The old mining town of Eisenerz (Iron Ore) is located in Styria, northeast of the Eisenerzer Alps and southwest of the Hochschwab and about 25 km northwest of the district capital Leoben. The history of the place has always been shaped almost exclusively by ore mining. The inhabitants made their living from it in the past centuries. The Erzberg (Ore mountain) is one of the most famous mountains in Austria and is still one of the biggest tourist attractions in Styria.
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The rich iron ore deposits of the Erzberg are said to be due to creature called „Wassermann“ (Waterman). The Waterman
was rumored to have tremendous treasures. So, the locals made a plan to catch him. According to the legend the people of Eisenerz succeded in capturing him. He struggled with all his strength, but it didn't help. They led him down into the valley, and when they reached the point where you can see the Erzberg for the first time, the Waterman didn't want to go any further. He whined, raged and screamed and finally promised great treasures for his release.
The Waterman is captured
So the people asked him, „What are you going to give us?“ And the Waterman suggested to them: „a gold foot (gold for ten years), a silver heart (silver for a hundred years) or an iron hat (iron forever)“.
The men did not hesitate a second and chose the iron hat. They cried out as if from one voice: „The iron hat, we want it, iron forever!“ The Waterman raised its arm and pointed to the Erzberg and said: „Look, there it is, there is the mountain that will give you the iron forever!“ So the mythical creature got the promised freedom again and disappeared into a karst spring, which has since been known as the Waterman Hole.
The old Townhall
In 1230 the area was first mentioned in a document under the name Aerze. 1293 in another document the name Eisenärzt. In 1453, the city was granted market rights. Ore mining on the Erzberg flourished until the end of the 15th century, but the Thirty Years' War almost completely brought iron to a standstill.
The Bergmannsplatz (Miner's place)
In the 19th century, the state of Styria finally took over mining and the „Innerberg main trade union“ was founded, which managed the Erzberg until 1881. This year it was replaced by the „Oesterreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft“, which began with the mining of floors on the Erzberg, which gave the mountain its characteristic shape today.
The Erzberg had brought work and prosperity to Eisenerz for centuries. However, when human labor in the mining industry was replaced by machines in the mid-1960s, the decline began. Once there were more than 4,500 people in work, today there are fewer than 200. And since the 1950s, the population of Eisenerz has shrunk to almost a third, today's 3,900.
The underground mine was closed in 1986, ending centuries of arduous and dangerous work. How labor-intensive it was once can be seen from a few numbers. During the Second World War, more than 8,000 people worked here for the Hermann Göring Works. And even after the war, there were still 4,500 miners in 1958.
With the „Hauly“ on the Erzberg
Today, visitors from all over the world are invited to drive on the Erzberg on the loading area of a converted heavy truck, a gigantic 860 hp dump truck called „Hauly“. This colossus is 11.5 m long, 5.5 m wide and 4.5 m high. Its weight is 55 tons. Before it was converted into the largest tourist taxi in the world, it was able to pick up 77 tons of rock. Today 64 visitors can take a seat in the converted vehicle. The official name is Haulpark Truck 85 C. It was built by the WABCO company in Illinois in the USA in 1980 and was used for 11 years on the Styrian Erzberg.
On the way in the mine
The work of the miners in the Erzberg as it once was can only be reconstructed in the Eisenerz show mine, as part of a tour of the underground labyrinth of disused tunnels.
The Eisenerz church St. Oswald is one of the oldest and most impressive fortified church buildings in Austria, should be mentioned as the sights of Eisenerz.
The Schichtturm (shift tower) is right across the Oswaldi Church. From the Old Town you can reach the tower through serpentines. On Top you have a wonderful view of the Old Town roofs, the Oswaldi Church and the Styrian loaf, the Erzberg. A perfect spot for a snapshot. The Tower is called shift tower because the inside bell called workers to their work on the Erzberg. Before was also the fire station in the shift tower.
In the alleys of the old town
Eisenerz is a historically grown city, the origins of which date back to around 700. There are numerous architectural gems in the almost intact old town. Only the periphery has been pretty disfigured by ugly mass settlements built in the interwar period for the growing number of miners and their families. Since 2007, the city has been trying to cope with the declining population with the program „re-design Eisenerz“.
This program includes the demolition and clearing of buidings and housing areas, the renovation of attractive buildings as basis for a new „reduced“ but livable town.
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The Erzberg Rodeo is an motorcycle enduro event started in 1995 and held annually in May or June, run on the Erzberg. It is the largest of its kind in Europe.
During the event the Rodeo-X shows some of the world's best motocross riders doing spectacular stunts and breakneck jumps. Since 2009 has been part of this program and on Thursday, another side event, the so-called Rocket Ride.