GERMANY. In 2019, the UN honored two popular and historic tourism destinations in Germany by naming them UNESCO World Heritage sites. Germany’s Ore Mountains and its historic city of Augsburg now grace that UNESCO list.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a landmark or geographical area selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance. These include sites judged important to the collective interests of humanity. Such sites receive legal protection through international treaties.
Inaugurated in 1972 with its first list, UNESCO’s ongoing mission: To recruit the world community to help identify cultural and natural properties of “outstanding universal value.”
With the pair of new additions to the list, Germany shares the third largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in a single country with Spain at 48. Only Italy and China claim more, boasting 55 sites each.
Germany’s Ore Mountains
Erzgebirge, literally “ore mountains” in German, have formed a natural border between Saxony and Bohemia for about 800 years, from the 12th to the 20th centuries. Today, the border between Germany and the Czech Republic runs just north of the main crest of the mountain range with the highest peaks being the Klinovec (4,081 ft) above sea level and the Fichtelberg (3,986 ft).
In the 19th century, when the jurisdiction upgraded several Ore Mountain passes into chaussees and started to access the Upper Ore Mountains by the railway, tourism began to develop.
A chaussee, by the way, is an historic term no longer in use in Western Europe. It referred to rural highways constructed out of metal rather than using traditional, unpaved country roads
Otto Delitsch, skiing, narrow gauge railways and cable cars
One of the early pioneers of tourism in the Ore Mountains was Otto Delitsch. His vision established mountain inns in many places and observation towers on the highest mountain peaks. In those days skiing proved extremely popular due to the guaranteed snow occurring along the ridges.
Today, steam-powered narrow gauge railways from that era, such as the Pressnitz Valley Railway, persist as popular tourist attractions.
In 1924 the Fichtelberg Cable Car became the first cable car in Germany, and it still takes visitors to the highest mountain in Saxony.
With a mining legacy of more than eight centuries in the Ore Mountains, the Schneckenstein Boulder is the only outcropping of topaz in Europe. In fact, the Schneckenstein is so valuable today that it is under 24/7 surveillance.
Augsburg, the second of two UNESCO World Heritage sites just named in Germany
The second these new UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany is the ancient city of Augsburg. With its close ties to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, many Europeans regard Augsburg as one of the most historically significant cities in Germany. As well as one of that country’s prettiest.
Augsburg boasts a long, historical prominence as a financial center, international trading hub and focal point for the fine arts. This proved especially in the days when the Fugger banking empire achieved its peak.
Thanks to its financial importance, Augsburg shaped the history of Germany and Europe over a long period of time. It always seemed a little richer, more glamorous and imposing than other German cities.
From fountains to churches
Augsburg’s superb fountains, grand old guild-houses, exquisite churches and Town Hall – perhaps one of the most important secular Renaissance buildings north of the Alps – combine to form a cityscape of rare atmospheric intensity.
Since the High Middle Ages, visitors have been awed by Augsburg’s stately churches. These include the cathedral, with its stunning bronze portal (now nearly 1,000 years old); and the Basilica of St. Ulrich and St. Afra. The latter was named after two patron saints of the city.
From the Fugger Dynasty to Amadeus
The wealth of the Fugger dynasty became another Augsburg marvel. That family helmed a mercantile and banking empire that stretched from the Adriatic to the North Sea and ram from the Atlantic Ocean across to eastern Europe. Anton Fugger, in a way, became regarded in the mid-16th century in the way that Bill Gates is regarded in America today. The German financier was then considered the richest man in the world.
Fearing Fugger’s prominence could make the city vulnerable to attack, Augsburg surrounded itself with extensive fortifications and a continuous city wall. Travelers can still see parts of these fortifications today.
The Mozarts were another family with impressive links to the city’s artistic heritage. Leopold Mozart, father to Wolfgang Amadeus and an influential composer in his own right, was born there. In tribute to its most famous composer, Augsburg traditionally holds its Mozart Festival each May.
With Berthold Brecht, the play’s the thing
Thanks to his obstinate nature and moodiness, native son Berthold Brecht was not as revered by locals as Mozart was during his lifetime. Since his death in the middle of the 20th century however, the brilliant playwright and poet has been honored with an annual theater festival. The Brecht Festival serves to add yet another dimension to Augsburg’s rich cultural legacy.
Arts, crafts, museums and religion
Throughout the centuries, numerous gold and silversmiths settled within the city walls. They established a local and international reputation for quality and unparalleled excellence in their craftsmanship. You can find their works on display in various museums and exhibitions. Many smaller stores still in existence today evem offer some of these pieces for sale.
Rounding out Augsburg’s claims to fame is the fact that it holds the world’s only state-approved public holiday celebrated in just one city. We’re talking about Augsburg’s High Peace Festival. Celebrated on the 8th of August each year, the holiday commemorates the Protestants’ loss of religious freedom in the city in 1629. It also celebrates the implementation of the Peace of Westphalia. That treaty restored Protestants’ religious freedom once again.
As a traveler, any time you are in the vicinity of any of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, take the opportunity to visit. You will not be disappointed.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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