Owing to the multitude of different minerals and rocks, the Fichtelgebirge is often
called the “stone-rich corner of Bavaria”. The main rock of the Fichtelgebirge is
granite in many different colour variations, from the yellowish or reddish shimmering
kind to the world-famous blue Kosseine granite. You can also find gneis, basalt,
phyllite, marble, quartz, porphyry, soapstone and many more. In Weißenstadt, the
rich crystalline deposits were mined in underground passages even underneath the
town. These can still be visited today on guided tours. The most significant collection
of minerals of the Fichtelgebirge is exhibited in the “Fichtelgebirgsmuseum” in
Wunsiedel. Unfortunately, the worldwide largest collection of industrial ashlar, the
Natural Stone Archive in the European Centre for Stonemasonry in Wunsiedel, is not
open to the public.
On all larger peaks of the Fichtelgebirge, there are rock formations of the
predominant rock: granite. Its occurrence in the landscape is as diverse as granite
itself. The absolute highlight among rock formations and geological features in the
Fichtelgebirge is the rock labyrinth on the Luisenburg near Wunsiedel. Huge
boulders, wildly shuffled and thrown together, made a unique natural spectacle
unequalled in Europe. As early as 200 years ago, Wunsiedel citizens were fascinated
by this landscape and started to develop this rocky area to form the oldest civilian
landscape garden in Europe. The paths and steps, rises, caves and tunnels, towers,
resting benches and observation platforms combine to make a visit in this particular
geotope a wonderful experience. Geological and cultural history merge seamlessly.
The ravages of time have partly gnawed wild, primal and uniquely shaped rocky
towers from the rock of the mountains. Impressive examples can be found on the
Rudolfstein, the Burgstein or the Haberstein mountains. The distinctive shape of
these rocky towers impressed Johann Wolfgang von Goethe during his travels
through the Fichtelgebirge. He wanted to understand the process of how these rocky
formations resembling stacked woollen sacks could have been created. And indeed,
it was Goethe who was the first to describe the formation of these rocks and gave
them the name of woolsack weathering.
The climate of the Ice Ages wore down some of the rocky formations of the peaks.
The formerly mighty rocks were crumbled into smaller stones by water, wind, ice and
sun. What remained were sometimes extensive seas of stone and scree slopes.
Some of these glacial stone relics can be found on the Platte mountain, the Kosseine
mountain and at the Haberstein mountain (Schneeberg mountain). More recent
research found that not only the rocks survived the 10,000 years since the last ice
age well here. There are also some animal species, mainly spiders and ground
beetles, which retreated here during the ice age and continued to live here. The
particular character of the landscape and the micro-climate within these seas of stone
and scree slopes are still similar to the conditions prevailing when glaciers covered
large parts of Europe.
Another geological specialty is the Haidberg mountain near Zell. Alexander von
Humboldt, once a mountain master in Arzberg, discovered that his rock was
magnetic. If you climb the Haidberg mountain with a compass, you will notice that the
otherwise reliable needle goes haywire.
At the beginning of the 20th century, granite, marble, basalt and soapstone were
extracted in more than 130 quarries. Several thousand people found work there.
Today, there is only a handful of companies left which extract these valuable natural
materials: the blue Kösseine granite, the Wunsiedel marble and basalt for road
construction. Today, the old, abandoned quarries are important and valuable habitats
for flora and fauna.