The first recorded mention of Gera dates back to the year 995 AD. Gera has always been a major strategic spot: from the time that Emperor Otto III assigned Gera to the Quedlinburg Abbey in 999, to its near destruction in the 1450s during the violent Saxon Fratricidal War, through to its becoming the base of Napoleon’s Imperial Headquarters during the War of the Fourth Coalition.
As it entered the 19th century, Gera found itself as one of Germany's big railway centers, a spot where several lines converged. This led to a rise in the local textile industry and a rise in the city's stature. You can visit some of the many still-standing city villas that evidence the wealth this trade brought to Gera. In particular, head to the Schulenberg Mansion designed by Belgian, Henry van de Velde.
The city experienced aerial bombardment in 1945 before becoming a part of East Germany, but in the years since reunification the city has boomed again. In 1998 the Vocational Academy of Gera was set up with a school for health sciences, while in 2007 the city hosted the biennial federal horticultural show.
Head to the Gera Market, one of the finest market squares in Thuringia state, and explore the striking Town Hall. Complete with Baroque mansard roof and an elegant tower over the main entrance, it is one of Gera's most captivating sights. Walk around the back to find the old Government Building, a three-story Baroque building constructed in the 1720s.
Nearby is St. Salvator’s Church, another Baroque masterpiece with a painted ceiling and curiously decorated galleries along the aisles. Adjoining the church, you will also find the lovely three-story Natural History Museum, with collections exploring the work of respected Thuringian ornithologists.
On the western edge of the city, meanwhile, you can visit the City Forest of Gera, the largest of its kind among the towns of Thuringia, while elsewhere to the northwest of the city another forest tract is perfect for walkers to enjoy.