968 the property was placed under the management of the predecessor institution of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar. Castle Ettersburg has been leased to a private tenant since 2005 and is used as a conference centre.
The design of this romantic landscaped park is largely the doing of Carl Alexander, Anna Amalia’s great-grandson who took over the castle in 1842. The young hereditary grand duke commissioned Carl Eduard Petzold to refurbish the ground floors of the castle. Petzold also created a six-hectare landscaped park west of the castle and a spacious meadow east of the valley bottom that extended away from the castle to the forester’s lodge. In 1845, at the recommendation and under the supervision of Lord Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, the tree-lined drive to the castle was extended and a swath of forest was cleared all the way up to the old hunting star. This so-called “Pücklerschlag” comprised a sloping meadow set against a decorative backdrop of clustered trees.
After 1919 the State of Thuringia assumed ownership of the Ettersburg Castle Park. The various tenants of the castle neglected the grounds in the following years. In 1968 the entire Ettersburg complex was placed under the aegis of the National Research and Memorial Sites of Classic German Literature in Weimar (NFG), which began actively managing the park and castle in 1979. Since then, both have been maintained and cultivated on a continual basis. Currently measures are in place to repair and restore the park paths, rejuvenate the wooded area on the south slope, and renovate the ground floors of both sides of the castle.