|HIZ - Cave Information Center
1. HIZ - Höhlen-Informations-Zentrum (Cave-Information-Centre)
Our Cave-Information-Centre is just one of over 100 environmental education centres in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, but it is the only one specialised in caves. It was founded in 1998 by AHKS caving club, a caving club with a tradition of over 25 years. The aim of our Cave-Information-Centre is to inform people of all ages about caves, Karst phenomena, cave animals, cave conservation (as an aspect of nature conservation) and, of course, about cavers and what they do. To achieve this aim we provide high quality educational activities for children and adults: guided tours which will show visitors around our show-cave Heinrichshöhle (a dripstone cave containing a lot of bones of ice-age animals, e.g. cave-bears and mammoth) and the famous Felsenmeer (English: "Sea of Rocks") nature reserve. Our tours are guided by members of AHKS caving club - many of them are experienced cavers.
Especially children are very interested in caves - some of them are already well informed about stalagmites, stalactites and bats when they visit us. For groups of children we provide Educational Programmes. These programmes, lasting about 60 to 90 minutes, can be booked by schools, kindergartens or private groups. We also provide "cave excursions" which can be booked as a highlight for a children's birthday party: These excursions, leading through our show cave Heinrichshöhle, are a good chance for youngsters to scout narrow and muddy tunnels and to learn some facts about caves and cavers. They even have to "solve some caver's problems": they have to find some lost piece of equipment with a little surprise inside using a map of the cave and working together as a team! In co-operation with children's homes we also provide cave excursions for socially maladjusted children and young persons.
Would you like to book a guided tour in English? No problem! Just dial +49 2372 61549 or - even better - send your
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org!
2. Subterranean wilderness - Heinrichshöhle
Heinrichshöhle is to be found in Hemer-Sundwig, only a few minutes walk away from the famous Felsenmeer nature reserve. Together with Alte Höhle, Heinrichshöhle forms the Perick Cave System, which is over 3 kilometres long altogether. Both caves were discovered over 300 years ago and in 1812 Heinrichshöhle was visited by a man named Heinrich von der Becke, who even did some research on the cave.
In 1905 Heinrichshöhle was opened to the public. It was the first cave in Westphalia to have electric lighting, and parts of the 110 volt system of that time can still be seen today. In 1976 Hemer Town Authorities provided a new 42 volt low tension lighting system, and in 2000, after AHKS caving club took over management, the lighting system was modernised again. Now the bizarre chasms and grottoes are most effectively lit, using modern halogen spotlights.
The shape of the rooms and tunnels will give you a good indication of the force of meltwater, which flowed through the cave during the Ice Age and, slowly but steadily, washed away the limestone. On a tour through Heinrichshöhle you will also come across some beautiful stalagmites, stalactites, fragile macaroni tubes and some other bizarre types of dripstones. An added attraction is the complete skeleton of a cave bear which is exhibited in the cave together with some original bones and teeth of other ice-age animals, e.g. rhinos, mammoth and horses.
Perick Cave System is situated in an area of Middle Devonian Oolitio Limestone, which developed about 370 million years ago in a warm subtropical sea in the form of a coral reef. This coral reef extended from the town of Düsseldorf, through Hagen, Iserlohn, Hemer and as far as the Hönnetal nature reserve. It was about 120 kilometres long and, on average, 800 metres wide. During the last 30 years cavers from the Sauerland region have discovered a lot of new caves in this limestone area, some of them being more than 3 kilometres long!
3. Wilderness above ground - Felsenmeer ("Sea of Rocks")
"Hemer - the town on Felsenmeer" is the kind of description one often reads in guidebooks. Well, what is it that makes the Felsenmeer nature reserve so special?
Felsenmeer ist about 800 metres long and varies from 100 to 200 metres wide. This famous nature reserve ist a typical Karst area - it is an outstanding example of Karst landscape in Devonian Massive Limestone. Before the Ice Age the climate in Europe was quite warm and humid. During these times, rainwater and ground water slowly dissolved the limestone rocks (corrosion). During the Ice Age period, which began approximately 2.4 million years before present, meltwater flowed through the Felsenmeer area and its caves and ground down the limestone rocks (erosion).
But Felsenmeer was also formed by man, who, over 1000 years ago, discovered iron ore in some of the countless cracks and chasms: A period of intense ore mining began and changed the shape of the surface area of Felsenmeer dramatically. Today cavers and geologists suppose that 50% to 70% of the shape of the surface was determined by mining activities. In some areas one can still see evidence of the mining activities - the slag heaps, the bore-holes in the rocks and the remarkably long tunnels which are still accessible for cavers.
It is not difficult, even for foreign visitors, to distinguish three parts of Felsenmeer: "Large Felsenmeer", "Small Felsenmeer" and "Paradise". There are several paths you can follow and the main path called "Panoramaweg" will lead you to the most interesting places. Don't forget to bring along your camera and please don't stray from the paths!
In spring the Felsenmeer nature reserve is especially striking. The old beech trees are covered with new green leaves, and the rugged limestone rocks shine among the tender greenery. A visit in summer also has its advantages, for then it is pleasantly cool in amongst the vast rocks. But perhaps the autumn, with its rich array of colours, offers the visitors the most unforgettable introduction to Felsenmeer.
It would not be difficult to fill a small book with the history of Felsenmeer alone. A whole series of legends from all ages deal with Felsenmeer. The most famous of them is the story of Dwarf King Alberich and Giant Wuppert. This story offers a popular explanation as to the origin of this strange landscape: Wuppert the Giant destroyed the dwarf's fortress, which was situated here, in order to get his treasures. The dwarf king cast a magical spell, which caused a severe earthquake: The mountain and walls of rocks collapsed, and the king, his people and their treasures were buried under gigantic boulders. Now the only trace left behind is a maze of rocks: Felsenmeer in its present state, dwarves, a subterranean fortress and a treasure beneath the soil!