“A visit to Wetzlar”

Wetzlar, Germany. June 2018 (14 photos)

This is Part 1 of my Germany 2018 photo series, and also Part 13 of my Europe 2018 photo series.

After visiting Meteora, I headed off to Greece’s second city, Thessaloniki. The trip took me past Mount Olympus, home of Zeus. In Thessaloniki, I caught a plane on to the final destination of my 7 week sojourn in Europe, Germany. Well actually, Germany was my first destination as well but 5 hours in transit at Frankfurt airport doesn’t really count as a visit, does it? Arriving in Frankfurt I immediately took to the Autobahn and headed off to the historical city of Wetzlar.

“Wetzlar evening”

“Don’t drink and walk”

This sign was outside a wine garden on the Lahn River where I spent a leisurely hour or so.

Wetzlar is a city located in the state of Hesse, Germany. It is a former free imperial city that owed much of its fame to being the seat of the Imperial Supreme Court (Reichskammergericht) of the Holy Roman Empire. The city is known for its ancient town and its medieval cathedral.

The city’s founding date has up to now never been established or known. There were “Bandkeramiker” settlements right on the western town limits, partly from 5,000 years BC. In the proximity of Wetzlar there are also a few Roman remains, which were constructed during the reign of the emperor Augustus (reigned 27 BC – 14 AD). The name “Wetzlar” had come into being most likely by the 3rd century to the 8th century.

“Decorative Wetzlar”

In the early 1900’s, photographers mostly used large format cameras and glass plates. Then in 1914, a man in Wetzlar tested a prototype camera that revolutionised photography by creating a small functional and viable handheld camera that took 35mm movie film. In time, this would become the most popular film format ever.

That man was Oskar Barnack. He was the Director of Research at a company called Leica.

Archive photo from Wikimedia Commons, a freely licensed media file repository.

This is the first 35mm test photo taken by Oskar Barnack in 1914.

How does my first photo in this post taken in homage compare? πŸ™‚

“First Leica picture was taken here 1914 by the inventor and visionary Oskar Barnack”

Naturally enough, I stood there to take my copycat photo. I’d show you the photo taken of me standing there but I know that wouldn’t interest anyone.

“The Ur-Leica”

Barnack’s camera was the Ur-Leica.

“A warm welcome”

On the outskirts of Wetzlar is Leitz Park, the home of Leica Camera AG. There, I stayed in the photography themed Ernst Leitz Hotel (The Leica Hotel) which opened just a couple of weeks before my arrival. My enormous thanks to senior lens maker, Roland, for conducting a private tour of the Leica Factory including access to areas normally restricted to the public. My sincere gratitude to Mr Stefan Daniel, Leica’s Director of Product Management for the warm welcome and for taking the time to speak with me.

The various buildings have been designed to resemble Leica products.

The architecturally designed internal staircase is a photographer’s delight.

“From Wetzlar to Sydney”

From Wetzlar, I headed into Frankfurt for a few hours of afternoon photography and sightseeing before catching the evening flight to Singapore and then Sydney.

This concludes the chronology of my trip to Europe. Over the next several posts, I’ll revisit cities and countries that constituted my trip.

This is Part 1 of my Germany 2018 photo series.
This is Part 13 of my Europe 2018 photo series, including Czechia (The Czech Republic), The Netherlands, France, Italy, Austria, Greece and Germany.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

A visit to Wetzlar


87 thoughts on “A visit to Wetzlar

    • Thank you. Yes, the Leitz Cafe (in my last photo) has a reputation for making great coffee. I concur with that view, after sitting there enjoying a beautifully made double espresso.

  1. Interesting facts about Leica and its inventor. And how great you got the opportunity to being guided on your own there! The designed buildings are strikingly camera/lens like, and since the first photo taken by Mr Barnack, more than 100 years ago, not much have changed in the street view. Though I would have loved seeing you there too…

  2. I was so enjoying a slow meander through the charming little village at Wetzlar and then you pleasantly surprised me with the Leica story. I had no idea of Wetzlar’s history. How lucky are you to have visited with Mr Stefan Daniel and to have stayed at that super cool Leica hotel? Fantastic.

    • Thank you very much, Lisa. It’s like a pilgrimage to stand there in Wetzlar and emulate the first photo. And being so close to Frankfurt, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. πŸ™‚ When I first arrived at the Leica site, there were outdoor classes on portrait photography going on. It’s all about photography there.

        • The other pilgrimage spot is where Ansel Adams took one of his famous photos. Tripod holes have been worn into the rock by photographers who line up to have their chance to copy his photo. I can’t remember the exact location just at this moment but I’ve been told about it.

  3. That’s the way to spend a stopover. I probably would have hung out in the airport in Frankfurt. I wasn’t aware that there was such a cute little city close by. Once again your research paid off. I love that message on the sugar. Advice that you already live brilliantly and pass along to others through your work. You are an inspiration, Draco. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Julie. I suspect there’s much for me to learn from you. A bit of planning and a bit of spontaneity seems to work. The correct mix just needs to be determined.
      Yes, I was instantly struck by the message on the sugar. That’s one good thing sugar has given me. πŸ™‚

  4. Honestly, you have such a talent for capturing the very essence of the places you visit. Your comparison photo tells me that not much has changed (at least in that spot) over the past 100+ years! Fascinating history and a beautiful place.

  5. Recreating a historic photo is a lovely idea. And it has come off very well indeed.

    That sign says “Pedestrian crossing. Cyclists please slow down”. If the cyclist in your photo has slowed down, then I wonder how fast he was before.

    • Thank you very much. Yes, I knew what the sign said, but I thought the stickman picture at the bottom of the sign screaming “aaah” next to a bicycle was funny. Hence my caption. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ I bent down to sign level and waited for a cyclist to come by. πŸ™‚

  6. Thank you for this wonderful tour of Wetzlar through your beautiful photographs Draco. It looks like the historical character of the old part of town has been well preserved and what a treat that you were given a private tour of the Leica factory! I love the design of the building, both inside and out. Thank you so much for sharing :o)

    • Thank you vey much. The preservation of all those old buildings gives Wetzlar and many other places in this region a wonderful ambience. It’s in stark contrast to the modern Leica site which has many architectural design features, designed with energy efficiency in mind. I enjoyed my visit there.

  7. KG says:

    The homage photograph was perfect. πŸ™‚
    “Naturally enough, I stood there to take my copycat photo. I’d show you the photo taken of me standing there but I know that wouldn’t interest anyone.” -> Come on, why not πŸ˜‰ You would never know until you posted one πŸ˜›

  8. Tell us sth about Thessaloniki too. I love it but it’s been ages since I was last there.
    Germany too? You rock. Lovely city. I’ve never been here.
    Btw, that’s not what it says on the board. You were lied to. Don’t buy it.

  9. Such a charming town. The building is well preserved. beautiful photos remind me the German towns we visited several years ago. Hubby enjoyed German beer, sausage… πŸ™‚

  10. Well you learn something new every day! I have never heard of Wetzlar or it’s claim to fame. Your first image is wonderful, the one that imitates also irritates me with the advertising thingy on the street. They annoy me so much as they are a wonderful trip hazard for anyone with poor sight. Moving swiftly on, thanks for a wonderful journey around Europe, I have very much appreciated seeing all your beautiful photos. And I am now itching to revisit Greece.

  11. I like that first shot, which reminds me of Colmar, France, which was at times part of Germany as well. Your homage shot worked perfectly and I enjoyed the contrast between the vintage, if you will, houses and the very new, techie Leica building. Very cool to make parts of it like camera parts. I also liked that last shot, although with the heat wave now, sitting outside with hot coffee doesn’t hold as much appeal. (Although I drink hot tea all the time, so who knows?)


  12. Sounds like Wetzlar is a city steeped in photography. Very fortunate you got to visit the Leica Factory on a private tour – like a real Bond 😎 And so you must look good in front of the camera 😎😎

    • Leica describe their home site as a photography theme park. πŸ™‚ Factory tour and museum, and the grounds and buildings architecturally designed with frequent on-site photo workshops. And old town Wetzlar is simply charming. Yes, have to look good in front of the camera, so that’s why I avoid it. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  13. Nice photos of a lovely town. Im sorry I missed it when I was in Germany. The supreme court of the Holy Roman Empire sounds intriguing. Im sure there are some interesting records left of their proceedings!
    I like the leica builting that looks like carousel projector ( a la Madmen!). Your shot in imitation of the Ur-Leica ( perhaps for non german speakers you might want to explain that Ur means something like original or ancestral, as in Urgrossvater )was interesting. The building walls on each side appear more modern, perhaps casualties of war? Amazing that the old half timber corner building is still unscathed and unchanged. I envy you your travels!

    • Thank you very much. I was in Wetzlar mainly to visit Leica. I didn’t allow enough time to see more of the old town which I regret. The building resembling a carousel is actually modelled on a Leica lens in an upside down position.
      I’m not sure what Ur- refers to but your suggestion is quite reasonable and possible. It was a prototype camera. I’m not sure what damage was inflicted on Wetzlar during the war, but I’m guessing the corner building may be under heritage protection.

  14. Heide says:

    Thank you for this gorgeous, inspiring, envy-inducing post! (Seriously. Who gets a private tour of the Leica factory?!) I’d somehow never heard of Wetzlar before but you’ve charmed me into adding it to the bucket list. Gorgeous photos, as always!

    • Thank you very much. It was lovely to be looked after. I guess I have to keep buying from them in return. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
      Wetzlar has a lovely old town centre. Great for a stroll and to enjoy some German hospitality, particularly beer. πŸ™‚

  15. The architecture there looks amazing. It looks as though you got to take in many sights during your 7 week journey! What a great opportunity to savor so much of the beauty in the world. πŸ™‚

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