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Eric: Small Town Germany
Small Town Germany
By Nancy & Eric Anderson
Photography by Authors

ermany has about 82 million inhabitants most of whom, at the moment, seem to be charged with the responsibility of propping up the Euro. Almost half of this population lives in the 300 largest cities and towns - but there are more than 5 thousand small towns scattered over the country and many have fascinating medieval histories.

The ones in central Germany with stories that go back to the Middle Ages all give the visitor a bonus: they were involved in some way with the unassailable Father of the Reformation, Martin Luther. Luther famously nailed his 95 complaints about one aspect of the Catholic Church on a church door in 1517 and "Luther Country" is currently celebrating the 500 years of Luther in events lasting from now until 2017. But although Luther's 95 Theses are seen as the start of a new church, literally a Protestant one, his criticism in the initial stages was only against the appalling commercialization and complete corruption of "indulgencies," what TIME Magazine once called: "the equivalent of a get-out-of-purgatory-free card. Partial indulgences simply shorten your stay."

So yes, small towns like Weimar and Wittenberg have, inevitably, connections to that famous man who ultimately challenged the power of the pope, this priest who translated the New Testament into vernacular German - and who, of all things, married a former nun. But the most interesting of Germany's small towns is they have that extra something beyond Luther: they can stand on their own with other charms that appeal to visitors.

What really appeals to visitors include the marvelous town public transportations and the efficiency of the DB German train system that makes a German Rail Europe pass a significant and worthwhile investment. The towns we're talking about are all within a 15 minute to two hour distance from each other by rail. And the connection between the German trains and the towns' public transportations is seamless - and guess what? Deutsch delights! Its transportation runs on time!

German Rail Europe trains

Weimar population 63,000

Yes Luther came here but who didn't! This has been a popular and successful little place for many centuries. Luther apparently got his medications at the little pharmacy on the square. For what ailment? Who knows? Perhaps for indigestion He famously said about Weimar, "I feel well here. I eat like a Bohemian and drink like a German!"

But this was Goethe's home for most of his life and his presence is everywhere from his statue (with Schiller) to his very home. Weimar has the historical Hotel Elephant whose frequent famous guest in the 1930s was Adolph Hitler. We think about that as we sit in the equally famous restaurant, the Alt Weimar, that Hitler frequented.

Attractions in Weimar (one of our favorite German towns) include the Goethe home and the Schiller, the Bauhaus art and architecture museum, the City Palace and the Belvidere Palace - and, of course, the magnificent Anna Amalia Library. The library has, among a cornucopia of treasures, the largest collection of stammbuch (autograph or friendship books) in the world. Illustrated is one written by Johann Carl Wilhelm Voigt in 1773, a hand-drawn travel diary by the famous German mineralist who challenged the theory of sedimentary rock formations. The library itself is perhaps the most beautiful one sightseers could visit in Germany.

top: stammbuch written by Johann Carl Wilhelm Voigt at the Anna Amalia Library, Weimar; bottom: the gate of the Buchenwald concentration camp

There is no beauty, of course, in the former concentration camp Buchenwald a few miles from town. A vast hall previously used to store supplies is now a museum that lays out painstakingly the details of what took place in this God forsaken place. The gate bears the message Jedem das Seine (translated as To Each His Own, meaning "you get in life what you deserve"). The imprisoned metalworkers who crafted the sign knew Hitler intensely disliked the Bauhaus Modernistic architectural style. In creating the sign on the gate, the workers chose the outlawed Bauhaus font, believing, correctly, the choice of the hated script would not be noticed by their captors. It was their gesture. Their last laugh. The spark of the human spirit.

Wittenberg population 47,000

This city is famous for its celebrated university as you see when you walk along its Collegienstrasse and read all the proud notations on the walls of the street. Famous though those scientists were they pale in contrast to the priest whose statue stands in the town square and whose tomb lies in the Castle Church at the end of the street. Luther's former Augustinian monastery, now the Luther House, is the world's largest museum on Reformation history. Yes, Martin Luther dominates Wittenberg and the church lying ahead has the door where he allegedly nailed his 95 Theses. Allegedly because a few historians challenge he actually nailed his complaints there though no one disputes his issues were printed and sent to the Pope.

scenes from Wittenberg: notations on a wall at the Collegienstrasse, the famous door at Castle Church and Martin Luther's tomb at Castle Church

The wooden door burned down in one of Europe's inevitable and unconscionable wars and was replaced with one of black bronze. The tourist office is opposite the church and has many suggestions about what you might want to do in town.

Eisenach population 44,000

We've mentioned this before but this town has an additional hero to Luther, one who came 200 years later, Johann Sebastian Bach. Luther had lived here when he was a youth but was brought here, secretly, later by his protectors as a priest condemned by the Pope. He was taken to the Castle Wartburg nearby. There he spent his time translating the New Testament into German possibly the most important achievement in his entire life.

scenes from Eisenach: statue of a cow at the main square and a copy of Martin Luther's translation of the New Testament into German

Eisenach could have become stultifying stuffy because of all the important people and significant events that happened around here, so it's rather fun to walk into the main square and find a statue of a cow gracing it. We don't ask our guide why that is there, she gets plenty of other questions from visitors we are sure.

Meissen population 29,000

At the age of 31 Luther was appointed Augustinian vicar for Meissen and Thuringia. He was put in charge of eleven area monasteries, a monstrous task that almost overwhelmed him.

scenes from Meissen: a lady at the Meissen porcelain factory and the Vincenz Richter restaurant

Meissen, the oldest town in Saxony, is not one of the major stops for those searching for Martin Luther but fortunately it has many attractions beyond that, including the famous Meissen porcelain factory, a medieval Old Town center - and a restaurant that would captivate any tourist: the Vincenz Richter restaurant, a former clothing company's guild house dating from 1523. It lies just off the Marketplace.

porcelain ware and an exquisite meal in an authentic Saxon restaurant, Eisleben

Meissen is a perfect town to vacation in; it is in the center of the Dresden countryside and within a quick S-Bahn (local intercity) rail trip to that city. It is close to the wineries, palaces and fortresses of Saxony Switzerland, (so called because some of the earliest Swiss rock climbers to tackle its terrain saw a resemblance to their country). And it has access to the paddle steamers on the river Elbe that can give an idyllic component to any vacation.

Eisleben population 20,000

Those visiting the little town of Eisleben in the next four or five years may find themselves bumping into tourists who are not necessarily looking for porcelain souvenirs or exquisite meals in an authentic Saxon restaurant. Most visitors in Eisleben these days are here because it was the birthplace of Martin Luther in 1483 and -- in a strange turn of fate (for a man who traveled around Germany so much and even walked the 1000 miles to Rome in his earlier days) -- also where he died in 1546. He had come to town to try and mediate a disagreement amongst the landowners in the area and collapsed suddenly during his visit.

Says our guide, "Martin Luther's Birth House introduced the world's first 'heritage tourism': Back in the 17th century visitors paid money to see the bed where Luther was born, drinking glasses his family used and even touching 15th-century soot in the chimney!" The home he was born in was for a time indeed a tourist magnet. The house burned some in 1689 but has been rebuilt and next door is a busy Luther House museum with a lot of information about Luther's parents and his early life. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1996. The house long thought to be his "death house" and which had been purchased to be developed as a museum is now recognized as wrongly-identified.

His statue, of course, stands in the square near the St. Andrew's Church where he preached his last sermon before he died. The subject was Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The St. Peter and Paul Church (where he was baptized the day after his birth) lies around the corner from where he was born. It has been beautifully rebuilt for its current congregation showing that life goes on - even if the restoration makes the church lose its medieval identity. The lane leading to the St. Peter and Paul church, however, has not been gentrified; ancient faded illustrations of Luther's life hang on its walls showing how far back in time this Reformationist has been acknowledged.

Eisleben scenes: old faded illustrations of Luther's life hanging on the walls of the lane leading to the St. Peter and Paul Church; 'stumble stones' in memory of the Konigsberger family on a bricked sidewalk

In an almost mirror image, a more recent event in Eisleben has also been acknowledged. Our feet click on markers on the bricked sidewalk. "They are called 'stumble stones,'" says our guide. "They are meant to catch your feet and remind you of the atrocities committed here and in other places. The door behind those markers was the front door of the house of Dr. Ludwig Konigsberger and his family. They were taken from their house in 1942 and executed the same year. Their crime? They were Jewish -- and their stumble stones are so we never forget."

Related Articles:
Big City Germany; Johann Sebastian Bach; Berlin in 5 Hours; Augsburg; Bavaria; Berlin: Yesterday and Today; Munich Christmas; Offbeat Germany; Berlin's Hoppegarten

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Tell Eric what you think of his article.
In the meantime, here are some of the feedback we have already received:

Hey Eric and Nancy! As a fellow Traveling Boy journalist, and as a confirmed WW2 aficionado, just wanted you to know how much I loved your story on Arnhem. Really great stuff, and truly brilliant riveting writing.

I’ve been there twice and covered it on my KNX radio show when I was on LA radio, and your story and evocative photos brought back a ton of wonderful and poignant memories. This could have been an amazingly brilliant military operation – as you both know – that might well have ended the War in Europe maybe a year earlier. However, allied misreading -- and in my view disregarding certain aspects of the situation in Holland -- plus the fact that they dropped the paras over 3 days and not in one huge assault at night (and not in the day as they did) doomed the mission to failure.

Your clever words and great photos brought all this graphically to life, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in any aspect of WW2, and certainly should be read by today’s teenagers. Again Bravo and well done!!!!

John Clayton
Travel with A Difference

We just couldn't leave your website before saying that we genuinely enjoyed the high quality information you offer for your visitors... Would be back frequently to check up on new stuff you post!


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What a fantastic write-up!

I could almost copy and paste most of your narrative verbatim as it reflects our fantastic experience with Fantasy Cruises almost to a tee. It was truly one of the greatest vacations my girlfriend and I have ever experienced.

Mike Richard, Editor,

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One of my dreams is to go to Alaska by way of cruise. This article very much intensifies the longing for that dream to come to fruition. I simply cannot wait much longer. And I will never again be able to think of a waterfall without picturing myself "nosing up" to it. Thank you for this intriguing, virtual journey.

Sandra Mines, Seattle, WA

Thank you for writing, Sandra. Alaska really is a wondrous place. Re "Nosing up" to a waterfall: we have a different article up at Physician's Money Digest on the same cruise (Small Ship Cruising: Alaska by the Back Door). The third last set of images there shows a crew member filling a jug of ice water from a waterfall while standing in the bow of the ship! Best wishes. Get there! To Alaska one day.

Eric & Nancy

Loved your photos from Alaska! Because I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for Westmark Hotels, I am up in AK and the Yukon quite often to visit our hotels and staff! But your pictures were so enjoyable-love to see the "real" Alaskans!

Heidi Howeiler, Seattle, WA

Hi Ms. Howeiler, That was kind of you to write and yes, you do see real people in Alaska, don't you? Alaskans always remind us off rural Texans or Australians in the isolated Red Centre of their country: hard working, sensible, rolled-up-sleeves people with no affectations. We love your Westmark hotels and we take our hats off to the person who started your company, Chuck West. What a great guy!

Eric & Nancy

Enjoyed your realistic and practical comments on Provence. Always wanted to go there ever since reading Peter Mayle's 2 books on Provence. But the two times I went to France, time was always short, so we spent our days in Paris. And now you say, it is losing its unique charm to tourism. (Sigh). It's always a choice between sharing beauty, and keeping it hidden. The world lurches on. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dette, Iligan City, Philippines

Hi Dette, (Would love to see all your waterfalls), Thank you for writing. Provence is busy in the tourist season but it hasn't lost all its charm or the quirkiness Mayle talks about in his book Provence A to Z. It's still a place to visit. Appreciate hearing from you. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

What a great article, especially regarding Louis XIV. I was not aware there was a contemporary account of his execution. It was fascinating. Thank you!

Celtic fan, Nashua, MA

Dear Celtic fan, Thanks for writing. I didn't know about the account of his execution either till I stumbled upon it. Sad to think that the French revolutionaries thought they could be both judge and jury. We are lucky to have a more elegant system today. Thanks for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nancy and Eric,

Enjoyed reading your article on Santa Fe, NM. I was in AZ travel nursing in 2008 and 2009 and made it to Santa Fe. Took a lot of pics and really loved walking around the old town while I was there. Hope to be able to take the wife there in the future.

Brett Eidson, Soso, MS

Hi dude! Nice to see your site. It's beautiful. My congratulations.

New York

Hi New York, Thank you for writing. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

Hi! Your web-site is very interesting and I want to tell G'night.

New York

Dear New York,

Thank you for writing. Glad you find the site interesting. We are here for you. Keep visiting.

Eric & Nancy

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This is all genuine. I will return to scan.


Hi Keflavik, Thank you for writing. We are happy you will return.

Eric & Nancy

Good article.

On Behalf Of Diane, Port Ludlow, WA

Thanks for writing from Port Ludlow. We hear that's a beautiful place. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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When I was hurt in a boat accident my life would be changed totally. I really don't post much but thanks for the good times I have here. Love this place. Long time lurker, thought I would say hello!


Dear Miami, Thanks for writing. It's nice to hear from you. Hope you are getting better. Glad you get some good times at Traveling boy. Good luck.

Eric & Nancy

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Dear friends,

My name is Adelina. I am a 22 years girl from Italy. I was looking for a free translation software and I found one. Program's name is Babel Fish and it supports 75 languages. I installed it but I could not understand how to use it. I am not a computer expert. Can someone help me please on how to run this.The link is here : I thank you very much for your help.

Adelina, Celaya

Adelina, I didn't want to download it but I saw examples online. It seemed easy. You select the page you want translated, copy it and paste it into the box. You then click on the button to translate. You may have to do one page at a time. You can also use Google to translate a page; that's what I do because I don't want to load too much software.

Eric & Nancy

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Amiable brief and this mail helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thanks you seeking your information.

WordPress Themes, Gray Mountain

We are glad to have been of help. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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What's up everyone? Great forum. Lots of lovely people. Just what I need. Hopefully this is just what i'm looking for. Looks like I have a lot to read.

Spanish John, Benidrom

Encouraging to get your feedback. Glad to hear from you. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nice dispatch ( - and this enter helped me a lot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

Gray Mountain

Hi Gray Mountain,

Thank you for your comment. Your email reminds us all at TravelingBoy how important it is to be accurate in what we write. Good luck with your studies and have a great life.

Eric & Nancy

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Hello people, I just signed up on this splendid community forum and wanted to say hey there! Have a wonderful day!


Hi Jacksonville, We are pleased to hear from new readers at TravelingBoy. Your feedback encourages us all to do better. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

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What a fascinating bit of Russian history you wrote about! How sad to learn that 100,000 churches were reduced to create skating rinks and such during the revolution, after seeing the photo of the interior of a magnificent church filled with art! War is so devastating on so many levels! The art of their culture is so beautiful as is shown in the image of the painted box! Thank you,

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Dear Yoka,

Thank you for writing. Nancy is originally Lutheran and Eric is a dour Scot, more used to the frequently cold and often cheerless churches of his native land so we were both overwhelmed to see the beauty of Russian churches. It was kind of you to write, Yoka.

Thank you,
Eric & Nancy

Interesting observations.... Very informative and thought provoking. Questions.... What would be the best way to get from Moscow Airport DME to boat dock? taxi? prearranged limo? prepaid Viking Tours transfer? Any idea on cost and travel time for taxi or limo or Viking Cruise pickup from airport to boat? We shall be flying to Moscow on our own. Do you happen to have an address for the river boat dock that Viking Cruises uses in Moscow? I would be nice to Google map the situation. Thanks,

Robert Hopwood, Ottawa, Canada

Hi Bob,

Excuse the delay; we were on a trip. I do understand your question and will try and get you an answer. The Viking river dock in Moscow was for us in the north part of the city but once we were on the boat it was an easy ten minute walk to the Metro station that had us downtown within 30 minutes. I'm a lot more relaxed at the end of a trip than at the beginning and therefore I always feel taking the cruise-line sponsored trip from the airport to the dock makes sense: What starts right usually ends right.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Hi Bob,

I’m back with more information. The river port’s address is Northern River Boat Station Leningradsky Prospekt, Khimki. If you Google that you will see it is about 15 minutes’ walk from two Metro stations. .

I spoke to Nancy at customer relations at Viking Cruises at the new LNR Warner Center in 5700 Canoga Avenue, Woodland Hills, Calif.

She was very helpful and advises you to take the Viking transportation service. She is biased, of course, but she’s right. Moscow DME airport is 40 miles away on the opposite side of the city, at least two hours driving time. The airport has no Metro station; you’d have to take the Aeroexpress train to Paveletsky station then change to the Metro and go to Rechnoy Vokzal station then take a cab to the port. A cab all the way from DME would cost at least 2000 rubles (more than $70). That’s less than the $60 each that Viking would charge…but…I think you’d be ill-advised to do it on your own. Why start the trip where the potential to screw up is so likely? Moscow taxi drivers are as dishonest as most tourist city cab drivers and probably yours won’t speak English. I think the address in Russian is


I strongly discourage you from economizing on this and doing it on your own. Buy the transfer and save money somewhere else.

We have other Viking Volga web articles up at and at

Good luck. Great show Canada’s putting on for the Olympics!

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Reseller Hosting, London

Hi, Is it Britni Freeman?

Thank you, we think... We suspect your comments are valid. In fact we think all of us writing for TravelingBoy are starting to get into the swing of things and do a better job -- and your encouragement spurs us to do even better. Thank you for writing. Have a good 2010,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Dear Nancy and Eric

Thank you so much for the wonderful article on statues in Europe. Statues are my favorite art form and your descriptions were delightful to read - knowledge and fun together. I do still wonder about that foot in Rome...

Peggy - Pasadena, CA

Hi Peggy,

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments. We used to be critical of people who can't identify the persons on statues in foreign cities -- until one day a tourist stopped us in our own San Diego and asked us, in vain, for details on a statue we'd never noticed before! We wonder about that Roman foot too. If Eric had stood any closer he'd be in his typical foot-in-mouth position.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

I live in Santa Fe and see and delight in it every day, but your writing makes it sparkle even more. How nice to see Santa Fe through your eyes. Great photos!

Cynthia Whitney-Ward - Santa Fe, NM

Dear Dr. Anderson:

I have followed your writing career for as long as I can remember, and I think the thing I enjoy the most about your travel writing is the sense of joy and discovery that leads the reader to anticipate ever corner you turn in your travels.What a delightful traveling companion you are, and I know have always been, with that wonderfully eternally youthful joie de vivre...I wonder:do you feel that East, West, home is best? And where IS that place you have never been, but want to go most of all,yet? Bring we, your devoted readers ever along!

CAT -- San Diego (Scrips Ranch), CA

Dear CAT,

Thank for taking the time to write to You are very kind. We don't know that travel writers make the best companions; we suspect they may be obsessed with getting the best photograph or may monopolize the guide with questions so that others don't get to ask what interests them. What place is best? Well, it may be fun to sit in a rickshaw in Beijing or try to master the Metro in Moscow, but -- as you imply -- it is good to get home after trips.

Home is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes and home for many of us fortunately contains family.

We've never been to Easter Island and may have missed the boat (no pun intended) there. The island is losing its innocence; we've seen that happen at Machu Picchu or, closer to home, at Lake Powell in Arizona. So maybe the best travel advice is: Go when you are fit and healthy, before rising prices make a destination inaccessible -- and before hordes of tourists ruin any destination's mystique.

With best Holiday Wishes from Traveling Boy,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

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What a fantastic primer on New York City. I think you have really captured its essence with this exciting overview of its offerings. Well done!

Gillian Abramson - New York

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You describe a city on wheels - er, wings - and an absolutely perfect way to travel. SHOWERS & FLOWERS! Amazing! I love that your passion for all-things-aviation comes through in this story about an almost unbelievable airplane. Thanks for breaking the news in such an engaging way!

Richard Frisbie - Saugerties, New York

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Enjoyed your blog on Romania. Noticed you called Bucharest "The Paris of the East." I wonder, is there any city not called "The Paris of something." I've read San Francisco is 'the Paris of the West,' Buenos Aires 'The Paris of South America,' and even Tromso, Norway 'The Paris of the Arctic.'

Terry Cowan - Fresno

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Hi Terry,

Thanks for writing to TravelingBoy. And thanks for educating me; I didn't know that about Tromso, didn't even know there was a Tromso. I heard Bangkok called the Venice of the East when I was there and, in two weeks, I'm heading for the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg, Russia.

It does become a bit silly, doesn't it? But we are originally an immigrant nation that was Eurocentric. Maybe it gave our forefathers confidence even courage when they took old names, old ideas to the New World with them. I know I feel nostalgic if I drive around Ontario, Canada and see all the British place names.

I appreciate your email. Thank you for writing.


Eric -

Enjoyed your article on Madrid. I noticed that you find it superior to Rome. Most of the Spanish folks that I meet seem to prefer Barcelona. How would you rate that city?

Samuel K

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Hi Samuel,

We loved Barcelona although driving around the city was surprisingly complicated as our maps were inadequate. The cathedral had scaffolding around it so I couldn't get the pictures I wanted but we found the architecture fascinating and the Picasso museum rewarding. We were anxious to get on the road to Costa Brava and didn't have more than a couple of days in Barcelona.

Thanks for writing.

Great article on Madrid. I've heard there is a rivalry between the people of Madrid and Barcelona. In which city are the people friendlier? How about for hipness? I noticed you were Scottish. I felt a similar thing in Scotland, with a Glasgow v. Edinburgh vibe.

Santa Monica

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Thank you for writing to TravelingBoy, Gary. We found Barcelona friendlier.

Maybe that's because it's not the capital and it's not so busy either. Maybe it's because the Gaudi architectural influence is pervasive and -- to both its citizens and tourists -- comforting. Maybe it's because Barcelona is the gateway to the work of artist Salvatore Dali, and his spirit catches us. (I don't know much about art but I've seen a lot of Dali's work enough to think he never took himself too seriously and often painted tongue in cheek. Maybe fun people spring for fun places?) Hipness? Madrid is more formal and dressy but Barcelona, I believe, is more hip maybe, again, because it's more fun.

Your points about Scotland are valid. It's more than a joke. The Glaswegians are more down to earth. I think we see it here in the belief that if you had a flat tire in Middle America passers-by would be more inclined to stop and help than perhaps New Englanders.

- Eric

Dear Eric,

I liked the article. As I read it, I was wondering how you as a physician were influenced by Hippocrates. What influence did this historical figure have on the practice of medicine beyond the obvious 'oath.' Why is Hippocrates considered to be such a paragon of medicine? DWA - San Pedro, CA

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Dear David,

Thank you for writing to

Hippocrates is revered because he believed his duty was to the individual patient, not to the community at large. This is a very important premise. The Romans, whose empire followed that of the Greeks, achieved much in health matters by emphasizing clean drinking water and personal hygiene, and created great national works like aquaducts and public baths but wealthy Romans apparently preferred Greek doctors as their personal physicians.

Hippocrates is also respected because he brought intellectual thought to diagnosis. He taught his students to use their five senses in assessing patients and was openly critical of the junk science of his day as practiced by the priest-physicians who preyed on the fear and ignorance of the ill persons who came to them.

It is true that not all medical chools today require graduating doctors to take the Hippocratic Oath but most conscientious physicians base their lifetime commitment to the practice of medicine on the life and teachings of that one man.

Or so I think. Perhaps if we knew more about our heroes they would seem less heroic. But in Hippocrates' case he did leave a record of his thoughts and some of his principles are today as strong as ever.

Thank you for writing, it is appreciated.


Stay tuned.

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