Oberwiesenthal is located at the foot of Mt. Fichtelberg, with 1214 m the highest mountain in Eastern Germany. In a distance of about 6 km on the opposite side of the valley in the Czech Republic, is Mt. Klinovec (Keilberg in German, pic 2) which is with 1244 m the highest peak in the Erzgebirge mountains (Krusne hory in Czech).
A cable car (pic 1) takes visitors up to the summit of Mt. Fichtelberg since 1924 - the first of its kind in Germany. On top are a mountain hotel and restaurant with viewing tower (pic 3 right, pic 5), a weather station (pic 3 left), a triangulation station. Many hiking trails start here, in winter also groomed cross-country trails and downhill runs.
Weather data were noted on Mt. Fichtelberg since 1890, the weather station building dates from 1916. A mountain hotel named "Fichtelberghaus" was first built 1888/89, but it burned down on 25 Feb 1963. Snow and ice, temps of - 15 C made it impossible to fight the fire successfully. 1965 - 67 a new Fichtelberghaus with 42 m tall viewing tower was built in contemporary style, but in 1999 it was reconstructed in order to give it a more rustic, gemütliche ambience. The tower was cut so it is only 31 m tall anymore. There is a small museum on the geology, vegetation and wildlife, history of the mountain in general and the Fichtelberghaus in particular in the building - small entrance fee, 1 Euro or so.
The reason to go up are the panoramic views. If the weather co-operates - only on a few days every year, especially in fall and winter - you can see the Krkonose (Giant) mountains and Bohemian Forest in the Czech Republic, the Monument of the Battle of Nations in Leipzig and the Brocken in the Harz mountains. Usually you see the surrounding peaks and towns in the Erzgebirge mountains and the power plants with their huge chimneys on the Czech foot of the mountains. However, it happens that you see nothing at all - fog and low clouds often obstruct the views (pic 5).
- Hiking and Walking
- Skiing and Boarding
The most remarkable building in town is the Ev.-Lutheran church. It was built 1863 - 66 in Neo-Gothic style, replacing the former Baroque church that was destroyed by the big fire in 1862. Only the two big chandeliers could be saved and are to see in the present church.
I thought it was a beautiful church, bright, nice proportions, still with original interior - colourful stained glass windows depicting scenes from the New Testament and Oberwiesenthal's history, the large organ from 1866 with more than 1500 pipes (pic 3), altar with painting (Maria Magdalena faces the resurrected Jesus) from 1867 (pic 2 - note the Christmas decoration - wooden figures, angels and miners) etc.
Highlight is probably the huge nativity scene on display December through February, a work of Christian Karl Friedrich Hertelt (1837-1921), local painter and woodcarver, from 1896. The details and the number of scenes are amazing (pic 4).
The church is open daily in the afternoons 14 - 15.30, if I recall correctly.
- Religious Travel
Oberwiesenthal's old town is nothing special, considering that there are outstanding towns like Annaberg, Marienberg or Schneeberg only a half hour away. Most of the townhouses date from after the big fire in 1862, which destroyed the Baroque church as well.
However, the orthogonal layout of the old town is still preserved, with the square-shaped small Markt square being the centre. Worth a look at the square are the old town hall, nowadays a hotel (dependancy of Rathaus hotel, pic 1), the Baroque distance column from 1730 as a Saxon specialty (pic 2), and in Christmas season there's also a beautiful wooden pyramid put up on the Markt square. The large Neo-Baroque house on the southern side is the Rathaus hotel (main building), built in the 19th century.
What I found most interesting while strolling through the town and doing some window shopping, were the details on the facades. Pic 3 shows the coat-of-arms of Oberwiesenthal, mentioning the year 1535 and depicting miners (silver mining was the reason for founding the town and basic economy until the 19th century.) Pic 4 is to find at a woodcarver's shop ("Holzwurm"), stating that "The value of handicraft is in the love of tradition." On pic 5 you see just a funny way to say this is house No. 8.
Ski Jumps In All Sizes
Oberwiesenthal is a centre of skiing and it even has a ski jump. It was summer and there was nothing going on, but the buildings on the slope of Fichtelberg are impossible to overlook. The big jump is used for competitions. It has, however, a whole row of smaller siblings where beginners learn and more advanced jumpers practice until they are ready for the big jump. Hiking trails lead past them very closely, although you cannot enter the premises.
- Skiing and Boarding
Best Photo Option of the Steam Train
Photographers: If you want to catch the steam train in action, the most popular setting is the steel viaduct over the small valley just before the train enters Oberwiesenthal station. If you stand in the parking lot or on the hillside of the Oberwiesenthal side of the valley, not far from the station, you can take the perfect postcard picture.
Unfortunately I did not make it there because I ran out of time, but I got a shot of the train on the bridge from halfway up Fichtelberg. If you are walking the slopes and watch out for a smoke cloud moving along the valley, you might be lucky to catch that moment, too.
My walk, or short hike, around Fichtelberg happened in the middle of the day and everything was rather busy. Nevertheless I had surprising encounters with small wildlife. It's worth keeping your eyes open.
Not far from the summit a stout jumped across my path. Of course it was too quick and too far away for the camera, but close enough to be identified by the black tip of its tail. It was in brown summer fur but in winter it will turn into a beautiful white ermine.
The meadows underneath the cable car wires are home to Common Frogs (Rana temporaria). This one escaped from a mowing tractor in big jumps and then rested right in front of my camera lens. Thanks froggie!
(The pig is a wooden sculpture on the summit of Fichtelberg - those animals won't run away...)
- National/State Park
Klínovec is Fichtelberg's bigger neighbour, with 1244 metres of altitude the highest elevation in the whole Ore Mountains. The German name is Keilberg. Klínovec is in the Czech Republic, the border runs right over the pass between the two mountains. Because of the additional altitude the summit of Klínovec can still be in cluds while the top of Fichtelberg is already clear.
In any landscape view from Oberwiesenthal and Fichtelberg this mountain is impossible to overlook. The large TV/radar/whatever tower on the summit makes it easy to identify. It is also a landmark in the panorama of the mountain chain when coming from Bohemia (photo 4).
Klínovec is a ski resort just like Fichtelberg. The lines of the ski runs which cut through the forests are visible from afar.
Market Square and the Distance Column
Oberwiesenthal's market square is really square... Around it there are some hotels - even the former town hall has been turned into a hotel, it seems - and shops. The diagonal main street divides the square into halves. I especially liked the big candelabre-shaped street lantern in the middle of the square.
Like any Saxon town, Oberwiesenthal has its post distance column that lists the distances to other cities on the historical post routes. These columns were put up all over the country in thimes of August the Strong, this one is dated 1730. Oberwiesenthal on the Bohemian border and the pass route must have been a major hub of post lines, given the number of destinations listed. You'll also find the German names of several destinations in what is now the Czech Republic along the route to Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) and Eger (Cheb).
- Historical Travel
Oberwiesenthal holds the record as Germany's highest town (914 m above sea level). It is a holiday resort and its main attractions are related to its surroundings. The town centre is sort of "off the beaten path" apart from hotels and souvenir shops. The architecture of the houses is hardly remarkable.
Like most towns in the Ore Mountains Oberwiesenthal has a history as a mining town. It was founded in the 16th century when silver ore was found in the area. Mining activities ceased in the 19th century. Tourism became the new base of the town's economy.
A look at a map reveals a regular town plan with streets on an (almost) rectangular grid, with the square market square (!?) in the middle.
Souvenir shopping involves of course the traditional Ore Mountains woodcarvings. I found prices in Oberwiesenthal lower than in for example Annaberg, unexpectedly as this is a centre of tourism. Anyway, if you like these things, have a look at the shops. Most shops that sell woodworks are in and around Karlsbader Straße.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
The viewing tower offers, unlike any spot on the ground on the summit, a view in all directions. It is worth going up if weather conditions allow a clear view. No lift, only stairs. The voiewpoint on the top floor is behind windows which is not so good for photography but allows climbing the tower all year round, regardless of weather conditions, wind, snow or ice. Klínovec, which is a tad higher, blocks the view straight South, but towards all other directions you are on top of the world and have a wide wide view over the landscape of the Ore Mountains and into Bohemia.
Fichtelberghaus contains a restaurant and a hotel, and a small museum. This museum was closed for refurbishing when I visited, so I cannot tell anything about it.
My information leaflet tells me there is an entrance fee of 2 € for the museum and the tower, but I saw no cash desk and no one cared about me so I just walked up - well I had the ErzgebirgsCard anyway and would not have had to pay.
- National/State Park
Oberwiesenthal's house mountain is the highest elevation of the Ore Mountains on the German side with an altitude of 1215 metres above sea level. Only its neighbour Klínovec on the Czech side of the border has a few metres more.
Fichtelberg is a sports and leisure ground any time of the year. In winter there is of course skiing, both dwonhill and cross-country, this area guarantees snow and used to be the top winter resort in DDR times. Nowadays passionate downhill skiers rather go to the Alps, but as a regional weekend destination Fichtelberg is still popular. There are several ski lifts, two chair lifts and the cable car, artificial snowing if needed, and night skiing with illumination.
In summer, there is of course hiking. By cable car and chair lift the summit is easy to reach for non-hikers, too. There is also a road up which is even suitable for tour buses. Even if you don't plan to hike much, at least walk the trail that leads around the summit, you'll very soon be away from the crowds.
The view is fabulous if weather conditions are clear. I was lucky: The sky was overcast that day, but the clouds were high enough so the view was open. The mountain is a bit notorious for hiding its head in the clouds, which means fog and zero views at the top - check weather conditions before you go.
At the top, there is a hotel and restaurant and viewing tower (see separate tip).
- Hiking and Walking
Seiffen craft village
The village of Seiffen, about half an hour by car eastward from Oberwiesenthal on the Czech border, is a good spot to go to, especially in december. It then offers a special "wooden crafts" Christmas market with a wide choice of wooden toys and other wooden decorations and tools, all locally produced.
- Arts and Culture
- Family Travel
Nearly everywhere around Oberwiesenthal you will find small hiking trails through immensely colourful flower meadows. These have become quite rare in other parts of Germany (usually substituted by more "useful" agrarian plants), but here they still exist. It's a wonderful sight: rolling hills with dots of violet, yellow, red, white, blue and whatever colour you wish. On the way from Chemnitz to Oberwiesenthal, you pass through the Pöhlbachtal valley which was my favourite spot in the area.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
On top of Fichtelberg
Lucky you, if your visit to Fichtelberg takes place in beautiful weather conditions... The Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) which the area belongs to is not really famous for great weather, so be grateful if its highest point awards you with blazing sun and blue sky.
We experienced none of that. Instead: fog, rain, storm, 5°C. Not quite the nicest weather to be on top of a hill. Nevertheless, we made the best of it and had a lot of fun turning around and seeing the landscape disappear in seconds in dense fog or waiting at the funicular for people to appear out of thin air (or rather clouds)...
What else is there to do? There are two restaurants on top who sell snacks and light meals for a reasonable price. One of them is also a hotel, so if you want to weather through the weather (every kind of weather!) for longer, you do well in checking in there. In winter, the hill is probably completely crowded by skiers and sledgers - even in Chemnitz (70km away), we have an advertising screen announcing the skiing conditions.
- Hiking and Walking
Climb the Fichtelberg
Fichtelberg is the highest point of Eastern Germany (1214m) and thereby a major tourist attraction in the area. Several hiking paths lead up the hill, so it's easy to ascend. For the lazier ones, there's also a parking lot on top of the hill. A nice little hike of 2km starts at the junction where the road to the top branches off of road B95. Stop at the parking lot on your left, and you can follow a path called "Wellenschaukel" (i.e. wave swing) through a misty and mysterious spruce forest towards the top. You won't be alone there - major tourist attractions generally attract numerous people - but the hike is nonetheless quite nice.
For those of you who want to enjoy longer hikes: There are several other trails up and down the hill. Furthermore, the network of paths belongs to the "European Long Distance Hiking Trail 3" (abbreviated E3). If you do the complete hike, you'll be busy for 6950km...
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