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100 years of the Fichtelberg suspension railroad: a landmark in the Ore Mountains

Two walkers watch the arrival of the Fichtelberg cable car at the mountain station / Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa
Two walkers watch the arrival of the Fichtelberg cable car at the mountain station / Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa

The Fichtelberg suspension railroad is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is an important attraction for tourists in the Ore Mountains. Find out more about the history and significance of Germany's oldest aerial cableway.

It is a landmark of Oberwiesenthal and an attraction for many tourists in the Ore Mountains: the Fichtelberg suspension railroad is 100 years old. Built in 1924 on the initiative of hotel owners, it transports up to 200,000 people up to Saxony's highest peak every year - and down from there. "A ride on the historic suspension railroad is an experience for young and old at any time of year," enthused Ines Hanisch-Lupaschko, head of the Erzgebirge Tourism Association. The anniversary will be celebrated for three days this weekend. Various DJs will be playing, children can romp around on bouncy castles and there will be a look behind the scenes.

The oldest cable car in Germany was built in just three months. According to information, the costs amounted to around 354,000 Reichsmark. It was inaugurated at the end of 1924, but in its early days, the cable car had to contend with many technical problems, according to its current Managing Director René Lötzsch. As a result, the operators had to file for bankruptcy in 1934, and the railroad was later put up for auction and served as a wedding present for the new owner's daughter. After the Second World War, the railroad became public property and is now in municipal hands.

The fact that the railroad still exists in its historical form is also due to tight budgets. Around 15 years ago, there were plans to build a new cable car up to the 1215-metre-high summit. However, as the renovation would have cost several million less, these plans were scrapped and the existing lift was renovated instead. "Thank goodness!" says Lötzsch. "The lift simply belongs here."

It is also an important element in the strategy of not only attracting many visitors in winter, but also scoring points with tourists all year round. While it is used by many skiers, winter walkers and tobogganers in winter, it attracts hikers, cyclists and day visitors exploring the region in summer. Bicycles, wheelchairs and baby carriages can also be taken up to the summit in the gondolas.

The spa town of Oberwiesenthal and the Fichtelberg region play an important role for Saxony as a tourist destination, emphasizes Hanisch-Lupaschko. Not only is this the largest alpine ski resort in the Free State, but there are also many other offers for hiking, cycling and horse riding, rides on the summer toboggan run, monster scooters or a historic stagecoach. And action fans can whizz down the mountain on a fly-line. According to the tourism association, Oberwiesenthal's hotels and guesthouses with at least 10 beds counted almost 138,000 guests last year - with almost 469,000 overnight stays.

The ride on the suspension railroad itself only takes around four minutes. Up to 40 passengers are transported over 303 meters in altitude from the valley station up to the summit. The gondolas are younger than the actual cable car - they were built in Dresden in the 1960s. Lötzsch is not worried about the elderly lady in the near future: "She's still in top shape even after 100 years," he assures us. How long tourists will be able to enjoy the view on the ride up the mountain depends on how the regulations for operation develop. "But it will definitely still be running for the next 15 to 20 years."

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