FRIEDRICHRODA is one of the most accessible access-points for day-hikes in the Thuringian Forest. A busy resort in GDR days, when the monstrous Berghotel blighted a hilltop, it suffered when the Berlin Wall came down and has since become a modern incarnation of the rather prim spa resort that wooed 12,000 people a year in the late 1800s. You can fill up water bottles from mineral springs from a fountain pavilion on Marktstrasse, or another, often locked one in the Kurpark above. Aside from natural cures the time-honoured attraction of Friedrichroda is Europe's largest crystal cave, Marienglashöhle (daily: April– Oct 9am–5pm; Nov– March 9am–4pm; 4) 1.5km west of the centre. The showcave's name refers to the gypsum crystal harvested for glitter on statues of the Virgin.
The cave is a stop on the Thüringerwaldbahn (tram #4; Web: www.waldbahn-gotha.de ), which trundles from Gotha through the countryside to Friedrichroda twice an hour. In summer it's worth staying on board for the most scenic section to tram terminus Tabarz, from where you can board a coordinated tourist-train, the Inselberg-Express (5 daily May to late Oct; 4.50 single, 7 return; Tel:036259/57 70), which ascends the Grosser Inselberg (916m) – not the highest summit in the Thuringian Forest and far from the most photogenic owing to an ugly telecoms tower, but unrivalled for its sweeping panorama. From here you could hike along the Rennsteig ridgeway path east over the lesser summits of Trockenberg and Grosser Jagdberg to Heuberghaus (around 4km; 2hr) to hook up with the Thüringer Wald-Express bus (3 daily March– Dec; same Tel: & price) back to Friedrichroda.
Friedrichroda's tourist office (Mon– Thurs 9am–5pm, Fri till 6pm, Sat till noon; Tel:03623/332 00, Web: www.friedrichroda.de ) at Marktstrasse 15 can provide maps. The most appealing of the abundant accommodation options in town are swish spa-hotel Ramada Hotel Friedrichroda, on the far side of the Kurpark at Burchardtsweg 1 (Tel:03623/35 26 01, Web: www.ramada-friedrichroda.de ; Price: 101–150), and traditional house-brewery Brauhaus at Bachstrasse 14 (Tel:03623/30 42 59, Web: www.brauhaus-friedrichroda.de ; Price: 41-60) with pleasing old-fashioned rooms. Both serve good food, or try fish-speciality inn Zue Quelle (closed Mon) at Schweizer Strasse 30.