If you want to go to the “beating heart” of Germany, visit Mühlhausen in Thuringia.
By James Derheim
Photographs Courtesy James Derheim

Situated close to Germany’s geographic center and “beating heart” (which is hotly debated between several villages in the vicinity), this former Free Imperial City has it all: a tall wall, fairytale towers bedecked with tiny houses, grand gothic churches, crooked half-timbered houses, a wealth of stately villas from Germany’s Grunderzeit and a brewery where you can quench the thirst from all your exploring.

Like its more famous neighbor Erfurt, Mühlhausen earned its riches through the dye trade. From the heyday of the city (1400-1600), merchants traded in the rich shades of blue and purple, formerly reserved only for the royal classes. With a population of 10,000 in 1500, the Max Planck Institute claims Mühlhausen was one of Germany’s largest cities—even larger than Berlin. This wealth is reflected in the half dozen fine churches, the large town hall, and the many mansions lining the streets of the town.

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