Löbau is a city in Saxony and Upper Lusatia, about 25 km southwest of Görlitz. It can be reached easily by train or bus. With a population of about 15,000 people, the city lies between the slopes of the Löbauer Berg and the Upper Lusatian mountains. The double peaks of the Löbauer Berg (447 m ) and the Schafberg (449 m ) are the landmarks of the city.
First mentioned in 1221, Löbau was a member of the Six-City League of Upper Lusatia founded in 1346, which included the cities of Görlitz, Kamenz, Lauban (today Lubań in Poland) and Zittau. The league was an alliance formed in order to protect peace and order in the region, and lasted longer than any other city union in Germany.
The square is lined with restored old buildings and dominated by the Baroque town hall, which was completed in 1714. Over the years, numerous fires laid waste to the city, but a look down Badergasse with the gables of the houses facing the streets, gives us a glimpse of what the city might have looked like so many years before.
The city of Löbau is home to the famous House Schminke, a modern residential building designed by German architect Hans Scharoun, who also designed the Berlin Philharmonie and state library. The house dates from the 1930s and is ranked one of the most important residential homes of classical modernism in the world. The Schminke family, who commissioned and lived in the house, owned and operated a noodle factory. Its considered one of the most important architectural creations of the interwar period, with its curved, white facade and porthole-style windows, reminiscent of a steamship. Today visitors can tour or even stay overnight in the famous house.
House Schminke at night
But my favorite thing about Löbau, by far, is the view from their mountain! To find the paths up, you must walk southeast from the train station to Friedenshain park, a beautiful park lined with trees, to the victory memorial. The 13 m high obelisk was erected on the 25th anniversary of Germany’s victory at Verdun during the Franco-Prussian War. Cross the street and begin your somewhat steep ascent up Löbauer Berg. There are a few paths, I chose to take the “Karl-Michel-Weg” path which leads you to the “Gusseisener Turm” or cast-iron tower.
It’s about 1.25 km to the restaurant and tower on top of Löbauer Berg. The King-Friedrich-August-Tower is a landmark of the city of Löbau and was built in 1854. The 28 m high tower is the biggest cast-iron tower in Europe and probably the oldest anywhere in the world, offering 360° views of the Zittau Hills and the Upper Lusatian highlands. Designed by Friedrich August Bretschneider, it was inaugurated after King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony died. The poor guy fell off a horse while travelling in Tirol and it stepped on his head, killing him. He is buried in the Hofkirche in Dresden and a chapel was built on the spot where he died – he left no heirs, so his brother succeeded him.
I arrived early in the morning before the restaurant was open, but it doesn’t matter – you can still climb the tower – but make sure to bring €2 to pay the machine and get through the turnstile! (The machine accepts €2, €1, 50 & 20 cent coins). The spiral staircase has 120 steps and three platforms. I was lucky to be there on a sunny day when the canola fields were in bloom, making the landscape look like a brightly colored quilt!
After coming down from the tower I decided continue on the “Prinzenweg” path to the other tower – the TV Tower on Schafberg. Löbau belongs to the so-called “Valley of the Clueless” (Tal der Ahnungslosen) – a humorous nickname for regions in the GDR where people were generally unable to receive TV programming from West Germany due to poor signals. It was illegal to watch, but people in other areas who could tune in to the channels, of course did.
The Schafberg is just as high as the Löbauer Berg and very close, so you barely even notice that you have ascended another mountain top. I was walking along the path, surrounded by trees, when suddenly I realized that to my right, behind a big fence, was the 162 m – tall TV tower, built in 1988. It’s another landmark for the town, always visible on the horizon, but not necessarily interesting to see up-close.
I continued walking along what was now the “Geldkeller Weg” path. I had no idea what this was, but they had signs around to tell about the legend of the gold cellar, which I looked for, but couldn’t find. And for good reason! Legend has it, the gold cellar only opens up on special occasions – like “feast nights” or religious holidays, and then only at certain times of the day and for certain people. There are many stories of people on the Schafberg, such as a weary man collecting wood or hunting, when he suddenly sees the entrance to a cave. Surprised, he only ventures into the cave after the wind blows his hat right off his head and into the dark cave. Once he gathers up the courage to descend into the cave, he notices a glowing light that grows larger and he comes to a table around which sit several eerily pale men – counting piles and piles of gold coins. All around them lay vast amounts of treasure. Without saying a word to the man, they pick up his lost hat, fill it with treasure and return it to him, sending him on his way. Naturally, the man returns home and tells his wife about the experience and then returns the next day to try to find the cave entrance again, but is unsuccessful. It is said that those who go searching for the cellar out of greed, wanting to find the treasures that lay inside – will never find it. The entrance will remain hidden from them forever!
Archaological finds on the hill Schafberg indicate that a fortification from the 10th century BC likely played an important role for the Lusatian people who lived there. The stones that form the gold cellar could be remains of this fortification. At this point, the Geldkeller-Weg leads you down and around the mountain, back toward the town of Löbau. You will pass the Berggasthof Honigbrunnen, which looks like an excellent place to stop for a drink or a bite to eat and enjoy the beautiful views after your hike.
The hike to Löbauer Berg and the cast-iron tower is a really great way to have some amazing views in all directions – though a relatively easy hike, it does ascend fairly quickly at times. The old town of Löbau is compact and easy to see on foot and the city is easily reachable by both train and bus, making it a convenient location for your next exploration in Upper Lusatia.
Watch this video I took of the 360° views on top of the cast-iron tower!