Zwickau has a long tradition of schools and higher eduction. A first Latin School is mentioned in 1290 in Zwickau. In the 16th century Georgius Agricola became principal of the Greek and Latin School which moved to the former (and closed in 1536) Cistercian convent buildings. When industrialization hit Zwickau in the 19th century more schools were established, so the engeneering school in 1897. Since 1969 this school is official a "College of Applied Sciences". About 160 professors and more than 5,000 college students make for a rather vibrant (night)life and contribute to the progressive/modern culture scene in Zwickau. The college is tightly linked to the industry in the region, especially car production, thus providing excellent job opportunities after graduation.
The college is split mostly into two campuses: One is right in the old town, between Kornmarkt square and Dr.-Friedrichs-Ring street. It includes the former Grünhain chapel, now auditorium and restaurant, and was built on the grounds of the former Cistercian convent. The architecture is mostly 1950s with some classicistic buildings thrown in. Newest addition is the very nice Library building.
The other campus is far out in the northeast of Zwickau at Scheffelstraße. The first buildings there were erected later in the communist era - but are of surprisingly interesting architecture. Recently they were restored and new buildings were added - mensa, cafeteria, library.
Another college is the small (and only Bachelor degrees) Europa Fachhochschule Fresenius Zwickau, founded 2004. zwickau.hs-fresenius.de
In the tradition of Robert Schumann there is a conservatory in Zwickau. Not really "higher" education but mostly thought for little kids up to High School students. Former students found jobs at orchestras like the Gewandhaus orchestra Leipzig or the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden or became pop singers/soloists.
The Christmas Market on Hauptmarkt square in Zwickau starts Friday before 1st Advent and ends 23 December. It is open to 8 pm, on Fridays and Saturdays to 9 pm. It has the usual stalls with typical Christmas ornaments, original wooden Erzgebirge items like smokers, pyramids, candle arches etc., lace from nearby Plauen, food like Bratwurst and Glühwein, Stollen and hot chocolate.
There is a daily program on the stage with Santa Claus showing up and handing little gifts to the kids, Christmas music etc. On third Advent is a miner's parade every year - probably the highlight of the market. I found the ambience to be quite nice. The Glühwein was ok but not outstanding (but the cups were beautiful and worth to take home). The weather did not really co-operate when we visited, so that might have affected our impression a bit.
At the same time another Christmas Market, but in historic ambience, takes place in the courtyard and the ground floor halls of Schloss Osterstein (see Things To Do Tip). It ends on 26 Dec (!). I suspect it might cost an entrance fee, most likely on weekends. There are shows announced, looks pretty good on their website. I must admit I have not visited yet as it took place the first time in 2010 but it is on the schedule for the future.
Every German city with some self respect has a tradition in beer brewing - Zwickau, too, since 1348. I came across two local beer breweries and I liked both - the larger one is the Mauritius Brewery. It was bought by the Dinkelacker Schwabenbräu AG Stuttgart in 1990 which restored the historic buildings and invested a lot of money, before InBev took over. Since the management buy-out made in 2006 Mauritius is again a locally owned private brewery. I tried their dark "Schwarzes Gold" as well as the Pilsener beer and both were yummy.
Another delicious beer is brewed in the microbrewery "Brauhaus" in the complex of the medieval Priesterhäuser right in the old town. See my Nightlife tip!
Brauhaus Brauerei Zwickau GmbH
Zwickau looks back at more than 100 years of car production. 10th May 1904 August Horch founded his A. Horch & Cie. car manufacturing company in Zwickau. Nowadays car production is one of the most important industries in Saxony resp. Zwickau. Brands that were produced in Zwickau in the first half of the 20th century were Horch, Wanderer, Audi and DKW. These cars won several prizes, especially in mountain rallyes from 1910 on until the 1930s.
Another brand that was established in Zwickau was Audi - August Horch left his first company and founded this one in 1910. Who would have thought Audi has its origin in Zwickau, eh?
The re-start after WWII was hard. The focus was on small cars that were affordable. In 1955 the IFA P70 was developed by the Audi (in Zwickau) engineers, the first car with a plastic bodyshell. It was produced until 1959 (almost 37,000 pieces). The P70 had a 2 cylinders in line engine with 690 ccm displacement, 22 horsepower. Max. speed was 90 km/h (56 mph), mileage was 7 l/100 km (40.4 miles per gallon). See pic 2.
1 May 1958 saw the merger of Audi Zwickau and Horch to Sachsenring AG Zwickau. Their first product was the first Trabant: P50 with 499 ccm displacement, 17 horsepower, same max. speed but slightly worse mileage than the P70. See pic 3.
Over the years the guys in the research & development departement of Sachsenring had many ideas to improve the car, designed much better "Trabbis" that would have been comparable to cars in the west, but the stupid communist government always stopped them. (See pic 5.) So only minor changes could be made and the car fell far behind in the competition with other car manufacturers. So it was no surprise that after the fall of the wall the production of the Trabant had to be stopped. Thanks to Volkswagen the car production went on in Zwickau - they bought the plant and since then enlarged it - now VW Golf, Passat and more are produced there. See also my Things To Do tip on the August Horch Museum.
Composer (and pianist) Robert Schumann is probably the most famous local. He was born in Zwickau on June 8 1810 and died in Bonn-Endenich July 29 1856. Schumann is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era. I love his music, especially his symphonies. His cello and piano concerti are not bad either :-)
Zwickau honours Schumann with a monument (pic 1), the Robert Schumann museum (see separate Things To Do tip), memorial plaques here and there, a music school that is named after him and also a festival. The High School in the Baroque Schloss Planitz is named after his wife Clara Wieck. Music is a major part of education there. I am glad they don't make such a big fuss about him as Salzburg does about Mozart, though.
Read more about him on wikipedia if you're interested:
Brühlette is, or so they say, the socialist answer to McD's Hamburger that was invented during the last decade of the DDR. It is a common and seemingly popular snack in Zwickau, sold on markets and at specialized snack stalls. We were not exactly able to figure out what it consists of: It looks like a thick rectangular slice of meat loaf which is then deep-fried and served in a roll. The exact recipe is kept secret. To be honest, I think it is better not to know.
Try one if you feel adventurous...
Zwickau's Christmas market takes place in Hauptmarkt, the city's central square. It is medium size and quite atmospheric. Due to the city's location on the edge of the Ore Mountains and Vogtland and its traffic connections to Nürnberg, traditions from all these regions are present (as well as the usual knickknack). And pretty Glühwein cups;-) If you happen pass through Zwickau in Advent, a walk over the market is recommended, although it would not justify huge detours.