The Saxon Ore Mountains, called Erzgebirge in German or Krušné hory in Czech, is a mountain range in the south of Saxony in Germany. It is known for its craftwork. It have formed a natural border between Saxony and Bohemia for many centuries.
- 1 Chemnitz
- 2 Freiberg
- 3 Oberwiesenthal
- 4 Zwickau
As the name implies, the Ore Mountains are a mineral-rich mountain range, located in the southern part of Saxony bordering Bohemia. Nearly 900 years of mining has dominated the region with several phases of Klondike-like goldrushes, "Berggeschrey" in medieval German, after new finds of mainly silver ores around Freiberg, Schneeberg and Annaberg. The rich silver mines created the base of the wealth of the Saxon kings and the cultural heritage of the Saxon capital Dresden. The last mining in the area ocurred during GDR times when a company of the deceptive name Wismut (tungsten) extracted Uranium for military use in the USSR. While those mines were shut down upon reunification, the area still struggles with the damage this decidedly "dirty" business did to workers and environment alike. Nowadays, as most of the mining has shut down, there are plenty of industrial heritage sites open to visitors. However by no means all there is in the mountains is gone and when prices for several commodities rose in the mid 2000s , talk of yet another "Berggeschrey" could be heard. Since the prices have come down however, the only people making any money off mining are those at the Bergakademie in Freiberg, one of the oldest universities of its kind.
Following miners tradition, the region has developed a diverse culture of wood-carving and Christmas decoration as candle-lit decoration was the only light the miners saw for several months during winter. Annaberg and Seiffen are famous, but not the only places, for the traditional handicraft and Christmas markets.
The Ore Mountains are the most snow reliable region in Germany outside the Alps with plenty opportunities for downhill and nordic skiing around the Fichtelberg and Oberwiesenthal areas. Compared to the Alps, skiing areas are smaller but cheaper and the effects of mass tourism are not that notable, owing in part to the fact that even cheaper slopes on the Czech side aren't far away.
Truth be told, the local dialect can be hard to decipher even to German native speakers. If you can't make out what people are telling you, try to extricate yourself from the conversation and try asking someone else. While general foreign language fluency is below average, Czech and Russian may work better than in other parts of Germany. This is especially true for Czech in border towns.
From the north (Berlin via Dresden) use the Autobahn A13 and A4, as well as the A14 (from Magdeburg). Enter via the Autobahn A4, when coming from the west. The A9 (from Nuremberg) and the A72 (from Munich and Hof) will lead you to the Erzgebirge when coming from the south.
If you are coming from further away you will most likely arrive via Dresden or Leipzig. Regional trains also run from other surrounding regions, like Franconia. The most important line is the Dresden - Freiberg - Chemnitz - Zwickau - Hof -line with hourly regional service in either direction. From there there are branch lines to Annaberg-Buchholz and Stollberg (from Chemnitz), Johanngeorgenstadt and Klingenthal from Zwickau. During the skiing season special trains can get you to the snow sports hotspots.
The only major airport with scheduled flights is in Dresden. However, even that airport doesn't offer all that many connections. Some areas of the Erzgebirge may be easier to reach from Prague or Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. There are a number of airports in the region that can be used with business and private aircraft.
The Erzgebirge national park provides many opportunities for outdoor sports and sightseeing. In the summer, many paths exist through the forest for Hiking, Cycling and rock climbing, while in winter the paths are used for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Oberwiesenthal was once the premier alpine ski resort in East Germany, and still exists as a relatively undiscovered, quiet area for skiing.
On the whole this area experiences little crime. (Though low level drug smuggling across the border does occur). As it is not as high up as the Alps, mountain safety rules apply but less so. Still you should be prepared for fast changes in weather as well as storm and heavy snow in the winter - even if no snow can be seen in the lowlands.