Saturday, 23 February 2019


The foothill of the Taunus range just on the outskirts of Wiesbaden—going by the term Hausberg, home mountain owing to the sense of ownership and defining characteristic that the landform has for its neighbouring borough, that I took the opportunity to revisit was originally known as the Ersberg before taking on the more romanticised name in the title in the nineteenth century when an ensemble of structures were built at the summit—with more added over the decades, and a funicular train was put in service to ferry guests to the summit.
The little rail depot was yet closed for the winter—we’d taken it up from the valley beforehand—but walking was a pleasant option. After strolling through a folly-filled park that banked on either side of a small brook, one first encounters the gleaming gold domes and spires of the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth, whose striking beauty, visible throughout Wiesbaden belies a sad story.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailova (*1826 – †1845), niece of Emperor Nicholas I, married Adolf, Duke of Nassau (*1817 – †1905), and celebrated a brief but happy personal and political union—living in Schloss Biebrich, until Elizabeth died during the birth of their first child.
Grief-stricken and inconsolable, the Duke choose the spot on the hillside for a memorial church so he could always have a view of it from his residence.
Along with a parsonage and a cemetery, the church is one of the largest Russian Orthodox congregations in Europe outside of Russia—Wiesbaden already having garnered popularity with Russian tourists as a health spa and with a sizable emigre population that grew after the violence and revolution of 1917, and houses the Duchess’ sarcophagus.
A little further up on the hilltop lies an extensive Bergpark, the focal point being a temple, specifically a neoclassic monopteros—a circular colonnade supporting a dome roof, with views of the city below.
All that remains of former guest accommodations (the hotel that catered to guests of the nearby thermal baths burned down in 1989) is a single turret that towers over an amphitheatre. There was also a parkour set up in the forest—dashing through the treetops—but I thought maybe I had hiked enough already for the day but would consider coming back to see how the course is set up.