Put on your helmet, turn on your miner’s lamp, and off you go on a trip into the world of the mines. Many of the disused mines and collieries in the Ruhr, Sauerland, and Eifel regions have been preserved and are open to visitors today. Zeche Zollverein in Essen, once the world’s largest coal mine, has even been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Guided) tours of the mines above and below ground give visitors an idea of how the miners once had to slave away in the collieries, mines, and ironworks. They can learn plenty about the state’s industrial history here. By the way, the industrial monuments with their gigantic machines and winding towers are particularly impressive in the evening, when the light in here sparkles in all colours as night falls outside.
Coal and steel
Industrial culture giants
As one of the most impressive industrial monuments, Zeche Zollverein is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. Once the world’s largest coal mine, it now takes its visitors through the colliery and coking plant on a monument trail. A number of guided tours give participants a glimpse of the time when the plant was still active. Trained guides, some of whom used to work at the colliery themselves, lead visitors through the above-ground facilities with their enormous idle machines, spiriting them back into the past with their authentic “Püttgeschichten” stories.
There’s a wide array of guided tours and interactive offers designed specifically for families with children, such as the family shift in the hands-on colliery or the riddle tour in the Ruhr-Museum. The works pool is open in summer as well, while the 150-metres-long Zollverein-Eisbahn ice rink opens its doors in winter.
Two other industrial cultural highlights include the former collieries in Dortmund: The Zeche Zollern is a showpiece of industrial culture today. At first glance, it appears rather like a stately home than a colliery. A guided above-ground tour shows that many a miner was worked to utter exhaustion here. Guided tours of the grounds of the Hansa coking plant at night, in contrast, focus on aesthetics: The panoramic view from the coal tower shows bizarre shadows cast on the walls of the illuminated industrial monument while mysterious sounds give old machines and buildings a new feel.
Visitors may also get a glimpse of the past on guided tours of the disused ironworks site in what is now Duisburg-Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord. Nightly torchlight tours bring the industrial buildings to life once again with a glow as fiery as they ever saw three decades ago. Exclusive tours give visitors an opportunity to enter unknown territory when the smelter guides open doors otherwise closed enter to old factory halls and the control centre. The Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord also offers many other leisure activities, including opportunities for families with children to go cycling, diving, or climbing.
Underground in the Eifel and Sauerland regions
When mines are mentioned, most people immediately have the Ruhr area in mind. A trip to the Sauerland is also worth their time, however. The ground there is riddled with holes just the same, though these miners were hoping to extract as much ore as possible from the ground rather than digging for coal. May of the ore mines that are now closed can be visited today, telling stories of the workers’ hard lives and an often-dangerous workday. An overview of the various visitor mines and museum tunnels can be found at:
Ore mining has a long tradition in the Eifel as well: People have been mining for ores here to extract metals from them for more than two millennia. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of real miners at the Wohlfahrt mine in Rescheid and the Günnersdorf mine in Mechernich. Safely equipped with helmets, mine tour participants will follow their guide into the depths of the mine.
www.grubewohlfahrt.de | www.bergbaumuseum-mechernich.de
Mining in the museum
A tour above and below ground
The Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum offers an authentic impression of underground work in the show mine and in the rope-transport simulator that gives visitors an authentic impression of a ride down the mine. A network of underground routes that spans about 1.2-kilometres will then lead them to glimpses of the everyday work underground, while real miners talk about their time as cutters, pit, electric, or machine miners along the tours. Four above-ground tours with 3,000 exhibits elaborate on both the history of German coal and the worldwide development of mining.
With its size and many original machines as well as reconstructed sites and one of eight German research museums of the Leibniz-Gemeinschaft, the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum is the world’s most important mining museum.