The Salzmannstraße is an old trade route that leads across the Thuringian Forest. This 13-kilometre-long ascent to the Rennsteig was built with a low gradient so that it could also be travelled by carriages without a leader. The road was mainly used to transport salt, but also other goods such as potash, woad, ores and cured fish. However, the road got its name not from the transported salt, but from its builder Ernst Julius Theodor Salzmann (see below).
It was built because the old road from Elgersburg to Ilmenau, which led through the so-called Steiger Valley, was too steep for horse-drawn carriages without harnesses. This road led from the Elgersburg church over the Steigerstraße to the Steigereck (693 m above sea level) at the Waldgasthof Schöffenhaus. From here, paths led to Manebach, past the Hangeberg to Ilmenau-Sturmheide (formerly called “Schmücker Straße” or, even earlier, “Suhler Landstraße”) and over the Mönchhof to Schmücke. The Salzmannstraße is about 2 km longer than the old connection.
Salzmannstraße, which was built to relieve the Steigerstraße, begins in Elgersburg at the church. At a distance of about 4 km, the Lübeck-Nuremberg trade route (today roughly the B 4) ran through Roda, leading from Erfurt via Ilmenau to Eisfeld and was called Frauenwalder Straße on this section. It leads up, today as Schmücker Straße, past today’s Hotel am Wald and further about 200 m below the summit past the Hohe Warte, then on the eastern slope of the Rumpelsberg(Mönchswald) to the watershed between Ilm and Gera. Here follows the Mönchhof, a forest inn that has stood on the Salzmannstraße for several centuries. Here it meets paths to Ilmenau, Manebach and Gehlberg. The altitude above sea level on this section is about 750 metres
The next section leads to Zwei Wiesen, a spring floodplain near Großer Rödel, where a path enters from the south from the valley of the Ilm from Meyersgrund. There is a soldier’s grave here. On the section between Mönchhof and Zwei Wiesen, Salzmannstraße is the municipal boundary between Ilmenau in the east and Geratal in the west. The hiker now enters the municipal area of Gehlberg
At the next trail junction, at Paradies atthe trail to Gehlberg turns north
Behind it follows the ascent to the Schmücke along the northern edge of the Freibach valley, past the Aschbachthe Spielmannsleite (784 m) the Sachsenstein (915.3 m . The Schmücke at an altitude of 940 m is the end point of the Salzmannstraße. Here it met the Rennsteig and several trade routes that led down to Suhl
Today, Salzmannstraße is classified as Schmücker Straße (former L 2645) from Elgersburg to Mönchhof, then as a road or forest road. Its surface consists of asphalt up to Mönchhof, then of fine gravel. The road is particularly popular with cyclists and skiers, as it provides a relatively easy (with little gradient) ascent to the heights of the Thuringian Forest. However, the sections marked as forest roads are off-limits to cyclists and the occasional horse-drawn carriage (traffic sign 250 in conjunction with 1026-37)
Salzmannstraße is named after the chief forester Ernst Julius Theodor Salzmann (1792-1855), son of the German educator and Lutheran pastor Christian Gotthilf Salzmann (1744-1811). Ernst Salzmann earned great merits in earlier years, for example, in the surveying of the Gotha domain forests. He laid the first foundations for the excellent forest road construction in the Thuringian forest of Gotha. In doing so, he benefited from his amazing power of orientation and memory.
- Municipal administration Geraberg: Old trade routes in our region, 2010, Photos and design: Klaus Fischer, Text: Klaus Fischer and Rüdiger Krause