Yesterday, I wrote about the trip Bill and I took to the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle, the only vertical cave in Germany open to the public. We had a great time visiting Germany’s vertical cave, although I am definitely feeling the pain today.
I’ve always been one to enjoy themes, so today we decided to visit the town of Sonnenbühl, where one has easy access to two caves. There’s the family friendly Bärenhöhle and, just a few kilometers away, there’s the more challenging Nebelhöhle. Both of these caves happen to be with easy distance of the Schloss Lichtenstein, one of my favorite castles in Germany. We didn’t visit the castle today, since we went last September. If I had a family and we wanted a fun Sunday outing, I would definitely do the castle and the two caves on the same day. In fact, I think if I didn’t live in Germany and was looking for a fun place to spend a week, Sonnenbühl would be a good bet.
We set off for Bärenhöhle first– this cave is actually two caves in one. The first cave is called Karlshöhle and is named after Charles I of Wurtemberg. The second cave, which is attached to the first, is the Bärenhöhle and consists of the last 338 feet of the cave. The whole thing is about 888 feet long.
The GPS had the caves at about an hour and ten minutes from our home in Unterjettingen. The drive to Sonnenbühl is beautiful. It winds through charming villages through beautiful countryside. I would say it was a nicer journey than the trip to Laichingen, since we avoided having to drive through any big towns like Reutlingen. There’s free parking at Bärenhöhle, although if you get there late, you might end up with a walk. They had guys directing people into parking spots today.
One thing to know about Bärenhöhle is that it’s a very kid friendly place. I would say that if you have very young kids who have never seen a cave, this is a good one to start with. It’s 4,50 euros for adults to walk through the small system, and you can either go by yourself or take the guided tour. Since the tour was in German, we started off by ourselves. Then we ran into a tour in progress, which was slightly annoying. Oh well. Compared to yesterday’s high octane tour, the Bärenhöhle was a piece of cake. It took about twenty minutes to pass through it. If we’d wanted to, we could have followed up our visit with a trip to Traumland, a small amusement park that appeared to be mostly intended for little kids, although I did see a few rides suitable for adults.
The entrance. There are printed instructions/explanations in English if you want them.
The entrance of the cave.
The entrance to Traumland, which you pass on your way back to the parking lot. There’s also a small playground for kids whose parents who don’t want to spring for the amusement park.
We decided to have lunch before heading to our next stop. There’s a snack bar and a self service restaurant at the Bärenhöhle/Traumland complex. The snack bar has things like ice cream, wurst, and such, while the restaurant has hearty Swabian fare. The complex also has an Easter egg museum, but we didn’t visit.
I had maultaschen with potato salad and fried onions. Bill had a linsen teller. The food was very good. They have other dishes like schnitzel and schweinebraten, as well as choices for kids. The prices are pretty reasonable. Bill paid about 26 euros for what’s in the photo.
The biergarten area of the restaurant.
The snack bar.
Nebelhöhle is only a few kilometers from Bärenhöhle and, if you really feel energetic, you can even walk to or from there. Lichtenstein Castle is also within walking distance. There’s plenty of free parking at Nebelhöhle and it’s close to the cave. Of the three caves I’ve visited so far, Nebelhöhle is definitely my favorite. For 4,50 euros for each adult, you get turned loose in an old cave that offers a lot more to see than Bärenhöhle and isn’t quite as physically demanding as the Tiefenhöhle. We probably spent a good forty minutes in there, enjoying the beauty of the cave system. There were a couple of times when we were even by ourselves and got a sense of how quiet the cave is when no one is in there.
Naturally, there’s a playground for the kids at Nebelhöhle
The entrance to Nebelhöhle
Bill commented that this was much like walking down to the U-Bahn… Needless to say, not stroller friendly!
Once we got to the bottom of the steps, we were free to tour the cave at our leisure. I commented to Bill that that would probably never happen in the risk averse United States. It’s not that accidents don’t happen in German caves, either. My German friend Susanne told me that last year, a woman fainted at the bottom of the Tiefenhöhle and was discovered by other visitors some time later. Rescuers had a hell of a time getting her out of the cave. She was later airlifted to a hospital in Ulm. The caves we visited today probably wouldn’t be nearly as difficult to be rescued from, but it would still be a challenge.
Here’s a video I made of a pool at the bottom of the cave.
We’re not exactly sure what this was… It kind of resembled a petrified tree trunk, but my guess is that it was once a column. Edited to add– my German friend says this column was cut in 1961 and placed in Stuttgart at the Schloss! I did read about that, but forgot… and there was no sign in the cave!
Bill commented about the moss. He wondered how it got there, since there was no sunlight. I mentioned the lighting in the caves and people using their cameras. The light causes photosynthesis, which is one reason why people aren’t supposed to use their flashes in caves.
I dragged my ass up the steps and left sweating and panting…
I was tempted to enjoy another beer by the playground, but we decided to head home. Actually, we stopped in Nagold first, where a fest was going on, but we were too tired to hang out there. So here I am… hoping tomorrow I won’t be too sore! Today wasn’t nearly as physically challenging as yesterday was, at least.
I want to reiterate that I would not recommend taking very young children to the Tiefenhöhle, which is the cave we visited yesterday. The climb is very challenging and potentially dangerous. I would reserve that cave for mature older kids– say at least age eight or older– who have a healthy respect for heights and not trying to go too fast. Also, I think the other two caves will be more interesting for kids. The lighting is colorful and there are many more formations to see.
For very young kids, I would definitely recommend the Bärenhöhle. It doesn’t take too long to get through it and it’s not particularly physically challenging, although there are a few steps to be climbed. Afterwards, you can enjoy Traumland.
The Nebelhöhle, my favorite of the three, is a good mix of challenge and ease. I saw fairly young kids in there who were doing fine. There are steps to climb, but they aren’t narrow or shallow and the passages are easy to negotiate. There’s also a lot to see. Of the three caves, we spent the most time in the Nebelhöhle and enjoyed it the most.
I would recommend all three of the caves for those who enjoy spelunking. Just be prepared to climb a lot of steps! Happy caving!