The Hutte is probably Volklinger's only real draw. But it's a big one. Not only in terms of being a big magnet for tourists, but just through the sheer enormity of the complex. It's almost as big as the town itself. The UNESCO protected World Heritage site was once a bustling, noisy, steaming ironworks. And despite all the cleaning and restoration, the smell of iron imbues everything.
Inside the dimly lit museum that opens the complex, it is easy to imagine what it must have been like for the people who worked there. For me the idea of working inside that dark, dingy building, with the oppressive heat and noise of the enormous engines and furnaces was a pretty grim prospect. But I couldn't help but be impressed by the incredible dimensions of the machines. I was left in wonder at who made them and how. The smell of iron and coke is still with me now as I remember the insides of those beasts.
You can spend hours wandering around the museum and the galleries of the lower levels, and they are fascinating, but the real prize is found far above. If you put on your safety helmet, you'll be allowed to share the heavens with the cloud scraping towers. The huffing climb to the top will be rewarded by some fantastic photo opportunities. My helmet proved its worth on more than one occasion, as I banged my head inadvertantly into shafts of solid iron, searching and stretching for the best picture.
For all its greatness, the Volklinger Hutte is expensive. Figure on paying 12 euros for an adult for a day ticket. If you've got the time stick around until the evening, when the whole site is lit up in glorious technicolor.
When this iron making plant was closed down in 1986 it was left intact and by 1994 it was a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
As a former steelworker in the UK this was a great place for me to visit, everything here is pretty much the same as I remembered from the plant I worked in - Corby.
Most ares are accessible either self guided or with an organised trip, opted to go it alone ourselves as Mrs Bonio not too keen on the higher parts of the tour, didn't miss out too much.
Several areas have hands on displays and there are a couple of films to watch as well, all give an insight into what life was like when everything was still working.
A very worthwhile place to visit.
I had been in Völklingen very often as a child and I remembered it as a busy city. It has certainly changed quite a lot! Walking from the steel works towards the city center we only saw deserted, dirty streets, full of litter, lots of graffiti and hardly any open shops. It was early afternoon on a Saturday, and everything had a run-down, dirty look.
But of course, when the steel works closed, thousands of jobs were lost and this leaves an impact on any city.
A few exceptions:
We passed the old city hall, an impressive building, obviously cleaned and renovated. Another truly beautiful house we passed seemed to be privately owned, it was built in 1905 in Art Noveau style. Here I had the impression the owners cared about their house.
I had especially wanted to see a church which the family of the steel barons Röchling had given the city. A painting inside was supposed to be great, I had read. We had a hard time finding this church! The tourist information was closed, none of the people we asked had any idea what we were talking about , but finally we found it. I had left the map in the car, but at least I had looked at it long enough to remember something about the location.
The church, however, was locked, so I didn't see the painting. The statues on the outside gave a good impression of the steel baron's influence: Lifesize figures, all with some relation to steel. I especially liked the two soldiers, one seemed to be wounded, the other helping him. Someone had put a red flower up to the dark statues, possible a poppy which would have been appropriate,close to Verdun as Völklingen is. I couldn't get close enough to see it properly.
Pictures three shows the church "Reconciliation Church" - Versöhnungskirche - and picture four
two steel workers.
Another part of the science center deals with magnetism.This room was probably intended for children to experiment, but no adult can be there without starting to play. You can direct a crane by a control pad, so that it takes up nails, screws or other iron things from one box, switch it over to another and stop the magnetic power, and everything falls into a second box. Lots of fun! Have a look at picture one and see the bridge being built by magnetism only. There are about four or five different experiments with magnetism. If only my Physics lessons back in school had been so much fun!
Outside of this room there are some tubs with soapy water to illustrate the surface tension. A little boy and his father were busy forming huge soap bubbles with the help of several shapes in there.
Again, some of these exhibition will be closed from November to April, so best check before on their website. It's the intention to keep them open all year, but this hasn't been realized for everything so far.
The main place to visit in Völklingen is the old steel plant. You can walk around and follow the way the steel was produced.Explanations are given in German,French and English.
Sometimes they were a bit too technical for me, since I really don't know very much about steel production, but always very interesting.
The sheer size of the plant is overwhelming. Almost 20 000 people had worked there once, and with some imagination I could almost see them go to the first shift early in the morning.From a certain level on you have to wear helmets, and then you can climb up to a platform about 50 meter above the ground.Don't do it if you suffer from vertigo, as all the stairs are outside. I tried very hard not to look down while walking upstairs. It is worth it, though, as you get to see even more of the plant. This must have been a very hard job for the workers!
Entrance fee is 12 Euro per adult.
If you have problems with stairs, this is no place to go. There is a lift to the main exhibition hall only. The most interesting places in the plant can only be reached by lots of stairs.It says on the website that almost all levels can be reached without stairs, but that's not what I experienced.
Part of the steel works, especially the stairs on the outside are very much exposed to the weather, so expect them to be closed during a thunderstorm or any other storm. Some of the other exhibition also are closed during the winter. It's best to check the website beforehand.
Apart from the exhibition hall in which changing exhibition are staged, there are some steady ones in a science center, among them a very interesting one about the four elements, fire,water,air and earth. To get in you walk through artificial fog, created by a soft rain. Then there is a huge block of ice, films showing fire, a machine which builds up a tornado, sinking sand and many other items. Everything can be touched - except the fire which is only filmed - and there are experiments the visitors can try themselves. A short TV sequence explains how iron was won some thousands years ago, very interesting, but in German only unfortunately,as it is from the TV "show with the mouse", one of the best TV shows for children on German TV.
Part of these hands-on exhibitions in the science center are open only in summer, from April to November.
Outside I saw a perfect example of the interaction of the elements, a tree at about 50 meter above the ground. The wind must have carried the seeds up, there must have been some earth at least for it to start growing and of course the rain watered it. Have a look at picture three and four to see how high up this tree has grown.
The forest close to Völklingen is called Warndt. It covers a large area, both in Germany and in France. The name comes from the word "warning", "warnen" in German. This was a forest for the princes only to hunt, and everybody else was warned to stay away from it. The name still remembers this.
Some of the small villages in the Warndt belong to the administrative unit of Völklingen. Each and everyone of these villages was a lot cleaner than the city. You could see that people there take pride in their homes.
Driving through the Warndt was beautiful in autumn with all the leaves changing colour. Often our route crossed into France and back into Germany again; the only indication of the other country were the billboards in French or German respectively. No mention of the border any more. I just love the idea of Schengen!
..former iron work with blast furnaces...
now an unesco world cultural heritage
....stillgelegtes Eisenwerk mit Hochoefen und alles was sonst noch zur Eisenerzeugung notwendig war....
A old ironworks listed in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites, today a cultural center.
Very interresting to see.