"Opera in Altenburg" Altenburg by Nemorino

Altenburg Travel Guide: 43 reviews and 113 photos

The theater in Altenburg

Altenburg is a city in the eastern part of Germany which has lost 35 % of its population in the past quarter century.

In 1981 the city had 55,827 inhabitants. Now twenty-eight years later the population is down to 35,735 -- roughly the size of Beloit, Wisconsin or Urbandale, Iowa.

Most of this decline has happened since German reunification in the early 1990s, as people started moving west in search of jobs.

Amazingly, this small city with its shrinking population still has a full-scale theater that does an ambitious program of live opera and drama -- though to survive the theater had to merge several years ago with the one in nearby Gera. Now the combined theater and opera company presents the same productions in both cities on different evenings.

In 2003 I saw a very good performance here in Altenburg of the opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), which I also saw four years later in the West German city of Hagen.

Hagen is nearly six times as big as Altenburg, but it also looked rather dead when I was there to see The Dead City, which was on a very grey, rainy and unseasonably cold weekend in May 2007.


Altenburg means "Old Castle", and there is indeed an old castle up on the hill in front of the theater.

The castle has been there in one form or another for a thousand years at least. It was gradually turned into a palace in the first half of the 18th century, when it became the second residence of the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg.

The palace complex includes among other things a church with a famous organ that Johann Sebastian Bach once played.


One of the most popular card games in Germany is called Skat. While I can't really claim to understand the game (much less play it), I'm told that it is played by three or four people using a 32-card deck. It involves bidding and taking tricks, which are then added up by a very complicated system.

Skat was invented in Altenburg around 1810. The German Skat Society is still based here, as it the German Skat Court, which is supposed to settle disputes involving the game. So Altenburg likes to call itself the Skat City, which in German is something of a tongue-twister: Skatstadt.

  • Last visit to Altenburg: Jul 2009
  • Intro Updated Aug 1, 2011
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Reviews (24)

Travelogues (1)

Comments (25)

  • Odiseya's Profile Photo
    Feb 18, 2014 at 9:44 PM

    I enjoying in virtual tour in this very interesting town. Thank you for sharing your travel experiences with us!

  • alancollins's Profile Photo
    Sep 29, 2013 at 1:06 AM

    If more English words were adopted in Germany I would be able to speak a lot more German.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Sep 29, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      Alan, thanks for your visit to my Altenburg page. Lots of English words have been taken over into German, but you still need German syntax to make sense of them. My favorite is this half-English, half-German slogan on a Frankfurt delivery van: 'Food ist unser Business'.

    • alancollins's Profile Photo
      Sep 29, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      Thank heaven for Google Translator.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Feb 18, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    The "flat" rate sounds like great value for people like you! Love a lot of the buildings here, and thought the Hotel sounded good. Better sterile than cockcroaches!

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    Enjoyed touring Altenburg with you! Interesting photos and comments. We don't have those posters here but at one time we did have a Ratskeller restaurant. Doubt that it had any connection other than the name.

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Nov 22, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    Another interesting page, Don. Focus on the local "feel" was unique. The extra photos were well done. Sad about the reduction in population and the resulting problems, especially with the abandoned buildings.

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Oct 23, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    The station house looks very nice! Too bad though that many of the houses are in such need of restauration.

  • ettiewyn's Profile Photo
    Mar 25, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    I just bought a travel guide on Germany and discovered this town, and then your page on VT - great page, as always! It seems like a very nice place, and a great day trip from Leipzig. I would love to visit here!

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Aug 2, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Altenburg looks absolutely beautiful and charming. How wonderful it must have been to spend some time there. Nice page Don!

  • Elisabcn's Profile Photo
    Jan 16, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    Altenburg seems a nice city despite its falling houses. But its people are very insane: 200performances per year means 1.82performances per day!!! Oh, I need to visit das Heizhaus RIGHT NOW!!! Thanks for sharing

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Oct 31, 2009 at 7:55 PM

    Amazing advertisment for subscription to the theater! The Altenburg castle is impressive and seems to dominate the town! Too bad there are so many derelict buildings. A very informative page.

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