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Travel guide for Thuringia, Germany

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Thuringia, Germany

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Thuringia tourist destination in Germany

A visit to the "Erlebnisbergwerk", a former potash mine in Sondershausen, Thuringia

Contact Information:

Erlebnisbergwerk-Betreibergesellschaft mbH
Schachtstraße 20-22
99706 Sondershausen
Phone: 011 49 3632-655-280
Fax: 011 49 3632-655-205

Hours of Operation:

Guided tours (reservation required):
Monday to Saturday: 10:00 am; 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm
Sundays: 11:00 am only

I did not ask in advance for a reservation, and could participate

I followed the signs in Sondershausen and had no problems finding the "Erlebnisbergwerk" how it is called in German. It is a former potash mine which is now open to the public by guided tours.
Lots of free parking was available just on the other side of this attraction.

It was a Saturday and I had no reservation which is recommended. However, this did not cause any problems. I also was there at the right time shortly before 10:00 am. The duration of the tour was announced with 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
I was a little bit surprised about the price of the ticket and learned that the fee is higher on weekends.
Each of the participants received a blue coat and a yellow hard hat. A heavy light is also offered but I had already enough to carry and I was told the light is not really necessary.
Our surprisingly large group walked over to a small technical museum to wait for the guides.
The museum displays machinery which was used over the time and many documents.

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide
Our group on it's way

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide
Spend some time in the technical museum

Mining began in 1893. At the end operations reached a depth of 704 m or approximately 2310 feet.
A huge steam engine is shown which was built in 1896 which was in operation until 1992 shortly after the mining operations had been discontinued. It produced 1000 hp. Unfortunately, it is a fact that many companies and operations had to be closed after the unification of Germany. Former markets disappeared and the many of the enterprises could not compete on the world market. It may also have happened that companies were purchased by competitors only to close them and to gain know how.
I learned that the mine in Sondershausen is the oldest potash mine in the world which can be visited.
I was told that the still in advertising used little train for the sightseeing tour had been replaced by trucks.
The approximately 15 km (9.3 miles) long tour is not recommended and not suitable for handicapped people. Please wear solid shoes because you must also walk short distances. And what a nice surprise: smoking is not allowed in the mine.

Our guides appeared according to schedule exactly at 10:00 am. I started already to feel hot in my blue coat and the hard hat. I was glad that I did not have to carry the mandatory emergency breathing equipment. It is stored in the touring trucks.
Brief introduction information were given to us and we were ready to go to the elevators.
Step by step our group disappeared in those. It was very dark and I could not see anything during the long ride - the elevators were pretty slow! Nevertheless I took a picture in the dark. I hope the people shown don't mind. I used my flash.
Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide

After the complete group has arrived and gathered we received some more information about the mine.
The average temperature is 23° C or 72° F and the air is very dry. The necessary supply of fresh air is pumped through the mine by huge electrical fans.
After that we boarded the trucks which were waiting for us and the adventure began.
Our guides were the drivers and obviously they all had taken a special course in formula I racing. Our truck took the leadership and the other ones tried to follow us in the dark. We grasped everything available to hold on and nobody dared to stand up or to move. The only thing we could see were the lights of the following trucks and dust.
But nobody screamed or yelled. Obviously everybody - except me - enjoyed the wild ride and was confident that nothing would happen.
When we stopped for the first time our driver asked whether everybody enjoyed the tour so far and if he should drive faster or slower, Guess what the crowd of mostly older people said? - faster.

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide
Several of these Diesel engine powered trucks were waiting for us
How did they get here?

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide

We stopped a few times more. Unfortunately, our racing truck changed position and we had to follow another one. I think this was done that we were not excluded in getting our fair share of salty dust.
But it was exciting what we got to see. Just for the visitor a lake with a highly concentrated salt solution was added. Because of the high salt content no damage will be done to the environment of the mine.
The tour includes a boat ride on this lake. Please participate on this short tour, but avoid to touch the "water" or to drown your camera. Warnings in German are posted everywhere.
I was almost feeling like seeing my first opera from Richard Wagner. Only the music was missing.

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide

Mining equipment used in the past can still be seen. It is an attraction and to disassembly it and bring it back to the surface would not pay off.
Techniques how the machinery was used was explained by our main guide.

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide

Sondershausen, Thuringia, Germany, tourism, travel guide
In the past the miners used slides to get to their work places. Just to give the participants of the tour a feeling of such a ride a slide was installed in the mine.

At the end of the tour we were shown two halls. one for festivities and an other one for concerts which was praised for its excellent acoustic.
Obviously many festivities take place here in the underground.
Also mountain bike fanatics and runners enjoy participating in sportive competitions.

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