Thuringian Underground Cities: April 23, 2022, 9:59 am

Tunnels, caves, mystical caves: a decidedly unusual way to explore the cultural treasures of Thuringian cities is to look for traces underground. Such adventures are no less spectacular than those in daylight …

Plus, you can do without sun protection and the cool underground rooms offer an ideal cooling off on hot summer days.

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Like in a time machine, travel back to past centuries, even millennia, if you think of the Weimar Park Cave, which allows a journey through 200,000 years of earth and man’s history. In Erfurt you can explore the weak listening passages of the Petersberg citadel, in Gotha the casemates, which are among the strongest Baroque fortifications in central Germany. Other underground attractions are the historically significant cellars in Arnstadt, the old mining tunnels in Ilmenau and Saalfeld and the Gera caves. And who can claim to experience a musical event in the deepest concert hall in the world? It is the visitors of the Sondershausen Adventure Mine, who indulge in a feast for the ears 700 meters underground. Get ready for unforgettable hours in the dark!

The dark corridors in the wall
Petersberg Citadel rises above Erfurt’s Old Town – arranged in the shape of a star, it was considered the most modern complex of its time – and is impregnable. The baroque fortress of the city amazes with mysterious paths: the listening passages, which were supposed to protect the fortress from invaders. Armed with flashlights, you can experience the narrow, winding passages in the Petersberg fortress walls up close. Who knows, maybe in the glow of the twinkling lights you will find traces of Napoleon, who was already there? The little lights wander over the old walls like a dot and reveal exciting details. An adventure guaranteed for children: the special “Search for Dagobert’s Treasure” tour, a treasure hunt through the ancient Horchgangs. It is worth stopping by at the commander’s house later: here the new permanent exhibition “The Petersberg – An Exciting Journey Through Time” invites you to an interactive experience through over 1,000 years of fortress history.
Gotha’s pillboxes are equally impressive. Surrounding Friedenstein Castle, they are among the strongest Baroque fortifications in central Germany and have remained unchanged for over 350 years. The structures under the park, which have a constant annual temperature of 8 degrees Celsius, can be visited on an underground tour. We owe the casemates to Duke Ernst the Pious. In the 17th century he had Friedenstein castle built as the residence of his duchy and the casemates to protect his residence. The fact that they are accessible today is the merit of the building historian Udo Hopf: in 2003, together with volunteer supporters, he unearthed about 300 meters of casemates by hand.

Be a caveman
One of Germany’s most famous exhibition caves and a geological rarity is the Barbarossa Cave not far from the city of Sondershausen. Located in the National GeoPark Kyffhäuser, it impresses with its underground lakes, the throne of Barbarossa and the history of the anhydrite rock: there are only two show caves existing in the anhydrite rock in the world: the Barbarossa cave is one of them. In 1865, the natural wonder was accidentally discovered by miners looking for copper slate and only a few weeks later was released as a show cave. Guided tours invite you to experience the underground kingdom of Barbarossa full of wonders and secrets. Big celebrations this year: the legendary Kaiser Rotbart celebrates his 900th birthday. Visitors can look forward to numerous special events in the anniversary year, including the WORLD OF LIGHTS, when the cave is transformed into a unique luminous work of art (June 1-26).

Equally fascinating from a geological point of view is the Weimar park cave, where Goethe already collected fossils. The cave under the park was originally designed as a beer shop. However, the accompanying brewery was never built, so it was decided to use it in a new way: travertine, a limestone rock, was mined for road construction until 1805. Later the cave served as a warehouse and also as a walkway. for court society, as the air is pleasantly cool and humid. During the Second World War there was an air raid shelter here. Today, earth movements are recorded in the park’s cave: the seismic center of the civil engineering faculty of the Bauhaus University of Weimar operates a seismological station, which records earthquakes nearby and around the world.

Away from daylight – good luck!
There is more life underground than meets the eye. Sometimes there are also attractions you never expected to be so hidden: a salt slide, a salt lake boat ride with real Spreewald boats, a bowling alley and the deepest concert hall in the world. All this is combined in the historic “Glückauf” adventure mine in Sondershausen. The first deep drilling took place in 1891: a huge deposit of rock salt was found. Years later, the first well was put into operation. Today the mine is the oldest passable potash mine in the world: equipped with an apron and helmet, you go up in the same elevator that still takes the miners down to about 670 meters underground. Cycling races, the international Sondershausen Crystal Run and numerous concerts and parties are also held in the huge underground cavities of the rock salt deposits.
The Saalfeld Fairy Caves demonstrate just how beautiful the dark and hidden places of Thuringian cities can be. In the former “Jeremias Glück” mine you can admire the most colorful exhibition caves in the world. Over time, the pits have transformed into a fascinating underground world – as can be seen, for example, in the fairytale dome, the oldest and most beautiful cave. Everywhere countless stalactite formations in vibrant colors and shapes adorn the walls, ceilings and floors. The unique underground climate helps to relax and strengthen the immune system. Outpatient inhalation care is therefore offered in a separate part of the pit, the Heilstollen. Touching, admiring and discovering is the goal of the Grottoneum adventure exhibition, a hands-on museum – and in the adventure forest of Feenweltchen, winding paths lead you into the world of nature spirits, trolls, elves and fairies.
Not far from the village of Ilmenau, in the idyllic Schorte valley, is the “Volle Rose” exhibition mine. A mining train takes you 360 meters into the historic tunnel.

Sixty meters underground, you can learn interesting facts about the former mine and the mineral mined here: fluorite. The huge variety of colors of fluorite can be impressively admired on a rocky vein. A light train ride through the Schortetal follows. Crossing the river, fish ponds and a large alluvial meadow, you discover another part of the mining history: the minerals were transported via the truck railway.

The extraction of iron ore and its smelting have long determined the history of the city of Suhl. Mining activity peaked between the 16th and 17th centuries. The traces of over a thousand mines in the area testify to this. In the early 2000s, some underground shafts were discovered and opened as a tourist mine “Schwarzer Crux” in Vesser. Here the Suhl mining tradition can be experienced through underground tours and in a separate mining exhibit. Thematic hiking trails and mining educational trails in the area invite you to discover history on foot.

Downtown Arnstadt: mystical vaulted cellar
The underworld of Thuringian cities is full of incredible stories and legends. What the secret cellars and vaults of Arnstadt have to tell you can be discovered on a city tour of a special kind.The cellar tour reveals that many of the underground rooms are significantly older than the buildings above. The cellars were used as natural cold rooms and storage space for perishable goods. But who were you hiding from? What scary stories are woven around many times? How much beer and wine have been stored here? Private individuals and public institutions open their cellars exclusively for a journey through time from the Middle Ages to the present day. You must know that Arnstadt is the oldest city in Thuringia and was first mentioned in a document as early as 704 – and of course it is a legendary city of Bach.
It is worth going down into the Geras underground network. “Mysterious underworld – the caves of Gera” is the title of a guided tour through historic vaults and corridors, also known as caves. Over 200 caves were dug into the mountain beneath the houses by miners from the 16th to 18th centuries. A nine kilometer long network of corridors was created.

Due to the constant temperature and humidity of almost 90 percent, they are ideal for storing beer. As part of a guided tour, you will learn interesting and fun facts about the origins and brewing of beer in Gera. Every two years, the Gera Caves Conservation Association organizes the Höhler Biennial in collaboration with the Otto Dix city of Gera. The former beer caves will become an exhibition space for international art installations. The annual “Höhlerfest” in the city center is one of the largest festivals in the old town of Thuringia.

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