Saturday, June 24, 2017

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 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 visiting caves.  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 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, located in the 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 in the cave.  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 the cave 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!

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