THE MUSKAU ARCH
is recognised as one of the most scenic push end moraines in Middle Europe. Its characteristic horseshoe shape was formed some 340,000 years ago as the "Muskauer glacier" advanced from the thick inland ice sheet which covered half of Europe at that time. The load from the ice cover caused subsoil compaction down to a depth of about 300 metres while deforming the horizontal successions of sand, gravel, clay and lignite beds. The unconsolidated rock masses in front of the glacier piled up to form a terminal moraine of some 150 m above today's ground level. The inland ice of the more recent glacial periods flattened the moraine down to today's level, but not entirely, as can be seen from High Hill (Hoher Berg) near Döbern (183 m) or the so-called dragon hills (Drachenberge) near Krauschwitz (163 m).
The Muskau Arch, although initially shaped long time ago, has remained an ever changing landscape until this very day. So it is marked by more recent geological formations, so-called giesers, which are oblong valleys in areas where lignite beds come to the surface. The organic material is oxidised by atmospheric air, which causes ground shrinkage and subsidence. As time passes, the valleys cut deeper and deeper into the landscape.
… IN GOOD TRADITION
The Muskau Arch is impressive not only for its landscape features. The region industrialized quickly after discovery of the resources which are close to the surface due to the glacial compaction processes. Large factories were built to melt and transform local glass sands into high-quality goods for daily use. In the early years of the 20th century, the local factories shipped their products around the world. Back then, the region with its glass-making towns Döbern and Weißwasser was renowned as a centre of glass manufacture worldwide. Glass production is still alive and popular today. Glass factory outlets and grinding shops sell their artful glassware or allow visitors to watch glassmakers at work.
The Tertiary clays in the Muskau Arch were used to make bricks and roof tiles, ceramic containers for the chemical industry, and pottery for daily use. The towns of Łęknica, Krauschwitz and Bad Muskau were recognised as processing centres for high-quality bottle clays. Everywhere, you will find remnants of the formerly very busy ceramic industry which had a reputation far beyond the borders of the region. There still are pottery makers offering their traditionally made and artfully designed products, and the streets are bordered by the typical yellow brick houses.
Another important business was the smelting and moulding of bog iron ore. The Keula ironworks, first mentioned as early as in the 15th century, is still operative and supplies its cast iron products via Krauschwitz to customers all over the world. Also, alum earths and alum clays were extracted to cover the needs of the chemical industry. Traces of the mining operations are still visible in the historic health resort hill park of Bad Muskau which is part of the Fürst Pückler Park.
The huge energy needs of all those industries were covered by brown coal (lignite), which was extracted both in deep mines and open pits. In 1843, there were about 60 mines in parallel, each having several extraction pits. The open pits left about 400 lakes spread all over the Faltenbogen region over a surface of some 280 square kilometres. The deep mines reached a depth of about 106 metres or 14 extraction levels, which is more than considerable in unconsolidated rock. It was not until the middle of the 20th century, when the more efficient large-scale lignite surface mining commenced, that the Muskau Arch region lost its significance as a raw material supplier.
Lots of impressive relics of bygone days are omnipresent to remind the visitor of the manifold industrial operations which commenced late in the 18th century and reached a climax in the beginning of the 20th century. Particularly impressive are the post-mining lakes, which form a dense and relatively narrow chain of shimmering waters of all colours, extending over hundreds of metres along the line once marked by the natural "gieser" valleys - a place of refuge reclaimed by nature little by little to become again a unique and unspoiled countryside. Today, the Muskau Arch is a picturesque cultural and post-mining landscape full of many and varied lakes, and a natural area of forests exhibiting significant ecological diversity. This beautiful recreational landscape is crossed by a network of theme-based hiking and biking trails. This is the right place to experience geology and inhale history, or just to take a break from the hustle of life.
Craftsmen and factories preserve the traditional heritage. Historic industrial railways and "clay trains", brick works and museums await you. Our geopark guides would love to take you on a tour of fascinating discoveries. More information is available at the Geopark's visitor centres in Döbern or Łęknica, or at the tourist information offices of the region.