Mystery Places: The Waldenburg-Remse Canal and Bridges

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This mystery article takes us back to western Saxony and a village northeast of Glauchau called Waldenburg. With a population of close to 5,000 inhabitants, the town is located on the western bank of the Zwickauer Mulde, has a beautiful castle and historic city center, as well as an international European School. A link to the city’s homepage will show you what the town looks like and some of the things you can do there.

Aside from a 1940s style bridge that is the primary crossing in Waldenburg, the mystery lies behind a canal located between Waldenburg and a neighboring village Remse. There, two bridges- an arch bridge and a steel pony through girder bridge span this canal, which appears to be at least 60 years old, if not, older. The canal was built along the right-hand side of the Mulde, and it is unknown what its use was. One can make one of two conclusions:

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  1. The canal was built as a diversion canal, similar to the one built in Glauchau that encircled the western part of the city to alleviate the flooding. There, Heinrich Carl Hedrich had already established himself as the inventor of the city drainage system and may have been involved in the designing and construction of the Flutgraben. He had been the city engineer prior to the flooding of 1858 which caused considerable damage to Glauchau and all places to the northeast, including Waldenburg. It is possible that the canal at Waldenburg dates back to the timespan between 1860 and 1900, the time when Glauchau’s diversion canal was being built. As low as the two crossings were, it would be the most logical conclusion as it passage underneath was (and is still is) next to impossible. Yet having a concrete tiling at the bottom of the canal, plus the proximity of the canal to Waldenburg and the palace could lead to conclusion number…..

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  1. The canal provided passage for boats between Remse and Waldenburg. The Mulde is notorious for being shallow but also very muddy, thus making transportation almost impossible. Even water was transported over the river via pipes, thanks to the Röhrensteg in Zwickau, located south of Glauchau and Waldenburg. Therefore diversion canals were the easiest way to go for transporting boats between Glauchau and Waldenburg, having been built in places where the river made boat passage impossible. If this theory is true, then the bridges that exist today were built many years later, between the 1930s and 1950s, when boat traffic ceased because of the coming of the automobile, combined with World War II and its after-effects. However……

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  1. The canal may have been used for transporting drinking water between Glauchau and Waldenburg. The evidence behind this lies with the aquifers that exist at the dam where the canal starts in Remse combined with the water treatment station located west of Waldenburg, where highways 180 and 175 meet. As dirty as the river was (and still is to a degree today), the filtering complex was built in 1899 by the city of Meerane (west of Glauchau but owns Remse) where the dirt and other debris were filtered out and the water was cleaned of all harmful bacteria.

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To sum up, the canal with the two bridges may have been used as a diversion canal, like the one in Glauchau, for boat passage between Glauchau and Waldenburg or for allowing the flow of drinking water to Waldenburg. The question is which one was used for what. When that is answered, then the question is who was behind both the canal and the two bridges and why?

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You have the answers? You know what to do. For reference purposes, check out the Bridges of Glauchau and Zwickau (links highlighted) where you can read more about the Mulde and how it was tamed by crossings that transported water and diversion canals that protected at least Glauchau from further flooding.

Note: This is both a mystery bridge as well as a mystery infrastructure, hence its post in sister column, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.

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Mystery Building Nr. 8: The Brühl (Mile) District in Chemnitz

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Photos taken in January 2017

Our next mystery building article takes us to Chemnitz in central Saxony and in particular, this district. Located in the northern edge of the city center, 500 meters from Chemnitz Central Station (Chemnitz Hbf.), the Brühl Mile features a narrow street, flanked on each end with historic buildings- both those that survived the bombings of World War II as well as those that were constructed during the age of East Germany- and laden with lighting originating from the Communist era, where Chemnitz was once known as Karl-Marx-Stadt. Going from end to end between Georgenstrasse and Zöllnerstrasse, one will walk back into time to the period where everything seen is all in relation with this particular time period.  And while the Brühl district is bustling with activity during the summer, in the winter time, its true colors present itself in a form of a mixture of buildings filled with apartments and a handful of businesses as well as those that are empty but present themselves with artwork that is comparable with those presented in the large cities in Germany, like Berlin.

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While the empty buildings are scheduled to be renovated before the city celebrates its 875th anniversary in 2018, the question remains where the name Brühl originated. Here is what we do know about the Mile:

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The Mile was once a village named Streitdorf, which was owned by the lordship Blankenau in the 1300s. The village separated itself from the city of Chemnitz by a brook and a large field used for grazing. After the purchase of the village in 1402, it disappeared thanks to land encroachment and the eventual conversion to a hatchery for fish. Given its approximate location to the River Chemnitz, the area was ideal for this industry. The area was converted into a district which by 1795, it was named Anger. Planners proceeded to construct and expand the district beginning in 1835 to include 120 apartments at first. The numbers quadrupled over the next century, and the district eventually gained a theater house, church, textile factory, museum and lastly, a market square located at today’s Schillerplatz. With the draining of the brook came the establishment of a pond at the aforementioned present-day location. The last architectural work came with the public pool, which was built in 1935.

After the bombing of Chemnitz, which affected the Brühl district, buildings to the south and east were demolished to make way for Communist.based architecture, much of which can be seen along the Mile today. This includes statues, lighting and some of the characteristics that a person will see in an East German housing development in many cities today. Even the mural that exists at the Georgenstrasse entrance depicts what the district looked like before 1989.

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Yet there is a catch involved with the history of this district and that is with the name Brühl. When I first visited the district in January, my first impression was that it was part of an industrial district, where Brühl was a company. The slogan and lettering of the Mile, which can be seen at the Georgenstrasse entrance, clearly shows a trace going in that direction. Looking at the history of the industries that existed in East Germany, the connection of having residential areas near companies was considered the norm in those days, especially when looking at the relicts of the past today in many cities.

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Yet history books show that Brühl was first used in 1836 and the name has been stuck to this district ever since. This leads to the question of its origin and who created the idea. Furthermore, if one looks at the mural more closely, was Brühl located near an industry and if so, what was it? Given its location near the River Chemnitz and its history of being a fishery, it is likely that perhaps the fishing industry existed either solely or alongside any industries that happened to exist during the days of East Germany. But on the flip side, perhaps the housing district used the logo as a fancy way of drawing residents to then Karl-Marx-Stadt. The theory points to the second because of the SED having its regional party headquarters there in the 1970s before they relocated to the Congress Center, two kilometers south of the Mile.

But perhaps politics and industry could co-exist in one district, as potentially seen in the area along the Mile?  What else do we know about the Brühl Mile? Add your thoughts in the Comments page here as well as in the Files’ facebook page, which you can click here to access.

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The Brühl Mile is being repurposed and revitalized even as this article is being released with the purpose of having the district restored and brought back to life for businesses and residents in time for Chemnitz’s 875th birthday in 2018. Details on the project can be found via link here. At the same time, the City of Chemnitz is calling out to public on how to make the city prepared for this event. That is also in the Brühl page.

To close, here’s a little food for thought that a store owner along the Mile left that is worth thinking about. 🙂

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Mystery Building Nr. 6: A Globe Tower at a Former Mining Facility

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Antiques from the past are always the most unique, both in terms of their unusual shape but also their function in their histories. It can be large or small, geometric or Picasso-like, rusty or gleaming, designed by the likes of Dali or a total psychopath. The mystery building profiled here is a tower that is tall and rusty, but originating from the bygone era, where the purpose was unknown but was part of a complex only a pyschopath would concoct.

Located south of Leipzig along the River Pleisse near the town of Deutzen, this tower was once part of a mining complex, which altered the landscape with its extraction of brown coal, which was used for electricity. Stretching along the line between Markkleeberg and Wieratal and between Belgershain and Hartmannsdorf, the mining area was once the largest in East Germany, covering an area of over 610,000 square meters. The process of strip mining and burning coal produced pollution that is comparable to the Black Triangle Region near Zittau, where Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic meet. Thousands of residents suffered from respiratory diseases and other forms of mental illness. The soil was contaminated to a point where it was no longer fertile.

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The browness of the Pleisse as seen at this crossing near Rötha, south of Markkleeberg

Even the effects of soil and water pollution is still noiceable in the River Pleisse, which has a caramel brown color between Deutzen and the southern suburbs of Leipzig, making it non-drinkable. Even when the river was rechanneled during that time- and the river was straightened for 10 kilometers from Markkleeberg to Böhlen, much of its past can still be seen in its very murky water which has not had any underwater life for over five decades since the start of mining. Strip mining was discontinued in 1992, and much of the area is now owned by ARE Inc., based in Deutzen, which is responsible for soil treatment and environmental clean-up, including revitalizing the areas mined, converting many mined areas into lakes.

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Yet relicts, like this tower serve as a reminder of an era that one should not forget. The tower is about 60 meters tall and has a globe-like top, surrounded by a ringed platform, and easily accessible through flights of stairs zig-zagging its way inside the steel-caged support tower. One of the hints that indicates that it used to be in the mining area are the signs banning trespassing on the premise because it is a mining area. But even though it was part of history and now owned by ARE, what was its actual function? Was it a watchtower, a water tower, a chemical tower, maybe a radar tower like the one guessed at in the article of the building near Altenburg? For the last one, given its proximity to Leipzig-Halle and Altenburg Airports, this guess is justified. In either case, no one knows what this tower is.

 

Or do you have an idea?

 

If so, let’s start the idea and photosharing. Feel free to post here or on the Files’ facebook pages. It will appear in the Leipzig Glocal’s page because of its proximity to Leipzig. Let’s piece together the history of this tower, no longer in use except as a monument- serving as a reminder of a period that has passed, but should not be forgotten, for the period where strip mining existed- namely, the Cold War, has forever changed the landscape of the region.

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Lake Rötha

And while much of the area has been revitalized and converted into lakes, others will need more time to recover because of the chemicals that are still in the water and soil that will take decades to disappear. But once it happens, other bodies of water, including the River Pleisse will return to what it was before 1945, something that many people wish for because of the memories of fishing and boating along the river.

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Mystery Building Nr. 5: A Silo or An NSA Complex?

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Photo taken in July 2016

In the run-up to the next quiz series on Thuringia and Saxony, I came across a phenomenon that will spark a discussion regarding what this structure really is. Located between the towns of Altenburg and Gössnitz on the Thuringian-Saxony border, this building is located smack in the middle of corn and wheat fields with a few trees surrounding it. It is difficult to tell how high or wide this building is. We do know that despite it sitting on the drifting hills which includes the valley of the Pleisse River and its tributaries, the building is high enough to be seen high above the trees from the train travelling on the line connecting Gera and Gössnitz, like in the picture below:

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Ibid.

It is also tall enough that a person can photograph it from a distance of over 25 kilometers, as seen in the photo at the beginning of this article.  That was taken near the Thomas Müntzer Siedlung, located south of Hauensdorf and east of Lehndorf.  Keeping this in mind, let’s estimate the height to be at least 30 meters.

It appearance is rather spooky as the base features a cylindrical shape, but the top quarter has a spherical appearance with pentagonal patterns. Separating the two shapes, both of whom have a grayish green color, is an observation deck which a person can access with a flight of stairs zig-zagging its way to the ground. A housing complex is located just to the north of the tower.

This leads to one of three theories:

  1. Central Intelligence Tower: The tower is part of the central intelligence complex, which collects information for use. The design would make the most sense, given the fact that spying has been part of the livelihood of the people living in the region. Altenburg was part of the former East Germany, and the Honnecker Regime cooperated with the Soviets regarding collecting information from the western half of Europe as part of the plan to protect its borders from a nuclear attack. With the events involving the Berlin Wall, Prague Spring and the NATO Weapons stationed in West Germany before Reagan, having a tower in the middle of nowhere served as a out-of-sight complex protecting the East Germans. To keep them from fleeing to the West, it was probably used as a spy tool to keep them in tact and within their borders.  Since Germany and America’s NSA have an agreement on data-collecting, the tower probably has been used since 1989 for that purpose- especially now because of the potential threat from Russia and the terrorists, something that many people on both sides don’t agree with. Privacy has become more and more tabu these days because of the willingness of Berlin and Washington to pry open the activities of their normal citizens…..
  2. Water Tower: The tower is nothing more than a water tower, collecting and storing water for the towns along the Pleisse and its tributaries. Logistically speaking, this would make the best sense as the region is surrounded by farmland, and water is needed to foster crop-growth. Perhaps despite its unusual design, the water tower was conceived out of the “spy tower” after 1989 after it was rendered useless. As many water towers have different shapes, especially after a lengthy discussion about the water tower in Glauchau (see article for more), this idea may not be far from the truth.
  3. Communal Silo: The same applies for the silo concept, where crops are stored there. What would support the argument here is the housing surrounding it, resembling a farmstead. What would make this argument redundant is the fact that silos are rare in numbers in Germany. Unlike in rural America, where one in two farmsteads have at least one silo, in rural Germany, it is most likely one in 10,000 because of the population density, combined with limited space for farming. If a silo exists, then most likely as a communal one owned by the city of Altenburg.

There could be other opinions to this, like an army complex, power plant, grain elevator, etc., but having an unusual shape makes these arguments questionable. This leads to the question of what exactly this tower is, when it was built and for what purpose, and lastly, is it still in use.

Any ideas? Feel free to comment…… 🙂

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Mystery Building Nr. 4: Pizza Hut in Bad Durremberg?

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In connection with our quiz on Saxony-Anhalt and other articles to come, this mystery place article takes us to the southern part of the German state, and in particular, Bad Durremberg. Located 15 kilometers southwest of Leipzig and 20 kilometers south of its neighbor Halle (Saale), this community of 10,000 inhabitants is the gateway to the metropolis of Leipzig-Halle, providing direct access to the two communities via rail and tram. In addition, it is located near the Leuna Petroleum District, where several chemical companies form an area the size of Weimar in neighboring Thuringia and Worthington, in my home state of Minnesota.

And apart from having the longest and oldest railway bridge over the Saale River, the reason behind writing about a quiet community is this building. During my bike tour to Halle in 2011, I came across this unusual structure by accident. It features two different buildings. On the left is a seven-story building, made of brick and concrete and featuring windows small enough that no head can ever stick outside.  On the right is another building with three stories but featuring an unusual roof resembling an exhaust fan hovering over a stove while cooking in the kitchen.  If restaurant chains, such as A&W and Pizza Hut used this unusual constellation as a poster boy for their architectural design of the restaurant, then their founders really travelled around a lot in their youth and had a Picasso-like taste for their architectural preference.   At the top and on each side of the roof is a clock that has still been function since its installation a long time ago. Both buildings are connected with a conveyor belt running horizontal along the top.

But what exactly is this building? Three theories come to mind: 1. It is a salt processing facility as the Saale River region is enriched with salt deposits, and many towns along the river have profitted from this commodity, including Bad Kösen, Halle (Saale) and Bad Sulza. It was probably used to cut up salt chunks into powder and converted into many products.  However we have nr. 2, which is a grain elevator processing crops. While the Saale and Unstrut regions are famous for their wine and sect, the region is also predominantly agricultural, as barley, wheat and corn are grown there. Then, there’s nr. 3, which is a textile factory. As East Germany prided itself on its clothes and wanted to be independent from the West, many textile factories were built and remained in operation until German reunification. Every third community had their own textile factory, including Gera, Glauchau, Zeulenroda and perhaps this community.  We also have the fourth variable, which is “We don’t know what the heck this Pizza Hut-style architecture is, can you help us?”

If you are one of those readers, maybe you can help. We would like to know what this building is, when it was built and who was behind this unusual architectural design. The single variant we have as of now is that the building must be at least 80 years old but has survived the test of time and war. But what else do we know about it? Let your ideas flow and post your thoughts in the comment section, either here on on the Files’ facebook pages. 🙂

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Mystery Building 3: A Water Tower with Windows

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This next mystery building feature has enquiring minds wanting to know what this unusual building is. This is located along the Zwickauer Mulde west of the town of Glauchau. The community of 24,000 is located near the Thuringia-Saxony border near the cities of Zwickau and Chemnitz, and prides itself on agriculture, religion, nature, serenity and open-mindness- at least that is what a person originating from there once told me a while back. It has two castles, a small town center which is very empty and quiet at lunch time, several schools (including an international one) and lastly, this unique but very unusual building.

Located at the South Dam and Bridge, this building is made of brick and features a decagonal design. It has six stories with windows lining up along every second side. Biking past there enroute to the bridge, there were some hunches I had that may have something to do with its unusual shape. They include:

  1. It is a water tower.  Several German water towers have similar designs, including one west of Glauchau in the city of Jena near the train station Göschwitz. However, there are a couple arguments against this theory. The first is that Germany has more universally standardized water towers than the old ones, as today’s towers are mushroom shaped with the head having water storage. An example of this can be found in Halle (Saale):  IMGP0065

Some water towers are similar to a typical one found in the United States, like the one in Jackson, Minnesota for example:

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The second argument against this theory has to do with the windows, where it is obvious that storm windows- or windows that are water resistant never existed at the time the Glauchau tower was built in the 1900s. Otherwise water would have leaked out, and the nearby residents would awake to flooding, caused by the release of water. Therefore, the first theory has to be taken out.

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My next theory was that the building looked like this one in Iowa: a grain elevator or silo, used to store crops for use. This would make the best sense, given Glauchau’s location in the agricultural region, plus its crops bringing in revenue. The problem with this theory is the building is much smaller than even the house located in front of this grain elevator, thus allowing little room for storing crops. It is also doubtful that the brick siding would hold the crops without breaking apart, spilling them into the Mulde, and creating an environmental disaster that would reach the city’s history books. And of course, the windows would make this theory look ridiculous in writing.

So, my last theory would be either an apartment (flat) complex or nursing home. It would look practical given its appearance. Yet the building appears too small to house the residents, even if there was one apartment per floor (story). In addition, the building is fenced off, owned by a private agency, thus rendering this theory as false.

This leads to the question: What kind of building is this, when it has six stories with windows, but as small as a silo and on the same level as a water tower? Any ideas?

If so, please place them here in the comment section as well as in the Files’ facebook page, as it is open for the forum. Your comments can be made in German or English. If you wish to contact me directly, please use the form by clicking on this link.

Germany has a lot of unusual architectural works that have survived two wars and even the Cold War. While most of the records are lost for good, there are a few left that are significant for research, including this one. What do we know about it? The answer awaits from readers and locals, like you. 🙂

Link with Map of the Place:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Apmla5YpaNqA1S7aJmoo-krqYEo&usp=sharing

 

Author’s Note: Check out the other sides of Glauchau including the bridges by clicking on the following links below:

THE BRIDGES OF GLAUCHAU (SAXONY) by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles

THE CITY OF GLAUCHAU (SAXONY) via Files’ facebook page

 

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The Bridge with the Artistic Railings

Photos taken by the author in Oct. 2015
Photos taken by the author in Oct. 2015

Co-produced with sister column

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Castles, cathedrals, domed buildings and bridges. From the Baroque Period, as well as Renaissance. Where history and actors re-enacting history meet. Potsdam, located 20 kilometers south of the German capital Berlin has a lot to offer to people of all ages. It has at least a dozen palaces, including the Sansoucci. The historic city center is laden with concert halls and the state parliament. Parks and gardens line up along the city’s lakes and the River Havel. Then there are the bridges in and around the city of 160,000 inhabitants that have their place in the city’s history. This includes the Glienicke Bridge at the border to Berlin, once the site of the famous prisoner exchange between East and West Germany (see here).

But this bridge came to my attention during a visit back in October with some American friends living near Babelsberg. Located at Babelsberg Park, the largest in Potsdam, the bridge is near the historic tower Flatowturm, approximately 300 meters from Tiefensee going east. It spans a ravine and carries a trail going around the hill for 500 meters before entering the tower. From the Kleines Schloss, the bridge and tower are 800 meters south of there. The bridge is a steel beam but features one of the most unusual railings made of cast iron that a pontist has ever seen. It is very hard to describe the design of the railings only to say that its natural tree-branch-like design matches the natural landscape quite nicely. Looking at it much more closely, it appears that a group of people used heavy wiring to twist and form the railings to give the bridge its unique shape.

It appears that the bridge is rather new but the question is how new? When was it built and who were the artists? Was the bridge built after the Wall fell, or was it a product of East Germany by an author wishing to make peace with the western counterparts against the will of Erich Honecker? The reason behind these questions is no further information has been given on this bridge. Therefore, if you have any information that is useful for this bridge, please feel free to comment. Some additional photos are shown below to help you.

Photos:

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