In the north of Styria lies one of the economically most important regions in Austria. This is the area around the city of Eisenerz, which owes its wealth to the largest siderite deposit in the world, which can be found here on the Erzberg.
This is one of the reasons why the mountain is also called the “Styrian loaf of bread”, as it formed the basis for the economic upswing of this region for centuries.
It is assumed that iron ore has been mined here since the 11th century, but this is still disputed.
This is one of the reasons why numerous legends and myths have grown up around the ore mountain, and probably the most beautiful is the following one:
If you follow the course of the Erzbach stream down the valley, you will come to a grotto-like depression in the rock in a narrow gorge, from which a dark water level grins at you, the so-called “Schwarze Lacken”.
Today it lies next to a busy road, but many hundreds of years ago this was a lonely place known only to shepherds and occasional muleteers.
But its name soon became known all around, because a strange creature was to appear here regularly, which slid out of the grotto behind the pond into the water and disappeared there.
Since everyone agreed on its scaly body, the rumor soon spread that there was a water sprite here. And water sprites, as everyone knew, possessed great treasures which they jealously guarded.
These wanted to bring the inhabitants of the surrounding area into their possession, of course, and so they resorted to a ruse.
On a warm summer’s day, they placed some plates of roast meat and wine on the bank of the “Black Lacquer” and added a few pieces of clothing, which they had previously covered with pitch on the inside. Then they waited to see what happened.
After a while they saw the Aquarius rising from the floods and curiously looking at the unknown things. He rose from the water, grabbed greedily the food and drinks and soon he was intoxicated by the delicious things.
Drunk, he put on his clothes, danced happily across the meadow and finally lay down to sleep.
People had only waited for that. They rushed out of their hiding place, struck the water sprite and finally led him tied up in the valley.
But at the place where the ore mountain was first seen, the water sprite stopped and did not want to go any further. He began to rage and scream and promised the people a great treasure if they would only give him freedom.
Of course, people loved to hear that and asked, “What will you give us in return?”
And the water sprite spoke:
“Now dial this spot and dial fast.
A golden river must soon be cut
A silver heart that eats up time
An Iron Hat that lasts long and lasts well
“Think it over and you’ve had enough!”
The people cried, “We want the Iron Hat!”
Then the Aquarius lifted his hand and pointed to the Mountain of Ore and said, “Behold, there stands the mountain that will give you iron forever. Use it well for your good fortune and blessing, for your descendants and for your own!”
So they brought the Aquarius back to the meadow where they had captured him, and quickly he dived down into the dark water.
But suddenly the rocks shook, the black water turned blood-red, and mockingly it sounded from the depths: “For the best you have forgotten to ask: about the carbuncle stone and the meaning of the cross in the nut.”
What the Aquarius meant by this remained a mystery to this day. The locals assume that the carbuncle stone is the safest mine light you can imagine, and the cross in the nut a compass that also worked inside the mountain.
But you couldn’t ask the Aquarius about it, because from that moment on it was gone forever.
But his legacy, the secret of the true treasure of the Ore Mountain, has become an eternal blessing for the whole country.