Plauen can be discovered wonderfully during a city walk. The distances are not particularly large and there is something to discover at almost every corner.
Old town hall Plauen and the view from the town hall tower
Plauen has two town halls that stand directly next to each other: the Old Town Hall, which also houses the Plauen Lace Museum, and the New Town Hall with its distinctive town hall tower.
The Old Town Hall probably existed before 1382, but there are only documentary records from that year. It has been rebuilt several times in the course of time and also rebuilt after damages. After one of the reconstructions, the Renaissance gable was created, which still characterizes the front of the house.
In the gable there is a replica of an art clock from 1548. You can see two lions striking the quarter hour. Two men additionally move when the clock strikes the hour. One of the men raises his right arm at each strike, the other opens his mouth and thus “calls out” the hour.
The clock itself consists of two dials, one has hour and minute hands and the other has a quarter hour hand. A sphere indicates the phases of the moon. Under the clock there is also a sundial and a coat of arms plaque.
The New Town Hall was built between 1912 and 1922, and when it was rebuilt after the Second World War, one side of the facade was designed in a modern glass and steel look. This was being renovated during our visit to Plauen.
The town hall tower is one of the most prominent towers in the city. Its large blue clock shines far visibly and provides a good orientation guide in the city. At night, the clock glows orange.
It is possible to climb the 64 meter high tower on a guided tour. There are 230 steps to the viewing platform, which is located at a height of 42 meters. The view over the city is worth seeing. You can see far over the city and the surrounding area. During the tour you can look over the city and learn a lot about the history of individual places.
For us, the visit to the tower was the ideal start to our time in Plauen. We were able to discover some places from high above the city that we later visited again, for example the Johanniskirche and the Lutherkirche. We also discovered a building that reminded us a lot of the KaDeWe in Berlin and the department store in Görlitz. Again, this building was originally a department store owned by the Tietz family, who had also operated the two department stores in Berlin and Görlitz.
Memorial to the Peaceful Revolution – Turning Monument
Directly at the “Tunnel”, one of the central squares of Plauen, there is a monument commemorating the Peaceful Revolution in the GDR.
The Peaceful Revolution in Plauen already got underway on October 7, 1989. One of the first large demonstrations with about 20,000 participants in the GDR could not be broken up by the security forces in the city. A Western television camera was not on the scene and so this “uprising” went almost unnoticed in the Federal Republic.
21 years later, a monument was erected in Plauen to commemorate the day. The design of Peter Luban had previously received the most approval in a tender. He had designed a candle, which were the symbol of protest during the time.
The candle has been designed by an elaborate bronze relief. In one place, the relief represents places that played a central role for people during that time. Another area deals with the situation in the GDR at that time and depicts themes such as oppression and surveillance. The central part of the monument focuses on candles as a symbol of the time.
Arranged around the large bronze sculpture are 5 stainless steel stelae about 3.50 meters high. On these you can see year numbers, which refer to some striking periods of history:
1953 Popular uprising in the GDR
1961 Building of the Wall
1968 Suppression of hope in Prague Spring
1989 Peaceful Revolution
Vogtland Theatre Plauen
In 1897, the foundation stone was laid for the theater building in Plauen. The construction was mainly financed by the city’s theater association, with the city contributing about 1/3 of the construction costs. Less than a year later, the opening was celebrated with a jubilant overture by Carl Maria von Weber and a play by Friedrich Schiller.
After the Second World War, the theater had to be rebuilt due to massive damage. With a great feat of energy, play operations could be resumed as early as October 1945.
Hamster in front of bank building
The expression “to hoard something” is not only common for toilet paper, but is also often used in reference to money. A good reason for the savings bank in Plauen to have a cute hamster set up right next to its building.
Old fire station – youth hostel
Right next to the savings bank is the building of the old fire station of Plauens. Today, the building houses a youth hostel. A look into the building is worthwhile. Some elements that remind of the original purpose can be discovered here. For example, there is still the slide bar, which today leads into the dining room.
On the monastery market stands the image of a rather round market woman. In her inimitable Vogtland way, she is said to have told everything at the market that people should know and sometimes would rather not know. She bears the name Neideitel.
Father and son
Throughout the old town, one keeps stumbling upon two figures: father and son. The German draftsman Erich Ohser (1903-1944), also known as e.o.plauen, is the creator of these two figures. (e.=Erich, o.=Ohser, plauen=hometown).
Ohser has created small picture stories about the experiences of the two characters. In three to nine pictures that manage completely without words, father and son try to solve everyday problems and often find unusual ways to do so.
The first story, entitled “The Bad House Essay,” appeared in a newspaper on Dec. 13, 1934. A total of 157 episodes were published until Ohser ended the series at his own request. In 1935, the Ullstein Verlag published a book with 50 father and son stories, more followed in 1936 and 1938. Since 2015, the stories are in the public domain, provided they are original drawings Ohser.
For me, these stories are linked to my school days. What numerous picture stories I described in German class, in which father and son interacted.
If you walk through Plauen, you will encounter the cult figures in many places, for example as street art or on the streetcar. There are numerous figures creatively designed by companies in the city and, of course, there is also the Erich Ohser House in Nobelstraße. Here the father-son monument stands in front of the door and attracts visitors to the gallery. Unfortunately, when we visited the city was just a change of exhibition and for remodeling the gallery had closed.
Old Elster bridge and the distance column
I am always amazed at the old bridges that exist in Europe. The existence of the Alte Elsterbrücke in Plauen, still called “pons lapideus”, is found for the first time in old documents in 1244.
The bridge is located at a place where two trade routes crossed and spans the White Elster. The bridge was built of quarry stones and for the time of its construction it is a true masterpiece. The structure is 75 meters long and 7 meters wide. It spans the White Elter at a maximum height of 5.5 meters.
The Old Elster Bridge is part of the city’s fortifications. The defense was made possible by two defense towers. These are no longer present today. For a time, the streetcar and car traffic crossed the bridge into the city. Only around 1973, due to the increasing traffic, a new bridge was built in the immediate vicinity. The Old Elster Bridge was renovated and is now only usable for pedestrians and cyclists.
Around 1725, the distance column of the Electorate of Saxony was placed on the bridge. After it lost its function, it was demolished. Today, a replica stands approximately in the place where the original column once stood.
Peace bridge in Plauen
The Peace Bridge or Syratal Viaduct spans the valley of the Syra Creek in an arch with a span of 90 meters. In total, the bridge is 21 meters high and 17 meters wide. The federal highway 92 passes over it.
In a tender held in 1901, which dealt with the construction of the bridge, several designs were received, which, however, for various reasons were not one hundred percent acceptable to the city. In 1902, a company proposed to build a massive quarry stone bridge. After a few revisions, a design was created that was a world first at the time: a bridge with a basket-shaped arched main arch of 90 meters clear width, 18 meters spur height and an arch thickness of 4.0 meters at the transom and 1.5 meters at the apex. The building material was to be quarry stone cement mortar masonry. Construction work began in 1903, which of course also had “surprises” in store. For example, old mining tunnels were discovered, probably dating from the 15th/16th century. These had to be secured, which delayed the progress of construction.
On August 24, 1905, the inauguration of the bridge took place in the presence of King Friedrich August III. The bridge also received its name at this time.
The joy about the bridge did not last long, already in 1907 sink cracks were found and the moisture penetration of the masonry increased more and more. In 1920 a cuboid came loose from the front arch. This was followed by damage caused by seepage water and finally, during the Second World War, several explosive bombs caused severe damage, leading to an increased risk of the bridge collapsing. Vehicular traffic over the bridge had to be stopped. In order to avoid even more damage, efforts were made to move forward with reconstruction as quickly as possible. This was a difficult task for the city, as materials were in short supply. At the end of 1949, the bridge was reopened. Since 1973, it has been called the Peace Bridge.
In Plauen there were the first breweries already in the 13th century. The first brewery in the city was located near St. John’s Church, but unfortunately it was destroyed in 1834. In the 16th century, the demand for beer in the city increased. More breweries were built. However, the beer is said to have been bad at that time, because the Burgrave Henry VI preferred foreign beer. In 1838 there were 185 brewers in the town. Nevertheless, the amount of beer brewed did not seem to be sufficient, and in order to counteract the import of foreign beer, a joint-stock brewery was founded.
This was located at the site of the Sternquell brewery in the Syratal. After the Second World War, the company was nationalized and renamed the Sternquell Brewery. For many years, the brewery was the largest in the region. Until 2016, brewing took place on the premises at Friedensbrücke, then most of the production moved to a larger facility. Today, only the administration is still located in the Syratal.
City park Plauen
The city park of Plauen is not far from the city center. We went there on foot, but you can also reach the park by streetcar.
The city park has existed since 1906. At first, the park was handed over to the population still unfinished. Only 4 years later the area was completed.
In the center of the city park in Plauen there is a large pond. A path leads around the pond and while looking at the fountain, you should pay close attention. The ducks like to lie on the shore and walk around on the paths.
Those who want to take a longer walk will find many beautiful paths along meadows and groups of trees. One or the other bench invites you to linger.
In the city park there is also a park theater, which shows interesting performances in the summer months.
From the city park you can easily get to the Bärenstein, a 432 meter high hill. On the top of the hill there is an observation tower, which can be climbed for free.
The Bärenstein Tower, an imposing metal tower, was built through numerous donations. At a height of about 24 meters there is a viewing platform, from which you have a great view over the city.