The little white tower is easily overlooked between the huge new town hall and the almost as huge new shopping mall. It is the last remaining tower of old Plauen's fortifications and dates from around 1200. The terrain has been changed several times, originally the tower rose 30 metres above the valley of the Syra stream. It was named the "Nuns Tower" after a nearby convent.
The prettiest building in the whole of Plauen is the old town hall. The facade towards Altmarkt, the market square, combines gothic and renaissance style. The lower part, built in 1506, has late gothic curtain windows. The gable, already designed in the then ultra-modern style of the renbaissance, was added 40 years later. The artistic clock face also dates from 1548. The figures are mobile. When the clock chimes the full hour, the left of the two Wild Men moves his stick, the right one wiggles his beard.
The ground floor of the old town hall hosts the Lace Museum (see separate tip).
The huge new town hall was begun in 1903. The relation of the sizes of old and new reflect the development of the city. Being the worldwide leader in the production of lace, the city almost tripled its population within a few decades around 1900. The larger city needed a larger administration. The wealthy city took the chance to show off. The new town hall received a large tower which is now the main landmark in the city's panorama.
A useful address for visitors is the tourist information office on the Northern corner of the new town hall. The location is marked with a big "i" for information. This is the opposite end of the building from Altmarkt, walking over you'll get an idea of the sheer size.
From the outside the church may not look too appealing at the moment. The exterior is still under restauration (September 2011) so it is hard to guess what's behind the scaffolding. Nevertheless, walk in and have a look inside. The interior is already finished and done.
The church is a rather early example of baroque church architecture in Lutheran Saxony It was begun in 1693 to substitute an older church which had served as funeral chapel since the middle ages. The new church took 25 years to be completed. For the inauguration in 1722 the community received a precious gift from the church of St Thomas in leipzig: the medieval altarpiece, which is still to be admired in the choir.
The ground plan is a cross but the galleries turn the nave into an oblong octogonal hall with attached choir. - I'll better not go into too many details that would be of interest to experts only...
The white church with the two steeples is prominent in Plauen's skyline. It is even more prominent in Plauen's historiography: The document about its consecration in 1122 is the oldest known mentioning of the town, Plauen's written history begins with it.
In the middle ages the church was in the hands of the Teutonic order. They substituted the first church by a larger Romanesque one in the second quarter of the 13th century; the sturdy square steeples still tell of that period. After a fire in 1548 the nave was rebuilt as a late gothic hall with 'star' vaults. World War II caused significant damage but the church was rebuilt in its old shape in the 1950s and 60s. The furnituring was lost, though. The present altar, pulpit, baptismal font etc. have been transferred here from museums and other churches.
Don't miss a look into the small Vogtskapelle (Chapel of the Reeves) off the left side of the choir which dates from 1322. The narrow but very high chapel is covered with a seven-fold star vault. Inside you'll find two stone reliefs depicting the Annunciation and the Nativity, and a painting of the Baptism of Christ which happens not in the Jordan but in the Elster river with the panorama of Plauen in the background.
The old bridge is one of the oldest stone bridges in this part of Germany (not wanting to repeat the local superlatives). It dates back to the 13th century, first mentioned as "pons lapideus" (stone bridge) in 1244. The river crossing served for an important trade route in former times. It used to have a tower at each end but these are long gone.
Nowadays the old bridge is open to pedestrians only. Street traffic and trams use the newer Friedensbrücke a few metres further upstream, which was built in 1903-1905.
The slope next to the bridge used to be the location of Plauen's castle. The castle was destroyed in World War II. Only the keep, called "Roter Turm" (Red Tower), has been rebuilt (photo 4).
e.o.plauen is the pseudonym of Erich Ohser, an artist who became famous for his witty, funny cartoons that tell the antics of a father an his little son. The cartoons are without text, hence understandable without any language skills and recommended for non-German speakers, too. They are enjoyable, even hilarious.
An example: Father and son discover the fun of sliding on ice - German postage stamps 2003.
Being Ohser's hometown, the city of Plauen devoted a museum to his works, the "Galerie e.o.plauen" in the house next to Vogtlandmuseum. There you can enjoy a vast number of Ohser's cartoons. You'll find some in shop windows and showcases all over the city, too.
In front of the museum, a bronze statue depicts big-moustached father and naughty little son playing on a big book.
However, as much as you might chuckle about the funny cartoons, devote a thought to the fate of the author. Erich Ohser started a promising career as a political cartoonist in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Then came the year 1933. The Nazi regime was not too happy with his style and opinions and he was forbidden to work. His wife Marigard had to earn the living for the family. Finally in 1934 Ohser secured a contract with a magazine for a series of entirely unpolitical cartoons, but he was forced to use a pseudonym - he chose the name of his hometown. For a couple of years a new sequel of the "Father&Son" series appeared every week. Later the ban on him was lifted and he worked for a newspaper. But his political opinions brought him into trouble. In 1944 he was arrested together with a friend. He committed suicide in his prison cell to avoid the trial, which would have lead to a death sentence for sure.
The "open workshop of embroidery and lace-making" was to me the most interesting attraction I visited in Plauen. Here they actually show how lace is made and how the machines work.
Exhibition and workshop can be visited with guided tours only, They do the tour whenever visitors arrive, I had the guide all to myself. At first she sort of recited the text she learned by heart but Russell the Wombat worked as an icebreaker very quickly... and it became an enjoyable tour and cconversation for both of us. I highly recommend visiting the Schaustickerei - although I am not sure how well they deal with other languages than German.
The presentation is inside the buildings of a former lace manufacture. Now it assembles a collection of historical machines, all fully functionable. My guide demonstrated the hand technique of embroidery "with holes" first, then the inventions of the first machines to do this, and further technical development.
The attached shop sells the products of the manufacture, a great occasion for souvenir shopping. Quality has its price, though. A medium-sized tablecloth will hardly cost less than 50-60 €. But there is a choice of smaller items, lace ornaments, embroidered cards, and such that suit small purses.
How to get there: The Schaustickerei is located in the suburb of Reusa, too far from the centre for walking. Take the tram 4 to "Schloss Reusa" (runs every 10 minutes). At the tram stop, look around you until you see a bakery and a pharmacy. Walk down the small street between the two. The workshop is then to be found on the corner of the first street to the right.
The historical museum of the town occupies three late 18th century townhouses, once the residential homes of three wealthy merchants and their families: Kanz, Baumgärtel, and Krause.
The museum presents the history of the city and the surrounding region from the stone age to the era nof industrialization (the 20th century is missing, though). The finest exhibits are the historical rooms from the 1780s, ornated with rich stucco, murals, parquet floors and exquisite furniture. They give insight into upper-class life in the late 18th century.
By the way, the most famous guest one of the owners ever housed was Napoleon with his second wife, Empress Marie Louise, who spent the night in a room in the back wing on May 15/16, 1812 while on the way to Russia.
I had the museum all to myself. This place would deserve more popularity!
Opening hours: Tues - Sun 10:00-17:00
No website, sorry. Since I had the PlauenCard I cannot tell about the entrance fee either.
The only big minus that must be mentioned: They charge the impertinent amount of 5 € for the photo permit. Unless you really want and need photos, think twice.
The museum in the old town hall presents the process of making lace, and the golden era in Plauen's history, the times just before World War I when lace was the ultimate chic material in ladies' fashion. In those times Plauen used to be the capital of lace-making and sold its products to the elegant world all over Europe.
The first part of the exhibition explains how lace was made in those times, and the novelties in technology around 1900. The second hall has the most beautiful exhibits: fashion from around 1900, including the most gorgeous lace dresses, wedding and evening gowns, fans, handbags and similar accessoires. The room at the end presents modern lace products by Plauener Spitze. There is also a video to watch but the movie is more advertising and infotainment than actual information, hence don't grieve if you don't understand the German text, you are not missing much.
The exhibition is not very big, I had expected more, considering that this museum claims to be the top attraction in town. If you are interested in the technical details of lace-making, add a visit to the Schaustickerei (embroidery workshop, see separate tip).
The museum is located on the ground floor of the old town hall, built in the 14th century. Note the gothic vault in the corridor.
Opening hours: Tues-Fri 10:00-17:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-16:00
Entrance fee: adults 4 €, children 1 €
Photography: free, no photo permit necessary. They don't want visitors to take closeups of the lace because the patterns are copyrighted.