Day five of the campaign to save the Bockau Arch Bridge and this one takes us to the place that has been both the chessboard of the project but also the place that will play a role in the future of the bridge and this is…..
a restaurant! 🙂 Not just an ordinary restaurant that serves food, but a restaurant that has a history behind it and serves the finest foods in the Erzgebirge. The Rechenhaus Restaurant.
Located on the northern bank of the Zwickau Mulde at the northern entrance of the Bockau Arch Bridge, the Rechenhaus Restaurant, which is owned by Rainer and Andrea Noack, is one of the oldest restaurants in the region, for even though the restaurant has been in business for over 62 years, the building where they serve their customers with food, has been in existence since the latter half of the 1500s. There is a story behind the building, which is currently protected by the German Preservation Laws (Denkmalschutzgesetz).
It all goes back to 1556 when the river was wild and the mountain region was plentiful with natural resources. Mining for gold, silver and copper was already underway, a civil engineer named T. Popel came up with the concept of constructing a canal going away from the Zwickau Mulde and going past Zschorlau (which is only six kilometers to the north) and emptying back into the main river at Schlema. Because of the extreme winding downstream and the approximate location of Aue, which is the junction of the Mulde and Schwarzwasser (Black Water), a shorter, straighter canal was needed to better transport wood and materials to their respective mills. On 18 June, 1556, Popel started the work on constructing a dam and canal to divert water away from the river. By April 1557, the canal had reached Schlema and water started flowing through the mills there. By 1559, the dam was built and barges were able to use the canal. The headwaters house at Bockau was built and the master was responsible for regulating the flow of water and allowing for traffic along the canal. This was the site of the present-day Rechenhaus. The first bridge, the predecessor to the Stone Arch Bridge, was built at the dam site in 1559. The dam was destroyed twice by floodwaters in 1661 and again in 1664 and was subsequentially rebuilt. It was later expanded but the decline in the use of the canal has already begun. By the beginning of the 20th Century, only the mills along the canal were in use to harness water and produce electricity. This included the one at Rechenhaus which had been repurposed. When entering the restaurant, you will be greeted by a large wooden painting depicting what the dam and headwaters house and mill looked like before World War II:
The Rechenhaus was later converted into the army baracks, housing units fighting for Germany during the two World Wars, including the 11th Division during the second war. It was that division which eventually succumbed to defeat as one of the soldiers refused to blow up the Stone Arch Bridge, which is 200 meters from the building and dam and had been in service by then. After secretly transporting the bombs to Zwickau to blow up a temporary bridge, the Russians and Americans marched across the bridge and captured the place. The building was later used by Russian soldiers before it was given away to the owners who converted it to the present-day restaurant by 1956. In 1997, it was declared a historic and technical landmark by the Saxony government and its Historic Preservation Agency for its contribution to the history of mining and transportation in the Erzgebirge.
When entering the restaurant, you enter a cozy environment where everything you see is all typical of the Erzgebirge. Apart from the wooden framed painting, there are chandeliers with wood carvings, a tiled fireplace, several wood carvings and displays of metal products all made in the region. The restaurant has rows of tables and a bar area, yet the hospitality and the typical Erzgebirgische Sächsische Deutsch spoken by many guests takes you to a typical home in the mountains. Like the Minnesotan dialect (where I come from), the Erzgebirgisch-Sächisich is rather funny-sounding, Jah! 😉
The owners of the restaurant are friendly and can make the finest in homemade food that is typical for the region. When you look at their website, you should look at their menu (Speisekarte in German) and try one of their specialties upon visiting the restaurant (Link to the website is here). I had a chance to do that twice: during my first visit when meeting the members of the committee as well as during my wife and daughter’s stay in Schneeberg, where I work as an English teacher at the police academy. No regrets either time. 🙂 The restaurant also has a beer garden that overlooks the river valley and the Stone Arch Bridge. It also has a guest hall for weddings and other parties. For cyclists passing through along the Mulde Bike Trail and its branches to Bockau and Zschorlau, it was up until now the easiest and quickest stop to grab a bite to eat and linger over an Alsterwasser (shandy in English).
Since the closure of the Stone Arch Bridge in August 2017, the restaurant has suffered from a major drop in the number of customers stopping by. While it is somewhat out of the way and in the floodbed down the hill from the highway, the closure of the bridge and the highway leading to it has forced many drivers to detour for 12 kilometers on either side of the river, thus making the restaurant more out of the way than a stop on the way. The closure of the bridge itself (including being fenced off) has made direct access to the restaurant by crossing the bridge and turning left virtually impossible. Even though people have tried to go around the fence and cross anyway, a major obstacle is the removal of the northern approach to the Stone Arch Bridge. Planners of the project to build a new bridge on a new alignment made exceptionally sure that everyone stayed as far away from the bridge as possible, using scare tactics claiming that the bridge is life-threatening. That means all paths and even the bike trails are fenced shut by up to 500 meters away from the bridge. This is rather overexaggerating and typically American, for such practices have been used successfully for at least three decades. This is the reason why the number of historic bridges in the States have plummeted by up to 95% since 1983; over 60% of which were either declared elgible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The closure of the bridge and the lack of accessibility to the restaurant has resulted in a loss of up to 60% of the number of customers visiting regularly and things are uncertain at this point, for the new crossing is expected to open by October 2019. Whether this restaurant will hold out by then remains to be seen. But in our meeting with members of the Saxony parliament on April 24th, we plan to plea with them to restore and reopen the bridge with one of the purposes being for local access to the restaurant. Even as a bike and pedestrian crossing will this direct access be of help for the restaurant, for the bridge can be tied in with the restaurant and its history with the hope that both will continue to serve customers in 2019 and beyond.
Reminder: Before our meeting on 24th April, we need your help. We need a lot of national and international support to save the bridge. Therefore, click here to sign your name on a petition to be given directly to members of parliament. Then click onto the Bridge’s facebook homepage (here) and like our site. There you can get more coverage and information and can join in our conversations about the bridge, its history and its future in the Erzgebirge. The bridge is still standing. We want it to constinue its use for generations to come. 🙂