Mitterfirmiansreut is a Bavarian village in the mountainous region on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. That means it was once on the border between West Germany and Czechoslovakia and thus part of the front line of the Cold War. The war has gone but the cold remains, just as old enmities have died away while traditions endure.
Over 100 years ago, the local bishop denied the villagers of Mitterfirmiansreut permission to build their own church, meaning they had to make the long walk to the next town, some eight kilometers away. It was an especially difficult journey when heavy snow hit the high country. And so in winter 1910, they took matters into their own hands and – using the one material not in short supply – built a church out of snow and ice.
The village has recently revived the tradition. True winter conditions were slow to arrive at the end of 2011 and work was delayed, but the church now stands once more. It was constructed from some 1100 cubic meters of snow, without a framework, and includes a 17-meter-tall steeple. The altar is composed of slabs of ice and the whole structure is bathed, appropriately enough, in a heavenly blue glow.
With a Siberian cold front that plunged Germany into deep freeze at the end of January, late winter should prove ideal for visiting this unique construction (as well as enjoying the region’s winter sports facilities). On weekends a shuttle service connects the small community with the larger town of Philippsreut for visitors to come and marvel, reflect and worship.