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 www.showcaves.com:
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!