Schwäbische Alp – castles, caves & unknown depths

It took a wedding to pursue us to visit the Southern part of Germany, and I’m glad we did because both, the wedding and the location were heartwarmingly beautiful. After only few hours of sleep and a royal breakfast buffet we started our little trip around the Albtrauf region. Although only a two hours car ride away from Zurich, I had never been in this region and found it surprisingly different from Swiss landscape and architecture as well.

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First stop was the old town of Blaubeuern which is know for its “Blautopf”. Blautopf means “blue pot” and it becomes quite clear why, when stumbling through the woods and suddenly standing above it, seeing the mysteriously blue water through the leaves and evergreens.
The intense blue colors come from nano scale lime stone densely distributed in the water causing the so called “Rayleigh scattering”. I wonder if even if the particles in the water are different from the Aluminium hydroxide which is found in the Blue pond of Hokkaido the effect is still the same scattering of light as with the Blautopf. They’re sure both very pretty to look at and get mesmerized by.

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While the riverside was very clear and you could see the different algae and ground the whole are in the middle is kind of milky and turbid. In older times people believed that the pond was bottomless because every attempt at depth sounding failed at the hands of the beautiful mermaid called Lau or that someone throwing inkwells into the water was causing the pond to turn blue. I love it when places are steeped in legends and stories like this. There’s a special charm to this place and it’s honestly beautiful to look at the different reflections and gradients of blue and turquoise.

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The old town of Blaubeuern hasn’t only a legendary pond with a mill but also a stunning cloister, beautiful houses and a huge park. I was impressed by how much larger the constructions were compared to those you’d find in Switzerland but maybe I just haven’t been in similar places yet. The typical half-timbered buildings enclosing a vast courtyard with all different kinds of trees and flowers made it all look like out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. It was lovely to see how well kept everything is and near the river you could find the monk’s bathhouse which is the only one preserved from its kind in all of Germany.

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We had brought along two delicious sandwiches we had foresightfully prepared at the breakfast buffet and devoured them sitting on a bench in front of this peaceful scenery. There were quite some visitors at the Blautopf but only few people scattered around inside the courtyard. Staying longer would have been great, as the drinks from the night before and the sparse hours of sleep were starting to make their presence felt.

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Badehaus der Mönche in Blaubeuren

Caves are spread all over the Swabian alps and as much as I would have loved to see all of them, we decided to go visit the Bärenhöhle, the “bear’s cave”. It’s an expansive lime stone cave in which skeletons of many cave bears have been found, hence the name Bärenhöhle which means bear’s cave. It was around 2pm when we arrived so it was pleasingly warm outside but as soon as we entered and descended into the cave the temperature dropped significantly and we enjoyed a fresh and humid tour across the cave. There were different stages displaying distinctive lime stone formations, in all sizes of stalactites and stalagmites, forming all types of bizarre shapes.

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Bährehöhle

Right around the corner there is Schloss Lichtenstein, a beautiful fortification on top of steep rocks. I imagine it to be a very frightening place for someone who’s scared of heights. Luckily I’m not, so I enjoyed strolling around and a breathtaking view.

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Schloss Lichtenstein, also “Märchenschloss Württembergs” which means “the fairy tale castle of Württemberg” was build in the 19th century to pay homage to medieval times in the style of Victorian gothic. Although it isn’t the original building, the architecture is very pretty and I think it’s awesome that such castles exist on top of rocks! I wonder if people died while building it.

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In the surrounding area there are other buildings from the 19th century such as a romantic courtyard, an ample garden and a chapel. Although we didn’t enter the castle itself, I would totally recommend it since the interior must be very impressive. The Nebelhöhle, an other lime stone cave is located there as well and it is said that the duke once hid in there during daytime while spending the nights in the castle as he was wanted.

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Since being on holiday since mid July I haven’t been uploading regularly anymore but had the chance to visit some beautiful places and enjoy summer so far. Doesn’t look like there’s going to be a real summer here in Switzerland but I spent some wonderful time in Italy so more about that hopefully soon.

Love.Alice
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