Industrial Culture in Saale-Unstrut - Overview
Saale-Unstrut is not only wine, the Middle Ages, health and a landscape with Tuscan flair. With its impressive relics, the region also opens up various chapters of Middle German industrial culture. We have compiled a list of well-known and lesser-known destinations where you can experience industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut. Come with us on a voyage of discovery!
Paths around industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut
Many paths lead through Saale-Unstrut, offering orientation to all those who want to follow the traces of industrial history. These also include special themed cycle routes. They are less well-known than the Saale Cycle Route, for example, but no less eventful and exciting. We would like to introduce you to these themed routes.
European Route of Industrial Heritage
Industrialisation changed many things in people's lives. Many work steps became easier, but people were needed less in many places, prosperity grew and products were easier to manufacture, the previously unthinkable suddenly became feasible.
Today is again a time of upheaval: structural change means the end for many industrial enterprises. Entire regions are looking for a new identity and a different future. What remains is a rich industrial heritage. The European Route of Industrial Heritage makes this visible. In Saale-Unstrut, for example, the Central Workshop Pfännerhall, the Borlach Museum Bad Dürrenberg or the Chemistry Museum in Merseburg are part of it. You can find out more about these places of industrial culture further down in the article.
Salt Road Cycle Route
The Salt Road, an old trade route, used to connect the salt works, i.e. with facilities for salt extraction. It leads through the south of Saxony-Anhalt from the Elsterradweg near Schkeuditz via Merseburg and the Geiseltalsee to Uftringen on the Harzrundweg. A particularly interesting section is a 43-kilometre tour from Mücheln via Merseburg towards Wallendorf (Luppe).
Brine Coal History Cycle Route
This cycle route takes you from the Geiseltalsee lake in Braunsbedra across to the Saaleradweg and on to Lützen and combines the themes of coal mining, brine extraction and historical events. Right at the beginning of the tour, the Pfännerhall central workshop in Braunsbedra deals with the history of lignite mining in the Geiseltal. The tour continues between the Runstedter and Großkaynaer lakes (also called Südfeldsee) to Bad Dürrenberg with its graduation works and the Borlach shaft museum. The last stop on the tour is Lützen, scene of the great battle of 1632 between the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf and Albrecht von Wallenstein.
Recarbo Coal Cycle Route
The Recarbo Coal Cycle Route tells a piece of Zeitz's industrial history. A small cycling mole shows cyclists the way through the oldest lignite mining area in Central Germany between Zeitz and Weißenfels. Exciting sites make the structural change in the region visible: these include the Herrmannschacht briquette factory in Zeitz, whose history dates back to 1876, and the Deuben Mining Museum.
The end point is the Mondsee Recreation Park, which only came into being with the flooding in the 1990s and was given this name because of its shape. Today, bathers, surfers and campers enjoy their time out from everyday life here.
Sugar Railway Cycle Path
Zeitz is still known for sugar production today, after all, sugar has been made here for over 160 years. Once it was the train that took the sugar beet from the fields to the factory. After the Camburg-Zeitz line was closed, it was initially quiet along the track bed, but since 2019, the 37-kilometre tour has been fully developed for cyclists and connects the Elsterradweg in Zeitz with the Saaleradweg in Camburg.
Worthwhile intermediate destinations are Droyßig Castle with its restaurant, park and bear enclosure, and Camburg Castle. For example, families should explore the Bear Paw Trail in Droyßig and try out the course for traditional archery in the Stöben Forest in Camburg.
Elster raft ditch
The Elsterfloßgraben is a transnational technical monument that runs through the states of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. It was considered the most important canal system in Europe in the 16th century. Of its 93 kilometres in length, 80 kilometres still exist today.
An association is working diligently to revive the tradition of rafting and to preserve the Elster raft ditch. It organises excursions, lectures or practical rafting to impart knowledge about log rafting to visitors. The activities are also linked to the commitment to highlight the importance of the Elster raft ditch as a technical monument of hydraulic engineering and its influence on the ecological network.
Two so-called rafting trails have been laid out near Crossen and near Kötzschau. On these paths you will be accompanied by numerous information boards that provide detailed information about the Elster raft ditch and rafting. Here, industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut is closely linked to the experience of nature.
Thuringian Porcelain Route
In Thuringia, a tradition of over 250 years lives on and radiates worldwide. Only three ingredients make the white gold, which can be delicate and filigree, but also large and robust. But do you know what these ingredients are? Porcelain - that's kaolin, feldspar and quartz. The Thuringian Porcelain Route shows the craftsmanship of the heritage as well as the further developments of the modern age and unites the companies under the umbrella brand Thuringian Porcelain. Manufactories, designers, restorers and modellers, museums and porcelain manufacturers are all part of the themed route.
If you are interested in industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut, you will certainly be grateful for tips about museums where you can pursue industrial history. There are several of them in our region. Hopefully there is a topic among them that is of particular interest to you.
Pfännerhall central workshop - it played a central role in Geiseltal mining
The Geiseltal looks back on a mining history of around 300 years. It all began with 12 small pits for lignite mining, but with the start of industrial extraction in the late 19th century, the mining area developed into one of the largest contiguous mining areas in Germany. To express this in figures: A total of around 1.4 billion tonnes of lignite were mined and overburden moved in the Geiseltal. Today, on the other hand, Lake Geiseltal is located at this site and gives Saale-Unstrut a maritime touch.
Along with the Herrmannschacht briquette factory in Zeitz, the Pfännerhall central workshop in Braunsbedra is one of the most impressive relics of industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut. The building was erected in the 1920s with Art Deco touches and served as a central mechanical workshop for the mining industry, as the name suggests. The machine shop was later joined by an apprentice workshop, administrative rooms and tool dispensary. After the end of mining activities in the Geiseltal in 1992, the dismantling of the facilities for lignite extraction and processing began. The Pfännerhall central workshop was also to fall victim to this fate, but things turned out differently. Thanks to dedicated people, the house now houses unique exhibitions, such as the fascinating "Pfännerhall Discovery Site" exhibition with the life-size old elephant and a replica of the world-famous Geiseltal original horse.
Between Braunsbedra and Mücheln you will find the "Urpferdchen" maze directly on the Geiseltalsee circular route, which is well worth stopping for. Can you find the exit again?
Herrmannschacht briquette factory - from dust to briquette
At the Herrmannschacht briquette factory in Zeitz, everything revolves around coal: from its creation and refinement to its consumption. The briquette factory is an impressive testimony to industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut and closely linked to the region's mining history. On the grounds of the Herrmann shaft, the various areas convey all the components of coal mining.
The lignite forest illustrates how coal is created, including the plant species that thousands of years ago contributed to the later extraction of coal. The machinery from 1889 transports you back to the time of steaming machines and coal dust, so that you can experience briquette production first hand. And an impressive collection of historic stoves in the Stove Museum will remind you what life and heating with coal was like back then - not so long ago. In addition, the Herrmannschacht fulfils dreams for railway fans: in the miniature park, walk-in locomotives await exploration.
Mining Museum Deuben
The Deuben Mining Museum is also located in the Zeitz-Weißenfels lignite mining district. The exhibition areas shed light on the effects of mining and aim to remind visitors of the villages in the region that were dredged over by mining. Models, diagrams and objects explain the geological conditions of the region, show how mining methods developed, how coal was refined and how coal determined the lives of the people in the mining area. Of course, miniature open-cast mining equipment, mining models and much more tell their own stories. The highlight is a faithfully reproduced, walk-through deep mining gallery in the basement of the museum - you have certainly never come this close to a mining gallery before.
German Chemistry Museum Merseburg
The German Chemistry Museum in Merseburg illustrates that chemistry serves as the basis for prosperity in a modern society. Or could you imagine everyday life without it? Over 300 exhibits make up the collection of historically valuable original plants, machines and apparatus of the chemical industry - that is unique in Europe. The exhibits in the exhibition rooms and on the outdoor grounds of the technology park provide an insight into high-pressure technology as well as plastics and electrochemistry.
Two action bounds send you entertainingly across the grounds. There are also several discovery fields for young and old to experiment with.
Borlach Museum Bad Dürrenberg
It is undisputed that we cannot live without salt. How brine could be mined and salt extracted is one of the secrets of industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut. Above all, however, this question is closely linked to the name Borlach. Johann Gottfried Borlach (1687-1768) was a German geologist, electoral Saxon mining councillor and founder of the Artern, Kösen and Dürrenberg salt works.
The museum in the Borlachturm Bad Dürrenberg pays tribute to the achievements of this man and takes you on a journey through the history of salt production. You will also learn how the Dürrenberg brine was processed into evaporated salt and how Bad Dürrenberg became a bathing resort. In addition, there are models of the old waterworks, a depiction of the path from brine to salt, and you can marvel at old tools such as salt crutches, boiling baskets and salt shovels, which remind you of the hard work of the salt workers.
Ask for a guided tour of the coal railway tunnel at the tourist information office. It lasts about 45 minutes and shows you the oldest railway tunnel in Germany.
Railway Museum Kötzschau
From the railway tunnel to the railway museum in the historic Kötzschau station building dating from 1856. This makes the hearts of railway fans beat faster and is an experience for the whole family. Countless exhibits tell the story of the railway line between Leipzig and Großkorbetha. In addition to picture and text panels on the railway stations and many other thematic areas, you will become a railway employee from the past yourself in the originally furnished duty room from around 1935 - original ticket issue included.
The railway operating field and training signal box is a magnet for visitors. It was once the training facility of the former operations school of the Reichsbahnamt Leipzig. Today, you can gain an insight into how the various types of signal boxes work. The museum is usually open every fortnight on Sundays. The dates are published on the museum's website.
How about a trolley ride? The hand lever trolley "August" is used on the railway museum's own track system in Kötzschau. They will be happy to explain how it works on site.
German Optical Museum Jena
Jena is closely associated with the name Carl Zeiss and thus with the subject of optics. So it stands to reason that you will find a museum in Jena that deals with this topic. It is undergoing renovation until 2025. After the reopening, the collection of around 20,000 objects, ranging from cameras and microscopes to the largest collection of glasses in the world, will be experienced partly interactively. This will be fun for the whole family, even though the name "museum" seems rather dry. The basics of optics are also illustrated in a playful way. And for fans of curiosities, the collection of glasses certainly has something amusing and bizarre in store.
It was opened on 18 July 1926 and is the oldest planetarium in operation worldwide - the planetarium in Jena. It is not only a historic landmark of engineering architecture in Germany, but has become a hit above all because of the revolutionary projection technology used at the time. With the completely new laser full-dome projection, unique in this form, entertainment and knowledge transfer are offered in the form of live lectures, children's programmes, listening evenings, music laser shows and exclusive events.
Shoe Museum Weißenfels
Amusing objects can also be marvelled at in Weißenfels. The shoe museum, which is housed in Neu-Augustburg Castle, highlights another aspect of industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut. For the region is also associated with other branches of industry. Alongside chemicals and optics, pram and shoe production ensured livelihoods and prosperity for a long time. Weißenfels was even once the largest shoe producer in Europe, but that was some time ago. Today's museum is not only about the history of production, but also about the ethnological aspect.
Do you know what the shoes of the Native Americans were made of or what the dead sandals of the Egyptians are all about? In any case, you will end your tour with a smile, because the crazy shoe rack shows the really crazy ideas that shoe designers and fashion trends come up with.
An interactive actionbound to Schoss Neu-Augustusburg Weißenfels also goes into detail about the shoe museum and makes the stay in the museum even more refreshing.
Toy Manufactory Bad Kösen
Toys have been made in Bad Kösen for 100 years. This long tradition of craftsmanship is the basis for the Kösener Spielzeug Manufaktur. In the glass workshop you can witness the production of handmade soft toys in real time. The factory museum reflects the unique combination of traditional art and stylish modernity.
German Pram Museum Zeitz
What shoe production was for Weißenfels, the production of prams was for Zeitz. From around 1850, prams as we know them today were manufactured in Zeitz. What was new at that time was that the prams were to be used for transporting babies lying down. The German Museum of Prams and Pushchairs will take you back to childhood and perhaps also to the history of your own family, because you are sure to come across models that look familiar. Historic prams, sports carriages, doll's prams, toys, clothing and furniture for children ensure that you can better imagine what it was like to be a child in past eras, beyond your own memories. With this large collection, the exhibition on the cultural history of the pram is unique in Europe.
Uhlstädt rafting museum
Long log rafting on the Saale has a centuries-old tradition and was first mentioned in Orlamünde in the 13th century. Until 1938, rafting was still active and commercial. In Uhlstädt you can get very close to this subject, because the rafting museum provides information about the technique of raft building, rafting on the Saale, the way of life as well as the customs and traditions of the rafters.
By the way...
Rafting was recently recognised by UNESCO with the title of Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
On the way to salt
When you look for traces of industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut, you probably don't immediately think of salt production. But it was not only lignite and sugar that determined the lives and work of the people in Saale-Unstrut in the past. The mighty graduation towers in Bad Kösen, Bad Sulza and Bad Dürrenberg tell of this.
Graduation house and saline installations Bad Kösen
The graduation house in Bad Kösen was built in the 18th century. It was originally built to extract salt, but the health-promoting effect of the brine was soon recognised, which is why the graduation works developed into part of the spa facilities. People are still fascinated by seeing brine, i.e. the salty water, trickling from the depths of the earth over the blackthorn vine - today just as much as in the past. To this day - and this is a special feature - the historic saltworks that transport the brine to the graduation house are still in operation. If you walk the path to the graduation house along the linkage, don't be startled by the creaking and creaking of the wooden plant.
Bad Sulza graduation house with atomiser hall
The Louise graduation house in Bad Sulza dates back to 1754. It has another attraction that can only be found here in Saale-Unstrut: the atomiser hall, where the brine is atomised so finely that you can no longer see your hand in front of your eyes. The fine brine mist is absorbed particularly well by the lungs - so you should not miss out on a visit to the atomiser hall. People with hay fever and asthma in particular benefit from it. In the spa park, it is worth visiting the modern tourist information centre in the historic building of the inhalatorium. Here you can sample wines from a vending machine and buy regional brine products such as brine sweets and brine jam.
Bad Dürrenberg graduation house
In Bad Dürrenberg, the imposing and almost 700-metre-long graduation house attracts attention. It is the longest continuous graduation house in Europe and can be seen from far away. Bad Dürrenberg was once an important location for salt production in the Electorate of Saxony. The museum in the Borlach Tower provides information about this part of the town's history. Also worth seeing is the spa park, which merges into the extensive, near-natural Saale floodplain. The town is currently preparing for the State Garden Show in 2024 under the motto "Salt Crystal & Blossom Magic".
From coal to water - our lake landscape
Industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut somehow also means transformation: what was once lost in the landscape later rose anew as a local recreation area. It's a bit like the fairy tale of the ugly duckling that turned into a beautiful swan. Where can you see this better than in the lake landscape in the region.
Lake Geiseltal immediately evokes a maritime holiday feeling. The lake, which was created by flooding a former open-cast lignite mine, is Germany's largest artificial lake, covering an area of 18 square kilometres. Until 1993, gigantic excavators and overburden conveyor bridges were still noisy here. That has long since been forgotten. Today, boats sail across the crystal-clear water as if it had never been any different.
At the modern harbour facilities in Mücheln and Braunsbedra, licence-free rafts, motor boats, pedal boats and other boats such as donut-shaped barbecue boats can be hired. There is room for up to six people on a cosy barbecue raft. There are also mobile houseboats for overnight stays on the lake or even a sauna boat available for holidaymakers. The Geiseltalsee is also navigated by two passenger ships. The starting points are the Marina Mücheln and the Marina Braunsbedra.
Lake Runstedt and Lake Großkayna
Lake Runstedt and Lake Großkayna belong to the Geiseltal lake complex and originate from potash and later coal mining. With hiking and cycling trails along the shores of both lakes, they are wonderful destinations for excursions. The younger of the two lakes is named after the village of Runstedt, which had to give way to open-cast mining. Remnants of the industrial heritage still prevent its release as bathing water. Nevertheless, it is a popular destination for hiking and cycling tours: It goes along the shore with beautiful views of the lake under shady trees.
At the end of the 1980s, Lake Großkayna was already flooded and renaturation began. Not all areas are accessible to hikers and bathers, because about a third of the area belongs to the nature reserve. However, the approximately 20-kilometre-long path around the lake makes it possible to walk completely around it. Some places invite you to swim, but you won't find a sandy beach here. The shore areas are quite stony. The bathing spots are suitable above all for people who want to escape the classic open-air swimming pool hustle and bustle. Lake Großkayna also offers anglers a little paradise. Fishing licences are best obtained through fiscado.
Wallendorf and Raßnitz Lakes
The Wallendorf and Raßnitz lakes are right next to each other and have only existed since 2002, when the flooding of the two remaining holes of the former Merseburg Ost open-cast mine was completed. The water for this had been taken from the White Elster. In the meantime, nature has created a beautiful paradise out of the 300-hectare lakes, where many birds feel at home and the flora and fauna today show little of the former industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut. The network of cycling and hiking paths is designed in such a way that exciting views and observation points appear again and again, bringing variety along the way.
The bathing spots in the villages of Löpitz, Burgliebenau and Wallendorf are something for people who love seclusion and the natural environment: quiet location, shallow shore areas, always small bays and picnic facilities. In Löpitz and Burgliebenau, bathing jetties lead out onto the lake, which make fantastic photo opportunities. In Wallendorf, on the other hand, you will find a small sandy beach. What they all have in common is the natural ambience - and that also means: no beach guards. When you go for a swim, don't be surprised by the slightly salty-tasting water, which is associated with the former lignite mining - structural change you can taste.
Mondsee - where places disappeared
Lake Mondsee is also a successful example of structural change in the Saale-Unstrut region. People bathed here for the first time in 1991 and in the meantime the traces of the former open-cast mining have been transformed into something beautiful. The lake itself even helped determine its name because it took on the shape of a crescent moon during flooding and emerged from the "lunar landscape" that open-cast mining brought with it. So what could be more natural than naming the lake after it? Today's Mondsee Recreation Park brings together not only camping enthusiasts but also many bathers. A sandy beach, sunbathing lawn, playground and four beach volleyball courts provide variety during the stay. And for those who don't like to spend the night in a tent, shepherd's caravans and camping huts offer an alternative.
From pebble production to quarry
In addition to the classic open-cast mining lakes, there are also a number of smaller lakes that have also sprung from the industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut. At Hohenweiden Lake, gravel was still being mined 50 years ago, while today you can learn to water ski and wakeboard there. In Petersberg, quartz porphyry used to be mined; today the former quarry with the promising name Goethebruch is a wonderful destination in the village. The same applies to the small lake on the Gützer Berg outside Landsberg. Even the devil is said to have a hand in this, but you can find out exactly how the story happened in our lake guide.
Reading Tip Lake Guide
If you would like to learn more about the lakes in Saale-Unstrut, we recommend our lake guide "Auszeit am Wasser - Wegweiser zu Geiseltalsee und Co. It can be ordered as a print brochure, is available in the tourist information offices and at the hosts or can be viewed digitally (PDF format).
Viewpoints of the transformed landscape
Lookout towers at the Geiseltalsee lake
There are three observation towers around the Geiseltalsee, all between 14 and 15 metres high. The northernmost observation tower is the "Seeblick Klobikauer Halde". "Pauline" stands to the east of the lake in the Mücheln district of Stöbnitz, not far from the lido. On the south-eastern shore, above the Braunsbedra marina, you can get an overview of the Geiseltalsee from the "Leonhardt" viewing tower.
Not far from the shores of Lake Mondsee, you can explore the villages that disappeared as a result of mining. They had to give way to open-cast mining after 1941. In the Wandelgänge at Mondsee, you can search for and find the 15 villages of the former Zeitz-Weißenfels lignite mining area that were dredged over for coal extraction - including a viewing platform. The walkways are laid out as a labyrinth of hornbeam hedges with 15 stone slabs symbolising the 15 disappeared sites.
Profen opencast mine
The Profen opencast mine is located in the south of Saxony-Anhalt and on the eastern border of the Saale-Unstrut region. MIBRAG has set up a vantage point at Profen that allows visitors to get an overview of the mining operations. Bucket wheel excavators, bucket chain excavators and mobile technology are used to extract overburden and coal, while long conveyor belts transport the extracted material. Display boards explain geological aspects, further mining and recultivation measures that have already begun.
Days of Industrial Culture in Saale-Unstrut
If you want to explore the industrial culture in Saale-Unstrut, we recommend two more experience days. Some of the museums and former industrial sites described above take part in the action days and usually come up with something special for their guests. It is best to note the months of April and September in your calendar and find out more about the action days on the following pages.
Industrial Culture Day Culture
The Leipzig Industrial Culture Day takes place annually in September. Due to the proximity to Saale-Unstrut, some of the museums, especially around Zeitz, use this date and open their doors. Make a note of it and, of course, come and see us.
Industrial Culture Day Saxony-Anhalt
The Mitteldeutsche Gesellschaft für Industriekultur e.V. (Central German Society for Industrial Culture) has created its own website on industrial tourism in Saxony-Anhalt and has organised an Industrial Culture Day 13 times so far. In the past, this has always taken place in April. You can find out when the next event is planned at
As Saale-Unstrut includes some areas that were used for lignite mining, our region is naturally confronted with the issue of structural change. The districts are therefore involved in the structural change network. In numerous idea competitions and future workshops, the aim is to find out how the region can position itself even more strongly.
Some projects have already been implemented or are being run successfully. These include our heartfelt project "handmade Saale.Unstrut", which brings together direct marketers, craftspeople and creative people in a network.