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The Right Way

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It is at this stage of the journey that the Golden Road splits. The good took the ‘right’ way through Weiden and Bärnau, the bad through Wernberg and Waidhaus, which in the end proved to be the cheaper of the two. Despite the popularity of two routes the trade that Charles IV supported and promoted brought much wealth to many a town and the region in general. Majestic town halls sprang up in which the tradesmen could do business. Later during the baroque period the acanthus leaf found fame in interior architecture and decoration. The Ancient Greeks and the Romans used the motif widely, and it was ‘rediscovered’ and used in the embellishment of many an altar and church.
GALLERY

Hirschau


The Golden Road ran directly through the centre of the town seat the Dukes of Hirschberg. The gothic town hall from 1500 with its crow-gables, outside stairs, pit prison and whipping post was the centre of trade for centuries and housed the indoor market until 1844. The parish church of Maria Himmelfahrt built next door in the 15th Century with a tower built in 1753 has a late gothic altar room for the most important and influential members of the congregation to go to confession. On the Marktplatz the Dorfner family have been running a family hotel and brewery business since 1812 in the old Pflegschloss (Hauptstraße 1, Tel. +49 (0)9622 701 00. An impressive altar decorated with carved acanthus leaves and 12 figures adorns the Vierzehn-Nothelfer-Kirche to the North of the town.

The only example of its kind in Germany is the Geopark Kaolinrevier Hirschau-Schnaittenbach with its educational trails that document the constant change in the industrial landscape of the region and the Erlebniswelten am Monte Kaolino with its sandboarding pistes, sledging trail, dune bath, ropes course and coloured forest.

On the Road to Weiden
Kohlberg: Small and pretty castle chapel St Nikolaus on the market place with its Roman foundations was rebuilt after a fire in 1634 and shared by congregations of differing denominations up to WWI. The Schwedenturm dates from the 14th Century and has a church hall attached.
Etzenricht: Lovely little village with a bakery and lodgings (Pfisterhof) where Jan Hus is reputed to have spent a night. The parish church St Nikolaus sits on top of a hill.
Golfanlage Schwanhof: The golf course was designed by US Open winner Jerry Pate with its exclusive restaurant. www.golfclub-schwanhof.de


Weiden
Central European Town of Culture
Bayrisch-Böhmische Kultur- und Wirtschaftstage. Since 1992 there has been an assured annual effort to combine and optimize the culture and business of the neighbouring regions. www.bbk-weiden.de
Weidener Literaturtage: The ‘literature days’ has established itself as one of the most important national meetings for writers and readers alike since its conception 25 years ago, with readings and discussions and debates. www.weidener-literatur-tage.de

The town of Weiden was always a very important trading post for all merchants on the Golden Road due to its position at the crossing point of two important trade routes, the Golden Road and the Magdeburger Road. Its name derives from ‘The square next to the willow’ and was shortened to Weiden (a tree of the willow family willow).










It received a huge boost to its economy and importance at the centre of the glass and porcelain industry when the railway reached the town in the 19th Century. Today Weiden has firmly reestablished itself at the heart of Europe with its hands-on attitude and a diverse and substantial cultural program. Between the Oberes Tor (upper gate-torn down in 1911 and rebuilt to cater for the ever-growing transport requirements) and the Unteres Tor (lower gate) the town square stretches out generously as if trying to invite the world into its midst. Colourful gabled houses line the square around the Rathaus (town hall-1539-1545) that has housed shops and cafes at street level since the Middle Ages.

As soon as the sun peeps through the clouds the Weideners immediately take their place in the cafes and on benches within the historic town wall, with its various ancient defenses and bastions, the crooked old houses and the gushing river.
A view of Weiden’s town square.

In 1627 the evangelical parish church of St Michael was renovated in the gothic style and switched denominations becoming Catholic. In the neighbouring Kulturzentrum Hans Bauer, in the Schulgasse 3a is the Stadtmuseum (town museum) with a gallery, archives and the Tachauer Heimatmuseum (homeland museum). It was burned to the ground in the town fire of 1536 and rebuilt as a schoolhouse. The largest church in the diocese of Regensburg since the Middle Ages stands proud in the Bügermeister-Prechtl-Straße 15. The architect from Munich, Johann Baptist Schott designed the New Roman construction of the Stadtpfarrkirche St Josef. The interior was created by the Weidener artist Wilhelm Vierling from plans by Franz Hofstätters. The last family home of the Reger family, where the composer Max spent his childhood years, has a plaque in his memory and is in the Bürgermeister-Prechtl-Straße 31.


The most important baroque building in the town, the Waldsassener Kasten was contracted by the Waldsassen Abbey and built between 1739 and 1742 by Johann Jakob Philipp Muttone. It now houses the imposing Internationale Keramikmuseum. (porcelain museum) in the Luitpoldstr 25 and the regional library.

Altenstadt

Halfway between Weiden and Neustadt the Roman Wehrkirche Maria Himmelfahrt (from 1150) with its baptism stone is worth a stop. A Marian Column, a statue of the Virgin Mary built to remember the dead after an attack of the plague from 1697, and the pilgrims’ pathway (Kreuzweg am Kalvarienberg) can be included in the visit.



Neustadt an der Waldnaab


Charles IV left a glove here to formalize and validate his gift of a piece of wooded land. The new town (Nova Civitas) then had a little over 6000 residents. Beginning in 1562 the noble Bohemian family Lobkowitz sponsored and supported the development of the town. Kaiser Ferdinand III then awarded the town its charter and it became a Crowned-Dukedom with the Lobkowitzes receiving a seat and voice at the increasingly important parliament in Regensburg.
Neustadt an der Waldnaab.

Waldnaabtal
The Naab valley (165km) from Falkenberg to Neuhaus is packed full of natural spectacles and man-made landmarks. Block fields and water pot-holes, (notable examples can be seen at the Butterfass, or at the Gletschermühle between Tischstein and Waldfrieden-Hütte) and castles like the one at Falkenberg built on top of a granite rock. At the ‘Blockhütte’ inn a water wheel fills ponds full of trout. The Waldnaabtalmuseum in Neuhaus is a Mecca for geography fans. The source of the Waldnaab lies on eth border to the Czech Republic near the Silberhütte in the parish of Tirschenreuth.

The Lobkowitzes left their mark on the town with the Altes and the Neues Schloss that frame the old town square with its hexagonal fountain (Schlossbrunnen). The building of the old castle was started in 1532 by Wolf von Guttenstein and was completed by the new lords of the region the Lobkowitz family. Several generations later Duke Ferdinand von Lobkowitz ordered the construction of a new castle in 1684 with a memorial baroque garden. The Lobkowitz family’s unsuccessful involvement in the Spanish War of Succession caused work to halt on the new building and luckily the old building was never taken down.

The Ducal master builder Anton Ritz completed work on the new Stadtpfarrkirche St. Georg in 1737.


If you reach the town having traveled from Weiden the first thing you will see is the Wallfahrtskirche St. Felix which was extended in 1735 due to the growing number of pilgrims who made the journey to the church. To the north of Neustadt beyond the Radschinmühle (mill) the Mutter-Anna-Kirche on the Mühlberg dominates the landscape. Its history as a place of pilgrimage can be traced back as far as 1380 AD.

Windischeschenbach and the surrounding area

Around 950AD The Bavarians managed to get this far, and in order to avoid confusion with the town of Eschenbach to the west they renamed the community Windischeschenbach. It is situated next to the ‘Wendenland’ or Bohemia and was rechristened in 1424. The town of c.5000 is dominated by the gothic church Stadtpfarrkirche St. Emmeran from the end of the 15th Century. After visiting the church it is worth stopping at one of the many inns that sell the locally popular unclarified beer. (Look for the inns with a star above the door).

The deepest hole on earth was bored here by the Kontinentales Tiefbohrprogramm (KTB) at the point where Europe and Africa crashed together 300 million years ago. The Geozentrum (Geo centre) is open from May to October.

Spies and Prospectors
Havran: On the Rabenberg around 5 km to the east of Flossenbürg there is an abandoned surveillance station that had been used by the Czechoslovakian army.
Schellenberg: The old castle ruins from 1347 are high up on a massive rock formation near the Georgenberg. The onetime hunting lodge of the Lobkowitzes was torn down in 1865.
Zlatý potok/Goldbach: A dilapidated settlement with many ruins and a stream where gold was once prospected.
Wildenau: The elevated and excellently restored castle near the Czech border was a very important outlook post protecting the Golden Road. www.wildenauer-burgfest.de

Youth groups and school classes have the opportunity to spend the night in the Art Nouveau Villa Stützel in the Bahnhofstraße 29, Tel. +49 (0)9602 79 29 00.

There are further traces of Art Nouveau architecture visible in the new Baroque hospital in Wöllersdorf that was renovated at the beginning of the 1900s. The neighbouring Ernsthof is actually an old farmhouse and the Backofenfest (oven festival) in Störnstein at the beginning of August is a highlight with Bavarian and Bohemian brass band accompaniment. A gothic parish church and a private castle are the highlights of Ilsenbach and the pilgrimage church (Wallfahrtskirche) St Quirin near Püchersreuth has been the destination of many a procession from Karlsbad since the 17th Century. The church houses an impressive altar decorated with acanthus and the double coat of arms of the Lobkowitz family.

Floß

The Jewish community in Floß has fallen victim to anti-Semitism on many occasions throughout history. The population of the town included up to 25% Jewish residents or as many as nearly 400 people. After the nationalists had destroyed everything of worth in Jewish hands a second attempt was made and a new autonomous community was founded on the Judenberg in 1684 by Jews who had been previously driven away as far as Neustadt.

In 1813 the wooden synagogue burnt to the ground and was replaced in 1815-17 by the stone building that still stands today. It survived the pogroms and the mandatory repossession of the Nazi era and the octagonal building with the surrounding terrace was painstakingly restored in 2005. The Jewish cemetery is worth visiting in the Flossenbürger Straße on the road to Weikersmühle (the Weikers Mill) and the pilgrimage church of St Nikolaus on the Nikolausberg.

Flossenbürg

Flossen Castle.

Before the Nazis came to power in the 1930’s the little village in the Upper Pfalz Forest only drew in tourists wishing to view the mysterious ruins of the castle. The main tower was built around 1000 AD and the surrounding keep dates from around 1300 AD. In the 1930’s the brown-shirted Hitler followers celebrated the ancient fortress and created the myth of its importance as part of an ancient defense system against the Slavs. The most famous residents of the castle included Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa, the Dukes of Bavaria, the Bohemian Royal family and the Leuchtenbergers. The Burgmuseum nowadays has exhibitions detailing life in the Middle Ages and has displays of finds made during archeological digs. The National Socialist movement required such a huge amount of building materials for its representational projects all over Europe and the regional quarries could not keep pace with the necessities of the architects. The concentration camp that was set up in 1938 was always one of the hardest of all the facilities for the slave labourers. Its terrifying history is told in the KZ-Gedenkstätte (Gedächtnisallee 5-7 Tel. +49 (0)9603 92 19 80, Dec-Feb 9am-4pm, Mar-Nov 9am-5pm daily) www.gedenkstaetter-flossenbuerg.de

Plößberg
Border Crossings:
Pavlova Hut’ (Paul’s Hut) a lost village near the Bärnau border (Grenzalm).
Entenbühl: At 901m this is the highest point in the region. The Silberhütte is a lovely place of rest.
Kreuzstein: The inn here (Das Wirtshaus am Kreuzstein, Straßenschacht 7, 92681 Erbendorf) is a perfect starting point for walks in the border region.


This relaxing town with a large lake and surrounding forests has a much more unpleasant history, changing hands many times and being laid siege to, and mostly due to its ‘unfortunately’ ideal location on the Golden Road.

Plößberg has made its mark worldwide with the production of glass ovens, a traditional craft whose history can be followed in the Glasofen-Museum, Jahnstraße 1.



This Article is part of the tour "The Golden Road"
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