The quite substantial Bach family house, where Johann Sebastian was (probably) born, is now attached to a large and strikingly modern building housing the reception area, shop, café, and other necessities of a modern museum. Not everyone would agree with this approach, but I think it's been extremely well done, with minimal physical or visual disturbance to the original house. The new building is taller and perhaps larger than the house, yet tucked in the corner of the site it doesn't dominate it.
€6 entry, OK to take photos, friendly staff. Much interesting stuff about Bach's life, and about life generally at that time. He never became a citizen of Leipzig, despite living there for over 25 years, and always considered his roots to be here in Eisenach. A couple of rooms set up as they might have been – a bedroom, with rocking cot for the baby; and a living room with clavicord and beer stein on the table, a desk and manuscripts. Some interesting instruments on display, including a pocket violin used by dancing teachers (allowing them to pocket the instrument while demonstrating steps) which I'd never seen before, and a glass harmonica.
A short live music presentation which was interesting and well done, though I didn't actually learn a lot that I didn't know already [that sounds snobbish, but the talk is aimed at a general audience, not Baroque music groupies!]. I talked briefly with the presenter afterwards and we swapped notes on favourite period performers.
Johann Sebastian was the youngest child of Johann Ambrosius Bach, the director of the town musicians, who taught him to play violin and harpsichord. Across the narrow road at the back of the garden is a smaller house where Johann Ambrosius, "Ratsmusikant", lived from 1671 to 1674. Both his parents died within eight months of each other when he was 10, and JS went to live with his eldest brother Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721), then the organist at the Michaeliskirche in nearby Ohrdruf. His uncles were also professional musicians – organists, court chamber musicians and composers – and it was Johann Christoph (1645–93), well-known at the time, who introduced him to the organ.
There is a computer-based presentation about the forensic reconstruction of Bach's face, and a huge room in the modern part of the museum aimed at getting youngsters in particular to listen to Bach's music – they all seemed to be enjoying it, possibly for the first time. Also a gruesome display about the eye operation by the English quack–surgeon and showman John Taylor, which possibly led to his death. Was it a cataract? No-one knows. His eyesight can't have been that bad as he's known to have been still working on the late works in 1649. From the panel in the museum:
"Bach died on 28 July 1750, some four months after Taylor's eye operation. His obituary mentions that Bach had previously been 'cheerful in spirit and full of strength'. However the eye operation cannot have been the sole cause of death in an otherwise healthy 65-year-old. So what did Bach die of?
"The obituary states that after the operation, Bach's 'otherwise completely healthy body... had been completely bowled over by added harmful medications and other factors'. In the 18th century the preparations for an operation and the treatment afterwards included purging the body... This was done through blood-letting and the administering of laxative, emetic and diuretic substances, which could cause considerable weakness in the patient if taken to excess. In addition, there are reports that... Taylor also treated the wounds from his operations by dribbling in the blood of a freshly slaughtered pigeon, crushed sugar or burned cooking salt."
John Taylor disappeared shortly after Bach's death, as was his custom.
I finished off my visit with an orange juice and some good nutty cake in the excellent cafe, then a rush across town for the 17:03 back to Weimar, luckily running ten minutes late.