"Jena Paradies" Top 5 Page for this destination Jena by antistar

Jena Travel Guide: 56 reviews and 147 photos

I'd wanted to come to Jena since I saw it on the train to Berlin last year. It looked so idyllic from the train, located within the dense trees of the sandstone and chalk hills that surround it. The (west) Germans I was with, however, scoffed at the name of the ICE station we stopped at, "Jena Paradies". In German this means "Jena Paradise", which they thought did not befit this former East German town. As is typical of many place names in my home country of England, the nicer the town politicians desperately try to name a place, the worse it is often considered. For Jena the Paradies area is renowned for its criminality, and was the name of a German film set here that portrayed the grim realities of life for ordinary people in East Germany.

Jena isn't a paradise, but it isn't anywhere near as bad as some people might make out. Its location is stunning, and it has a distinctive skyline and some curious buildings to make for some great views. It also has some great history, especially in the form of its prestigious university. This seat of learning, now home to the improbably tall and iconic Jen-Tower, has had famous lecturers on site including Schiller, Hegel and Schelling. Karl-Marx was also awarded a doctorate here in 1841. Perhaps its most famous modern academic connection is that of Carz Zeiss, who founded the Zeiss Works in Jena and was responsible for revolutionising optics and producing some of the best lenses in the world.

Carl-Zeiss Jena is also the name of the town's incredible football team. As a child in the early 1980s I followed the unlikely progress of this small East German town of 100,000 people as its team made its way through the rounds of the Cup Winners' Cup all the way to the final itself. On the way they beat illustrious teams like Roma, Valencia and Lisbon's Benfica, only to be beaten by the one goal in a tight final against the former giants of the Soviet league, Dynamo Tblisi. Jena is about the same size as the town of Coburg that I live in now, which makes this achievement all the more sensational. Once one of the best teams in East Germany, winning cups and championships, they now languish in one of Germany's regional leagues.

The shame for Jena was that it must have once been a much prettier town, but war time bombs and subsequent GDR status robbed it of this. The post-war rebuilding isn't all that pretty, and it looks a little grubby in parts. The trees that can be seen from the station cover a network of overground graffiti daubed pipes, and most of what was once worth seeing in the town no longer exists. That said, it is pleasant enough to wander around, and has a number of views that are exceptionally photogenic. If you are staying in the region and taking a look around the little gems this area has to offer, an hour or two spent in Jena won't be wasted.

  • Last visit to Jena: Aug 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (6)

Comments (5)

  • yumyum's Profile Photo
    Aug 11, 2008 at 4:19 AM

    Great little page about Jena! Would love to visit there too.

  • 1courage's Profile Photo
    Nov 3, 2006 at 1:36 AM

    Yes, very idyllic, indeed:)

  • Aug 20, 2006 at 4:40 AM

    Still upset that I missed this! :(( Hope you are having a good weekend!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 25, 2005 at 11:52 AM

    Nice introduction to Jena. I haven't been there since GDR times, but I used to like it back then. (My late cousin's ex-wife's parents used to live there.)

  • bugulma's Profile Photo
    Sep 6, 2005 at 6:16 AM

    tower is seemed a good symbol for the paradise :-) oh yes, that fina Tbilisi vs Karl Zeiss was the strangest in UEFA history. I mean both teams weren't the giants of European football.


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