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Schmalkalden: Nature, tranquillity and lots of time to devote to your studies

At the south-western corner of the Thuringian Forest, surrounded by woods and meadows, you will find the quiet you need to concentrate fully on your studies. The university in Schmalkalden offers numerous international degree programmes and is highly popular among students for its strong practical orientation.

by Sophie Nagel

The old marketplace (Altmarkt) in the centre of town was built in the 12th century © Sophie Nagel
The old marketplace (Altmarkt) in the centre of town was built in the 12th century . © Sophie Nagel

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
19,515
Students:
2,696
Universities:
1
Monthly rent:
263 €
Tip:
A visit to the café “Kawaii”
Website:
www.schmalkalden.de

Welcome to Schmalkalden

The town of Schmalkalden is situated in the state of Thuringia close to the Franconian border. This university town with its beautiful half-timbered houses is located near the south-western corner of the Thuringian Forest. The nearby cities of Erfurt, Weimar and Fulda are all about an hour away by car.

Downtown Schmalkalden © Sophie Nagel
Downtown Schmalkalden . © Sophie Nagel

Unlike other German cities, about 90 percent of Schmalkalden’s original half-timbered houses from the late Middle Ages still exist, so you can look forward to seeing a lot of beautiful buildings here.

One of the main attractions is the Wilhelmsburg Castle which was built during Renaissance. It lies on a hill overlooking the medieval city centre and was built in 1585 as a second residence of the Hessian landgrave. On account of its original room layout, magnificent murals and stucco work and almost fully preserved garden terraces, Wilhelmburg Castle is widely considered to be an extraordinary “jewel” among Germany’s Renaissances castles.

The St. George City Church is a late Gothic hall church where Martin Luther delivered a sermon in 1537 during the most important congress of the Schmalkaldic League. Luther lived in Schmalkalden in February 1537 which explains why you will find a Luther House situated on Lutherplatz. The historic city hall is located in the centre of town at the Altmarkt (Old Marketplace). We recommend taking a guided tour of the old part of town. It’s a great way to learn more about the most prominent historic buildings in Schmalkalden.

St. George City Church © Sophie Nagel
St. George City Church . © Sophie Nagel

Mining was once an important industry in this region. You can learn about the history of mining at the Finstertal Visitors Mine in the Asbach district. The mine was in active operation until 1934 and is now open to visitors and mining enthusiasts. You can also visit an original hammer smith in Asbach which shut down in 1991.

Living in Schmalkalden

Although Schmalkalden is relatively small, there is quite a bit to discover. Nougat is a “sweet speciality” of the region. At the "Viba Nougat World" you can attend courses to learn how to make chocolate bars and handmade pralines.

My advice

When the weather outside is frightful, café “Kawaii” is simply delightful! You can peruse the books for hours, drink a warm tea and then visit an exhibition at the Kunsthaus. When the sun is shining, the Castle Park is a beautiful place to take a walk. From atop the castle walls, you can get a great view of the city.

Behind the City Church, you can travel back in time to all the important periods of history – from prehistoric times to the Roman empire to the Napoleonic era to the present day. This is where you’ll find the largest publicly accessible private collection of pewter figurines of its kind in Germany. And at the Neue Hütte Technical Museum, you can find out how iron was produced long ago.

Are you interested in summertime movie nights, city festivals, concerts, breakdancing or inline skating? Then check out what’s on at the Kulturverein Villa K. The organisation offers a diverse programme of cultural events and even operates its own café.

The Kunsthaus am Markt is the only private gallery in southern Thuringia which hosts temporary exhibitions on a regular basis. It is also home to a private art school and the “Kunst heute” art association. The barrel-vaulted cellar and the belle etage are used as venues for musical performances, readings and discussions. If your looking for a charming café downtown, we recommend the “Kawaii” which also sells second-hand books.

The "Thuringian Castle Days" take place every year at Pentecost. All fourteen castles in the state of Thuringia participate in the theme-based event with concerts, tours and culinary attractions. The International Office also organises numerous parties and cultural evenings to encourage international students to get to know foreign countries and their people.

Do you need some exercise after a long day at the university? The University Sports Department offers a wide range of courses such as ballet, judo, track and field, table tennis and even a week-long ski trip. But you could also just take your bike and head out into the fields and forests, fill your lungs with fresh air and forget about your worries.

Amanda from Indonesien © Private
Amanda from Indonesien . © Private

Interview with Amanda from Indonesia

Amanda Dwi Permatasari is 25 years old and is pursuing her master’s degree in International Business and Economics (Master IBE) at the University of Applied Sciences in Schmalkalden.

Why did you decide to study in Schmalkalden?

I decided to come here because the university offers international programmes that are rarely found anywhere else. In addition to degree programmes taught entirely in English, we can also participate in an exchange programme for one semester at a partner university. I also like the location of this little town in Thuringia. There is so much history here and around the region! The nature is simply gorgeous. I spent more than 20 years living in big cities and that’s why I’m really enjoying my time here. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience which I could never have had in my home country.

How did you prepare for your stay in Germany?

The most important thing is to learn German before you fly to Germany. Even though I decided to enrol in an English-language programme, it’s important to know the official language so you can understand the culture. A typical problem that most students have is finding accommodation. Luckily it’s easier to find a place in Schmalkalden than in larger cities where a lot of people want to study. There are a lot of places to live around campus.

Has Schmalkalden met your expectations?

The most important thing is to learn German before you fly to Germany. Even though I decided to enrol in an English-language programme, it’s important to know the official language so you can understand the culture. A typical problem that most students have is finding accommodation. Luckily it’s easier to find a place in Schmalkalden than in larger cities where a lot of people want to study. There are a lot of places to live around campus.

Renaissance-period organ in the Castle Church  © Sophie Nagel
Renaissance-period organ in the Castle Church . © Sophie Nagel

Has Schmalkalden met your expectations?

To be honest, my expectations have been surpassed. Not only does Schmalkalden have an international flair that I was looking for. I’ve also experienced many things here which have changed my life in one way or the other.

What has been the most surprising thing about life in Schmalkalden?

Probably the lifestyle of people here in Schmalkalden. As a big-city girl, I’m used to masses of people, noise and lots of traffic. Schmalkalden is totally unlike any city I’ve ever lived in. Surrounded by nature, Schmalkalden is also different than many German cities I’ve seen so far. In the morning I can hear the birds singing. Everyone seems to know each other which gives you the feeling of being at home. The tranquillity has helped me to cope with stress and enjoy my life even more.

The Finstertal iron and manganese mine  © Sophie Nagel
The Finstertal iron and manganese mine . © Sophie Nagel

What was the hardest thing for you when you arrived in Germany and how did you deal with it?

Probably the language and the general rules I had to get accustomed to. But after a few months, I slowly got used to everything. I’m taking a German course which helps me with day-to-day conversation because fewer people speak English in a small town than in a big city. I only speak basic German, but it helps me a lot in everyday life.

Why is Schmalkalden a good place to study?

The atmosphere here is simply perfect. I can concentrate on my studies much better here than in a big, noisy city. There’s less to distract me and the university offers everything that students need in terms of support. I spend a lot of time outdoors in nature. That helps me a lot to deal with stress and recharge my batteries so I can study better.

What’s the best way to get to know other students?

The “Buddy Programme” here is a great way to practice and improve your language skills. It makes it easier to approach people and talk to them. The university organises lots of parties and excursions for international students where you can get to know the area and your fellow students.

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