From the bus, I gazed at the city’s sky line, thinking how far away that tempting tower looked, yet knowing that I was going to try to get there anyway! I usually give myself at least 1 hour to walk away from the venue, then an hour or so to find my way back, so it was all up to me and how fast my legs would go!
Plauen is a city in the Free State of Saxony, east-central Germany. The first recorded mention of a settlement at Plauen was in 1122, under the Slavic name, “Vicus Plawen”. The name is derived from the Slavic “plawat”, which translates to “swim raft”. Presumably, this name refers to the former rafting which took place on the river here. In 1224 Plauen was granted town status. On May 15, 1548 the city was burned down almost completely. The town hall, the church, the castle, the parish, and the school building were all lost in the fire. In 1602, Plauen became the capital of the Vogtland district. A railway was built in the town in 1848. In the late 19th century, Plauen became a textile manufacturing center, specializing in lace, and started rapidly to grow in 1904. In the 1930s, Plauen earned the dubious distinction of hosting the first chapter of the Nazi Party outside of Bavaria. Plauen’s population has shrunk dramatically since World War II, as around 75% of the city was destroyed in the war. From 1945 on, Plauen belonged to the Soviet occupation zone of Germany (from 1949 to 1990 it belonged to the German Democratic Republic). During that time it hosted a large Red Army occupation garrison and, in the last years of the East German state, the officer school of the border guards (“Grenztruppen der DDR”). Now, Plauen is the chief place in Germany for the manufacture of embroidered white goods of all kinds, for the finishing of woven cotton fabrics, and, still, for the making of lace. The manufacturing of white goods was introduced by Swabian, or Swiss, immigrants. Last, but not least of all these Plauen facts: The exposé, Fast Food Nation, gives special mention to Plauen as the first city in East Germany, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, to have a McDonald’s restaurant…However I did not find it on my walkabout:(
As the venue falls away behind me, and the sky line in front of me begins to be hidden by closer buildings as I descend the hill, I see other intriguing structures that actually end up being “nothing special”, such as this building below. It’s mini-tower deceived me, luring me towards it with no historical prize of significance once I arrive. I find these buildings from time to time, and I just think how cool it is that even buildings with no obvious historical importance still sometimes get to look “old-cool” and important anyway! And this building wasn’t much of a nuisance, since it was not off the beaten path into town.
The biggest stone arch bridge in the world is located in Plauen, called Friedensbrucke or “Peace Bridge”. I didn’t see that one on my walkabout, but I did walk over the oldest bridge in the Free State of Saxony, called the Alte Elsterbrucke…
In the distance, you can see the twin towers of one of the main symbols of the city, St. John’s Church. The Alte Elsterbruecke bridge dates back to 1244, and was last restored between 1970 and 1984…
It’s so cold outside that I actually lost all the color in my cheeks AND my lips! In the distance of the picture above, you can see the tower of the Old/New City Halls of the Plauen.
As I crossed the bridge and neared the center of town ahead, bustling with dog walkers, students, and shoppers, I saw what I can only assume is the ruins of the old castle of Hradschin, now used as a law court or “Authorities Center”, possibly in conjunction with the yellow building.
If this is not the remains of the castle tower, my photo context clues suggest that there used to be some kind of military activity here, maybe barracks…
…due to the bombed look of the ruins, mixed in with the barbed wire and the gate, not pictured here. A nearby sign title reads, “Den Opfern von Krieg und Gewaltherrschaft zum Gedenken”, which, loosely translated from my limited research, means “Commemorating The Victims of War and Tyranny/Never Alone”. Bus Driver Ralph read the rest of the sign for me and he says it talks about young prisoners kept here, usually 15 or 16 years old, who were sent away to different camps during WWII, and after 1945, some returned to the town, however usually very sick or weak.
Walking down the other side of the yellow building and tower, I see in the distance an amazing shot I have to stop and take of St. John’s Church (Johanniskirche). Of Plauen’s three Evangelical churches, the most prominent is this fine Late Gothic church which has Romanesque towers topped by Baroque crowns. St. John’s was consecrated in 1122, rebuilt in 1224 as a basilica, and rebuilt again after its destruction in 1945.
More on that church later…Next, down the hill, is the Theater Plauen-Zwickau, or the Vogtland Theatre (classically styled, built in 1898) which represents the cultural center of the town. It was partially destroyed in the 1945 bombing.
…the theater has been home to comedies, dramas, concerts, and even puppet plays!
Wandering around downtown, I came upon this adorable old lady trio, trying to keep their smallest lady warm…I totally feel her pain…but what nice friends!
In front of Plauen’s gallerie, or mall, is a bust of Julius Mosen, who was a German poet and author of Jewish descent, associated with the Young Germany movement, and now remembered most for his patriotic poem, the “Andreas-Hofer-Lied”, the present anthem of the Austrian Bundesland. There are three principal themes in Mosen’s life and work: love of the home country, the battle for freedom, and the now-destroyed German-Jewish symbiosis. From 1817 – 1822, he studied at the “gymnasium” (comparable to a U.S. college preparatory high school) in Plauen.
Across the street I see the Luther Church (Lutherkirche). It was built between 1693 and 1722 and is one of the oldest baroque central churches in Saxony, as well as the second oldest church in Plauen. It was founded on August 24, 1693.
It took 29 years from it’s founding year for the church to be consecrated (December 10, 1722). For a long time, it was the burial church of Plauen, only used for funeral sermons. The cemetery was created (1548) next door, which was expanded in 1679 and 1899, after the establishment of a new secularized cemetery.
After the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, the church was used as a hospital. In 1834, an organ was purchased for the church. From 1840 to 1861, a room was created for Catholic worship. In 1877/78, the church was refurbished and a new tower bell was purchased. With the founding of the Lutheran church, by the Parochialteilung (pastoral district) on April 3, 1893, the building became a parish church of the Lutheran church in Plauen. In 1900, during further structural renovation, the Lutheran pastoral district donated a new, “dignified” bell.
I looked behind the church and, based on the information about Lutherkirche having a cemetery at one time, I don’t know if the snow was covering it or if it has since been moved, but the only thing I saw in the backyard is the building below, with the words, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, in German, written across the facade. You can see it below the yellow dot (which is actually a hanging star) towards the roof. “A Mighty Fortress” is one of the best loved hymns of the Lutheran and Protestant traditions. It has been called the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation” for the effect it had in increasing the support for the Reformers’ cause. Martin Luther wrote the words and composed the melody sometime between 1527 and 1529.
Apparently, this is the Lutherkirche’s fellowship hall, called Lutherhaus, or Luther Hall, where circles and groups meet during the week for church activities. They also are currently holding worship here while the church is being refurbished.
Both the Lutherkirche and Lutherhaus have signs referencing the 1989 Friedlichen Revolution, or Peaceful Revolution, which was a series of peaceful political protests against the authoritarian government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) of East Germany, taking place every Monday evening. In the city of Leipzig, the demonstrations began on September 4, 1989 after regular prayers for peace in the Nikolai Church. Safe in the knowledge that the Lutheran Church supported their resistance, many dissatisfied East German citizens gathered in the court of the church, and non-violent demonstrations began, in order to demand rights such as the freedom to travel to foreign countries and to elect a democratic government. Informed by (West German) television and friends about the events, people in other East German cities began repeating the Leipzig demonstration, meeting at city squares on Monday evenings.
Plauen’s Lutherkirche became well-known during this period of political transition. On October 7, 1989, the first major demonstration during the Friedlichen Revolution in East Germany took place in Plauen. Of the city’s roughly 78,000 residents, an estimated 15,000 were said to have filled the cobble-stone square in the town centre, despite the driving rain, the heavy police presence, and the water cannons used to disperse the crowd. Hundreds of candles that represented the call for peaceful protest were placed at the church’s side entrance. Even today, the spots of wax on the steps are still visible.
Doubling back and crossing the street again, I continue on my path to view the Old and New City Halls of Plauen. I meet the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus Plauen) section first, which was built in 1912 in the neo-Baroque style. Due to the sudden growth of the town since the 1880s, a new administration building was needed. City planner, William Goette, tabled a draft, and the laying of the foundation began one year later. In the autumn of 1916, the exterior was completed, despite the war. In 1921, eight shops were purchased in the market street and in the same year, the City Council first met in the new meeting rooms. In 1922, the New City Hall was completed. The hall was heavily damaged during WWII (big surprise). The front was rebuilt using more modern materials (steel/glass), and was completed in 1976. Though there are plans to reconstruct the facade again, restoring it to the original state, those plans are currently on hold due to lack of funds.
The session and administration offices of the municipal council, the Police, the Registry Office, a branch of the Dresden City Savings Bank, the district office seat, and the Public Library are all located in Neues Rathaus Plauen.
I see an entry way in the middle of the hall facade, which seems to cut completely through the center of the building and to the other side. I wander down this short cut, and FINALLY discover where all the pigeons of Germany hang out…
This is the first gathering of pigeons, napping no less, that I have seen on this tour! But I guess no one has given them the age-old advice, “Don’t poop where you nap”. Maybe they have no choice…maybe it keeps them warm?…this is a mystery I am going to leave unsolved…
Through the passageway, and around the corner to the left…
…is the Old City Hall section, Plauen Rathaus…
The Old City Hall was presumably built earlier than 1329. The local mill owner, Gottlieb Traugott Bienert, donated the land for the building site. The hall was rebuilt several times. From 1503 to 1508, one version of the late-Gothic building was built with arched windows. In the town fire of 1548, the hall was severely damaged. The reconstruction was started in the same year, and was drafted with the remaining foundations of the Gothic Renaissance gable. Yet another refurbishment of Old City Hall was between 1893/94. The hall was rededicated on Oct. 18, 1894.
The figure of St. George, to the right of the main facade, in front of the museum section, was created by Robert Henze…
Saint George was, according to tradition, a Roman priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography (the study of saints) Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial (Feast Day) is celebrated on April 23rd, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints. As a highly celebrated saint in both the Western and Eastern Christian churches, a large number of Patronages of Saint George exist throughout the world.
Inside the Old City Hall is a lace museum, actually the only lace museum in Germany, displaying a representative selection of historic lace and embroidery, as well as products from current Plauen production.
The former municipal coat of arms is still visible at the Old City Hall entrance, as well as a high Renaissance gable and a clock with mechanical figures. The ornate clock in the gable was installed by Hofer Master George Puhkaw in 1548. An online description of the clock (loosely) reads: Two lions fight to the quarter hour, two men move as the clock strikes the hour. On every strike, the left man moves his right arm, holding a stick. The man on the right ‘calls out the hour’, suggested by the up and down movement of his beard, as if he’s opening his lips. I wish I could have seen all that happen! It would be like the “It’s A Small World” clock tower in Disneyland, except with bearded guys seemingly grabbing their crotch instead of children in cute costumes!
After leaving the old town square, I walked past St. John’s Church, wading through over a foot of snow, tried the door, found it locked, pouted, then made my way around to a “hole in the wall” walkway that led me downhill and around the other side of the church…
Here, as I was on my way to completing my Plauen path circle, I got another good shot of the Church of St. John, which is the oldest church in the city. The church was built by Count Adalbert of Everstein (Eberstein). In 1122, it was ordained by Bishop Dietrich I of Naumburg on the orders of Emperor Henry V. By 1230, an extension of the original Romanesque basilica was added. Severe fire damage resulted in its conversion to a late Gothic hall church in 1548, and the cultivation of the two tower pinnacles in 1644, completing the present appearance of the church. During WWII the church suffered even more severe damage. The south tower was restored and the damage to the roof was removed in the course of the reconstruction from 1951 to 1959.
My final Plauen adventure lay waiting for me up these stairs to the tower ruins…
There was no visible sidewalk even leading up to these stairs, much less an invitation to climb them, based on the thick, untouched snow piled on every narrow step! However, my curiosity and heightened European sense of adventure got the best of me and I slowly started kicking off the snow and wedging my foot onto each step…slowly and awkwardly…pedestrians and drivers gawking behind my back, I’m sure!
The process was so unsteady and difficult that, after just one set of steps, I figured my physical safety wasn’t worth getting a yard or two closer to the tower, so I stopped on the first landing, snapped my shot…
Then turned around to, even more carefully, head down the slippery, steep, narrow stairs-o-death…
With that being done, I fought my way back to the sidewalk, re-entered the pedestrian society as if I’d done nothing out of the ordinary, and began my journey back to the venue.
Our Plauen show venue is called The Festhalle Plauen…
The site has been used for over 120 years as the location for any and all city festivals. There have been two previous buildings on the site. Firstly, in 1888, the Central Hall was completed (built from timber) and then expanded in 1896. Until 1945 it was used similarly to the Festhalle Plauen venue. After the war the hall was demolished and the timber was used for firewood. The first Festival Hall was built in 1925, next to the Central Hall and, after the war, it continued to be used. In 1983, it had to be closed due to serious construction defects, then finally demolished in 1985. On May 30, 1986, the new hall construction began. It was completed in September 1989 and inaugurated on Republic Day, October 7, 1989. In 2005 it was converted/rennovated into the current Festival Hall which re-opened as a convention center on August 30, 2007. The venue offers various performance spaces and 3,500 seats for concerts, fairs and conferences.
Here’s the funny part, though…the performance space’s ceiling was so short that the crew couldn’t assemble our ramps and stage platforms!!! This is the first time this has happened to us…if we had attempted to fit all the pieces on stage, MJ would be singing with a stage light on his head!
Below are Richie and Carl jamming on what will be MJ’s only platform for this evening…
Despite our short, naked set, and the dancers having to re-block half the entrances and exits they make during the show, “The Ultimate Thriller” had a great performance. This was due, in part, to our fabulous local children’s choir, which had their own choreography to “Heal The World”…they were very together!!! They really made the song extra special. Thanks kids! We love it when there’s a children’s choir…it keeps MJ from getting too lonely onstage:)
I would like to thank Plauen for making it especially difficult for me to find information on some of its less-famous sites, as well as all the fires of Plauen, which gave me more rebuilding and restoration dates than ever before to include in my newsletter! But all the research is worth it to learn about the Peaceful Revolution of 1989…a really powerful story.
I gotta say…there’s a powerful story in every town in which I walkabout!
On that thought, I say goodnight, and thanks for reading!!!