Zittau, Schmalspurbahn, Oybin

On April 13, Jacob, Lillian, Seth, and I went on a day trip to revisit a place I went on a "preparation day" (free day) as an LDS missionary in Görlitz in fall 1991. We took a train from Dresden to Zittau, in Sachsen's far southeast "Dreiländereck", the "three-country corner" where Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic meet. From there we took the Schmalspurbahn (narrow-gauge train) to Oybin. This railroad has tracks about half as wide as normal, 750 mm = 2 ft 5 1⁄2 in wide compared to standard European & American gauge of 1,435 mm = 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in. And the locomotive is a classic steam-powered one! The wagons are outfitted in Deutsche Reichsbahn style with faux wood paneling, green upholstery, and radiators, just like they were in the Communist East German period. They're small and cute to match the narrow railroad tracks.

After arriving in Oybin, they detached the locomotive and filled it up with water again at the Wasserhäuschen (little water house). I've often see those big standing water pipes at train stations, and never thought they were all remnants of the steam engine days! They have even converted the little water house into a Ferienwohnung (vacation apartment rental):

Oybin is a neat little town, but our main reason for going was to see the Burg und Kloster Oybin (mountain and cloister ruins) on the Oybin hill. We approached it from the back side on a path through the still snowy woods:

I find the views from Oybin hill are breathtakingly beautiful:

And the cloister ruins are awesome too, and fun to explore. There is now a small entrance fee, and a lot has changed since 1991. It's more of a managed tourist facility, but I like that it's still unguided and open and has lots of places to explore. They've also dug out a lot of formerly buried parts and so there is quite a bit more to see than there was 22 years ago. There is also the cemetery, guest house (with outdoor mural), carved-out passages, die Unterkirche ("under-church" chapel), hills to climb, etc.:

Something new is a re-opened tower in a corner of the chapel ruin, which is quite tall and narrow inside, and provides some nice views from the top:

In case anyone wonders, "Rauchen ist in der gesamten Burg- und Klosteranlage unerwünscht!" = Smoking is undesired in the entire mountain and cloister area. Undesired, but apparently not quite prohibited? :)

Now, back down from the mount and exploring town, where you can see on this sign that many things are written in German, Polish, and Czech, a friendly welcome to the neighbors:

Then we walked through the woods toward the Czech border, and saw the huge old decaying ski jump that I stumbled across in 1991. It's still there! And now there are posted inside a window copies of newspaper articles from the 1950s through the 1980s about East German ski jump heroes, rebuilding the jump after it was neglected, etc.

Then on to the small town of Hain, past this ruin of a small hotel right on the border, and then over the border back into Czechia! Lillian and Seth were delighted to stand in two countries at the same time. Here the grass really did seem to be greener on the other side of the fence so we went on a short walk in the Czech countryside.

Then back into Hain, Sachsen, Germany:

And back to Zittau for a brief walk around while waiting for our train:

Here, a memorial plaque on a building that reads:

Im Hintergarten diese Grundstückes stand bis zum 9. November 1938 die Synagoge der jüdischen Gemeinde Zittau. Sie wurde an diesem Tag völlig zerstört. Wir gedenken aller jüdischen Menschen, die Opfer des Faschismus wurden. [In the back garden of this lot stood until the 9th of November 1938 the synagogue of the Jewish community of Zittau. It was completely destroyed on this day. We remember all Jewish people who were sacrifices of fascism.] 1989

And back to the Zittau train station to head back to Dresden:

It was a really enjoyable day. I had the MyTracks app on my Android phone using GPS to record our paths and it reported we walked about 8.5 miles. I'm already excited to go back again some day!


  1. Some interesting architecture. Thanks for sharing. I love having the GPS tracking apps and how you can save them on Google Earth.


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