Senior editor Kenneth Kiesnoski explored the hinterlands of the
German state of Saxony from the industrial hub of Chemnitz, once
known as the "Saxon Manchester." His report follows:
K, I'll take my cue from a
controversial German promotional campaign and admit it: I, too, am
No, I'm not professing gender snobbery or musical proclivities
but merely deep appreciation of Saxony, a German land, or state,
once virtually unfamiliar in all but name to Americans of the Cold
Though increasing numbers of U.S. visitors head to Saxony from
Berlin for tours of area showpiece cities Dresden and Leipzig, far
fewer take time to explore less well-known towns such as Chemnitz
in the nearby Erzebirge, or Ore Mountains, a traditional ore-mining
and folk-art region.
Historic silver mining towns in the area -- such as
Annaberg-Buchholz, Freiberg and Marienberg -- are connected by the
Silver Trail route, marked by numerous, easy-to-read road signs all
the way from Dresden to Zwickau.
Although the Ore Mountains are but a small part of Saxony,
there's a wealth of things to do and see in one of Germany's most
beautiful low-mountain ranges, including:
• Chemnitz: By Germany's fairy-tale standards, this large city
ain't pretty -- but it does offer a glimpse of life under the old
East German regime and boasts several intriguing museums and
With some 80% of the city leveled in World War II, drab
socialist housing and office blocks typify its skyline, and the
most prominent landmark remains an enormous bust of Karl Marx, a
reminder that Chemnitz was known as Karl-Marx-Stadt from 1953 to
But the newest and best draws in Chemnitz explore the
illustrious industrial heritage of a city whose skyline was once a
forest of factory smokestacks.
Must-see sights connected to manufacturing include the new
Museum of Industry, with its interactive displays of Saxon
ingenuity and invention; the Saxon Railway Museum, where historic
locomotives loom in an old railway garage; and the century-old
textile collections at the City Art Gallery.
Just outside town lie the Villa Esche, an art nouveau residence
-- and now museum and restaurant -- built by a local dynasty of
hosiery kingpins, and the Saxon Museum of Vehicles, in the
Renaissance-era Klaffenbach Water Castle.
The castle grounds are also home to a four-star hotel, the
Schlosshotel Klaffenbach, and a nine-hole golf course at the Golf
Despite these treasures, Chemnitz remains off the beaten tourism
path -- but that can spell accommodations savings for visitors
willing to use the city as a bargain-basement hub for day trips
into Dresden and Leipzig, both an hour away by car or rail.
Local hotel options include the quiet and affordable Renaissance
Chemnitz, on the Schlossberg hill overlooking town (see Room Key);
the city-center, five-star Chemnitzer Hof, on Theater Square near
the renowned Opera; and the Hotel Mercure, in a renovated
Communist-era skyscraper that towers over the Stadthalle, or
• Seiffen: We all know Pinocchio hails from Italy, but ever
wonder about all those wooden-soldier nutcrackers that surface each
Well, if they could speak, they'd call Seiffen -- set on the
Czech border -- home.
Locals are famed for their skill at woodworking, with toys and
Christmas ornaments their stock in trade.
Since German reunification, a host of shops have opened in
once-sleepy Seiffen to peddle a wide array of its wooden souvenirs,
from chandeliers and dollhouses to candelabras and napkin
One popular item is an incense burner carved in the shape of a
Besides shopping, other activities include a visit to the 17th
century Round Church, an octagonal jewel adorned with work by local
woodcarvers, glassblowers and tin- and silversmiths. The sexton
gives tours and brief organ concerts.
•Annaberg-Buchholz: Named for St. Anne, the patron saint of
miners, this picturesque medieval town is home to the Ore Mountain
Museum, with an abandoned silver pit in its courtyard.
Four other disused mining shafts in the area are also open for
touring, including the Markus-Rohling-Stolln in nearby Wiesa. Here,
visitors don hard hats and rubber capes to ride about 2,000 feet
into the mountain via train.
Once inside the former silver mine, first dug around 1500, they
can peruse displays of ore-mining equipment, the highlight of which
is a 30-foot underground watermill wheel.
Mine staff can arrange private tours for groups of between four
and 32 people, and underground snacks of mulled wine, schnapps, and
bread and schmaltz, a fatty spread, for groups of at least 19.
Back in Annaberg, the preserved medieval streets are packed with
shopping opportunities for local handicrafts.
Looming over all is 16th century St. Anne's, the largest Gothic
church in Saxony. An austere monolith from the outside, St. Anne's
boasts an interior unusually lavish for a Protestant church, with
five intricately carved altars that survived the Reformation thanks
to a local lull in iconoclasm.
For more on Chemnitz and the Ore Mountains region, contact the
German National Tourist Office at (212) 661-7200 or at www.visits-to-germany.com.
Room Key: Renaissance Chemnitz
Address: Salzstrasse 56, Chemnitz 09113, Germany
Phone: (011) 49-371 334-10
Fax: (011) 49-371 334-1777
Reservations: (800) 468-3571
Manager: Jeffrey Scott
Rates: From about $90 (king or twin) to $112
(suite with private terrace), per night.
Facilities: 21 meetings rooms; executive floor;
fitness center with gym, sauna, solarium, pool and whirlpool;
business center; restaurant; bar
Services: Concierge, laundry, 24-hour room
service, shoe shine, secretarial services
Review: A standard- issue businessperson's hotel,
the Renaissance Chemnitz sits atop historic Castle Hill, in a very
quiet residential area astride a beautiful park. City center, with
museums and shopping, is a 15-minute walk or short cab ride away.
On a recent visit, arrivals carried their own bags to guestrooms;
there was no doorman or porter.
Top Operators to Saxony
Brendan Worldwide Vacations
Phone: (800) 491-9633
Phone: (616) 957-1010
Phone: (800) 992-2003
Source:German National Tourist