The Kubach Crystal Cave… and lunch at La Fonte!

If you’re among the few folks who have been following this blog for all of the years Bill and I have been in Germany (this time, anyway), you might remember that I am a big fan of caving. In a way, it’s probably in my blood. Both of my parents come from the mountains of Virginia, and there are caves there. I remember visiting a couple of wild caves when I was in high school and being really impressed by the experience. My uncles also used to run Natural Bridge and its accompanying hotel, before it became a state park. Natural Bridge has caverns, which were always pretty amazing to visit.

Since we’ve been in Europe, I’ve had the chance to visit several different cave systems. Most of them have been in Baden-Württemberg, where we’ve spent six of our almost 21 years of marriage. Today, we visited our very first Hessian cave, the Kubach Crystal Cave (Kubacher Kristallhöhle) in the rustic hamlet of Weilburg, which is about an hour’s drive from our home near Wiesbaden.

I’ve been wanting to visit this cave for a couple of years, but COVID put a damper on our ability and desire to go anywhere– especially anywhere I’d have to wear a mask and exert a lot of physical effort. And then I just kinda got lazy. Caves are generally pretty challenging to explore, since they often require climbing up and down steep steps or ladders.

I had visions of our experience at the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle a few years ago. This cave is the deepest show cave in Germany, but it’s exhausting to visit, especially if you’re a fatass housewife like me. It requires sure footedness and stamina, as well as a strong heart and lungs. I did it in June 2017, but I think it would be harder for me to visit today. I’m older, fatter, and not as fit as I was then… which is pretty sad, I know.

I didn’t think the Kubacher Crystal Cave would be as intense as the Tiefenhöhle was, and it wasn’t. That doesn’t mean it was easy… but it was doable for me. Maybe I can convince some of my Germany local visitors to give it a whirl. It’s not the easiest or most exciting cave I’ve ever visited, but it’s well worth an hour of your time. And if you do happen to wipe out, you can rest assured that help will get to you somewhat quickly.

The guided tours– in German, of course– are required. You also have to wear a helmet, because there is a section of the cave that is a tight squeeze with a low ceiling. Being 5’2″, I didn’t have to duck much, but taller people may be challenged. And I did notice that quite a few of the helmets were pretty scratched, which indicated that many people have hit their heads in the Kubach Cave. We did not have helmets or tour guides when we visited the Tiefenhöhle.

Kubacher Crystal Cave is one of a few show caves in Hesse, which is less mountainous than points south are. They call it a “crystal cave”, but I think that’s a bit of a misnomer. This particular cave is not full of stalactites or stalagmites. It’s a huge hole under the earth with cavernous rooms, but lots of limestone and some other elements, like silver, amethyst, and many unique rock formations.

We arrived at the cave at about noon, which was just after the tour before us departed. Bill went to buy tickets– ten euros per person, plus a one euro charge for taking photos. We had to wait about an hour before it was our turn to go on the tour. There used to be a restaurant at the cave, but it’s now closed. I passed the time by drinking a Coke, purchased from a vending machine on site, and peeing a lot. We also wandered around the outside rock formation museum and the inside museum, which showed the history of the cave. Again, it was all in German.

The lady who sold us the tickets did not speak English, but the guide did. I don’t think she knew we were Americans until the end of the tour and I was dragging my ass up the stairs. She was very kind and patient, telling me she’d much rather I go slow than have an “Unfall” (accident).

We were climbing a long passage of steps when she told me that I’d be “screwed” if I wiped out there, since the paramedics would have to carry me up the steps. She further explained that if I were to drop in the bottom of the cave, they could get me out without paramedics needing to carry me. I guess they have a secret exit or something. Anyway, none of that was necessary. I did some heavy breathing, but recovered quite quickly. I had a nice lather of sweat in my hair, thanks to the helmet and my sweater, and then came a very pleasant rush of endorphins.

Our group was pretty small, with a young family (a couple with two young kids), another couple, and an older woman who, like me, was not keen to face plant while climbing up and down the 456 steps, about 70 meters under the earth. There is a sign at the cashier’s desk advising that anyone with serious heart related health problems forgo visiting the cave. It is a fairly strenuous climb. I noticed our guide was pretty fit, though not as obviously athletic as I would expect someone who climbs up and down the steps a lot would be. She also didn’t wear a helmet. I guess it was because she knows where to duck, and the helmet does kind of obstruct your vision somewhat.

One thing I have learned from visiting other caves in Germany is that it’s good to wear pants, good shoes with excellent traction, and bring a light jacket. Gloves may also be useful, as you will hopefully be using the handrail and it gets wet and slippery. I left my purse in the car, since I didn’t want to have to cart it up and down with me on the steps… been there and done THAT! It was a good decision.

There’s plenty of free parking, and I’d say that if you have children who are reasonably fit and listen well, this is a fairly child friendly place to visit. There’s an outdoor museum, where you can look at rock formations, and an indoor museum explaining the cave’s history and how it came to be discovered and opened to paying visitors. This cave was rediscovered in 1974 and opened to the public in 1981. It is the highest show cave in Germany, as it has a ceiling height of 30 meters.

Another thing that makes this cave special is the presence of “cave coral”. From the site

The cave has two spots with extraordinary speleothems, a strange and rare speleothem called bulbous calcite or cave coral. The first location is right at the entrance in the first chamber of the cave. The walls are covered by cave coral, somtimes spottet with other minerals. Here is the 50 cm borehole and the small group of stalagmites which was discovered first and is actually the only dripstone formation in the cave. The second area is a narrow passage in the middle of the cave, with even more beautiful cave coral which is filling holes and cracks and rather difficult to spot. We recommend to walk slow, look up and back to discover the hidden minerals. This is actually one of the main sights of this cave.

Below are some photos from our excursion today. The first batch are from the grounds, museum, and outdoor area with rock formations. The second batch are from the tour itself. And the third and fourth batches are from the drive and our delightful lunch at La Fonte. I think it was time well spent!

The ladies restroom was nice. It had a Dyson faucet and hand dryer. Bill said the stalls in the men’s room were locked, so if you need to poop, you have to ask for the key. Same for the baby changing room. The ladies room had no such restrictions. There was also no Klofrau. Sometimes it pays to be female. 😉

I was surprised to find that the way back out of the cave is different than the way down. Both going up and going down are challenging. I expect to be a little sore tomorrow. But at least there weren’t any ambulances necessary today.

We drove through lovely Bad Camberg to get to and from the Crystal Cave. We’ll have to come back and visit the town and other attractions nearby. There’s a castle and a Wildpark calling our names. I think we also passed some kind of stone mason’s park or something. See the photos with the carved animals. The property had a fence with little dragons on top of it.

Once we were finished visiting the cave, we made our way back home with a stop at our local Sportsverein restaurant, La Fonte. There, we refueled with a three course late lunch that will keep us going until tomorrow. It had been quite awhile since our last visit to La Fonte, so I was surprised to see how our village’s new school is coming along. They will be tearing down the one that is located near where we live. I heard it was going to be turned into apartments. Bummer. But at least the school looks nice. La Fonte is always a pleasure. Lunch was about 65 euros before the tip.

I’m going to wrap up today’s post and join Bill for our nightly happy hours… I’m glad we made the effort to go to the cave today. And I’m even more glad that I didn’t pass out on the way out of the cave! I guess I’m not as big of a fatass as I feared. Maybe that means I can climb the tower in Cesky Krumlov when we visit at the end of the month!

Rhein, Sundays

Sky sailing over vineyards on the Seilbahn…

We had great weather over the weekend, so I told Bill that, in no uncertain terms, I wanted to venture out and do something fun and unusual. Originally, I had given thought to visiting the Kubacher Kristallhöhle (Crystal Cave), here in Hessen. It’s about an hour’s drive from our home in Breckenheim. I love visiting caves, even though they can be hard work to explore. Touring the Kubacher Kristallhöhle is potentially a strenuous activity, as it requires going up and down a lot of stairs.

I don’t know if it’s as hard as the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle, a cave near Stuttgart that we visited in 2017, but I do know I’m six years older now, and not as fit. ;). The Laichinger Tiefenhöhle legitimately kicked my ass. I got sick with a cold after our visit and spent the week in bed. Since Bill has to go away this week, I thought it might be better to do something potentially less taxing. Plus, again, we had beautiful weather. That’s when I decided we needed to visit the beautiful vintner town of Rüdesheim am Rhein.

We last visited Rüdesheim in early April 2019. I remember it was a chilly day, and there weren’t a lot of tourists there, although it was clearly a very touristy place. I wish I had read my earlier blog post about this town before we went there yesterday. I see that we, once again, missed seeing the torture museum. 😉 But Google tells me it’s closed now, anyway. Oh well. Interestingly enough, I see there’s a very primitive looking Web site for the museum that still lists prices in Deutsch Marks!

We arrived in Rüdesheim at about 1:00 PM or so, just in time for lunch. When Bill headed for the Seilbahn, the reason we visited, I said I thought it might be a good idea to eat first. Although I felt pretty sure there would be food on the hillside where the “skyride” ends, I figured there would be less choice. And I know from too many prior experiences that I need to eat before I try to do anything ambitious. 😀 I saw an inviting looking menu at the Wirtshaus Drosselmüller, a no frills place on the main drag.

We walked into the restaurant and had a seat on the rear balcony. A waitress in a Dirndl took our order– Hefeweizen and fried chicken with pommes for me, and a Helles and Bierbrat with beer sauce, potato dumplings, and cole slaw for Bill. After a leisurely lunch and potty break, we were ready to fly.

Off we went to the Seilbahn. By the time we got there, it was about 2:40. The attraction closes at 7:00 PM, which meant that we probably didn’t have enough time to do the most expensive “tour”, which at 22 euros a person includes a round trip ticket on the skyrides, a visit to the castle, and a short Rhein River cruise. You can buy your tickets at the office, or at an automated machine. The cars only take two people at a time, but you can also bring your dog. I’m not sure Noyzi would fit too well in the Seilbahn, as big as he is! Bikes cannot be transported on the Seilbahn.

Next time, we’ll have to arrive earlier to do the “Romantic” tour that features the works, because after yesterday’s ride on the Seilbahn, I am sure to want to do it again. Yes, there was a line, but it moved fast and was such a fun and relaxing ride, soaring over the grape laden vineyards. I got lots of pictures. I also got a short video, which shows the magic of the Seilbahn and the beautiful views of the Rhein Valley.

When we got to the other side of the field– the Niederwald– sure enough, there was a snack bar and restaurant. There was also an overpriced toilet… one euro! What a rip off! 😉 Nevertheless, there’s a beautiful view of the Rhein River and Rüdesheim, as well as the majestic Niederwald Monument, which was built between 1871 and 1883 to commemorate the Unification of Germany. It’s a very impressive statue that overlooks Rüdesheim and makes for a great photo opportunity.

As we were strolling around the Niederwald, we passed a little souvenir stall where they were selling signs with names on them. Bill quipped that he doubted he’d see one for one of his three grandchildren. Just then, I opened up my phone, and noticed a “Happy Labor Day” greeting from Bill’s daughter. In the email there was a photo of her, smiling and pregnant. She’d been keeping the secret all summer that her fourth child is well on the way and will arrive in February! I told Bill, who immediately got emotional. Somehow, getting that news in such a lovely place made it all the more special. The funny thing is, we’d both had a hunch that she might be expecting again.

On the way back to the Seilbahn, we stopped for a celebratory glass of Riesling…

After about an hour of walking around the Niederwald, we decided to head back. We definitely could have spent more time there, though, had we planned better and arrived earlier. The forest offers plenty of opportunities to wander, and like any good German tourist activity, it’s very well appointed with clean (but overpriced) toilets and refreshments. I’m so glad we decided to visit yesterday and finally try the Seilbahn. Below is a video I made of our day… It includes the Seilbahn and a pass through the famous Drosselgasse, where there is a Glockenspiel.

Yesterday’s excursion…

It was definitely a lot more crowded yesterday, during our visit, than it was when we last came to Rüdesheim in 2019. There were plenty of souvenir shops, restaurants, and tourist activities open. I also saw lots of hotels. I mused to Bill that it didn’t seem like the town should be able to support so many hotels, but I guess with so many cute hamlets, Vinoteks, and the Rhein River, people find plenty of stuff to do. I know cruise ships often pass through Rüdesheim. I think I saw a tour yesterday, which is kind of weird to me. It’s strange to live in an area where cruise ships frequent. Anyway, a lot of people were out and about and having a good time!

I don’t know when we’ll get to this town again, but it’s definitely worth a visit… even if the public toilets weren’t working, and even if the birds used our car as a toilet. Pro-tip, don’t park under the trees in the parking lot!

Bill has to leave for Bavaria today, so I will be hanging out alone this week. Hopefully, next weekend, we’ll have good weather and good health. I look forward to another exciting excursion in the Rheingau and its environs. It’s time we did some more exploring, before it’s too late.


Ten places to beat the heat in and around Stuttgart…

I’m in the mood to write another one of my top ten posts.  If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, some of what I write will be repeated information.  I am writing this, more or less, for the new people who will be moving to the area this summer.  It can be a real shock to move from the United States, or even Italy, and not have air conditioning.  Today’s post is about some places I’ve found where a person can cool off, most of which involve a little bit of hiking outside.

Before I get started… I’m not going to post about Schwimmbads or Freibads or anything like that.  Of course you can cool off in any one of the area’s fabulous public pools, which put our American ones to shame.  I’m not going to write about the pools, though, because it’s been my experience that most people find out about those right away in any of the local Facebook groups.  Besides, I myself didn’t actually visit a Freibad until last year.  I wrote about the experience and, to date, have scored only 90 hits.  I’m just gonna say that if you want to go to a pool, chances are good your community has an awesome one.  Seek it out.

Okay… enough about pools.  On to my list of cool summer stops in Stuttgart, not ranked in any particular order of awesomeness.

10.  Laichinger Tiefenhöhle

Germany’s deepest show cave.  Hope your heart is strong!

Bill and I discovered the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle last summer, when an American who is married to a local suggested it.  The word “tief” means “deep” in German.  That should give you a clue!  The Laichinger Tiefenhöhle is Germany’s only vertical cave open to the public.  It’s located in the little town of Laichingen, which is east of Stuttgart, kind of on the way to Ulm.  If you want to cool off, this is sure a great place to do it.  I remember visiting last June as temperatures soared and wishing I had worn longer pants while I was climbing up and down the ladders in the deep hole.  This vertical cave is a lot of fun to visit, but it’s not for anyone with mobility problems.  In fact, you have to be kind of fit to be able to visit this cave because it requires a lot of climbing up and down steep ladders. Frankly, I found it rather exhausting, yet exhilarating.  I would not bring small children to this cave, but older ones will be able to blow off plenty of summer steam here.  Afterwards, they can play on the nearby ropes course or perhaps visit nearby Blautopf, which is where the cave system ends!

9.  Triberg Wasserfall   

One segment of the huge falls.  Stand here and enjoy the very refreshing spray, which you’ll probably be sharing with other visitors.

The Triberg waterfall system is Germany’s highest and it’s a very heavily touristed place.  Nevertheless, if you want to cool off, Triberg is not a bad place to be.  It costs a few euros to climb up the falls or you can take a tram to the top.  Afterwards, go cuckoo clock shopping or have lunch in one of the town’s many restaurants.  Triberg is also a great place to score a piece of Black Forest cake.

8.  Seewald

Seewald… lovely lake in the Black Forest!


Bill and I discovered Seewald a couple of years ago, when we visited a Biergarten a friend of his had recommended.  When we made the trip, we didn’t know that there was a lake there where swimming is permissible.  If we had, I would have brought a bathing suit!  Seewald is located near Freudenstadt.   There is free parking in the area, but it gets full.  If you want a spot close to the action on a sunny day, get there early!  This link includes links to other lakes in the area where one might enjoy a dip.

7.  Bärenhöhle and Nebelhöhle




These are two caves located very close to each other near the town of Sonnenbühl.  Sonnenbühl is also very close to Lichtenstein Castle and Abendteuer Park (a ropes course).  Although visiting the caves might entail a long drive, you could really pack your day in this area.  There’s a lot to do here.  My personal favorite of the caves I’ve visited so far is Nebelhöhle.  It’s not as exhausting as the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle, but it’s more challenging and interesting than the Bärenhöhle, which is a much smaller cave very suitable for young kids.  After you’re finished at the Bärenhöhle, if you have little ones, you can visit Traumland, which is a little amusement park that seems especially suited for children.  Or you can visit the Easter egg museum, which is located at the same complex.

6.  Burgbach Wasserfall

Bill and I recently visited this beautiful waterfall, located in Bad Rippoldsau…


If you’re up for a short, uphill hike, you can visit Burgbach Wasserfall.  It takes a little bit of work to get to the waterfall, but it’s worth the trip, much of which is under a canopy of trees.  It costs nothing to visit Burgbach, just a little bit of sweat.  But once you get there, you can stand next to the spray and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Afterwards, you can stop at one of the local restaurants for lunch or visit the Wolf and Bear Alternative Park, which is only a couple of miles away.  Parking at Burgbach is free of charge.

5. Glaswaldsee

Glaswaldsee… also a cool place, although you’ll work up a sweat getting there.

Glaswaldseee is also located in Bad Rippoldsau, very close to the Burgbach Wasserfall.  Once you park in the lot, you’ll walk a couple of kilometers to reach this wild mountain lake.  The walk to the lake is mostly uphill, but once you’re there, you can enjoy the shady trees or stick your feet in the water.  Technically, swimming is not allowed, but I did see a couple of people wading when I visited and there was no one there enforcing the rules.  Like Burgbach Wasserfall, Glaswaldsee costs nothing to visit, except for a nominal fee for parking.

4.  Bad Urach

Bad Urach, east of Reutlingen.


Bad Urach is a very popular stop for people wishing to beat the heat in these parts.  I’ll be honest.  It’s not my favorite waterfall.  However, you can walk along a cool brook and climb to the top of the falls.  I hear there’s a nice Biergarten up there.  We did climb to the top on our first visit, but a thunderstorm was threatening, so we had to come down before we could find the beer stop.  The fall is near a beautiful meadow as well as castle ruins that, if you’re up for a climb, you can visit.  It costs nothing to visit the waterfall, except for parking.  However, if you come on a sunny weekend day, be prepared for crowds and tricky parking!  There is a train station near the falls, as well.

3.  Neubulach Silver Mine

Don your safety hat and cape and come in out of the sun to see where silver was mined.

If you don’t mind taking a tour in German, you can visit the awesome silver mine in the little hamlet of Neubulach.  From May to October, you can explore this mine or even get an alternative treatment in a special room dedicated to people with asthma.  We visited last July, when the asthma treatment was not being offered.  I was pretty curious about it, since I have a touch of asthma myself.  After you take your tour, you can visit the little museum and have a snack or take a creekside walk on the “bat trail“, also at the complex.  Parking there is free of charge.  The town of Neubulach is really cute and there’s also a Brauhaus there with a Biergarten.

2.  Allerheiligen Wasserfälle

One of the seven cascading waterfalls at Allerheiligen Wasserfälle.

Drive a bit west of Freudenstadt, over Kniebis Mountain, and you can find the All Saints Waterfalls.  Bill and I visited there last weekend and had a great time hiking along the beautiful waterfall system. This is another free activity.  You don’t even have to pay for parking.  Once you’ve seen the falls, you can have lunch at the kid friendly restaurant and look at the abbey ruins right next to it.  I was not expecting much when we arrived at these falls, but I was pretty blown away by how beautiful they are… and how strenuous all the stairs were!  This is not a stroller friendly place.  There are signs posted prohibiting wading or crossing the creek, but I saw many people ignoring the signs.  Do so at your own risk.

1.  Barfuss Park…  or the Baumwipfelpfad (aka: Tree Walk)

A frigid pool at the Barfuss Park… afterwards, you can hop across a trampoline.

The Tree Walk is in the mountains and surrounded by plenty of shady trees!

Okay… so these are actually two very kid friendly activities and they’re not near each other.  I had originally only intended to recommend the Barfuss Park in Dornstetten, since there is some water involved in this activity that encourages visitors to walk barefoot through it.  But then I remembered our visit to the so-called Tree Walk up in Bad Wildbad and realized that it belongs on this list, too.  Personally, I’m kind of partial to the Barefoot Park, although if you do visit, you might want to consider bringing a change of clothes.  Bill fell in the mud when we went and had to drive home in dirty drawers!  There is a two euro admission fee to enter the park, which you pay on your honor.  You must also pay for parking.

A lot of people love the Tree Walk, though, and if you’re wanting to enjoy a cool stroll in a fun place, it’s well worth a trip.  Walk up to the top of the structure, then pay a small fee to slide back down on a spiral slide.  Or, if you’re chicken like Bill is, walk down.  After you go to the Tree Walk, you can visit one of the local spas (although keep in mind that Palais Thermal is textile free!).  The Tree Walk does charge an admissions fee.  At this writing, it’s ten euros per adult, although family tickets are available for 21 euros.  That’s for two adults and their own children between the ages of 6 and 14.  Kids under 6 can visit for free, although they are not allowed to use the slide.

All of the activities on this list are doable on Sundays.  Happy cooling off!

caves, Sundays

Bärenhöhle and Nebelhöhle… caves fit for a castle!

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 bear…

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!

caves, Sundays

Down in the hole… the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle

Special shout out to Dianne, who recommended today’s activity a few days ago.  It’s been quite hot in the Stuttgart area lately and she recently shared a link to the local travel group about the Laichinger Tiefenhöhle, a very cool (literally) vertical cave in Laichingen, a town about an hour’s drive from the local military installations.

Bill and I decided to visit Tiefenhöhle today.  From our home in Unterjettingen, it took about 90 minutes to get to the cave.  Once we got there, it was about 1:30pm and there was very little parking. The place was teeming with Germans enjoying the small biergarten on site and the Kletterwald, which is a big play and picnic area, along with a ropes course.  We didn’t take time to explore the Kletterwald, although it did look like the people who were using it were having a lot of fun.

I happen to love caves.  When I was in high school, I took an advanced biology class that offered many amazing field trips.  One of our first trips was to two wild caves in Virginia.  Ever since I took that trip in 1989, I’ve enjoyed spelunking.  Last year, Bill and I had a great time visiting Postonja Cave Park in Slovenia.  Well, I’m here to tell you that Tiefenhöhle bears very little resemblance to Postonja, Europe’s largest show caves.  This pit cave in Laichingen is much smaller and requires a lot more stamina to visit.  But it was well worth the effort and the price was right, too.  It was just four euros per adult to take the self guided tour.  The cave is open every day from 9am until 6pm from April 15-November 15.

This was a busy place today!  Parking is free, but I did notice some people weren’t very considerate about how they parked.  There were several spots that were almost, but not quite, large enough to park our Mini Cooper.  We ended up having to make a spot on the grass.  

This building is where you buy your tickets, visit the small museum, and perhaps enjoy cake or beer after your trip through the cave.


Once you buy your ticket(s), you head down a flight of stairs where there is a small introductory exhibit.  As you can see, you can press the button and hear about what you’re looking at.  Bill pressed the button for English, immediately outing us as Auslanders (as if anyone had a doubt).

He was a little embarrassed by the spectacle.

I’d be interested to hear the German for kids.  There are several of these stations in the cave, too.

Once you’re finished with the first exhibit, you open the door to the cave and start walking…

Seems harmless enough.

Start the very steep walk down…

My thighs got a workout…

These steps are really more like ladders.  I advise wearing long pants and good shoes.  The steps are often wet, cold, and can be slippery.  You may also want to wear gloves because the metal railing gets icy cold.  You definitely need to use the railings.  This is not a place where you’d want to faceplant!  

Toward the bottom of the cave…  This is the deepest show cave in Germany and the only vertical cave that can be visited by the public.  Once you’ve reached the bottom, you are about 55 meters below the Earth’s surface.  The deepest part of the cave is 80 meters down, but that is not part of the tour.

Now it’s time to climb up.  I hope your heart is strong!

I recommend stopping to take a lot of pictures as you catch your breath.

You may also want to wear something you don’t mind getting wet.  There is an area where water drips constantly and it will get on you.

A steep climb!

Bill is happy!  He likes it when I find stuff for us to do besides drinking beer.

One last shot before we started the last painful set of stairs.  I was pretty winded when we finally reached the exit.

Some readers may remember that Bill and I visited Blautopf in March of this year.  Blautopf, in the pretty town of Blaubeuren, is located about 16km from Tiefenhöhle.  If you wanted to, you could easily do the cave in the morning and then visit Blautopf, to see where the cave system ends.  In the museum at the cave, there is a cool display that shows how the caves wind up at Blautopf.  After you visit Blautopf, you could stop in the Hammersmith museum.  That would easily kill most of a day and use up plenty of energy.

Here are a couple of shots of the play equipment at the adjoining ropes course/picnic area at Kletterwald.  We didn’t hang around too long because it was time for beer.

This was just what we needed to regain our strength.  Leave it to the Germans to reward you after a tough climb!  We were joined by a very friendly German family.  The man of the family brought coffee and cake for the ladies– looked like his wife and two Omas.  Then they were joined by people who appeared to be friends, having a great time.  Across the way, there was a lady who had brought her adorable and very well behaved beagle!

The museum is small, but interesting.  You can stop by the restroom, too.  They are free of charge!

This is a skeleton of a cave bear.

As you can see, it’s a lot bigger than your garden variety brown bear.

Bill was impressed.

The caves are closed during the cold months, probably to give the bats a break.  I did actually see a bat flying in the cave.

These are pictures of the 3D display they had of the cave system.  In the first picture, you can see Blautopf, while the second shows the Tiefenhöhle.


I had to get a picture of this car in the parking lot.  I think it’s for moms who have just given birth and want to reclaim their bodies!  But Bill wondered if it was something involving kangaroos wearing boxing gloves.  I wonder if being so deep in the ground did something to his thinking!

It didn’t take us long to visit the cave, although we didn’t necessarily take our time.  Needless to say, this is not a stroller friendly activity, nor would I want to take young kids in this cave.  You have to be pretty surefooted and cautious to explore it safely.  I am not kidding when I say the steps are very steep both going up and down and it is quite strenuous, especially if you’re a fatass housewife like me.

There are areas in the cave that are low and/or narrow, so tall people or very overweight people may want to be especially cautious.  This is not an activity for anyone with mobility issues, claustrophobia, or heart problems.  You will probably work up a sweat, too, even though the cave is refreshingly cool.

I wore shorts and Keen sandals when we toured the cave.  The shoes were okay, but I wish I had worn long pants and/or socks.  The steps are not very deep or wide, so my bare skin kept touching the icy cold metal on the steps.  It wasn’t an altogether pleasant sensation and I got pretty dirty around my ankles.  Edited to add: there are spats available to borrow for protecting your lower legs.  I didn’t see them until after we finished.

Other than that, though, we really had a good time exploring Tiefenhöhle.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys exploring caves.  Tomorrow, we will probably visit another cave attraction.  Stay tuned!


We finally made it to lovely Schloss Lichtenstein…

Bill and I have now lived in the Stuttgart area for a total of four years.  We were here from 07-09 and we have been here this second time since August 2014.  We have seen a lot of cool places in the local area, especially since we moved back here the second time.  The first time we lived here, we spent way too many weekends cooped up at home.  That was a huge mistake and we have been doing our best to rectify our error during our second Germany experience together (Bill had a third experience back in the 80s, but it was when I was still jailbait…)

Today, we finally made the trip to Schloss Lichtenstein.  I am ashamed to admit that the first time we lived here, I had no idea this beautiful little castle near the town of Sonnenbühl even existed.  It wasn’t until we moved back and my new Facebook friends from the local community started posting pictures that I realized what I had missed.  I have now seen several castles here in Germany and I think Schloss Lichtenstein may be among my favorites.  I think I like it even more than the much hyped Neuschwanstein, which I did manage to see during my first time living here.

Bill and I set out for Schloss Lichtenstein at around noon.  We expected our journey from Unterjettingen to take about an hour via B28.  What we didn’t know was that traffic was going to be absolutely horrendous driving through Tübingen and Reutlingen.  Turns out there’s a lot of construction going on in those towns, plus it was a beautiful day.  Lots of people were out and about, so traffic was backed up.

Having studied the route before we left, I was surprised Bill didn’t opt for B27, which would have taken us south of the construction.  We did come back that way and it was much easier going!

The drive to the castle is absolutely gorgeous and it was so nice to have the top down on the convertible, speeding along country roads.  As we approached the parking lot and saw all the cars there, I could see there were lots of people who decided today was a good day to see the castle…  or perhaps they had come for the Abenteuer Park


Here are a couple of shots I got of the ropes course.  Lots of people were there today, enjoying the zip lines and climbing challenges.  Much to my great surprise, Bill said it looked like fun and he wants to come back and try it!  I might have to sit at the biergarten when he does…  


We momentarily thought it would be a good idea to eat before we visited the castle, but did not realize that the onsite restaurant Altes Forsthaus (Old Forester’s Lodge) had been booked for a wedding reception.  It was closed.  So we went on to the castle.  Here are some photos I took. 

You can either pay a couple of euros to walk around the grounds or opt for the tour.  The tours run for about 30 minutes and cost 7 euros for adults and 3,50 euros for children.  Our tour was done in German, although you can purchase a card that explains everything in a different language.  I understand English tours are also available on request.  We muddled through with German; consequently, I didn’t understand everything that was said.  Guess I’ll read up on it.

Stunning views!

I was kind of sad that we didn’t get to go to the top of the tower.  The tour was very short and really only consisted of the first two floors.  The inside of the castle is beautiful, though, and well worth seeing.

I think it was worth the price of admission just to get the pictures!  Wow, this is one pretty little Schloss!

I think this is my favorite photo of the day!

This is the chapel, which I understand can be rented for weddings or baptisms.  There is also a tiny chapel in the castle itself.  The ceiling looked like it came straight from Florence.

After we toured the castle, we decided to go have lunch at the Castle’s Tavern.  This is basically a snack bar that offers a few items of substance.  I noticed they had a few specials today to include a vegetarian dish and Maultaschen.  They also had turkey schnitzel and the usual wursts with pommes. Bill got us two schnitzels while I waited.  He ordered in German and the lady behind the counter answered in perfect English as she handed him a “beeper” to let him know when our order was up.

I took a photo of our spot in the biergarten… little did I know, this was the calm before the “storm”.

Ahh… refreshing export beer…

Our schnitzels…  they came with substantial salads.  We probably should have just shared one.  We almost forgot the salads and the lady from the counter brought them out to us with a gentle reproach.  I didn’t get a picture of the salads, but they were substantial and surprisingly tasty.  I especially liked the pepper relish that came with it.    


Just as we were sitting down to eat, a German family came over and joined us.  It was a young mom, dad, and two little boys close in age…  I’d say one was probably two and the other was perhaps four.  They were a boisterous lot.  I think Oma was also in tow, along with another woman who might have been a friend or an aunt.  They filled up our once roomy picnic table.

I didn’t mind them too much, although the older boy startled everyone when he spilled his drink all over the table.  His dad started yelling at him in German.  I am surprised to say that I understood much of what he said and it sounded a lot like what many parents yell at their kids in English!

As we were finishing up our late lunch, we heard lots of honking and saw cars driving up the road to the castle.  The wedding party had arrived!

There is a playground next to the biergarten for your little ones to go burn off some steam.

And a rather dark photo of the Castle’s Tavern.  It does have an indoor dining area, too.  I don’t think anyone was sitting in there today.

A map of the area.  There is a lot to do near this castle.  I want to go back and visit the Easter museum and the caves…  


We didn’t bring Zane and Arran with us, though we did notice a couple of folks with their pooches walking around the grounds.  If we do go back, though, it’ll probably be so Bill can try the ropes course.  And I will most likely be talked into trying it with him… which would mean Zane and Arran would need to stay home again.

All in all, we had a great day!  I would definitely recommend visiting the Lichtenstein Castle with your kids and any visitors coming your way.  It makes for an excellent day trip from the Stuttgart area.


Cool show caves, the biggest in Europe…Postojna Cave Park…

I could write about what Bill and I did after our walk from Hell to Heaven, but I think I’ll save that story for when I review Hotel Vila Bled.  Instead, I think I’ll write about what we did on Friday.  You see, I happen to love caves.  When I was in high school, my advanced biology class took a trip to the Shenandoah Valley to go spelunking in wild caves.  Since my family is from the Shenandoah Valley, that was quite a treat for me.  We visited a new wet cave in Harrisonburg and an old dry cave near Lexington.  Neither caving expedition involved admission tickets, tour guides, or trains.  I had a great time in my lighted hard hat, even though I ended up with a minor injury.

Aside from that, I think the only other cave I visited was at the Natural Bridge Caverns in Virginia.  It was pretty cool, especially since we got to go for free 😉 (two of my uncles used to run Natural Bridge).  Let me just say, the Natural Bridge Caverns (in VA, not TX) couldn’t hold a candle to the incredible Postojna Cave.  I had seen some ads for the caves when I was researching our trip and on the way to and from Trieste, we saw plenty of billboards.  It looked a bit touristy, but hell, we had nothing better to do.  So on Friday, I suggested to Bill that we drive about 80 kilometers from Bled to Postojna to see the famous show caves.

We arrived at the impressive park after noon.  There was a lot of parking… so much that I was reminded of the four summers I spent working at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  You can tell the place gets huge crowds, probably especially in the summer.  They weren’t terribly busy the day we visited.  We saw lots of Asian groups and a few school groups, but otherwise it wasn’t bad at all.

We were there in time for the 1:00pm cave tour.  When you get to the park, someone explains how the park works.  There are four attractions and you can do any combination of the four or all four.  If you choose to do all four, it helps to have a car or access to a tour bus.  Attraction #4 is located 9 kilometers from the main cave park.  Bill was leaning toward only doing a couple of the attractions, but I reminded him that we had nothing else to do.  For the two of us, it cost about 79 euros.  That included parking and 10% off lunch.

Park employees assign you a time to visit the cave.  You have to go at that time.  If you miss your time, I imagine you have to get another ticket. We were in time for the 1:00pm tour, so that’s the one we took.  We had just enough time for a quick pizza in the food court at the Cave Park.  I was actually kind of impressed by the food.  You can get a sandwich, a schnitzel, fish, or a sandwich without spending a whole lot of money.  They also have sweets, which we did try after we toured the three exhibits at the park.

We got to the cave at about ten minutes before 1:00pm.  We were separated into different groups.  When we bought our tickets, we were asked where we were from and a code was put on our ticket directing which group we should be in.  I saw groups for German, Italian, Slovenian, and English speakers.  I think the English group might have been the largest of all of them.

Once you’re separated into the appropriate language group, you get on a train.  It goes about 2 km into the cave,  I saw people taking flash photography, which is prohibited because the lights cause photosynthesis which harms the ecosystem within the cave.   Despite being asked not to several times, there were a few stubborn folks in my group who kept using their flash.  You’re also asked to stay with the group so you don’t end up in the Slovenian group.

We had a guide named Anna who spoke into a microphone in excellent English as she explained the cave.  Since there was a large group, she was only able to address the group at stations where there were microphones.  I actually didn’t mind that too much, since it gave us the chance to walk through the cave at our own pace and check things out.  There were a few people who got on my nerves.  You know how it is when you’re in a big group and people have to be in front of you as they engage in public displays of affection?  That’s how it was on Friday.  There was a couple in front of me who didn’t seem to want me to pass them, yet kept grabbing each other, taking selfies, impeding everyone behind them and otherwise being obnoxious.  I just kept reminding myself that I was once young and horny…

After we checked out the very impressive cave, we got back on the train and headed back to the entrance.  The front of the cave is black because back during World War II, there was an explosion there.  The cave burned for a week as munitions stored there were destroyed by Slovenian Partisans.  If you get the chance to see the Postojna Cave, you’ll get the chance to see the blackened area, which is pretty extensive.

We visited the Proteus Cave, which was not very extensive and took less than twenty minutes.  In there, you can see some typical cave creatures.  Then we went to the Expo Center, which was very educational.  The other exhibits all had English translations and covered the history of the museum as well as natural history.

When it came time to leave, Bill had some trouble with the parking machine.  He paid for parking with our ticket, but the ticket wasn’t recognizing that he paid.  Some Bulgarian guy was very impatient and drove up to Bill’s side, yelling at him that he needed to pay.  But Bill had already paid and the Bulgarian guy didn’t know what he was yelling about.  He was also an asshole who had to wait just as long as he would have otherwise waited had he just kept his trap shut.  Sorry… people like that guy piss me off.

I was in a fine mood when we got to the fourth exhibit, a castle in a cave in in Predjama…  Indeed, the castle is called Predjama Castle and it’s probably the most interesting castle I’ve seen yet.  I’ve seen Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, as well as Hohenzollern and other castles around Europe.  Predjama Castle strikes me as the coolest.  We took a self guided tour with a handheld phone.  The tour is very well done and I actually enjoyed listening to the explanations about each room.

Bill and I were pretty tired after our day in Postojna.  I would recommend anyone tempted to visit the Cave Park wear comfortable shoes.  I would not recommend the Cave Park for people who have mobility issues.  The cave tour is pretty strenuous, even though you take a train into the depths of the cave.  Predjama Castle is definitely not a good tour for those who can’t climb up and down stairs.  For those who can climb, though, the castle is well worth seeing.

There is free WiFi at the Cave Park and some decent shopping, as well as good food.  I finally tried Slovenia’s famous cream cake there, even though it was served at breakfast at our hotel.

Big map as you enter the park.

And painted geckos (er, proteus) to show you the way…  The guide will tell you about the proteus, but to be honest, I found it hard to hear her over the noise and echoes in the cave.  Apparently, one or more of the proteus (cave salamanders) is expecting and may or may not make new salamanders in June.   

Pizza for lunch.  This one had asparagus and tomatoes.

Note the groups.  

The train.

Mr. Bill settles in.

Russian Bridge.  This was built by Russians.

Slovenian cream cake at the top and a very yummy chocolate cream cake at the bottom.  The cream cake could be addictive.

Castle in a cave…

Predjama Castle…  I was a bit over it by the time we got here, but I must admit I enjoyed our tour.

The view of the countryside from the castle.

At the very top of the cave…

Some of the furniture in the castle.

These next shots are photos in the cave I took with my camera as opposed to my phone.

There is a gift shop and WC at the end of the tour before you get on the train.

Better look at the signs for the language groups.


Having once worked at a true tourist trap, I’d say Postojna Cave Park isn’t really a tourist trap.  For what you pay, you get a good deal of entertainment.  It’s also a very educational place to visit.  I recommend seeing the castle.  It’s very cool and the drive there is pretty.  In fact, I think I might have even liked the castle more than the cave.

All in all, I recommend Postojna Cave Park if you’re in the area… or even if you just visit Slovenia.  It’s a really neat place to spend a few hours.  In the summer, I would bet the caves are very refreshing, though probably very crowded!