This week’s Pic of the Week takes us back to Germany and to the state of Saxony. This time, however, we are going to the Vogtland region and to this city, Plauen. With 66,200 inhabitants, the city is the capital of the Vogtland district and is the second largest city along the White Elster River, The city is the sixth largest in the state behind Zwickau, Chemnitz, Görlitz, Leipzig and Dresden. And this historic arch bridge is one of the oldest in Saxony. It was built in 1636 and had served traffic connecting its city center with the southern suburbs before it was decommissioned in favor of a concrete bridge, built 40 meters to the west, in 2001. The bridge has since been repurposed as a pedestrian and bike crossing and even has a beach pub on the northern bank of the river.
This shot was taken at sundown in May 2018 and features the bridge, the city’s skyline featuring the cathedral and the tower of the city hall, and a colorful background that makes this sunset shot a “once in a lifetime” one, even after making some artwork out of it with Instagram.
As far as the other bridges in Plauen are concerned, there are at least two dozen structures in the city as well as within a radius of 10 kilometers. They include those in the outlying areas, such as Jocketa, Oessnitz, Weichlitz and even Pirk, some of them being viaducts carrying either the Nuremberg-Hof-Chemnitz-Dresden Railline or the Motorway A 72 which originally connected Chemnitz with Hof but has now included an Extension to Leipzig-Süd. The author is in the process of touring the area and will have a tour guide ready by the end of this year. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the scenery this Bridge and the city’s guideline presents you.
While travelling along the main artery connecting Munich with Berlin, the Motorway 9, one ought to consider turning off at Schleiz and following the Highway B 282 and E 49 in the direction of Plauen for a good 15 Kilometers to the east, heading into the small but rather active village of Mühltroff. With a population of 1800 inhabitants, Mühltroff straddles the river Wisenta and is one of the oldest villages in Saxony; it was first mentioned in 1274 and was officially declared a town by the district of Plauen in 1327. It was once a fishing community and ist shield reflects the hertitage of the community. With its historic houses lining up along the Wisenta, Mühltroff resembles Little Venice alá Vogtland, even though fishing no longer exists today, and only three bridges are known to exist.
One of them is the focus of the author’s stop on the journey, the Hopfenbrücke. The structure is one of the oldest in Saxony, having been built in 1396, and was the main crossing connecting the eastern and western halves of the village until after World War II. The structure features a one-span stone-brick arch bridge, which is anchored by houses on both sides of the Wisenta. Judging by the setting of the bridge, on each corner of its abutment was a historic house, and it appeared that there was an entrance on both sides at one time, resembling the housed bridges that were built during that time- among them that exist today still are the Krämerbrücke in Erfurt and the Rathausbrücke in Bamberg. Sadly, despite its historic appeal, the houses on the western side will become history for one became a garden a couple decades ago and the other will be removed before the end of 2018, according to recent newspaper articles.
The name Hopfenbrücke has nothing to do with the beer route nor a brewery for Mühltroff had neighter of them according to record. In fact, the community has a palace dating back to 1349, a windmill dating back to the 14th century and a textile industry that started in the 15th Century and is one of the key aspects of Mühltroff to this day. The Hopfensbrücke was named after the Hopf Family, whose house was next to the bridge and who also owned a shop at the structure until the beginning of the 1900s. The road it carried was a main route connecting Schleiz and Plauen, where horse and buggy first crossed, followed by cars. By the end of the second World War, there was a need to realign the road, especially to accomodate the military vehicles that had to be stationed near the border that had once divided Germany until 1990 when it became Saxony and Thuringia on the northeastern edge and Bavaria to the southwest. Therefore, another arch bridge was built to the north of the bridge, but unlike its neighbor, it was a Luten arch span and was made of concrete. That structure still carries traffic, and one can see the stone arch bridge 100 meters away while crossing the Wisenta.
The bridge was reopened recently after having been closed for rehabilitation. The cost for the work was 460,000 Euros and it consisted of strengthening the arches, removing the concrete facade covering the arch span and making repairs to the structure. It had been damaged by flooding in 2013 and was declared unsafe to cross. However, with the grand opening last Friday (the 7th of June), the community welcomed the bridge back with open arms. And it was good that way; despite its population and size, Mühltroff happens to be one of the livelier of the communities, with people walking the streets even in the evenings, music being played in the apartments, and apartments having colorful facades to make it look attractive to the tourists. Even the market square, which starts at the historic bridge and goes down the main street to the castle is narrow and enclosed, but lively. Next to the bridge across from the City Hall is the East German Museum, where people can visit, see the artefacts that were typical during that period before 1990 and learn about its history.
But inspite that, the people are happy to have their historic bridge back. After 600 years, the structure still symbolizes the community and its heritage- a former fishing community that is still today the Little Venice of the Vogtland. One can see the palace and historic windmill, but the visit is not complete without seeing the bridge, the structure that will hopefully continue its service for another 600 years. So take some time in Mühltroff and don’t forget the bridge. 😉
Mühltroff is only three kilometers east of the Saxony/Thuringia border. It had belonged to the District of Gera and on the Thuringian side from 1949 until March 1992, two years after Germany reunited. It became part of Saxony in April 1992 and merged with neighboring Pausa to become a joint community in 2013. Today, the community belongs to the Vogtland District, whose county seat is (none other than) Plauen, which is 22 kilometers to the east.
1901 Viaduct no longer part of the plan to modernize the Hook south of Chemnitz based on decision by Ministry in Berlin.
CHEMNITZ, GERMANY- The Hook in Chemnitz, located in the central part of the German State of Saxony, is a 2.8 kilometer railroad bypass that encircles the southern part of the City Center. It includes the railway Stations of Chemnitz-Mitte, Chemnitz-Süd and Chemnitz Central (Hauptbahnhof). The entire Stretch is 65 years old, has been considered outdated and not suitable for modern (long-distance) trains, especially as the City is working together with the German Railways (The Bahn) to have long-distance trains passing through Chemnitz for the first time in 15 years. Yet the good news is that this missing link is a big step closer to reality. The German Ministry of Railways in Berlin, on Friday, approved an 80 Million Euro Project to reconstruct the Hook, which will feature new railroad tracks between Mitte and Central, new train stations at Mitte and Süd, upgrading them to fulfill modern (and also) handicap standards, the removal of a functionally obsolete bridge at Mitte and the replacement of four bridges.
One of the bridges that is not part of the plans is the Chemnitz Viaduct, a 117-year old K-Frame arch viaduct that the City and local Groups have fought for over six years to save and preserve. The story behind this bridge can be found in an earlier article written by the Chronicles here. According to a 227-page Report by the Railway Ministry in Berlin (Eisenbahnbundesamt) and confirmed by German Station MDR-Sachsen, a clause stated explicitely that plans for a five-span modern arch bridge is not in the interest of the German Preservation Laws and the German Government:
Der geplante Abriss des Chemnitztalviaduktes wird aus denkmalschutzrechtlichen Gründen abgelehnt.(EN: The planned demolition of the Chemnitz Viaduct has been rejected because of its Status as a Legally-Preserved Monument).
The decision has been met with relief for many and a victory for others, as the viaduct has been considered part of Chemnitz’s history, even though it is the second crossing at this spot. Its predecessor was a 12-span concrete arch bridge that was built in 1884 crossing the River Chemnitz and Annaberger Strasse, serving the Nuremberg-Hof-Zwickau-Dresden Magistrate. Due to flood risks, a steel arch viaduct built 20 meters higher and 50 meters north of the site was built in 1900-01 and the arch span was later removed. The Viaduct has been serving rail traffi ever since. Plans for demolishing the viaduct was first presented in 2003 as the Bahn had presented a proposal to modernise the Hook. The plan was met with a high, sturdy wall of resistance, which featured online petitions, presentations, initiatives and even a structural study by bridge engineers with experience restoring historic bridges– All of them supported restoring the historic bridge and making it suitable for long-distance trains, in particular the InterCity trains from Cologne and Nuremberg. As with the measure involving the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine, they even brought this matter to court, where the Office for Preserved Artefacts (Denkmalschutzamt) decided to forward the matter to the Ministry of Railway in Berlin, with success on the part of the historic bridge and the City of Chemnitz.
With this decision, the Bahn has decided to proceed with the plan of modernizing the Hook without the Viaduct. Construction is expected to begin in the Fall 2019 and should last four years. The bridges expected to be replaced will include a 1920s bridge at Chemnitz-Süd, a concrete overpass at Chemnitz-Mitte stemming from the East German times and two smaller bridges. As for the Chemnitz Viaduct, the bridge will not be renovated before 2022 which gives all parties time to come up with a plan to restore the bridge to accomodate rail traffic and calculate how much time is needed to complete the second phase of the project along the Hook.
This will not affect the reintroduction of InterCity trains for delays in electrifying the line between Glauchau and Weimar via Jena combined with problems with modernizing the rail line south of Hof in Bavaria will most likely result in the use of diesel trains for the IC-trains before the electrification project is completed by 2030. Furthermore, the IC-line to Rostock via Leipzig and Berlin will most likely be in service before 2020, which will put Chemnitz back on the map and in the Fernverkehrsnetz (Long-distance Train Network) for the first time since the last ICE-Train passed through in early 2002.
ZWICKAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- In a previous article on the Iron Bridge in Aue, the author mentioned that as many as nine bridges along the Zwickau Mulde have been or are being rehabilitated or replaced; many of them were damaged because of the Great Flood of 2013, which is being commemorated this month.
If we count this bridge north of Zwickau, the Zellstoff Bridge, which opened recently, then it makes ten bridges within 2-3 years. After tolerating a wooden decking that was wide on the one hand but warped and worn out on the other, the local crews replaced the bridge flooring during the spring and reopened the bridge a month ago. The cost of the project was between 300 and 700,000 Euros, much of which was financed locally. At the same time, new railings were added to ensure that the crossing does not become a liability.
During my visit most recently, one can see the difference between the time before and the time after the construction. The decking has the same characteristics of wood but it it much smoother than before. The only caveat is that the decking is about 2 meters narrower than before, which makes crossing the bridge by foot riskier. Nevertheless, the new decking is greeted with open arms as many people use the trail connecting the north of Zwickau with areas to the north and east. During my last visit, more and more people used the bridge than in 2016 and decking played a key role there. As one of the fellow pontists said in my recent correspondance: A narrow deck is built to conform to engineering standards. For pedestrian bridges, the bridge must be able to hold the weight of the deck fully loaded, with people standing shoulder to shoulder. Nevertheless, if the decking is used as often as it is now, with as much maintenance as it needs, it will last a long time and perhaps it will buy the City of Zwickau more time to give the bridge a real make-over when it is needed.
This is the second rehabilitation of the bridge since it was saved from demolition in 2007. The bridge used to be a rail crossing over the Zwickau Mulde River and the eastern bank used to hold a paper factory, which had been in business until its removal in the 1990s.
For more on the bridge, check out the tour guide on Zwickau’s bridges by clicking here.
What’s in a name? A bridge is just a bridge as it crosses a ravine, body of water or even a roadway from point A to point B. This is where this week’s bridge pic comes in. A “natural” bridge spanning a deep ravine connecting a park with a castle……
The Hirschgrund Bridge has been in the news recently because construction has yet to begin on this 300+ year old stone arch structure. Why has there been a delay? You’ll love the author and the Glauchau City Council for this….. 😉
The debate over the name of the bridge!
In March of this year, the contract was let to a company for rebuilding the bridge, the name Hirschgaben Bridge was used. However, in the documents on the city’s budget plans was the name Hirschgrund used. This caused a lot of confusion as to how the bridge should be named. On the on hand, Hirschgraben was used because the ravine surrounding the castle was very deep – on the same level as the riverbed of the Zwickau Mulde River- a difference of 30 meters. Geologically speaking is Hirschgraben correct. And according to oral history is Hirschgraben the name used when talking about the bridge and the ravine. Historically speaking, Hirschgrund is also correct as it focuses on the whole complex itself, which includes the castle, park and ravine. In most history books one will find Hirschgrund. Yet given the preference of one or the other, the names of both were both correct, according to multiple sources. Given the need to cross their Ts and dot the I’s the debate on which name is correct was one of the reasons for the delay in allowing the construction to start.
The other was the city council’s rescinding of the contract to the first firm in favor of the second because the costs were cheaper and the second one was left out of the discussion the first time around. There had been four but only three officially presented their proposals.
In either case, now that the matter over the name has been settled, not to mention the costs and time wasted in “yammering” about it, construction on this natural bridge is about to begin. June is the starting date and the project is expected to take a year to complete. How the bridge will be rebuilt will be presented when the finished product opens to foot traffic for privacy purposes. But it does lead to the question of how this bridge- abandoned for almost five decades- will be reconstructed…..
The next pic of the week takes us a kilometer or two downstream along the Zwickau Mulde to this bridge, the Paradiesbrücke. Built in 1900 by a bridge builder located in Schlesia (now in the Czech Republic), the bridge is unique for it was the first cantilever truss bridge that has one tower and has no overhead chords, as seen with the Queensboro Bridge in New York City. Until the opening of the Lunzernau Bridge in 2017, it hd been the only bridge of its kind in Germany and on the European continent. It is the most ornamnetal of the bridges along the river, which is 280 kilometers long from its starting point in Schönebeck (near Plauen) until its merger with the Freiberger Mulde south of Grimma.
This Instagram photo was taken at sundown where the skies were clear blue and the sun was setting. Because the skyline of Zwickau is to the west of the bridge, this shot was necessary for the buildings on the west end are mainly condominiums from the East German period (1949-1990). This was taken from the Mulde Bike Path at a park that opened in 2004 and was part of the project that included building a tunnel for the main highway B-93 and the rehabilitation and reuse of this bridge, which is now a pedestrian crossing. At night, the bridge is also well-lit by its gas-powered lanterns, flanked by yellow sodium lamps on both sides of the river bank (check out the Chronicles’ tumblr page to see the difference). Yet the yellow lamps will eventually be replaced with white LEDS. Once completed, it will be brighter but the color difference will be much different, be it to our liking or disdain. 🙂
More information about this bridge, plus pics, you an find here.
Stone arch Bridge from the 1800s to be remodeled and connected to the regional bike Trail.
REICHENBACH (VOGTLAND), SAXONY (GERMANY)- Not far from the battleground crossing at Bockau (near Aue) is another historic bridge that one of the committee members recommended me to visit. Spanning the River Göltzsch, which is the same river that is crossed by the Göltzsch Viaduct near Greiz, the Eger Bridge is located in the village of Mühlwand, approximately three kilometers from Reichenbach and just as many kilometers away from the Motorway 72 Viaduct. This structure was built in 1769, replacing three previous spans that had been constructed in 1573, 1755 and 1758, respectively, all made of wood. The bridge is a two-span stone arch structure with a span of 20 meters; two arch spans have a lengths of 8 meters and 3.6 meters, whereas the width is 5.25 meters. It has been redundant because of the concrete span that was built alongside it in 1987 but had been left open for pedestrians to use until a pair of floods caused extansive damage to the arches in 2002 and 2013; the latter forced the closure of the bridge to everyone. Upon my visit to the bridge most recently, one can see the extent of the damage to the structure, where the concrete railings have fallen apart and the stones used for the arches are exposed. It is a surprise that the bridge did not collapse earlier like it happened in Great Britain during the infamous Christmas Day floods of 2015.
Even more of a surprise is the amount of support the locals have for saving the bridge. As recently as January of this year, members of the local town councils in Reichenbach and the surrounding areas, together with the Saxony Ministry of Business and Transportation voted in favor of renovating the bridge, at a cost of 1.5 Million Euros. This includes the cost for constructing the approach to the bridge, connecting the structure with a nearby bike trail approximately 200 meters away. The costs will be shared through a private-public partnership between the state, a private Entity L.I.S.T Inc., and the City of Reichenbach, who will take over ownership of the bridge once the project is completed. How the bridge will be renovated remains unclear, but it appears that the structure will have to be rebuilt from the ground up, as it has been seen with many arch bridges in eastern Germany- the Camsdorf Bridge in Jena, which was done in 2005, and the upcoming project with the Hirschgrund Bridge at the Castle Complex in Glauchau. Private and public partnerships are becoming the norm for bridge Building in both Germany as well as the US, where public and private entities join together to share the costs for projects like this one. There are some advantages and disadvantages to the project, which will be saved for a separate article. However one can say the cost for renovating the bridge depends on not only the size of the structure, but to what extent does the bridge need to be fixed. In the case of the Eger Bridge, as the damage is extensive, the cost can be much higher than the cost for simply redoing the decking.
Still, the renovation of the Eger Bridge is a blessing for the region, and especially for the Göltzsch Valley, for there are over three dozen stone arch bridges, big and small, spanning the river. This makes for a treat for bikers who are using the bike trail that runs parallel to the river and used to be a rail line connecting Greiz with Cheb (Eger) in the Czech Republic. For this bridge, there is a lot of history to learn about this, which thanks to this PPP initiative, will be preserved for vistors in Germany, Europe and Areas outside there.
Some interesting Facts about the Eger Bridge include the following:
The bridge used to serve an interregional road connecting Altenburg (Thuringia) with Cheb (Eger) in the Czech Republic. It was a major trading route in the Vogtland region.
The bridge was used many times by Napoleon’s Army during his conquest from 1806 to 1814- Napoleon himself crossed the bridge on 12 May, 1812 and again on 3 August, 1813.
It was a major stop for the horse-and-buggy passenger and postal express during the first half of the 1800s. That route connected Dresden and Leipzig with Cheb and Nuremberg. It was equivalent to the Pony Express in the States (1861-65)
It was located next to the Alaunawerk, which was a beer tavern beginning in 1703 but was converted into a restaurant afterwards. It burned to the ground in 1853, but the stone wall along the river next to the bridge remains.