Steinkaulenberg is the only gemstone mine in Europe open to the public, and it also happens to be no more than a mile away from Karolina’s parents’ place in Idar-Oberstein. We would have walked there had it not been for the non-stop rain and thunderstorms in the area, which is why we also decided to take a trip underground as the weather on top wasn’t too inviting. To make up for this we rode our bikes to the mine a few days later, just for fun.
The 50 minute all German language tour was fairly informative, assuming you understand German. That meant going back to her translating skills for Karolina as my German is as good as my Italian, which is to say, not existant. But thankfully the tour was full of little kids who kept asking questions and that gave us time to argue about the translation…
It was pretty interesting to see fern actually grow under the ground. How does that happen? A few hundred people a day throughout the year bring in seeds of various plants on their clothes just outside the mine…or the wind blows it in while the gate is open… In either case, the lighting inside is just enough to allow fern to take root while the moisture sipping through the soil provides enough water for it to grow through the visitor months. It all dies when the mine is shut down during the winter season and all of the lamps are shut off.
Mine’s official website invites you to explore the world of “agates, twinkling rock crystals, amethysts, jasper and smoke quartzes in their original rock, the volcanic basalt”, and there’s plenty to see on the sidewalls of the mine as well as in the showcases at the end of the tour. If you’re in the area, you should check out this ‘gem’ for a closer look at origins of Idar-Oberstein.