Buried Treasures in Idar-Oberstein


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Europe » Germany » Rhineland-Palatinate
April 26th 2008
Published: May 3rd 2008
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The Church in the RockThe Church in the RockThe Church in the Rock

Church built into the rock over Idar-Oberstein.
I’m a big fan of semi-precious stones, and seeing a church that had been built into the side of a rock seemed pretty cool to me, so I was happy we were invited along on a tour group headed to the town of Idar-Oberstein.

The bus takes us through the town itself to reach the mines located just outside of town, and up quite a steep road. These mines, the Gemstone Mines Steinkaulenberg, are the only gem mines in Germany open to the public. The guide talked a bit quick, so I believe the mine was in operation from around 1400-something to about 1845, but the only thing I’m certain that she said was that the mine was abandoned when the miners all migrated to Brazil, to escape the high tax of the mined gems. Now, I’ve been inside of mines in Tennessee, so I was expecting something more than what we found, but it was interesting nonetheless. We were, however, rushed along by the tour guide, and I was remiss that we didn’t have more time to explore the caves ourselves and that I didn’t have time to get the settings on my camera correct for each of the
The Gem MinesThe Gem MinesThe Gem Mines

The pathway down to the mines (which are apparently only reached by a long drive up a steep a hill).
lighting situations. It was a beautiful place, even if the photographs don’t do it justice.

Then the bus drives us back into the town center and we are left on our own for awhile to dine, shop and explore. We eat lunch at a pizzeria, grab some gelato from a café, and then head off in the direction of the shops. This was certainly a touristy district. Every other store had the exact same items as the stores twenty feet away, maybe just in a slightly different color - or not. Everything imaginable was carved from semi-precious stones, from jewelry to animal sculptures, ashtrays to faux fruit, lamps to flowers, and of course, many bins full of various little stones.

We meet back up with the group and take a hike up 230 steps to the Church in the Rock, the Felsenkirche. Our guide tells us all about the Lord of the Oberer Stein, who, out of jealousy for a woman, pushed his brother off the side of a cliff. Out of atonement, he later built a church in the side of this cliff made of rock in apparently the exact spot where his late brother died. The
The Gem MinesThe Gem MinesThe Gem Mines

A list of the crytals and gems and stones found here. Of course, it's listed in German.
chapel, built 1482-1484, has some interesting artifacts inside, including a gothic baptism stone, some baroque paintings, and, one of the coolest things I’ve seen in awhile: a side door leading out into the rock. You could walk in the small space between the rock and the church, which was chilly, drafty, wet and constantly dripping, but really, really cool. There were stairs that led up through this space to a lookout next to the church steeple with a nice view of the town.

After hanging out at the church for awhile, and enjoying the view from the lookout, we head back to town and relax at an outside table of a restaurant for awhile, chatting with friends and appreciating the nice weather. We get home at a decent time, after a couple hour bus ride, but it’s an early Saturday night for us because we’re headed out again tomorrow.

And for an interesting piece of trivia, Bruce Willis was born in Idar-Oberstein in 1955.



Additional photos below
Photos: 39, Displayed: 24


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Us at the Gem MinesUs at the Gem Mines
Us at the Gem Mines

Aww.... (Plus, you can see from the background how we're up on a hill).
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The Gem Mines

The gift shop.
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The Gem Mines

Entering the mines...
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The Gem Mines

You wouldn't know it from the photo, but this cart is life size.
Inside the Gem MinesInside the Gem Mines
Inside the Gem Mines

Smoky Crystals.
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Inside the Gem Mines

Mountain Crystal.
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Inside the Gem Mines

Grotto full of rainwater, filtered naturally through the rock. About nine feet deep.
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Inside the Gem Mines

Another grotto.
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Inside the Gem Mines

Large Grotto.
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Inside the Gem Mines

Ferns. These grow only when the artificial lights are on (only during tourist season.)
Inside the Gem MinesInside the Gem Mines
Inside the Gem Mines

This was a path carved by a miner. The miners would work inside a tunnel just big enough to fit themselves and their chisel and hammer. Not a job for the claustrophobic.
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Inside the Gem Mines

"Footprint of a Miner's Ghost."
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Inside the Gem Mines

Museum display.


5th September 2009

The wire fence in front of the church
The wire fence is to try and stop any falling rocks from hitting people. In other places they would just cover the rock face with chain link, however , since this is a tourist attraction they opted not to disturb the overall view of the church and it's surrounding rock.

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