The Erzgebirge mountains ,“ where are they? Well, first things first. Naturally, this is a region full of surprises and experiences in all seasons. Now we’re getting somewhere ,“ down south! The Erzgebirge mountains are one of Saxony’s major holiday areas. They are attractive, densely wooded highlands on the border with the Czech Republic. Their highest peak at more than 1,200 metres is the Fichtelberg near Oberwiesenthal, Germany’s highest town.
These mountains were shaped around 300 million years ago. They are unusually rich in mineral resources, which lie comparatively close to the surface. Silver, tin, cobalt, lead and other metals have made Saxony one of Germany’s richest states. Uranium extraction began later and was relatively unimportant from an economic point of view. Even the name of the mountains cites the ore (Erz) for which the region is famous. The rich ores extracted by hard-working, inventive miners and smelted by experts, are fashioned by artists, craftsmen and industry into a wide variety of goods. Mining has made its mark on the entire mountain range, whether by altering the landscape or by influencing the region’s cultural history.
Although no miners’ shouts ring out in the hills these days, the many centuries of mining activity have left many industrial monuments, such as pits, underground systems of roads, shafts and tunnels, slagheaps and water plants.
In this varied region, with its deep valleys, high plateaus, reservoirs, dams and moors, a rich tapestry of distinctive historical and cultural attractions affords the visitor interesting impressions of the past and present. The region’s immeasurable richness in mineral resources, mining history, folk arts and crafts and customs attests to the prosperous days of ore extraction and to the hard times the region has experienced since.
The region’s unique wood carving and turning, toy making and lace work traditions used to bring vital commerce to the region and make for a fascinating visit, not just at Christmas time. Traditional craft techniques, unique anywhere in the world, such as Reifendrehen (carving toy animals from wooden hoops) and SpanbÃ¤umchen-Stechen (carving wooden trees with intricate curly branches) or passementerie work originate in the Erzgebirge mountains. The over 100 museums cover a great variety of topics and reflect the area’s historical development, with impressive displays of skilled craftsmanship and ingenuity.
Most people will be familiar with the charming carved figures like the nutcracker, the smoking man incense burner, the ‘angel of light’ Christmas decorations and with the pyramids and children’s toys which are lovingly crafted here. But the museums also showcase the less well known, such as historic reminders of the area’s mining past, of Adam Riese, the influential arithmetician, of organ building, historic railways, of copperwork, old mills and visitor mines, all of which are equally fascinating.
And anywhere craft and technology flourishes, artistic achievement is never far behind. You may have to walk up hill and down dale, but it’s a pleasure to visit all the region’s castles and palaces, churches, places of myth, legend and enchanting story.
The Erzgebirge mountains form the backdrop for a real fairytale of ice crystals and subzero temperatures. This is a truly romantic winter wonderland, with thick pillows of snow leaving nothing to be desired for snow men, luge lizards, ice angels and ski buffs. In the run-up to Christmas, the whole mountain range shines in a unique light which is typical of the region’s inimitable knack of getting Christmas just right. “Good luck!” ,“ is the miner’s call used to welcome guests to this, a region like no other.