Exploringen Thüringen – Along the dams of the upper Saale up to Eyba

In August 2022, we visited Thuringia on our way home to Switzerland, from Berlin. I have already talked about our stay at Saalburg visiting the Burgkhammer and the Bleiloch dam. On our second day in Thuringia, we drive along the Saale to Saalfeld, stopping at Ziegenrück and the Hohenwarte dam. 

 

Looking back: The Burgkhammer and the Bleiloch dams

This is the spectacular photo view of the turn of Burgk dammed by the Burgkhammer dam (below the castle on right hand side, hidden on this photo). We walked here yesterday. 

 

Higher up, the Bleiloch dam is 65m high and 205m long. This masterpiece of German engineers was built between 1926 and 1932.

Above, the Bleiloch lake is the largest of the lakes of the Saale cascades. Photo taken from the terrace of the Hotel Kranich.

 

Overview of the Saale dams, also called cascades

The Saale cascades consist out of 5 dams, built in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

  • Bleiloch
  • Burgkhammer
  • Walsburg
  • Hohenwarte
  • Eichicht

On 80km, the Saale dams overcome the height difference of 170m. The reasons for building the cascades were protection against flooding and production of energy.

On their website, the power company Vattenfall lays out the system of dams and lakes of the upper Saale.

With red circles, I have pointed out the places, where we have been: Yesterday at the Bleiloch and Burghammer dam, today at the city Ziegenrück as well as at the Hohenwarte and Eichicht dams.

 

Ziegenrück

At Ziegenrück, we have a coffee break. The city is the fifth smallest city of Germany, crouched into the narrow valley of the Saale, where the Dreba joins the Saale. 

We admire the half-timbered city hall.  

Have you noticed the goat on the wall? Well, in German “Ziege” means “goat”… 

Also, the coat of arms of Ziegenrück contains a goat with a castle on its back. Nevertheless, the name “Ziegenrück” is not related to “Ziege” (goat), but to the Sorbian word “Czegenruck”, which means “turn of the river”; the name alludes to the fact that Ziegenrück is located on one of the Saale turns.

 

Hohenwarte

The Hohenwarte is the second large dam of the Saale cascades (after the Bleiloch dam). 

It is a touristy attraction, …

… where boat rides are offered. 

From far, we see the pipes that connect to the equalizing reservoir (Oberbecken Hohenwarte II). 

 

The last dam: Eichicht

We stand on the so-called Blue Bridge (Blaue Brücke) and look upstream towards the last dam called Eichicht. 

From here on, the Saale is just a river … 

… with some lovely ducks. 

 

Arriving at Eyba at the castle hotel 

We have reserved a room in the Renaissance castle Eyba, located on the hills south of Saalfeld called Saalfelder Höhe. 

A young couple welcomes us. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, they tell us. We move into our small, but quiet room looking into the lush park and look for restaurants in the area.

The room phone rings. ” We have a solution, we prepare a plate with cheese and some cuts, would that suit you?” the couple asks.

Soon we sit in the castle courtyard and have a lovely light dinner, together with other hotel guests that prefer to stay at this quiet place. 

I took the photo of the castle courtyard during a morning walk, when everything had been cleared away.

Eyba is a good starting point for walks on the Saalfelder Höhe, as this signpost indicates. Lositz, Arnsgereuth and Saalfeld are within walking distance. There is a “Ferienwohnung Heidi” at Rudolstadt and there are two physical therapists with the name “Heidi” at Garnsdorf nearby. “Heidi” could point to one of them. It is surely not Heidi in Switzerland. The other destinations (Berlin, Moskau, Rom) seem to be pretty far away… 

We have selected the castle of Eyba near Saalfeld, because we wanted to continue exploring Thuringia, first the slate mountains with the Lehesten slate quarry and then the culturally interesting cities such as Erfurt and Weimar. 

 

 

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Exploringen Thüringen – Plothener Teiche, the landscape of one thousand ponds

In August 2022, we explore Thüringen. From Saalburg, we drive to the ponds of Plothen (Plothener Teiche) do a small hike… 

… along the nature discovery trail that is proposed by our Müller guidebook and, as I find out later, also by Bergfex.

So far, I have consulted Bergfex for skiing in the Alps, but they seem to cover lower mountains in various countries as well. 

 

Plothen – the area of a thousand ponds

The ponds of Plothen are also called “the area of a thousand ponds”, as the plate near the information centre says. 

Benedictine monks have set up 1600 ponds (some sources mention 2000 ponds), as this historical map shows (My photo at the information centre). 

The monks set up the ponds in the 11/12th century to meet the growing demand for fish, particularly during lent times, when it was forbidden to eat meat, but fish was okay.

Today, about 600 ponds are left. After 1990, their original state has been restored. They became a paradise for campers, hikers, bikers and people interested in nature; numerous panels inform about life in this protected nature park. 

The reed sparrow lives in the reed and is endangered by the fact that reed is disappearing. German speakers say “Schimpfen wie ein Rohrspatz” (literally “scold like a reed sparrow” meaning “to curse loudly”). So far, I have never thought about this phrase. Now I have learnt that it goes back to the “Rohrspatz”, a sparrow that lives in the reed and sings persistently and loudly.  

 

Our walk around the ponds

We park our car near the stilt house. It is closed today. 

We walk along the Hausteich. Across the stilt house, we can see the camping site.

After some ten minutes, we reach the information centre that has been set up with care.

The centre commemorates Alfred Brehm. He is known for Brehm’s Thierleben, a reference book about animals written in the 19th century. He was born not far from here, at Renthendorf.

We continue our way along the Hausteich and get closer to the camping site, as the boat indicates. 

The camping site is a “village”, with some houses firmly installed, …

… and other houses built around caravans.

Some have installed a barbecue near the lake, … 

… others have constructed a small terrace, … 

… and this lighter version of a terrace has been decorated with the sunflower that seems to be a little thirsty. 

Even cigarettes are available here.

So, why stand in the traffic jam to drive to Italy… the paradise is much closer!

We walk through the forest and get to the Fürstenteich, where the red berries of the rowan tree contrasts with the water (Eberesche).

Path closed. We cannot continue our walk around the Fürstenteich.  

We walk back. The ducks hide in the reed, and where we walk, they swim away.

For some time, we walk on a small path along the road. We get to the smaller Klemms pond with another, more luxurious camping site. 

We reach our car, have a picnic and after that continue our way to Ziegenrück, the Hohenwarte and Eyba near Saalfeld, where the hotel waits for us.

 

Map overview

This is the overview of the places we visited in Thüringen.

 

Sources