Idar-Oberstein and its surroundings is devoted to gemstones. This is obvious everywhere. Hotels have gemstone names, like “Achat Hotel” (Agate Hotel), the roads have gemstone names, gemstones are part of sculptures and other decorations and.... the guestbook for VIP visitors, which is usually called “Golden Book” and is locatied in the city hall, is a “stony” one in the case of Idar-Oberstein. Of course not in the city hall :-)
A little bit north of town, between the villages of Tiefenstein and Veitsrodt, this special guestbook is located. The idea was born in 1976: instead of signing a real book, VIPs would pick a stone, name it, and sign it with the date of their visit. A path of approx. 2 km leads from stone to stone. It is easy to walk around because it is all flat terrain.
Kate and I had fun to walk around and look at the stones, although she didn't recognise any name. All of the VIPs were Germans: politicians, sports and TV idols. One was special though. It was laid by Karlheinz Böhm, famous in his younger years as Sissi's husband in the movies, and later he founded the Menschen für Menschen funds for Ethiopia. He named his stone Erer, after a town in central Ethiopia.
From the historical mill (or Idar-Oberstein centre), drive northwest on road 422. Turn right (east) in Tiefenstein, direction Veitsrodt. It is on your right, easy to recognise from the sign “Steinernes Gästebuch” and the parking area. Parking is free of course.
Location of the guest book from stone on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., March 2012 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => How to reach Idar-Oberstein
I have to be honest: I have not been inside recently, but from my childhood days I know that this is an amazing church and is well worth to visit, however it is strenuous to reach its location high up in the rocks.
During the days in August 2011, when I took Kate to Idar-Oberstein, I also wanted to show her the church because I knew she would love it. I even found a way to drive up and park the car to walk on a – what I thought – flat path approaching from the east. But then it turned out that this path was indeed flat but had holes and no handrail and we gave up visiting it.
The church was built in 15th century, 60 metres above town level. There is a gruesome legend about the origin of the church, however not proven. Two brothers loved the same woman, and when one of them officially became engaged with her, his brother, furious with jealousy, threw him out of the window. But he felt guilty immediately and promised to build the church where he killed his brother, in his brother’s memory and honour. When he had done the deed, he collapsed and died. The rock is hollow at this position: a natural cave of 25 m length and 17 m depth and a natural spring comes out of the rock. It is still there and can be seen when visiting the church. Also a wonderful agate cross is inside, naturally grown that way, and a beautiful winged altar painting of 15th century.
March 15 – October 31: daily from 10.00 – 18:00,
November 1 – November 15: daily from 10:00 – 16:00
Closed for visitors during service. Check the information board at the beginning of the path up to the church to see if service is being held.
Adults: 2 Euro, kids (6-16):0,50 Euro, discounts for disabled, students and retired people: 1,50 Euro.
From Idar-Oberstein’s market place, walk up (follow the signs to Felsenkirche). It is more than 200 steps up to the church. Alternatively, as we did, drive up to the western part of town, into street Genossenschaftsstraße to be precise [Genossenschaftsstraße on Google Maps] and walk direction church.
Location of Idar-Oberstein’s rock church on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., April 2012 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => Interesting special guest book of town :-)
In addition to the gemstone museum (Deutsches Edelstein Museum) I highly recommend to visit the so-called Historische Weiherschleife, historic agate mill, located just 2 km northwest of town, in the valley of Idarbach (the river). This is a former grinding mill which was in operation until 1945. The city council has decided to restore it and in 1996, the funds that also helped to reopened the gemstone mine on Steinkaulenberg, is taking care of it.
I took Kate (@Maryimelda) here during her visit to Germany mid 2011 and we had a lot of fun. The tours are available in English, Dutch, French and of course German. Since it was only the two of us during a midweek day, the guide took extra care and time to answer every possible question we had inside the mill. He even laid down on the workers’ bench to show us how the workers grinded the stones. A very much uncomfortable position, especially when they had to do it for a full working day. But the former stone grinders are proud of their jobs and thus also proud to show visitors around on their former workplace.
This passion for their jobs is why I highly recommend to visit this facility in addition to the museum in town. It gives more life to the stones and the grinding.
In addition to the guided tour inside of the mill, the admission ticket includes entry to a small museum with marvellous gemstone pieces and also other special stones, such as pieces of Petrified Forest in USA. In the middle of the museum room is a huge tree made with several different gemstones as leaves. [Photos: see my album with more impressions of museum and ground] Explanations are given through an audio guide, also available in English. The tour continues with a movie about gemstones, which we both liked: it is very informative and nicely done. And at the end of the tour one enters a room which is being called “Esoteric Room”: it is filled with huge raw gemstones and each can be touched to get a feeling of energy floating. Of course there is also a shop where gemstone souvenirs are being sold. I found it even good and not overly pricey. And thanks dear Kate for the little grape :-)
Mid March – mid November: 10:00 – 18:00
Adults: 4 Euro, kids (up to 6 years): free when with a family, 2 Euro when with a group, kids (6 – 16 years): 3 Euro and 2,50 Euro when with a class, disabled (with ID): 3 Euro.
The whole ground including the mill and museum is wheelchair accessible.
From Idar-Oberstein’s town centre, drive on road 422, which leads north to Tiefenstein. Just follow the logo of the historical mill. The mill is on the right side of the road, easy to recognise. Free parking is at the end of the ground, just behind the restaurant.
Location of Historische Weiherschleife on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., March 2012 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => restaurant at the historical mill
With its long history in gemstone mining and cutting, it was only natural that this museum had to be set up in Idar-Oberstein at a point in time. Located in a beautiful old villa, on three floors a marvellous array of gemstones of all kinds is displayed. I have been to some gemstone museums up to now and with the knowledge I learnt at university (inorganic chemistry) I thought I had heard the names of almost every possible mineral, material or rock that is existing, but... there are obviously many more as I could see in the museum. The exhibits are a result of enthusiastic trust members of the gemstone museum (it is a trust and not a state or town museum), who have organised gemstones from all over the world to be on permanent or short-term display here. Many stones are from Brazil, which is where Idar-Oberstein’s gem cutters emigrated mid of 19th century when the first stones were found there.
The museum is fascinating! Already the house is a delight for the eye: and old villa of Wilhelminian style with old squeaking stairs and old marble floors. On the first floor (basement) is an introduction about Idar-Oberstein’s gemstone related history, the ones which are specific to the region, jasper and agate, are featuring here. Old photos of the groundwood mills in the valley of Idar River are exhibited and small models of how the early day stone cutters worked: they had to lie flat on benches, in front of the cutting wheel, very much uncomfortable. The first rooms also show beautiful objects made of gemstones, such as cups and beer mugs, plates and other daily objects for the ones who could afford these. I was fascinated by the cuts of raw stones which showed “pictures”, pictures like mother earth made them, such as numbers, sun, a cloverleaf and others. The second floor has exhibits with cut gemstones as they are used for jewellery, each possible colour. I was especially fascinated by the tanzanites in all shades of blue. The upper floor finally has engraved gems and how they are made, including the old engraving objects. Very fascinating! But overall my most favourite exhibit is this zoiste-ambipholite with the ruby flower. This flower was engraved from a ruby inside the zoiste!
In a side room they also have copies of famous diamonds, such as Cullinan, Koh-i-Noor and Hope, including explanations why they are considered so famous.
The museum houses approx. 9000 – 10000 exhibits.
Sadly the English version of the museum’s website isn’t that extensive.
The museum is open daily from 10 – 17:00 in winter (November-April) and from 9:30 – 17:30 in summer. Closed on December 25, 24 and 31. However, there is an inconsistency: the English part says closed on Mondays, the German part doesn’t mention this.
Entrance fee (prices as of July 2011): 5 Euro for adults, 4 Euro for students, 4,50 Euro for retired, 2,50 Euro for kids up to 14 years; group discounts and family discounts available. And they charge a photo fee of 2 Euro and allow flash photos.
Location of Deutsches Edelstein Museum – German Gemstone Museum on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., July 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
continue with next review => Historical stone-cutters' mill
Above the Felsenkirche you can see a small castle (Burg Bosselstein), and it is said that in the mid 11th century two brothers lived in this castle. The older one was Wyrich, and the younger Emich. These two brothers fell in love with the same woman, named Bertha, but at the same time they didn't know how the other one felt about her. One night, Wyrich came home to find out that Emic and Bertha were engaged, and he was so angry that he threw his brother out of the window of the castle (though another version of the legend tells he stabbed his brother while he was sleeping).
After realising what he had done, Wyrich began wandering the country, not knowing what to do, and feeling horrible about what had happened. Many years later, he went back home, but by this time Bertha had already died. Wyrich confessed what he had done to the Abbot, and he told the brother he should build a church in the place where Emich had died, to get God's forgiveness.
After many years of work, Wyrich finally finished the church, and asked God to send him a sign to show his forgiveness, to what a spring appeared inside the church. This spring still exists nowadays, and many people make wishes on it.
Also, Wyrich is supposedly burried somewhere in the church (also because that's where his brother dies), but then again, now one really knows if any part of the legend is true or not!
The Felsenkirche is one of the main views of the town. It stands 60 meter above the city, and it was built in the mountain itself, in fact the entrance of the church is nowadays a tunnel that pretty much will remind anyone of a cave!
There is a lot to say about this church. It was built to it's actual status in the late 13th century, and even though it is now an Evangelist church, it's believed that is was originallt Catholic, due to the paintings inside. This church is still active, and it's become quite a popular wedding chappel in the past few years, apparently they are fully booked for months. The only drawback is that the bride has to go up to the church by foot... which might be quite annoying with a wedding dress!
From the church tower you can also get a splendid view of the city, which might be specially nice if the weather is good... though I didn't have that much luck, it was still great!
There are many theories about the Felsenkirche, and its origin is not 100% clear still, but there is quite a nice legend about it, and to find out go to the next tip!
The best thing to do is to buy some very nice jewellery... better still to get somebody else to buy some very nice jewlerry for you!
If you come away from here not knowing your amethyst from your emerald... you were walking around with your eyes closed and your brain switched off!!!
Schloss Oberstein stands on the hill above the Felsen Kirche. Originally built in 1320 it was undergoing renovation when I was last there in 1998 (Boy I need to go back down that way :) You can see the crane in the picture.
Its a long walk up the the Schloss but well worth seeing. I havent made it because it was closed when I was there. Another good reason for me to go back.
Die Felsen Kirche is a unique sight. The story goes that the two brothers who lived in the burg (castle) above the town of Idar Oberstein were in love with the same woman. One of the brothers killed the other one by throwing him out of the burg's window keep him from the woman. She apparently wasnt a great as he thought and built the church in the side of the hill as a memorial to his brother who he killed on the spot where he landed as he fell to earth.
I love the look of this church from the outside but I am sorry to say I have never been inside. It seems the only time I am ever in the area is in the Winter. and it isnt open then.
10am- 6pm daily
April 1 - 31 October
A great collection of all kinds of gemstones and half gemstones. The most beautiful and expensive stones and since I am a collector of minerals and gemstones a must see for me.
From 01.05. to 31.10.
daily 09.00 - 18.00 hrs.
From 01.11. to 30.04.
daily 09.00 - 17.00 hrs.
Adults ? 4,20
Children 6-14 ? 1,60
A guided tour in the mine along various places where agat and other gemstones are
15.03. - 15.11.,
daily 09.00 - 17.00 hrs.
16.11. - 15.12.
Mon to Thu 09.00 - 16.00 hrs.
Fri 09.00 - 12.00 hrs.
Adults ? 4,00
Children (6-15 Jahre) ? 2,50
In the rock face is the wonderful 15th century Felsenkirche. It is said to have been built by a knight in atonement for the murder of his brother.
It can be reached via 200 odd steps.