On the road in the southern Dahlener Heide
Already in autumn we were on the road in the northern part of the Dahlener Heide (Heathland) and visited the towns of Schildau and Belgern. Now it is the turn of the south with the name-giving city Dahlen. My preferred means of transportation is the bicycle, even though many routes are easy to walk. Let’s go on a bicycle tour through the Dahlener Heide.
Where is the Dahlener Heide?
The Dahlener Heide is a larger forest landscape about 50 km east of Leipzig in Saxony. It stretches between the small towns of Dahlen in the south, Belgern in the east at the river Elbe and Schildau in the west with the Schildberg forest. Often the Wermsdorf forest is also included or mentioned „in one breath“ with the Dahlener Heath. It is located north of Wermsdorf and adjoins the area of the Dahlener Heide, but is clearly separated from the otherwise connected area by some open fields as well as the B6 road and the railroad line Leipzig – Dresden. In the northwest of the Dahlener Heide the Dübener Heide is connected, again divided by some open fields, the B87 road and the railroad line Leipzig – Cottbus.
Forest, meadows, fields – landscapes of the Dahlener Heide
In the Dahlener Heide there are still large pinewood forests, in addition, increasingly beeches – mixed forests. Especially due to wind breakage and bark beetle infestation in recent years, forestry measures for forest restructuring are becoming more and more urgent, so that the initiated change to more deciduous trees and shrubs will certainly be accelerated somewhat.
In the forest areas as well as at the edges there are more or less large open spaces – areas with partly intensive agriculture, but also mowed meadows and scattered in the forests wild fields and clearings. As equestrian sports and horse-driving operations are becoming increasingly popular on the outskirts of the Dahlener Heide, larger pastures and meadows for haymaking are being created. This changes the character of the landscape to more diverse structures. The Dahlener Heide has long been a protected landscape area, and this was only expanded again a few years ago. Within the area there are a number of nature reserves and natural monuments.
The Dahlener Heide is a rather gentle hilly landscape. In the surroundings there are mainly flat agricultural plains, the wooded areas have a more „exhilarating“ relief. The highest elevation is on the western edge with 217m above sea level the Schildberg near Schildau. This mountain is more in connection with the Hohburg mountains even further west. Towards the east there is an irregular rise of the heath landscape, which was caused by the bed load of the Saale – ice age. There height differences can amount to fast times 50m on short distances. Further to the east the heath falls down to the Elbe.
Start of the bike tour through the Dahlener Heide
For a nice bike ride in the Dahlener Heide several entry points are possible. The easiest way is to start directly at the train station in Dahlen. There the „Saxonia-Expreß„, the RE between Leipzig and Dresden stops. For a good round trip I would not enter Dahlen at the start (the station is about 1km south of the city center), but at the first traffic circle in northwest direction to Schwarzer Kater and further to Börln. You will drive on rather little frequented roads through fields. At Schwarzer Kater, the GDR government (former east germany) wanted to build a nuclear power plant in the 90s – in 1989 there was an environmental church service with protest bike rides to the church of Börln, which was closely watched by the secret police Stasi.
From Börln the way leads to the Dammühlen – pond. There you can swim at your own risk. Nearby is Ochsensaal with the restaurant Fröhlich, a first stop – possibility. From Ochsensaal you go in the direction of Schildau for about one kilometer to the edge of the forest on the A-Way. On this way in eastern direction you will reach the middle of the Dahlener Heide. After about 2km you have to cross the relatively busy S23 (street connection from Sitzenroda to Schmannewitz) – be careful and pay attention! After that you will hardly pass bigger roads, and if you do, they are not very busy. Only in Dahlen are you exposed to more traffic again.
Meeting place Jägereiche
The Sieben-Quellen-Tal, engl.: Seven Spring Valley follows on the left. Time to turn off the bike for a few minutes and follow the paths on foot.
The center of the Dahlener Heide
For the continuation of the path you can choose the „Jägereiche„, engl: „Hunter’s Oak“ as your destination. This is centrally located in the middle of the Dahlener Heide. It marks a path spider with branches from and in all directions. If you have already been in the Northern Dahlener Heide and stayed overnight in Belgern, Wohlau or Neußen, you can find the connection in the Southern Heide here. Also from Schildau via Sitzenroda, from Taura via the forest road or from Lausa, the Jägereiche is easy to reach (though sometimes with a little further approach) and a perfect transition to the southern heath area.
However, the real „hunters oak“ no longer exists. As early as 1591 the name „an der jeger eychen“ was used for this crossroads. In 1763, a wooden memorial column was erected in this area to commemorate the last court hunt of Friedrich August King of Saxony and Poland. A replica of it still stands today. Remains of the original can be found in the village church of Sitzenroda, the previous replica in the local museum in Dahlen.
From the Hunter’s Oak there are various possibilities to continue the bike tour.
Good paths in all directions
The paths are well signposted in this area and basically a small overview map of the Dahlener Heide is enough to find your way around. You can cycle all over the woods and try to take all the waymarks or highlights with you. In spite of the numerous forest measures to control bark beetles, most of the paths are in a very good condition (usually compacted gravel surface). If you don’t feel like it anymore, you can reach one of the possible neighborhoods like Schmannewitz, Reudnitz or Dahlen in half an hour or 3/4 of an hour.
Paths – Recommendation “ detour east „: From the hunting oak towards the east to the „Tabakskiefer“ engl:“tobacco pine“ and further to Reudnitz. There is a restaurant with rather „down-to-earth“ dishes, in the heath of course also game. A bathing possibility at the forest pond is available. Back via the M-path to the Hospital-Hütte, engl: hospital hut. This is a small forest restaurant on the Holzstraße (also accessible by car). Nearby is the „Großer Findling„, engl:“Great Boulder“ – a granite boulder of Scandinavian origin, which came to this region during the Saale Ice Age. With estimated 1,50 x 2 m not exactly the giant boulder, but in the area there are not too many such ice age – witnesses.
Brehms Ruhe, Tote Magd and Waldbad
engl: Brehm’s rest, dead maid and forest bath
Alternative route – from „Hunters oak“ directly to the south: Continue to Brehm’s Ruhe (rest). This place can also be reached directly from the Hunter’s Oak via a quiet, mossy path. Brehm’s rest and quiet can be traced back to the visits of the zoologist and research traveler Dr. Alfred Brehm, who as a hunting guest stayed several times in the Dahlener Heide and in a hunting lodge nearby. Brehm comes from the Thuringian town of Renthendorf, was, in addition to his excursions, a teacher at the Leipzig grammar school and later became zoo director in Hamburg and director of the Berlin aquarium. He visited Schmannewitz at the invitation of the Leipzig publisher Graupner.
detour east – Driver – again briefly back: Already at the direct connection way from the Jägereiche to Brehms Ruhe lies the „Tote Magd“, engl: „dead maid“. It is said that a maid was struck by lightning at this spot – and that already before 1575, because already at that time the parcel was described as „closed after the dead maid“. For centuries, passers-by have laid down fresh branches here – rarely has the death of a maid been remembered for so long. Today a small stone setting of a grave similar to a cross engraving can be found. And above it, huge magnolia bushes are proliferating, so – in the meantime fresh green is permanently provided.
If you continue south, you will find a smaller connecting road between Schmannewitz and Waldbad. To the left is the Waldbad Schmannewitz, a forest lake with a large slide and cable car leading out onto the pond. A snack bar and rowing boat rental complete the leisure activities. In the other direction you come to Schmannewitz.
This is a designated resort, unfortunately a bit run down in the meantime. Especially along the S23 road, which leads from here to Dahlen, the village has lost its style. But there is a relatively new Hotel Wiesenhof with café and a small home – zoo. Enthusiasts have also put together a rural museum and an exhibition of historical fire fighting technology. Next to the village church there is a Protestant vacation home. On the road to the Waldbad, a rehabilitation clinic complex for orthopedic treatment and heart patients has been built in the last decades. Traditionally, Schmannewitz has several pension houses. The landscape to the east and north of Schmannewitz, in which we are currently moving, is ideal for recreation and relaxation.
Along the Dahle creek to Dahlen
Slowly we approach Dahlen again. From the Waldbad to the south (first of all via the parking lot) as well as from Schmannewitz you can reach the valley of the Dahle and on the valley path towards Dahlen. The path passes several ponds, which are fed by the Dahle water and were obviously created for fish farming in the past. The Saxon Court must have had an endless need for carp, as many ponds as were dammed up everywhere in the time of King August the Strong. Impressive are some really gnarled old oaks in the avenue-like accompanying trees, which are also left standing as natural monuments. At the end of the forest there is an old water mill on the left.
Where the path meets the S23 street, a bicycle/footpath was created a few years ago. Above it we now quickly reach the village of Dahlen.
Dahlen with baroque manor house
I recommend that you turn slightly diagonally into the small residential street at the end of the cycle path. While on the left side there are still some developed properties, the chateau park already begins on the right side. Because Dahlen has a baroque manor house… or what is unfortunately only left of it.
In March 1973 the manor house burnt down to a large extent. At that time it was mainly used as a boarding school for an agricultural college. The insurance money paid out was used for the construction of a new boarding school and not for the protection and restoration of the manor house. Thus the ruin was exposed to the weather for 20 years without protection. Since the first security measures at the beginning of the 1990s, step by step a reasonably acceptable state of preservation has been achieved. Around the year 2010, a Dahlener manor house and park association was founded, which aims to restore the castle and already organizes guided tours and various events.
History of the Dahlen baroque castle
Construction and design of Dahlen Manor House
The baroque castle of Dahlen was built between 1744 and 1751 on the grounds of an old manor by the imperial court councillor Heinrich von Bünau. He was widely known as a historian and book lover with a library of about 40,000 volumes. In addition, he studied law and was president of the Court of Appeal. From 1740 on, he was in the service of Emperor Charles the 6th, later the 7th emperor.
The palace building had the ground plan of an H and corresponded in style to the Dresden Baroque. Terraces connected the palace to the east side with the palace park.
In the years from 1756 to 1759, Adam Friedrich Oeser, Goethe’s drawing teacher, added ceiling paintings in Viennese Baroque and Classicism to the Emperor’s Hall, the Great Festival Hall, the entrance hall and the staircase.
The librarian Johann Joachim Winckelmann also maintained a library in Dahlen as part of Bünaus‘ large book collection.
Historical highlight – End of the Seven Years War
At the beginning of 1763 the peace negotiations to end the Seven Years‘ War (1756- 1763) took place in the nearby castle Hubertusburg in Wermsdorf. The Prussian King Friedrich II (the „Old Fritz“) resided in Dahlen Castle during these days and signed the peace treaty there on February 21, 1763. With this „Hubertusburg Peace“ the Seven Years War was ended. The „Old Fritz“ found the stay „really quite kapabel, almost exquisite“ and extended it until March 13th of that year.
In 1851 the castle became the property of the Sahr von Sahrer family. They lived in Dahlen Castle until the expropriation by the land reform in 1945 and were able to escape arrest and deportation by last-minute warnings. All remaining works of art including a gallery of ancestors of the former owners were transferred from the castle to the Dresden collections.
Until 1954 the castle served as a police school. After that it became part of the real estate portfolio of the GDR Ministry of Agriculture and became an engineering school for meat industry.
Fire and destruction
On March 20, 1973 the castle burns because of an improper stovepipe connection. The central building is largely destroyed, the relatively little damaged side wings are robbed shortly afterwards by politically decided demolition of the roof construction. In 1989, the year of the peaceful revolution, the SED°- dominated council of the district wanted to demolish the ruin, which had been exposed to the weather without protection until then. But the changed power constellations prevented this.
°SED … former east german communist party
Preservation and maintenance measures
In the early 1990s, the city of Dahlen implemented the first safety measures such as an emergency roof.
Greater progress in preservation and restoration has been made since the involvement of citizens in the Dahlen Manor and Park Association. A better protective roof was built and all rooms were made publicly accessible again. In 2014 windows for the south wing were produced and installed in a separate workshop. Within the framework of a workcamp, high-quality parquet flooring was laid in 2017 in the Hall of Mirrors and the Kaisersaal (Emperor’s Hall) with the help of parquet layers from all over Europe working free of charge.
However, there is still a long way to go before a complete restoration is achieved. So far no financing could be secured.
Town hall, market and Sackhupper – sculpture
The marketplace of Dahlen has undergone several beauty treatments in recent years and is also quite a sight to behold. The town hall in particular is very impressive. However, the square is not very busy – as is unfortunately often the case in small East German towns. On one corner there is an organic food store, next to the street in the direction of Belgern a Döner/Pizza/ Indian snack bar. At least there you can sit outside in summer. Because of the Sackhupper – legend there was a Sackhopper – monument next to the fountain.
The Dahlen bus station and an inner-city trading area with a flower store and REWE market are located on the road towards Oschatz. A post office branch and another snack bar are also open there at least during the week. To get to the train station, take the road to Luppa, about 1.5km south of the market.
Further possibilities for bike tours in the Dahlener Heide
With this „all around“ you have already got to know a large part of the southern Dahlener Heide. And also the biggest highlights on site. Towards the east the landscape is more open country, smaller woodlands, meadows with streams and large fields.
One option is to cycle on from Bucha via Zeukritz and Schöna to Strehla. There you will find the connection to the Elbe-cycle track again. In Strehla a ferry brings you to the eastern bank of the river Elbe to Lorenzkirch, from where the Elbe cycle path runs comfortably to Riesa.
A round trip, but then on small asphalted roads connecting the villages would be the way from Dahlen to Bucha, Zeukritz -(Schöna) – Reudnitz (-Bockwitz-) and Lausa, from where the old Holz-Straße, engl: wood road leads past the hospital hut back to Dahlen. Personally, I would prefer the forest roads from Lausa on, passing the hunting oak. The wooden road is partly narrow and winding, with short steep climbs – everything that is often underestimated by car drivers and means stress for cyclists.
And for those who do not yet know the northern part of the Dahlener Heide with the Schildbürger (citizen) in Schildau and the Roland in Belgern, you are welcome to cycle from Schmannewitz to the Sieben-Quellen-Tal and there either directly past the White House to Sitzenroda or via the A-Weg to Ochsensaal and then through the forest to Schildau. There you will find the connection in the article about the northern part.
A detour from the Elbe cycle path is also possible – in reverse to the above mentioned path from Strehla, turn off into the Dahlener Heide – Zeukritz, Bucha, Waldbad Schmannewitz. If you have enough time and desire, you can drive past Brehm’s Ruhe to the Jägereiche, from there in reverse as described above on the A-Way westwards, Siebenquellen-Tal (seven spring valley) and Schildau. After visiting the Schildbürgern, the journey can be continued to Belgern on the Elbe as described in the article on the northern part. And from there it goes back to the Elbe cycle path.
Two further possibilities for a „longer approach route“: Already in Wurzen, get on the bike and cycle past the Hohburg mountains to Frauwalde and Ochsensaal. Or start in Kühren (railway station), via Heyda, Dornreichenbach to Frauwalde and Ochsensaal.
Swimming in the Dahlener Heide
In the Dahlener Heide there are several bathing opportunities, even though the area is repeatedly hit by drought. In the northern part already mentioned the seaside resort in Schildau (with camping site) as well as the bath Erlenbruch in Belgern. Here in the text already the forest bath Schmannewitz is mentioned. Otherwise there are small bathing places at some ponds: Dammühlenteich near Ochsensaal, Buchaer Teich and near Reudnitz, Zeukritz and Olganitz. If you arrive by car from the B6, you will find a large bathing opportunity in an old gravel pit near Luppa (south of Dahlen). Especially the dammed up ponds often depend on the water flow of the feeding streams.
Who is walker – fan, finds three proven routes for nordic walking in Schmannewitz of 8,6km (to the Dahle spring) to 18 km over the large round way.
In addition, various hiking trails are marked and lead you to the above mentioned destinations in the heath.
Resin extraction in the Dahlener Heide
In the Dahlener Heide there are still some old pines with large V-shaped grooved areas. Since access to world markets was limited and value dates were scarce, the GDR (former East Germany) tried to extract as many different raw materials as possible from its own resources. One of the raw materials was the tree resin (germ: Harz) of the common pine, which was distilled in the chemical industry to turpentine and colophony. These raw materials could then be further used in the production of paints and varnishes, adhesives, lubricants, sealants and in other areas.
For the resin extraction there was specially the occupation of the „Harzer“ (resiner). These people were actually out and about in the forest all day. In winter, the areas to be resinated were freed from the outer bark with the help of iron scrapers. In spring, a vertical drip channel was then drawn, at the lower end of which a support was hammered in. The resin ran over this into a glass pot, which was roughly shaped like a flower pot. Each week, one or two V-shaped grooves were made in the direction of the drip channel on each tree.
The yield depended strongly on the weather, warm and humid weather made the tree „bleed“ more. With the resin, trees try, similar to blood in humans, to close wounds and ward off pathogens and fungal infestation. Per season a Harzer of 3000 trees could win up to 9 tons of resin. Normally, the trees were then felled within the next few years – the pine tree is considered „ready to be cut“ at the age of 80. However, due to changes in forestry, unresolved ownership issues and a lack of demand after the “ joining of the GDR to FRG „, the felling has often failed to take place until today. So even now, more than 30 years after the last resins in the Dahlener Heide, there are still pines with the typical resinous scars. The occupation of the resin is in the meantime extinct in Germany – the resin production in warm low-wage countries is more profitable. Only in the south of Austria there are still Harzers as „immaterial cultural heritage“, there rather Pechler and the process Pechlerei called.
The current weather in Dahlen and the heathland
How to get to the southern part of the Dahlener Heide
As already briefly indicated above, Dahlen and its train station are located in Saxony directly on the regional express route* Leipzig – Dresden. The RE stop in Dahlen. Bicycles can be taken along from Leipzig free of charge, as Dahlen is located in the area of the Middle German Transport Association (MDV).
The Wurzen and Kühren stations are on the same route and are listed as longer travel alternatives. The Leipzig S-Bahn runs regularly to Wurzen. (S4)
Between Dahlen and Torgau station, a so-called Plus bus (line 781+) also runs on weekends. Unfortunately it is a direct route, without really opening up the area. You can only get to the Heide from the bus stops in Schmannewitz and Sitzenroda.
By car or rental car
With your own vehicle or rental car*, you can travel to Luppa via the B6 (road Leipzig – Dresden). Who comes over the freeway A 14, should leave in Mutschen and arrive over Wermsdorf, Luppa at Dahlen.
Accommodation in the Dahlener Heide
Those who already get off the train in Kühren and only want to cycle a little with luggage will find accommodation in the beautifully restored villa at Rittergut Heyda.* Two bedrooms are available – one with a double bed, the other with a bunk bed. So up to 4 guests can use the hostel. Kitchen with oven and fireplace room complete the offers. Outside you can also barbecue. Via Frauwalde and Ochsensaal you can go into the heath!
In Schmannewitz you can book your vacation apartment with the Deutschmann family*. This apartment is suitable for four persons, but it can also be up to 6 persons (sofa bed in the living room). The kitchen and bathroom are well equipped, in the garden you can barbecue and play table tennis. From Schmannewitz all destinations in the Dahlener Heide can be easily reached by bike. The Waldbad is tempting! Shopping is possible in Schildau or Dahlen. From Schmannewitz through the forest via Ochsensaal or Sitzenroda, a visit to the Schildbürger is a nice further route option!
Really in the middle of the Dahlener Heide lies the Pension Lausa*. The bungalow offers space in 2 single beds in two bedrooms. In the simple kitchen there is a stove, microwave and kettle for preparing food. Vacations with dog or other pets are possible here. Shopping is possible in Schildau or Belgern. The connection to the south tour is via the above mentioned hunting area. Belgern is the nearest regional center.
The vacation apartment Kraußnitzbach* you will find in Neußen, which belongs to Belgern. It is located more on the eastern edge of the Dahlener Heide and is ideal if you are coming from the Elbe Cycle Path or want to continue there. Two persons can use the bedroom with double bed. Together with the sofa bed in the living room there is room for up to 4 guests. With the well-equipped kitchen as well as the barbecue in the garden you can take care of yourself. Shopping is possible in Belgern.
Wohlau also belongs to Belgern and is located on the eastern edge of the Dahlener Heide. There you will find the vacation home Fuxbau* – the only one with a pool! Vacations with dog or other pets are possible. Bicycles can also be rented. Three bedrooms offer space for up to 5 guests.
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