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Saxony, from the oldest paddle steamer to the last Trabant

Saxony was once the leading, most densely populated economic region in Germany.

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Saxony, from the oldest paddle steamer to the last Trabant

Saxony was once the leading, most densely populated economic region in Germany. Not much of this (glorious) rich past, which was also “red” in the Weimar Republic, is alive today in the Free State.

But what the state still has: a rich industrial and cultural heritage that is reminiscent of this era - from vintage cars to steamships to wonderful old bridges. We present ideas for a “crazy” trip.

To this day it is one of Dresden's most distinctive landmarks: the steel girder bridge between Loschwitz and Blasewitz over the Elbe; 260 meters long, 141.50 meters wingspan. When it was inaugurated in 1893, it met with some indignant rejection - how could one spoil the beautiful Elbe valley like that, people were outraged at the time! Perhaps the citizens were only annoyed that they had to pay bridge money for the complex construction. Today it is an integral part of the cityscape.

The shape and material of the bridge were demanding and already fixed in the requirement profile: the boatmen's associations did not want any pillars in the riverbed, the hydraulic engineering department wanted a "statically determined iron construction". And so a "stiffened three-hinged suspension bridge" was created from riveted metal struts with an unusually large span.

The building was subjected to a load test with great sympathy from the population. First it was loaded with all sorts of vehicles – steamrollers, streetcars, carriages – with a total weight of 157 tons, then a company of the Dresden Jäger Battalion was allowed to march across the bridge. She held. And the bridge survived the Second World War because courageous Dresdeners prevented the Wehrmacht from destroying it in 1945 by secretly cutting through the cables intended to blow up the bridge.

The official name of the structure is Loschwitz Bridge, but in fact everyone just calls it the "Blue Wonder". Where does the name come from? From the blue paint, of course, and the immense wingspan was originally perceived as a miracle.

Floating old-timers from the industrial transport age go on a big river trip several times a day at full steam with the chimney folded down directly under the "Blue Wonder".

Dresden is the home port of the oldest and largest fleet of paddle steamers in the world, which operate on the Elbe between Diesbar-Seußlitz and Bad Schandau, docking at Pillnitz Castle, Königstein Fortress and other stations in Saxon Switzerland.

Seven of the nine nostalgic side paddle steamers made their maiden voyage back in the 19th century. These include the "Diesbar" from 1884, which is still fired with coal today, making it the oldest regularly operated paddle steamer machine in the world. If you want to experience all the ships at once, you should make a note of the annual steamboat parade on May 1st.

If you also have a heart and an ear for happy New Orleans jazz, you shouldn't miss the "Riverboat Shuffle" as part of the International Dixieland Festival - three hours of live music in a setting that is reminiscent of Mississippi steamboat romance.

Scheduled trips: There are four tariff zones between Diesbar-Seußlitz and Bad Schandau, the price depends on the distance, saechsische-dampfschifffahrt.de

Until shortly after reunification, the Saxon motorcycle factory in Zschopau, with its "MZ" brand, was one of the largest manufacturers in the world. No one else in Europe built so many motorcycles during the Cold War, more than 2.5 million units rolled off the assembly line here in the GDR era and up until 1992.

Some of them are on display in the former electoral hunting lodge of Augustusburg, ten kilometers away. The motorcycle museum set up there has 175 exhibits and is the largest collection of MZ machines and their predecessors, the DKW, in the world.

The museum skilfully stages the entire technical development of motorcycles from 1885 to the present day - with historical racing scenes, eyewitness interviews and specially produced films, for example on MZ street racing.

You can also see prototypes and one-offs from other brands: for example a white Mars from Nuremberg, a beautifully restored Indian Chief, a rare Ariel Leader, two three-seater giants from Bohemia or the bizarre, collapsible micromotorcycle Welbike, which Allied airborne troops dropped over France in 1944.

Another highlight: the sound simulator imitates the sounds of completely different machines. The visitor can let a DKW charging pump, an MZ racing and off-road engine, a Wanderer V2 and an AWO four-stroke engine roar electronically at different speeds.

Those who prefer four wheels and a horse trot can also visit the carriage museum at Augustusburg Castle – with magnificent city, society and gala carriages from the Saxon Marstall. (the-seen-worth-three.de)

Over 115 years of automotive history. Over 160 paint, leather and chrome finishes. Over 500 hp in the engine of an Auto Union racing car. And over 20 emotional worlds. These are some of the superlatives that the August Horch Museum in Zwickau has to offer. Pioneering spirit and inventiveness can be experienced at the original location and at the birthplace of the Audi brand.

For example in the original study of the gifted designer Dr. August Horch, whose name became "Audi" in Latin. And he himself became the Lord of the Rings when the four Saxon manufacturers Horch, Audi, DKW and Wanderer merged to form Auto Union AG in 1932 – they chose the four intertwined rings as their company logo.

The gas station from the 1930s, for example, is magnificently staged, where an elegant Horch 375 Pullman limousine and an Audi “Zwickau” are parked. Also exciting: The "Grand Hotel Royal" with the luxury Horch that has just pulled up or the indoor street with corner shops and parked DKW automobiles. And everywhere there are gems like the shimmering green Horch 853 sports cabriolet, whose metallic effect paintwork was created by adding fish scales - at the 1936 fair it was sensational.

Despite difficult restart conditions after the Second World War, the Zwickau engineers never stopped developing new and modern cars, but on orders from the GDR leadership they always had to stick to the Trabant, the rattling two-stroke engine with a duroplast body.

His story is also told in Zwickau. From the first (built in 1957) to the last copy. It has the production number 3,069,099, is pink in color and rolled off the assembly line straight into the museum. Curiously, it is not a GDR car, because when the last Trabi was assembled in Zwickau on April 30, 1991, all of Saxony had long been part of the Federal Republic. (horch-museum.de)

Industrial culture in Saxony:

There are a number of other museums and sights on the subject of transport.

Dresden: Transport Museum, funicular

Chemnitz: railway museum, museum for Saxon vehicles

Hartmannsdorf: Saxon Commercial Vehicle Museum

Hohenstein-Ernstthal: Textile and Racing Museum TRM

Narrow-gauge railways: Lößnitzgrundbahn, Weisseritztalbahn, Zittau narrow-gauge railway, Fichtelbergbahn, Döllnitzbahn

Information: sachsen-tourismus.de

The research was supported by the Tourismus Marketing Gesellschaft. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.com/de/Werte/downloads.

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