Quarry in Bavaria: You are guaranteed to find fossils in the Altmühltal

Dhe door to primeval times opens Moritz with the hammer. The eleven-year-old has placed a slab of limestone on its long side. He applies the chisel and begins to drive it into the edge. With the fourth blow, he splits the record in two, each thinner than a paperback less than an inch thick.

There it is: his first fossil. Dark, shaped like a sausage. With the find in hand, Moritz proudly walks to the quarry owner Roland Pöschl. A quick look, a sly grin. Then Pöschl says: “Congratulations, you’ve found a coprolite!” Moritz looks blank. “Petrified droppings”, adds Pöschl – and when he notices that Moritz is disappointed, he pushes afterwards: “maybe from a great shark”.

An hour later Moritz and his friend Elias found a few dozen fossilized squids, as well as ammonites and fossils of fish fins and shells. A stack of plates half a meter high lies next to the two. “We haven’t had a visitor who hasn’t discovered anything,” says Pöschl, “I even have a ‘guarantee to find’ place. We’re in the middle of Jurassic Park here. “

The Altmühltal is one of the richest places in the world

In the “Visitor Quarry Mühlheim” in the Mörnsheim area in the Bavarian Altmühltal, dozens of hobby fossil hunters dig, dig, scrape, dig, and dig every day for fossilized evidence of prehistoric times. The area is just the size of a soccer field.

Source: WORLD infographic

Stooped or kneeling figures everywhere. A soft yellowish rubble field of broken stones, piles of limestone slabs and grave holes. Many families have come with children, search piles of stones or knock on auspicious plates with tools.

For fossil fans, this is the Promised Land, the region is one of the richest in finds in the world. And Pöschl’s quarry is considered a kind of fillet.

Millions of years ago Bavaria was under water

150 million years ago today’s Altmühltal was covered by the sea. The climate was subtropical and the water was around 26 degrees. Shallow sections alternated with coral reefs, with islands and lagoons in between.

A large bathtub with more than 1000 species of animals and plants. If they died, they were deposited in the mud, were hermetically sealed – and can still be found petrified to this day.

Pöschl is a well-trained man. Now, in Corona times, he wears a face mask with colorful dinosaurs on it, a T-shirt with an ammonite image and a perforated straw hat.

Altmühltal (Bavaria): Quarry owner Roland Pöschl shows a petrified turtle

Quarry owner Roland Pöschl shows a petrified turtle

Source: Altmühltal Nature Park

He exudes the excitement that people feel when they are sure they are on the right path in their own lives. In 2008, the now 60-year-old gave up his job at the Sparkasse, bought the property with a partner that he had been looking at for years, opened it to visitors and began digging.

Before and after the visitor opening hours, he still digs himself today. Over the years he moved hundreds of tons of limestone slabs by hand. Then at the end of 2017 the sensation: he discovers a primeval bird in his quarry. Alcmonavis poeschli is now considered the oldest bird ever found. “Every stone can change your life,” says Pöschl.

“The dinosaur was the find of our life!”

Pöschl walks around his premises like a chef through his restaurant, clears away a shovel here, shows a child an ammonite there. He chats with regulars in paleontologists’ German. He patiently shows newcomers how to proceed in order to find something as quickly as possible.

He pulls out the magnifying glass when helpless beginners ask him what they have found: “An Aptychus”, he says, or “Brachyphyllum” or “of course, a Neochetoceras”. In the past, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was there with his daughter. “After half an hour at the latest, even the bodyguards were sitting in their suits in the dust and digging.”

Found in the Altmühltal in Bavaria: the fossilized primeval bird Alcmonavis poeschli, which is around 150 million years old

Found in the Altmühltal: the fossilized primeval bird Alcmonavis poeschli, around 150 million years old

Source: Visitor Quarry Mühlheim

For some visitors, looking for fossils turns into addiction to fossils. In a separate area, Stefan Heilek, 47, works under a sun sail. The computer scientist from Würzburg and his wife Anja come to Pöschl’s fossil kingdom almost every weekend.

“It just grabbed us, looking for fossils is like leafing through the thickest book in the world. You never know what’s coming on the next page. ”A few years ago, the two of them bought a second home in the next village. Your house is full of fossil limestone slabs, tables and tools for preparation.

Dusty stones are stacked in the car, the nicer finds wrapped in newspaper. “We recently found a pleurosaur tail,” says Heilek. “A real highlight.” But it got even better: “We soon noticed that there was also the body of the dinosaur. It was the find of our life! “

Fans of fossils come from Italy or Japan

The fossil dig has a special fascination. It is like meditating with a hammer, chisel, scraper and shovel. Uniform activity, seasoned with tension, crowned by small feelings of happiness.

You rent the tool from the quarry operator, then you start. Ammonites, or at least dendrites, are discovered even when clearing away the limestone slabs. They look like ferns, but are not former living beings, but mineral solutions that have seeped into the lime.

You look for a place in the quarry and begin to detach the horizontally lying slabs from above, to inspect them and to split them with the chisel. So you work your way from top to bottom. A soil thickness of 20 meters corresponds to about two million years of geological history.

Fossils in Bavaria: This fossil crab (Aeger tipularius) was found next to dendrites in the Eichstätt quarry on the Blumenberg in the Altmühltal

This fossil crab (Aeger tipularius) and dendrites were found in the quarry near Eichstätt on the Blumenberg in the Altmühltal

Those: pa / imageBROKER / Carola Vahldiek

There are fossil fans who come from Guatemala, Japan, Italy or Chicago to the famous Mühlheim limestone quarry, less of course this year. Now it is mainly regular guests from Berlin, Hamm or Holland who regularly spend their summer holidays in the dusty heap.

The Munich pharmacist Robert Seidel, 34, takes the train to Solnhofen every weekend, then cycles the last ten kilometers to Pöschl’s prehistoric Dorado and returns home in the evening – 15 to 20 kilograms of rock in his backpack.

Others really want to go to the quarry at night, equipped with UV lamps. Some fossils shimmer yellow-whitish in their light, making them easier to discover.

Treasure hunters are allowed to take almost all finds with them

“Visitors are allowed to take everything they find home with them,” says Pöschl, “everything except it has wings or legs.” There are hardly any disputes among the treasure hunters.

If you discover something that you cannot dig up in one day, you have to think about how to camouflage the site so that no one else can find the half-excavated fossil. However, if you distribute records and small fragments nicely over it, you should make a careful note of the place – dramas should have already taken place.

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Binntal in Switzerland: Equipped with a hammer and chisel, visitors can go on a treasure hunt

Moritz and Elias are in such a tricky situation right now. They have long since abandoned petrified excrement and dendrites, their eyes sharpened after five hours.

But the quarry closes in a quarter of an hour, and the two boys don’t get the palm-sized ammonite that they have just discovered out of the ground so quickly. And they came from Ingolstadt, an hour away.

So what to do Elias suggests spending the night directly at the site. To keep watch. Moritz thinks the idea is good. Moritz’s father, on the other hand, says that you can’t do that without a tent. You have to come back tomorrow.

“Only on one condition,” says Moritz: “We are the very first in the quarry!” His father nods resignedly. As they drag the day’s harvest to the car, the straps on their huge blue Ikea bags tear.

A 150 million year old dinosaur skeleton will be auctioned

It is an auction that takes place less often in Paris: a dinosaur skeleton can be bought. The bids are less from large museums than from private wealthy people.

Source: WELT / Nicole Fuchs-Wiecha

Fossils in the Altmühltal Nature Park:

Search and find: There are five stone quarries in the Altmühltal Nature Park, where laypeople can look for fossils on their own. The visitor quarry in Mühlheim in Mörnsheim offers a “guarantee to find” fossils, admission: adults eight euros, children 4.50 euros, tool rental fee 1 euro (besuchersteinbruch.de). Other quarries, for example in Solnhofen (solnhofen.de) and in Eichstätt on the Blumenberg (eichstaett.de).

Forest of the Giants: In the Altmühltal Dinosaur Park in Denkendorf, visitors travel through 400 million years of geological history on a 1.5-kilometer forest walk. There are 70 lifelike replicas of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.

Bavaria: In the Altmühltal Dinosaur Park in Denkendorf there are 70 lifelike replicas of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals

In the Altmühltal Dinosaur Park in Denkendorf there are 70 lifelike replicas of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals

Those: pa / Eibner-Presse / Strisch / Eibner-Pressefoto

A great museum houses the skeleton of the only teenage tyrannosaurus ever found. Here, too, there is the possibility of digging for fossils. Afterwards, primeval fans eat “Brachiosaurus fries” or “Dino noodles” in the restaurant. Admission: adults 19.50 euros, children 9.50 euros (dinopark-bayern.de).

Fossils with a view: The Eichstätter Willibaldsburg towers over the Altmühltal. In its walls, the Jura Museum shows several hundred excellently prepared fossils from the Jurassic period, which dates back 150 million years. The highlights include an original of the ancient Archeopteryx and the world’s only specimen of the Juravenator predatory dinosaur. The castle, which is currently being renovated, offers beautiful views of the surrounding area. Admission: Adults 5 euros, children and young people free (jura-museum.de).

What role Bavaria, of all places, played in human evolution

The latest findings by a research group fundamentally call into question the previous view of human evolution. Accordingly, the upright walk began completely differently than expected.

Source: WORLD / Sebastian Struwe

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

Welt am Sonntag from October 11, 2020

Source: Welt am Sonntag


USA: In Nevada, a fish in the desert puzzles researchers

Die Region Nevada

SIf you are in hot Las Vegas, which is completely surrounded by desert, the name of the US state is hardly apparent: Nevada translated from Spanish means snowy or snow-covered. Snow lies in the world-famous gambling metropolis that shapes the image of the state that joined the United States in 1864, but hardly ever.

But probably on the peaks of the more than a dozen mountain ranges that run through Nevada. The highest point on the border with California is Boundary Peak at over 4000 meters. The Spanish missionary Padre Pedro explored the area on an expedition in the 1770s. He named the mountains clad in white Sierra Nevada.

This is in California, but the neighboring state, which was barely inhabited at the time, was later named after him – which holds a weather record: With less than 200 millimeters of rain per year, Nevada is the driest US state. Not much more thrives than bushy mugwort for long stretches, and strange creatures like the grasshopper-eating scorpion mouse live there.

Which brings us back to the desert, which is rich in geological attractions: bizarre pinnacles and cathedral-like stone formations can be admired in Cathedral Gorge State Park, petrified shifting dunes in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada’s oldest national park.

Source: WORLD infographic

The rarest fish in the world

He lives in a crevice filled with 32 degrees warm water, called Devil’s Hole, in the middle of the Amargosa desert, and is considered the rarest fish in the world: the devil’s paw (nodon devils), of which there are currently only around 130 copies.

Why and when did the fish choose the hole in the rock, how did it get there and how did it survive there? Open questions for the researchers.

Other fish would die in the deoxygenated water. Not so the shimmering blue devil guy: He saves energy by barely moving and has even regressed a pair of fins in the course of a mutation and adjusted his metabolism.

Art for fans of cars

Gold used to be discovered in Nevada – Goldfield is one of the locations. Once 20,000 people lived there, today there are only 400. Goldfield’s treasures are now made of automotive scrap: Even the scrap yard with old US sledges is interesting for car enthusiasts.

An increase then in the place where a collector hoards bizarre vehicle creations that are used as moving art objects at the Burning Man Festival.

The highlight for car freaks is the International Car Forest of the Last Church: on the outskirts, two devout artists have dug over 40 vehicles upright into the ground – an ensemble of limousines, buses and vans decorated with graffiti.

Der International Car Forest of the Last Church in Nevada, USA

Quelle: Getty Images/Gary Yeowell

Good luck and bad luck in Las Vegas

It is estimated that there are 200,000 slot machines in the gambling metropolis. The biggest single win a player can win on a slotmachine bagged, is almost 40 million dollars – that was in 2003 in the hotel “Excalibur” on the famous Las Vegas Strip. The desert city before Corona counted around 40 million visitors annually, 80 percent of whom recently tried their hand at gambling, an average of 2.7 hours a day.

After gambling was banned in Nevada in 1910, the state legalized it again in 1931. In 1941, the first casino hotel, the “El Rancho Vegas”, opened, but in 1960 it burned down.

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Two sides of Las Vegas: on top luxury hotels, artificial Eiffel Towers, casinos and parties, on the bottom poverty, dirt and misery

Life in the sewer

Many also throw themselves into marital happiness. More than 80,000 marriage licenses are issued every year – but also thousands of marriages divorced. Happiness and unhappiness are close together in Vegas.

Some of the oldest trees in the world

Some of the oldest trees in the world grow in the Great Basin National Park, at an altitude of around 3,000 meters. The Bristlecone Pines (Long-lived Pine; Finns aged) are 3000 to 5000 years old and compete with the olive trees on the Mediterranean Sea or some pines in Scandinavia.

The oldest known pine tree (4844 years old) was cut down by a student in the 1960s in order to use the wood to research climate change. Since then, the title for the oldest Bristlecone Pine has gone to the Californian part of the Inyo Forest, which extends to Nevada.

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Awning pine, awning pine (Pinus aristata), free-standing, gnarled and crooked awning pine stands on a plateau of the White Mountains, oldest tree species in the world, USA, California, White Mountains, Inyo National Forest |  bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata), gnarled tree, oldest tree species of the world, USA, California, White Mountains, Inyo National Forest |  Usage worldwide

A circular path leads to the “Grove of Methusaleme”. The exact location of the 5070 year old record holder is kept secret to be on the safe side.

USA: The Bristlecone Pines in Nevada live to be 3,000 to 5,000 years old

Quelle: Getty Images/Aurora Open

Rock engravings sacred to the indigenous people

In the 1940s, the locals dumped rubbish where one of America’s most traditional cultural treasures lies. They rolled rocks aside, whistled at the notches. These were probably the oldest engravings discovered in North America.

Today’s Grimes Point Archeological Area includes around 1000 so-called petroglyphs, which were sacred places for the indigenous people of the Paiute-Shoshone tribe, where people also prayed. The age of these engravings is estimated to be 10,000 years.

Nevada (USA): The Grimes Point Archeological Area comprises around 1000 so-called petroglyphs

Source: WORLD infographic

The quote

“I can confess without shame that I expected to find tons of silver lying around everywhere”

Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, in “Through Thick and Thin” about his luckless treasure hunt in Nevada. Twain first wrote under his stage name in 1863 in the “Territorial Enterprise” published in Virginia City, once the richest city in America, in which large silver deposits were discovered in 1859. Nevada’s nickname The Silver State is reminiscent of the silver rush.

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Nevada (USA): Kevin Baugh (l.) Welcomes curious visitors to his little "Military dictatorship ”, the Republic of Molossia

Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

Welt am Sonntag from October 4, 2020

Source: Welt am Sonntag


Peloponnese: Greece, unknown – the Mani peninsula

“When God was done with the creation of the earth, he had a sack of stones left and emptied it here.” The inhabitants of the Greek peninsula Mani say this with pride – and somehow it is also true. There are lovelier corners in Greece, no question about it: lush green hilly landscapes, perfectly curved sandy bays, islands with white cube houses.

The middle finger of the Peloponnese is different – wild, tart, sometimes repulsive. But also authentic, relaxed and friendly. If you want to experience the normal everyday life in Greece, you will find fruit sellers who jingling with small trucks drive through the villages, cats dozing in the sun and sweet, hot Greek mocha, served in dented metal jugs.

Over a length of 75 kilometers there are mighty mountain ranges and dense green deciduous forests, jagged cliffs and peaceful bathing bays, almost deserted stone villages and tourist-free taverns. All of this was washed around by the Messenian and Laconian Gulf and shone on by the tireless Greek sun, which kept warm well into autumn. And the sea is still over 20 degrees in October.

The Mani Peninsula is quiet even in summer

However, the peninsula is little known as a holiday destination. Many a well-heeled Athenian has a holiday home here, and in the summer months Greeks move from the hinterland to the pebble beaches of Mani. But it never gets really full, not even in August and certainly not in this virus-ridden year.

Wild beauty: the southern tip of the Mani peninsula is stony and criss-crossed by old paths

What: pa / imageBROKER

If you come by car from Kalamata and drive south on dizzyingly narrow mountain roads, sooner or later the navigation system will be switched off. There is neither the house of the famous British author Patrick Leigh Fermor, who lived by the sea not far from Kardamili, which has been converted into a museum, nor Vivi Letsou’s beautiful “Zen Rocks” yoga retreat, which hovers high above Kardamili and also from German fans is visited.

“We send our guests precise directions,” says the boss, who has lived in California for a long time and speaks perfect English, “some people get lost anyway and then tell us about the great landscapes and tiny villages they discovered along the way.”

Dining on the beach in Kardamili

Kardamili himself can be found without any technical assistance – the way to the tip of the peninsula leads directly past the coastal town. Everything you need in everyday life is lined up on the main street: a post office, a pharmacy, a supermarket, a bank.

In addition, a few things that are fun: fashion boutiques with airy caftans and casual beach bags, the courtyard café “Androuvista”, where you can have a wonderful breakfast, and the nice shop “To Lokalee”, whose owner makes jam and fruit from the own garden and hand-cleaned sea salt sold.

Peloponnese (Greece): Traditional tavern in Areopoli, the capital of the Mani peninsula

Among the locals: Traditional tavern in Areopoli, the capital of the Mani peninsula

What: pa / robertharding

On the cobblestone streets that lead to the sea and the small port, there are defiant old stone houses with terraces overgrown with bougainvilleas. In between, a handful of restaurants have established themselves. One of the best is “Tikla”, a terrace restaurant with a view of the sunset and delicious feta in filo pastry.

As an alternative, locals recommend the “Elies” garden bar right on the long Ritsa beach. Zucchini fritters, bread salad, grilled prawns and broad white beans are served under mighty olive trees. The sun loungers lined up at a comfortable distance from the beach belong to the restaurant and are rented out until late October for five euros per couple.

Towers, taverns and stalactite caves

But however seductive the loungers may be – the real charm of the peninsula cannot even be guessed from there. It only reveals itself many serpentines further, in the scruffy-barren region between Mani’s sleepy main town Areopoli and the southern coastal town of Gerolimenas, which at least has a beach and a few pleasant taverns to offer.

The first are just before Areopoli pyrgospita To see: high, square and almost without windows, the stone residential towers were designed as fortresses against bad neighbors. Because the law of blood revenge still prevailed here into the 20th century, families fought each other in endless feuds, which often ended with the extermination of entire clans.

The writer Patrick Leigh Fermor was one of the first travelers in the 1950s to venture to Areopoli with a backpack and shorts. As he tells in his travel memories (“Mani: Traveling in the southern Peloponnese”), many of the residents had never seen a foreigner at that time.

Peloponnese (Greece): Visitors explore the stalactite cave of Pirgos Dirou near Areopoli on the Mani peninsula

Visitors explore the stalactite cave of Pirgos Dirou near Areopoli on footbridges

Those: pa / Rolf Haid

Today Areopolis attracts the atmospheric juxtaposition of towers and taverns, who indulge themselves here before or after a boat tour in the labyrinthine wonder world of the stalactite caves of Pirgos Dirou a few days of leisurely Greek everyday life.

Like a little Manhattan in the Peloponnese

On the Plateia Athanaton (Place of the Immortals) stands the statue of Petros Mavromichalis, one of the most important leaders in the battle of the Greeks against the Turks. From there, narrow streets lead to the church square with many shops and cafés – and to the massive stone houses of the local family clans.

Peloponnese (Greece): In Vathia on the Mani peninsula one of the largest remaining collections of "pyrgospita"

Medieval residential towers: In Vathia one can find one of the largest still existing collections of “pyrgospita”

What: pa / robertharding

One of these houses the Pikoulakis Tower House Museum, which tells the story of the Byzantine Christianization in Mani. “We now see more foreign holidaymakers here than before,” says Kostas, who stands behind the counter of the “Aula Cocktail Bar”, “I recognize them from a distance”.

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Holidaymaker in Lindos on the island of Rhodes (Greece)

Further south you reach Vathia, formerly a pirate’s nest and to this day one of the largest remaining collections of pyrgospita. From a distance, the ensemble looks like a small Manhattan. Unfortunately, only a few of the medieval residential towers have been renovated.

When hiking, only wild goats cross the path

If you walk past them, you come to the remains of the Temple of Poseidon, where sailors used to pray for a safe journey before the dangerous circumnavigation of Cape Tenaro, Mani’s outermost headland.

Here you can still feel the remoteness of the region sealed off by the high Taygetos Mountains. The streets are narrow and empty. In the past you could only reach mountain villages like Pyrrichos or fortresses like Keléfa on foot on old paths, past massive boulders and ancient olive trees.

They are still used by hikers, but encounters remain a rarity. Only wild goats often cross paths – the ubiquitous stones have never been a problem for them.

Mani Peninsula, Peloponnese, Greece

Source: WORLD infographic

Tips and information for the Peloponnese

Getting there: For example with Condor non-stop from Düsseldorf, Munich or Frankfurt to Kalamata, alternatively with Edelweiss via Zurich or with Austrian Airlines via Vienna. Continue by rental car.

Accommodation: “Zen Rocks Mani Retreat”: Beautiful studios with kitchenette and private terrace in stone houses high above Kardamili. Plus: yoga classes, vegetarian restaurant, great views. Double rooms from 100 euros, zenrocksmani.com

“Hotel Anniska”: Friendly family hotel in Kardamili with bathing access to the sea. Quiet rooms and apartments with kitchenettes and balconies. Double rooms from 85 euros, anniska-liakoto.com

“Areos Polis”: Traditional stone house with tastefully furnished rooms, roof terrace. Best location to explore the Mani. Double rooms from 60 euros, areospolis.gr

“Kyrimai Hotel”: 23 rooms with natural stone walls in an old ship outfitter workshop in the picturesque harbor village of Gerolimenas. Ambitious regional cuisine, terrace with sea view, bathing jetty. Double room from 120 euros, kyrimai.gr

Corona rules: Online registration is mandatory for Greece. Holidaymakers must fill out an online form (“Passenger Locator Form”) at least 24 hours before departure. You will receive a QR code that must be shown upon entry. Individual travelers can be tested. Hygiene rules apply in the country. Info: Auswaertiges-amt.de; greecehealthfirst.gr

Further information: discovergreece.com; visitgreece.gr

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

Source: Welt am Sonntag


Brandenburg: In the Schorfheide in search of the wolf

Germany Schorfheide

Looking for the wolf in Brandenburg

Brandenburg is the state where most of the wolves live. The chances of seeing them here aren’t bad. But also elsewhere in Germany, tourists are drawn to the forests to capture the animals with the camera.

| Reading time: 3 minutes

editor in charge of travel / style / engine

Wolves in Germany – “The reaction was zero”

Wolves in northern Germany killed over 1000 animals in 2019. That is 60 percent more than in the previous year. At the same time, Master Isegrim shows a worrying trend.

Dthe coachman knows how to stir up the wolf fever. “I’ve already seen one,” says Thomas Hakenbeck from Friedrichswalde, vaguely waving his whip from the driver’s seat into the autumn forest. “The wolf ran across the forest path.”

The guests, high up on the open covered wagon on their way through the Brandenburg Schorfheide, look around expectantly and eerily. Aren’t the two snorting carriage horses noticeably nervous? Why do the crows moan excitedly in the pine trees? The voltage increases.

The other day he was driving a group of foresters around, Thomas Hakenbeck continues, and he listened carefully to them. They would only have talked about wolves. A whole pack was filmed nearby, seven in number. A sure wolf indication: If the blueberry herb grows too high under the pines, the wolf is not far away.

Please what? Is that now coachman or forester Latin? The explanation, however, makes sense: all game that blueberry buds normally keep short like a lawn has moved to other still wolf-free retreats in fear of the wolf. The inmates stare at the blueberry bushes along the way. They are actually quite big. But where is the wolf?

Most of the wolves live in Brandenburg

The chances of seeing a wild wolf are not that bad. Brandenburg is the federal state with the most wolfs. According to the Brandenburg Ministry of the Environment, there are currently 49 territories occupied by wolves, one of them in the Schorfheide.

A wolf in Germany

While the increase in wolves worries shepherds, the tourists are happy

Quelle: Getty Images

According to the Federal Wolfs Documentation and Advice Center, 105 packs, 29 pairs and eleven individual territorial animals have been confirmed nationwide for 2018/2019. This corresponds to an estimated population of the wolf in Germany of 1350 to 1950 animals, if you add the offspring.

This summer, Thuringia reports the first wolf pups in 150 years that have walked into a photo trap on the northern edge of the Thuringian Forest near Ohrdruf; North Rhine-Westphalia confirms the first wolf offspring in the Rhein-Sieg district.

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Thuringian Forest in Thuringia: Schwarzburg an der Schwarza attracted tourists as early as 1840 - today it's quiet here

Wolves attract visitors everywhere: both in the Westphalian Hünxe and in the Brandenburg Löwenberger Land, the forests are full of tourists who try to use cameras to find those wolves that have been newly discovered and filmed there. By the way, only four of 16 federal states will be wolf-free in 2020: Saarland as well as Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin.

Wendland and Lausitz skillfully market the wolf

The famous mouflon of the Schorfheide has already been practically exterminated because of the wolves, the coachman continues in a whisper. These wild sheep are high on a wolf’s menu because they are easy prey. They only have a short escape distance, prefer to hide behind trees in case of danger or crouch in bracken, which a greedy wolf naturally finds very practical.

“Oh!” Groan some tourists in pity and look fearfully into the forest. Not a wolf in sight. It’s just a romantic carriage ride through the forest. Meanwhile: In Wendland in Lower Saxony and in Lusatia in Saxony, where wolves have howled for a long time, people are more enterprising.

Well booked: hikes where tourists are shown wolf droppings. In the hotel “Kenner’s Landlust” in Wendland, after the tour, the four-course menu from Grimm’s “Little Red Riding Hood” is recited: “There is what the wolf likes to eat: lamb”, it says on the menu. Wolves are good for business.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

Source: Welt am Sonntag


Brandenburg: Children in Ruppin Switzerland like to hike

Dhe boys are hard to keep. Adrian leans out of the carriage and sticks out his arm. Jacob’s voice almost cracks: “Piiiii-lze!” Coachman Jürgen Strache, who has so far presented his anecdotes, is startled: “It’s nice when children are so enthusiastic about nature!” He gives Chico and Hercules, the two shiny black geldings to stop the signal with reins and voice. The children jump off and scurry under the trees.

Edible or not? To be on the safe side, there is a mushroom identification book in the backpack, and the parents of the two boys have enough experience in collecting mushrooms. On the family hike through Ruppiner Schweiz in the federal state of Brandenburg, another great mushroom miracle is to come.

Our project starts in Neuruppin. From there it should go to Rheinsberg. For the sake of the youngsters, we divided the 25-kilometer march over three days – each around eight kilometers. A six and a ten year old can do that too.

The waters are the heart of Ruppiner Switzerland

The old Prussian town was already in focus in 2019 as Theodor Fontane’s birthplace for his 200th birthday. Another well-known son of the city was the builder and architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. He built castles and classicist buildings on an assembly line, such as the theater on Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt or the Nicolaikirche in Potsdam.

The hike also leads along the Molchowsee riverside path. There is a lot to discover

Source: dpa-tmn

We walk along the road to Alt-Ruppin, then we finally go into the forest – into the green idyll. On the right the beech trees, above us a roof made of branches and leaves, on the left thick reeds through which the sun pinks. Soon the reeds open up to the sandy beach.

The Molchowsee – in autumn its banks are deserted – lies in the golden light. It is part of a chain of lakes that are connected via Rhin and Binenbach. The waters are the heart of Ruppiner Switzerland, a hilly, wooded terminal moraine landscape.

Fishing on Molchowsee in Ruppiner Switzerland (Brandenburg): The children hope for the big catch

Fishing at Molchowsee: The children hope for the big catch

Source: dpa-tmn

On the jetty, which seems to lead into the low sun, the children cast fishing rods – a welcome change after a good five kilometer walk.

In Molchow we take the paddle boat for breakfast

It is not far to Molchow, a so-called Rundlingdorf, around whose village square the farms are grouped. We check in at the Luisenhof holiday complex on the Rhin. Katrin Helldörfer-Schmitt rents out the seven holiday apartments.

She tells of the political issue of the last few years: the Molchower Bridge. When Fontane came across the Rhin to Molchow in 1873 to talk about the old “eerie” wooden bell tower on the village square, he presumably came over a bridge.

Ruppiner Switzerland (Brandenburg): The "Luisenhof" is right on the water, for breakfast we take the paddle boat

The “Luisenhof” is right on the water; for breakfast it goes with the paddle boat

Source: dpa-tmn

The residents had been denied this path since 2016 after the dilapidated successor structure was closed and demolished. “Opposite is the forest,” says Katrin Helldörfer-Schmitt. People waited for years for the new building, which was finally handed over on August 28 of this year.

But the next morning we get into the paddle boat to get our breakfast, which increases the family fun. Diagonally across the street we moor in the small port of the “River Café”. The children take off their life jackets and are soon munching on sandwiches and fruit from a cake stand. Back on the other bank, the coachman Strache is already waiting.

Discovered mushrooms while riding a carriage

Would you like to continue hiking in a carriage? Oh yeah! Fontane did it that way. He traveled through the area in a horse-drawn carriage and later published his travel texts as “Walks through the Mark Brandenburg”. What the poet could do, we too can.

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We enjoy the ride in the wagonette – we continue through the beech forests in an open horse-drawn wagon at around five kilometers an hour. “If you talk about decelerating today – well, that’s it,” says the coachman.

The parents almost relaxed, but then suddenly the exclamation: “Pi-iii-lze!” The boys jump purposefully from the car again. On the bank they discover large porcini mushrooms.

Brandenburg: Coach driver Jürgen Strache sits in the wagonette that pulls the geldings Chico and Hercules through the Ruppin lake landscape

Coachman Jürgen Strache sits in the wagonette that pulls the geldings Chico and Hercules through the Ruppin lake landscape

Source: dpa-tmn

Strache’s explanations that a raised bog is being renatured in order to restore order to the forest’s water balance are of course completely lost. That the gray goose and crane breed in the Ruppin Lake District and that kingfisher, otter and beaver live and that the wolf in Krangen has already killed wild game.

The mill in the forest became a hotel

The area, which is rich in mushrooms in autumn, was discovered by Berliners in the Roaring Twenties for their summer vacation, the coachman tells us on the journey, a parallel to today. How wealthy some big city dwellers were is shown by the manorial development of villages like Stendenitz, which lies between the Tetzen and Zermützel lakes.

We roll along the Rottstiel river, the connection to the Tornowsee. At its northern end is the Boltenmühle, our night camp. “It is said that Frederick the Great said that if he hadn’t been King of Prussia, then he would have liked to become a miller at the Boltenmühle,” says coachman Strache when he said goodbye.

Ruppiner Switzerland (Brandenburg): Not only Theodor Fontane passed the Boltenmühle, but also Frederick the Great

Not only Theodor Fontane passed the Boltenmühle, but also Frederick the Great

Source: dpa-tmn

In front of today’s Waldhotel, water is still splashing over a mill wheel. Shortly afterwards, the family was splashing around in the hotel’s small swimming pool with a sauna when the rain started outside.

The sun drives the clouds away on the last day of hiking. First of all, the children’s willingness to migrate is bad. But between Zechow and Rheinsberg, where there were hardly any trees in Fontane’s time, they are motivated by the abundance of mushrooms: the family hops through the coniferous forest from chestnut to chestnut, and we also find Krause Glucken, the cauliflower-like edible mushrooms, in abundance.

The fact that Rheinsberg marks the end point of our hike also fits geographically. The city is located in the outermost corner of the Ruppiner Land – once a customs post when salt and tobacco were still smuggled. But we only have mushrooms in our luggage anyway.

Picking up poisonous mushrooms has these consequences

Even before the start of the mushroom season, reports of poisoning are increasing. Biologists and medical professionals therefore advise extreme caution. Mixing up can have fatal consequences.

Tips and information

Getting there: By train to Neuruppin; If you park your car there, you can return later by bus 764 from Rheinsberg.

Accommodation: There is relatively little choice along the hiking route. In Molchow, the “Luisenhof” also welcomes you with family-friendly holiday apartments, from 80 euros for the first night, 60 euros the next night, plus ten euros per night and person when occupied by more than two people, luisenhof-molchow.de. The “Hotel Boltenmühle” is located in the forest near Gühlen-Glienicke, double rooms with breakfast from 89 euros, boltenmuehle.de. In Rheinsberg, the “Gasthof Endler” with in-house butchery also offers family rooms, double rooms with breakfast cost from 42 euros per person, gasthof-endler.de

Leisure: Ruppiner Fahrtouristik carries out trips in the covered wagonette, from 60 euros / hour for up to seven people, kremserhof.com. Fishing permits are available from Fischerei Zeuschner in the Angel-Point shop in Neuruppin, angelpoint-ruppin.de

Information desk: reiseland-brandenburg.de

Ruppiner Switzerland in Brandenburg

Source: WORLD infographic

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World tour through Germany


Canada: Pasta and cocktails are now allowed in Québec

Die Region Quebec

She is Canada’s largest province – and the most idiosyncratic. In Québec, only French is officially spoken, English is not even the official language, although of course everyone speaks it here. About 79 percent of the eight million inhabitants are native French speakers.

You have always gone your own way here, and the wish of many to break away from Canada is still present today, but it cannot be fulfilled. The new Canadian Constitution of 1982 has still not been ratified by Québec.

And after a narrowly failed independence referendum in 1995, in which 50.58 percent of the population rejected secession from Canada, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled three years later that a province could not unilaterally declare itself independent. After all, in 2006 Québec was recognized as a “nation within a united Canada” to calm the minds.

There are two national holidays in the province: the Fête du Canada on July 1st and the Fête Nationale on June 24th. The provincial flag adorns the French Lily, a lily made of three stylized leaves.

Source: WORLD infographic

This is all a win for visitors: you get French charm plus North American simplicity. Those who throw in a few French vocabulary are well received. With Hello, Things are going well or one Health makes Québecers happy. Or rather happy.

The language police reach thousands of complaints

Every year, angry citizens send 4,000 complaints to the Québec Language Bureau because they do not feel well informed in French.

In the office, linguists make sure that the Charter of the French Language of 1977 is respected: Everything is Frenchized, street signs (Stop instead of Stop) anyway, with multilingual menu cards, French should always be written in bold. After all: Pasta and Cocktail after much debate, for example, are now allowed without translation.

Canada: If you order a cocktail in Québec, you can't go wrong

If you order a cocktail in Québec, you can’t go wrong

Source: Getty Images / Pakin Songmor

Like a city in France from the 17th century

Put on your hiking shoes and go: 135 hectares of old town, divided into the upper town on the rocky plateau and the lower town of Petit-Champlain. Upstairs, downstairs over cobblestones, through alleys and arches, past wall paintings that tell the story of the French in North America.

Vieux-Québec looks like a French town from the 17th century. Overly motivated, it was restored in the 1970s, British things were redeveloped. Still a UNESCO World Heritage Site – because of the historic city wall, it is the only one in North America that has been preserved.

The waterfall is more spectacular than the Niagara Falls

Not only is it 30 meters higher than the famous Niagara Falls, but, if you take a closer look, it is also more spectacular because it is less built up: The water of the Montmorency Falls near Quebec City falls over a rock 83 meters deep into the St. Lorenz current.

The cable car takes you up, then you walk on a suspension bridge directly over the waterfall. Sporty people take the panorama staircase carved into the rock, 487 steps. In winter the spray freezes at the foot of the waterfall sugar breadwhat looks like a giant sugar loaf.

Canada: The water of the Montmorency Falls near Québec City falls over a rock 83 meters deep into the Saint Lawrence River

The water of the Montmorency Falls plunges over a rock 83 meters deep into the Saint Lawrence River

Quelle: Getty Images

Artists make sculptures out of ice

February, when temperatures drop to minus 30 degrees, is the big time for Québec ice cream artists. They shape, saw and hammer filigree sculptures from blocks of ice: figures such as ice dancers and ice hockey players, airplanes, trucks and horse-drawn carriages – and again and again the Gallic rooster, the French rooster.

For example, at the “Saint-Côme en glace” ice cream festival in Lanaudière near Montreal and at the winter carnival in Québec City (February 5-14, 2021). Nice to melt away.

Canada: In Québec, artists use ice to create filigree sculptures like ice hockey players

In Québec, artists use ice to sculpt filigree sculptures like these ice hockey players

Quelle: Getty Images

Feed elk and deer from your car

Many Québec visitors do not fare much differently in nature than tourists in Sweden: They wonder where the moose are, a symbol of the Nordic wilderness? The animal can almost only be seen as a pictogram on street signs; it prefers to hide in the woods.

An alternative: the road trip through Parc Oméga – a twelve-kilometer drive-through wildlife park near Montebello, an hour and a half from Montreal. Elk and deer lurk along the way, having learned that carrots are handed to them from the car window. If you are concerned about your vehicle and your health: This tour is also available in a grille-protected VW Caddy.

Québec in Canada: In Parc Oméga, moose and deer can be fed by drivers

In Parc Oméga, moose and deer can be fed by drivers

Source: WORLD infographic

Maple toffee on a stick is a specialty

How about a maple toffee on a stick in winter? Maple syrup fans swear by in Quebec Maple Taffy. This sticky candy is made by simmering maple sap for a long time. The hot syrup is then poured onto a wooden stick laid out in the snow, where it curdles immediately.

If that’s too sweet for you, order Putin: crispy fries, sprinkled with cheese and soaked in gravy, often refined with a lobster topping: a hearty lumberjack mishmash. There is also the national drink of Québecers: Caribou, a kind of mulled wine, but it has it all – a mix of red wine, rye whiskey and of course a dash of maple syrup.

Canada: Maple syrup fans swear by Maple Taffy in Quebec

Sticky candy: Maple syrup fans swear by Maple Taffy in Quebec

Quelle: Getty Images

An environmental museum in the Montreal Biosphere

A round eye-catcher from afar, downright mystical at sunset. The Biosphère Montreal is in a park on the island of Sainte Hélène: a spherical dome with a grid of triangles. It has a diameter of 76 meters.

This imposing dome was originally built for Expo 67 and had an outer shell made of acrylic, which was destroyed by fire during renovation work. Now it is “open”.

It houses an environmental museum that has been dealing with climate change and sustainability since 1995. Tip: the panoramic view on the top platform inside the dome.

Canada: The Biosphère Montreal is located in a park on the island of Sainte Hélène

The Biosphère Montreal is located in a park on the island of Sainte Hélène

Quelle: Getty Images

The quote

“I’m from Québec, and every time I go to a country I say that. It’s my roots, my origins, and it’s the most important thing to me.”

Celine Dion, born in 1968, comes from Charlemagne near Montreal. She wrote music history with the “Titanic” title song “My Heart Will Go On”. She makes it clear again and again that she still doesn’t feel like an English-speaking singer. She once turned down the award for best English-speaking artist on the grounds that she was and will always be a French-speaking singer.

Today she commutes between Paris and Las Vegas, she sold her castle on a private island near Montreal for 25.5 million US dollars after her husband’s cancer death.

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Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.

When a whale takes a joke

A whale terrified the crowd in Quebec, Canada. At first he doesn’t show himself, then suddenly he appears in front of the rubber dinghy with his mouth wide open.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

Welt am Sonntag from September 27, 2020

Source: Welt am Sonntag


Brittany: This Atlantic lighthouse is “the hell of hells”

Europe Regional geography Brittany

This lighthouse is “the hell of hells”

The Armen lighthouse is located in the middle of the Atlantic. Building it there was so difficult that it took 14 years to complete. And there are even more unusual things to see in Brittany.

| Reading time: 4 minutes

Brittany (France): The Armen lighthouse was built between 1867 and 1881

The Armen lighthouse off the coast of Brittany was built between 1867 and 1881

Quelle: Getty Images

The lighthouse in the Atlantic

Sa Breton name means harmless “the stone”, but it is also known as “the hell of hells”: The Armen lighthouse is in an isolated location in the Atlantic Ocean – 24 kilometers from the mainland, where waves up to 30 meters high hit it threaten to devour strong winds.

Work on arms began in 1867 and, due to the extremely difficult conditions on site, took a full 14 years. The roaring sea kept the two guards captive for weeks at a time.

Initially powered by oil, the beacons have been flashing automatically since 1990 – and Armen is orphaned. In 1967 the experience report by the Breton author J.-P. Abrahams, in which he writes about his meager life as a lighthouse keeper.

The Brittany region

Brittany is in the far west of France; As the largest peninsula in the country, it separates the English Channel from the Bay of Biscay. They decisively shaped the Celtic tribes, which they called Aremorica – “Land by the Sea” – and from here they drove out with their fleets.

Brittany in France

Source: Infographic Die Welt

Today Brittany is one of the most important tourist regions in the country. It impresses with its Atlantic beaches and bathing bays, good food typical of the country and Neolithic cult facilities in the form of thousands of menhirs, which seem to sprout from the heather like gigantic stone mushrooms.

The walled city of Saint-Malo

The historic town center of Saint-Malo at the mouth of the Rance River, surrounded by ramparts, is washed by water from three sides at high tide. What used to protect the privateer and shipowner stronghold from raids makes the city a magnet for Breton visitors today.

Saint-Malo in Brittany (France)

Quelle: Getty Images/RooM RF

The self-confidence of the inhabitants of Saint-Malo is legendary: They achieved great prosperity through trade in goods from Newfoundland and India, and in 1590 they proclaimed their own republic – which only existed for four years. But to this day her motto is: “Neither French nor Breton, I am Malouine!”

Asterix – the famous Gaul

Perhaps the most famous Celt is Asterix – the Romans called the early inhabitants of Brittany “Gauls”. The “Asterix” comics have been telling stories about the Gallic village and its inhabitants for more than 60 years. In 2009 the town of Erquy made a name for itself as the alleged model for Asterix’s hometown, but there was no solid evidence.

“The daughter of Vercingétorix”

At a press conference, the Albert-René-Verlag revealed little about the new adventure of little Asterix and his big friend Obelix. Again the author Jean-Yves Ferri and the draftsman Didier Conrad are the fathers of “La fille de Vercingétorix”.


The pointing dog Epagneul

Bretons love their epagneul, the red and white spaniel. The Greek poet Oppianus already mentioned in his “Kynogetika” that the dog breed was used here around 200 AD for hunting and falconry; in the Middle Ages it is not missing in any painting about hunting parties. Even Rembrandt painted it.

The pointing dog Epagneul

Quelle: Getty Images

The pointing dog has a strong hunting passion to this day and likes to retrieve game birds. Therefore, the 50 or so puppies that are littered each year in Germany are only given to hunters and falconers.

One of the most beautiful castles in France

Brittany has 4,000 castles, fortresses and manor houses. Many of the stately buildings can be visited – for example the 400-year-old castle Le Rocher-Portail, which is one of the most beautiful in France.

The claim “Downton Abbey à la Française” is not only used to attract fans of the British series. A dozen rooms can be visited, from the servants’ room to the curiosity cabinet. The extensive castle park is available for picnics.

Where to slurp oysters

Fresh oysters are eaten raw “in their very natural simplicity an unsurpassable dish”, wrote the “King of Chefs” Paul Bocuse in his standard work “The New Kitchen” from 1977. This has not changed until today.

Eating oysters in Brittany (France)

Source: WORLD infographic

In Brittany, the municipality of Cancale has been particularly successful in breeding since the 13th century. Two varieties thrive in the self-proclaimed “oyster capital”: the European oyster and the Pacific rock oyster. It is best to slurp them on the spot.

The quote

“Ar brezoneg hag ar feiz zo breur ha c’hoar e Breiz”

The Breton proverb “Breton and faith are siblings in Brittany” refers to the Catholicism that dominated the region for a long time. Brittany and the Breton language did not become part of France until the 16th century.

The Breton language that British immigrants brought with them from their islands at the time of the Anglo-Saxon conquest survived – to this day. However, with only around 150,000 speakers left, it is considered seriously endangered.

In many areas of Brittany, bilingual street signs refer to the heritage. Mini-lesson for visitors to Brittany: Thank you is called “mersi bras”.

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Swiss nationals Karel (L) and a friend Celine (R) ride bicycles with their children at the Centre Helio-Marin (Center for Sun and Sea) naturist campsite on the Atlantic coast in Montalivet, southwestern France, August 13, 2013. The Centre, created in July 1950, was the first vacation nudist camp to open in Europe. France is host to some 83 naturist sites where 60% of the holiday makers are foreigners. During the peak summer holiday period, 14,000 people spend their vacation at this nudist campsite on the Atlantic Ocean. Picture taken August 13, 2013 REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (FRANCE - Tags: TRAVEL SOCIETY) TEMPLATE OUT

This article was first published in September 2019.

Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.

Brittany – sweet, salty, fat!

Anyone coming to Brittany should cancel their Weight Watchers membership beforehand. In the far north-west of France, lots of flour, sugar and salted butter are a must.

Source: WELT / Laura Fritsch / Jörg Malitzki

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

WELT AM SONNTAG from August 4, 2019



Rhineland-Palatinate: Rheinstein Castle is pure German Rhine romanticism

Ahe most German of all rivers is known to be threatened with the full roar of Rhine romanticism: Brentano, Lord Byron and Loreley-Kitsch. Biedermeier dolls and Christmas decorations even in summer. An overdose of everything that is considered typically German: monuments of victorious Prussia and lovely wine with classy acidity.

Half-timbered houses, castle ruins and of course the castles. We also saw Rheinstein for the first time a few years ago from the Rhine steamer. It was love at first sight. The second time the Trutzbau showed itself while hiking through the Binger Forest. And then the plan matured to conquer Rheinstein Castle completely. At least for three nights.

But first come up! No easy undertaking even without knight armor and protective shield. This weir system asserts itself 90 meters above the river on a steep, jagged ledge.

Source: WORLD infographic

On the only access serpentine, formerly a donkey path, you conquer the first 45 meters in a constant zigzag, gasping for air at every bend and on the home straight in breathless amazement. Fortunately, the rolling suitcase is transported up through the vines on a cogwheel train. When we arrive at the top, we have to overcome the drawbridge with the iron chains and run through under the bay window with the machicolation and portcullis.

Friedrich von Prussia had the ruins redesigned

Due to good strategic planning, we are alone in our dream castle in the mornings and evenings, cared for by the four good castle ghosts of the Hecher family, who are the third generation to own and keep the German cultural monument alive.

Usually around 40,000 visitors come every year, but as soon as the gate closes in the evening, at most one green lizard can be seen here. My box seat to shake out my cushions on the second floor of the commandant’s tower would make even Frau Holle green with envy.

Rheinstein Castle, Trechtingshausen, Unesco World Heritage Site, Upper Middle Rhine Valley, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

The ascent to the castle is tough, but when you get to the top you have a great view of the Rhine

Quelle: picture alliance / imageBROKER

Whoever turns the time crank behind the walls, which are up to 5.60 meters thick, feels like in a Grimm fairy tale. Around 1316/17, the Archbishop of Mainz had the Vaitzburg near Trechtingshausen built on the steep rocky spur.

After 300 years the former toll castle gradually began to deteriorate and slumbered far longer than Sleeping Beauty 100 years. Until a real prince actually came, fell in love with the precious and kissed her awake.

Well, to be honest, Prussian Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig, who is also known as Friedrich of Prussia, did not seem so completely satisfied with her appearance. From 1825 onwards, he transformed the ruins he had bought for 100 thalers into a summer residence with a Mediterranean touch, in keeping with the romanticizing, neo-Gothic ideas of the Prussian master builder Karl Friedrich Schinkel.

Rheinstein Castle embodies German romanticism on the Rhine

And so an enchanting illusion was created by 1829 called Rheinstein, a playful Sleeping Beauty’s castle including knight games: “When the prince is there, we all go to the Middle Ages”, as Friedrich’s castellan, his castle manager, described it in 1835, one would say today.

Thanks to the prince, Rheinstein is the symbol of German Rhine romanticism that has become stone to this day. The mother of all castles. Its reconstruction was the blueprint for the subsequent restoration of the many other castles that are concentrated in the Middle Rhine Valley. And one is more beautiful than the next: Katz, Sooneck or Stolzenfels are among the best known.

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But the ravages of time gnawed at Rheinstein Castle, which in the 1970s was again in a desolate state – out of date without electricity, running water, heating. And it was up for sale again, which attracted mysterious interested parties: A certain Peter Lodge from Great Britain turned out to be a bogus investor in 1974 who never paid the agreed 2.5 million D-Marks to the last owner from the House of Prussia, Barbara Duchess of Mecklenburg paid, but had sold the antique furniture before.

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Then mendicant monks of the Indian Hare Krishna movement presented themselves and wanted to take over the walls. They turned out to be the only financially potent prospects. “That made the local population nervous,” says today’s lord of the castle, Markus Hecher.

Was there a fear of a happy hippie happening on the Rhine? Before the bald-headed disciples of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in long robes with flower chains prancing through the Burgundy garden, singing and drumming happily, and sniffing the roses? Before meditation in the knight’s hall, “Hare rama hare rama” mantras over the Rhine? Even today unimaginable.

The subsidies from the state of Rhineland-Palatinate are insufficient

Markus Hecher’s father, the Austrian opera singer Hermann Hecher, finally acquired the castle and thus saved it from “misappropriation by the sect”, as it is called in a castle chronicle. He used loans to buy the original German cultural property, which is now only inhabited by bats and kestrels, from the Duchess for the bargain price of 360,000 marks.

“The romantic has gotten away with me,” a local newspaper quotes the tenor, who died in 2011, on a faded page in the castle museum, through which son Markus guides us, who reports of a fulfilled life of his father as lord of the castle.

Rhineland-Palatinate: Rheinstein Castle is 90 meters above the Rhine on a steep, jagged ledge

Rheinstein Castle lies 90 meters above the river on a steep, rugged rock ledge

Source: pa / imageBROKER / Crossland, D.

“If we had been millionaires, we would certainly not have bought this gloomy, empty castle, we would have invested the money,” says Markus Hecher, remembering the time when he was a 16-year-old teenager – with a castle but no stereo. “My father was an idealist, a very emotional person who didn’t think about the maintenance costs. That was probably a little naive. ”

The renovation of the building, the electrification and the repurchase of the original antique furniture had given his father many sleepless nights. With the help of a support association – with castle fans as far as Japan – the financial gaps that could not be covered by grants from the state of Rhineland-Palatinate alone are still being filled today.

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Weathering and damp endanger the old walls as well as the wild boars occasionally when they shovel away tons of soil and stones on the slope within a few nights while searching for food.

Rooms, dungeon and garden are lovingly designed

A down-to-earth approach, but always with a large portion of passion – that’s how a lord of the castle must be. Unlike in fairy tales, there is not only good and bad, but the compulsion to compromise. Others build castles in the air, Rheinstein is a commercial enterprise.

And a home with many inconveniences. Markus Hecher’s father still lived in the drafty attic of the castle, today’s museum. Today’s Hechers live in the restored servants’ houses just behind the Zwinger. Drive up here in your car? Nothing! A narrow-track tractor brings the purchases up the serpentine.

Rheinstein Castle: Castle owner Markus Hecher shows his visitors around himself

Lord of the castle Markus Hecher shows his visitors around himself

Source: pa / dpa / Fredrik Von Erichsen

While Markus Hecher is talking, one thinks: How good that the lord of the castle is still showing his visitors around here himself and is not dressed in a knight’s look – with a chain hood, tunic and sword like folk guides in other castles.

Rheinstein does not need such show effects, because the 16 rooms, including the dungeon and garden, are lovingly decorated down to the last detail: There is the harp in the Red Salon on the Prinzessinnenetage, where Friedrich’s Luise herself plucked, in a nightgown thrown over the chair her bedchamber, the almost burned candle next to the inkwell and quill in her husband’s little tower room. It’s almost as if the prince just quickly disappeared to the quiet (dump) place.

Burg Rheinstein am Rhein

The bedroom of Princess Luise, who was also buried in the castle near Trechtingshausen

Source: pa / dpa / Friedel Gierth

Up and down stairs it goes over steep, well-worn wooden stairs and narrow spiral staircases in oriel and tower rooms, where you could play Rapunzel. Elegant cast iron stairs swing up to the residential and defense towers with up to five storeys – from the castle kitchen to the knight’s hall and the sideboard to the kemenaten, tiny rooms that could be heated quickly with the fireplace.

Jet fighters thunder over the world heritage site

To cut a long story short: We did not encounter ghosts in the three days, although there were three corpses in the cellar less than ten meters from our commanders’ tower: Friedrich, Luise and their son Georg were buried in the Prussian crypt.

The greatest shock are the jet fighters, who suddenly thunder with an infernal noise just over the treetops of the Morgenbachtal. “On the other hand, we had to have a special suspension built into the glass windows years ago,” sighs Marco Hecher, the junior lord of the third generation who takes care of the restaurant and wedding celebrations.

And so there are no cannonballs threatening the world cultural heritage these days. It is sound and vibrations that shake the building to its foundations.

Hall in Rheinstein Castle, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Like this hall, all rooms in the castle are lovingly furnished

Source: picture alliance / Bildagentur-online / Schoening

Tips and information

Getting there: From Frankfurt a good hour’s drive to the parking lot on the B9, from there walk up to the castle. It is a 30-minute walk from Trechtingshausen train station (bahn.de).

Accommodation: One night in a double room from 139 euros including breakfast (burg-rheinstein.de); Visit: 6 euros per person

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Greece: The myth of Atlantis comes to life on Santorini

Dhe earth trembles. A dull rumble and a cloud of ash herald something ominous. A huge explosion follows, which rips apart the top of a volcano with a deafening bang. Lava rock the size of a truck flies towards the viewer, glowing red streams, murderously hot, roll over the land, into the bubbling sea.

What follows are tidal waves as high as a house, which sweep over the sea at breakneck speed. Instinctively you raise your arms to protect yourself from the elemental forces, that’s how realistically you experience the apocalypse today, which destroyed all life on Thera three and a half thousand years ago.

Thera – that’s what Santorini was once called. For a year now, an Atlantis museum has been welcoming visitors to the Greek Aegean island, which it claims to be the first in the world. It is equipped with the finest high-tech.

The Atlantis Museum explains Thera

In a cinema with 3D film material, visitors sit on hydraulically operated chairs and can enjoy even more: water splashes out of the armrests. When entering the “Lost Atlantis Experience”, as the museum calls all of its illusionary magic, you have to make your way over virtually glowing lava rocks.

Watch out, it splashes: water shoots from armrests during the screenings in the museum cinema, which illustrate elemental forces for visitors

Quelle: Lost Atlantis Experience Museum/Thanasis Damopoulos

At the end of the Feuerstraße you will find a touchscreen on which you can follow Plato’s life. The world-famous Greek philosopher reported on Atlantis for the first time around 360 BC in his late works “Kritias” and “Timaeus”.

A few meters further, Plato comes to life. As a projection, it answers questions from museum visitors. Shortly afterwards you stand in front of rotating holograms that trace the geological development of Santorini from prehistoric times to the present in three dimensions.

The viewer learns about research results from 1989. According to this, Thera looked surprisingly similar to Plato’s Atlantis image 3600 years ago: a hill surrounded by rings of seawater and earth. On the upper floor, a huge Atlantis diorama provides insights into the daily life of the residents.

At the end of the exhibition there is a reality check: Plato’s descriptions are compared with the reality of Santorini using examples.

After the beach to the archaeological site of Akrotiri

The similarities with Atlantis have not stopped Giorgos Koukoulas since he came to the island 13 years ago. In 2012 he wrote a novella with “Atlantis will never go down”. Seven years later his dream of a museum came true, which he and five friends had planned and financed himself; today he is its director.

Promises a multimedia historical experience with holograms and 3-D films: the Lost Atlantis Experience Museum on Santorini in Greece

Promises a multimedia historical experience with holograms and 3-D films: the Lost Atlantis Experience Museum

Quelle: Lost Atlantis Experience Museum/Thanasis Damopoulos

“Plato wanted to embed his idea of ​​an ideal state in a real environment,” he is sure. “With its highly developed culture, its geological features and its dramatic history, it is very obvious that Santorini and the surrounding islands are the origin of Atlantis.”

If one goes in search of evidence that supports this thesis, a holiday on Santorini can also be a journey of discovery outside the museum. The first stop is the archaeological site of Akrotiri.

The place Oia is picturesquely located on the steep coast of Santorini in Greece

Blue church domes, white cube houses: the place Oia is picturesquely located on the cliffs of Santorini

Source: Getty Images / Sylvain Sonnet

Bathers who relax in intense sunshine in the 20 degree warm water on Red Beach until the end of October like to combine their beach stay with a walk through the nearby archaeological site, where a city reached the height of its culture in the Bronze Age three and a half thousand years ago. Plato saw Atlantis sink in his work through earthquakes and floods, Akrotiri was also destroyed by an earthquake around 1620 BC.

A society as described by Plato

In 1967 the excavations began in Akrotiri – which will drag on for many years. However, the work has been very insightful so far. The roughly two hectare part of the archaeological site that has been exposed so far provides information about a society as outlined by Plato as a “great and wonderful empire” in his works.

Santorini (Greece): At Red Beach with its imposing red rocks, bathers can relax in the sun until the end of October

At Red Beach with its imposing red rocks, bathers can relax in the sun until the end of October

Quelle: Getty Images

Wall paintings show a civilization shaped by trade and seafaring, which at that time was far ahead of its time. Currently they are hidden from visitors, but mostly still in the museum’s magazine. Particularly noticeable is the frieze found in the so-called West House with an armada of ships, which comes very close to Plato’s description of “The largest port teeming with ships and merchants”.

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The location of the Cycladic island of Santorini and a reconstruction of Atlantis

When walking through the alleys of the 3600-year-old city, one can hardly stop being amazed at the techniques that people already had at their disposal. Houses up to three floors high, cantilevered stairs, sewers, cobblestone streets, bathtubs and toilets in the buildings illustrate the prosperity in the city, which is so well preserved under volcanic ash, that is otherwise only found in Pompeii or Herculaneum. Plato had also reported on canals and bathhouses in his “Kritias” dialogue.

When hiking on Santorini you can see the stones

Unlike in Italy, no human remains have been found in Akrotiri so far. Archaeologists suspect that in the face of increasing earthquakes, people saved themselves on their ships from the great volcanic devastation. It is unlikely that they could escape the lava flows and sea waves up to 30 meters high.

Museum guide Eugenia Liodaki considers another explanation: “The residents of Thera were used to earthquakes. Perhaps they only evacuated the city temporarily. ”Bed frames in front of the uncovered houses indicate that clean-up work began after the earthquake. Obviously, the population was not ready to give up the prosperity achieved through trade and seafaring and the fertile soil of volcanic origin.

There was also plenty of building material on the island. Once again there are parallels to Plato’s Atlantis, whose inhabitants built “towers and gates” from it. “The stones for it,” he wrote, were “partly white, partly black, partly red” – typical stone colors for a volcanic island.

Atlantis or Santorini?  Museum visitors can find out how similar the islands are - with a touchscreen and insights from Plato

Atlantis or Santorini? Museum visitors can find out how similar the islands are – with a touchscreen and insights from Plato

Quelle: Lost Atlantis Experience Museum

On a hike from Oia in the north of Santorini to the island’s capital Fira, the black and white layers of rock on the cliffs can easily be made out. The cliffs themselves are covered with a sea of ​​whitewashed houses as if they were snow-covered.

The color contrasts are the black volcanic pebbles of many island beaches, the most beautiful Santorini can be found near Perivolos. Imposing red rocks can be found on Red Beach or on the way from Oia down to the port of Ammoudi.

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Holidaymaker in Lindos on the island of Rhodes (Greece)

So far, however, archaeologists have not come across traces of the Temple of Poseidon, whose location Plato established in the center of Atlantis. The islands of Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni are located in the middle of the crater, which is now filled with seawater, the remaining rim of which Santorini is semicircular. Some of the hot springs praised by Plato bubble there.

If you sit on a restaurant terrace in Oia or Imerovigli with a glass of local Assyrtiko wine on a mild autumn evening, the islands enchant you in the light of the setting sun. Myth and reality slowly merge in front of the orange, then deep red horizon, which inevitably stimulates the imagination.

Santorin in the Aegean Sea (Greece)

Source: WORLD infographic

Tips and information

Getting there: From Berlin, for example, with the Greek airline Aegean, stopover in Athens. Lufthansa flies non-stop from Frankfurt, and Condor from Düsseldorf. For entry by sea, air and land, there is an online registration requirement due to Covid-19. An online form (“Passenger Locator Form”) on the travel.gov.gr website must be completed at least 24 hours before departure for Greece.

Accommodation: From the “Mystique Hotel Santorini” in Oia you can enjoy a spectacular view of the crater, a night in a double room costs from around 320 euros, depending on the season and the offer (mystique.gr); It is cheaper to stay in the “Heliotopos Boutique Hotel” in Imerovigli, double rooms from 165 euros (hotel.heliotopos.net); The “Istoria” is located directly on the beach of Perivolos near the archaeological site of Akrotiri and the Atlantis Museum, double rooms from 260 euros (istoriahotel.gr).

Lost Atlantis Experience Museum: The museum is located in Megalochori in the south of the island; admission is normally 12 euros, children from 6 to 12 years pay 6 euros. Due to Corona, you have to register and inquire about opening times (lost-atlantis.com). Closing time in the low season from November to the end of April.

Akrotiri archaeological site: The archaeological site of Akrotiri is open daily, entrance fee 12 euros (santorin.gr/akrotiri.php).

Information desk: discovergreece.com/de

Participation in the trip was supported by Marketing Greece. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.


Vacation in the GDR: How old travel guides show the country

“Due to its geographical location, our republic is the intersection of major tourist connections in Europe. Travelers often want to get to know this peace state and its people better.” “Every tourist can be assured of being hospitable here, because he is in a country, whose highest political principle is humanism. “

It’s amazing how the GDR advertised itself as a tourist wonderland in travel guides published by state publishers between the 1960s and 1980s. Anyone who reads them and does not know the second German state firsthand could consider it to be cosmopolitan and hospitable, a coveted travel destination in the first league of tourism.