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February 27, 2008

Sandstone Country

Last weekend Mausi had the opportunity to visit the largest coloured sandstone cave in Europe. It meant a 90 minutes drive to the south west. Close to the French borders lies the town of Homburg. One of its attractions is this huge cave.

One of Homburg's churches built from red sandstone

The coloured sandstone formations around Homburg formed about 240 million years ago. The cave Mausi visited encompasses 12 storeys but only one is open to the public at the moment. If all goes well another two will be accessible in a couple of years.

The sandstone colours inside the cave are truly beautiful

The sandstone inside the cave shows alternating layers or red and yellow. The red sand was contains iron oxides and was depositied during wet periods when the iron was dissolved in water. The yellow layers where caused during dry periods when deserts temporarily took the place of shallow waters.

Ripples in the sandstone caused by waves in shallow waters

The cave itself is manmade. The sand contains a high amount of quartz which was used as a raw material for the production of glass during the seventeenth century. It was quite easy to get at the sand, very simple tools did suffice. Over the different storeys of the cave the sandstone has different densities. The hardest layer has actually turned into sandstone, but in the part of the cave Mausi visited the sand could be scraped from the walls by her fingers. Some of the ceilings are only 80 cm thick but their load bearing capacity is astonishing - up to 2000 kg per square meter.


At all times during different wars the caves have also provided shelter for the people of Homburg. The humidity inside the cave is between 80 and 90 percent or more but the temperature is always +10 Celsius, regardless of what the temperature is outside. The winter of 1944/1945 was extremely cold with temperatures around -20 Celsius. For the people who came to the caves to find shelter from the air raids it must have felt as if someone had suddenly turned the central heating on. At least until the humidity got through the last layers of your clothes.

Temporary home for a whole family during WW II

Mausi finds it hard to believe that families could actually survive in such conditions. Cramped into little space in a damp environment, with little food and no sanitation to speak of. Good thing those times are over and hopefully for a long time to come.

Posted by Mausi at February 27, 2008 08:31 PM

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