In the meantime I finished the German section of the Eisenach-Budapest long distance trail. After 720 km and 26 days on trail, it is time to look back a little.
After two weeks of hiking together with a good friend, I continued on my own and finally headed to the Erzgebirge/Ore Mountains. That’s a mountain range that runs along the Czech-German border in east Germany. The highest peak on the German side is the Fichtelberg with 1215 m/4009 ft, but unfortunately the trail doesn’t pass over it.
The Erzgebirge is very well known for its mining history that can be dated back to 2500 BC. But when new rich ore deposits were discovered in the 15th century, a massive wave of colonisation started. Also silver was found and mined later.
The area is rich in interesting mining history, that – of course – had and still has a huge influence on the culture of the region. For example, „Glück auf!“ is still a very common greeting and has its roots in a traditional German miners’ greeting. It derives from the hope for opening a new lode, but also it expresses the desire that miners would return safely from the mine after their hard shift. After WWII, the processing of uranium ore for the Soviet Union began in the Ore Mountains until the wall came down. Nowadays, you can learn on several short educational trails about the varied mining history and it is even possible to visit show mines.
But not only mining, the area is also home to the manufacture of wooden products and toys. Especially the area around the little town of Seiffen is well-known for handcrafted traditional Christmas decoration such as smoking figures, nutcrackers, candle arches and Christmas pyramids.
Ever since commercial mining and metallurgy started, the need for wood increased. Widespread clearings of the original forest are still visible, however, also fumes from heavy industry, both, on the Czech and also in the former side of the GDR, led to dying forests. Therefore, in the last two decades, mixed forests were cultivated that are step by step replace the common spruce monocultures.
It was very interesting to learn all that and experience the Erzgebirge on the slow pace of hiking. I enjoyed quite much to roam those dark forests in a lot of solitude. You don’t get to meet a lot of other hikers (well, in these two weeks I hiked there: 6), although a wide network of trails pervades the mountains. The trails are more or less well-marked, well-maintained. But, the downside of less-travelled long distance trails in Germany is, that they include quite a bit of road walking. When the trail was established in the 1970s as a trail that connects the back then so-called „sozialistische Bruderländer“ (socialist brother countries/states) of the GDR, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, most of the now concrete roads were mere back country gravel roads. A lot has changed since then, but not the routing of the trail.
It’s probably more crowded in winter as the area is a popular winter sports place, but I expected way more people as this corona-summer led most Germans to spend their vacation in Germany. So, a hidden gem for vivid hikers with quite some opportunities to look left and right the trail and explore an area of Germany, that doesn’t get too many (summer) tourists yet.