Balkhauser Kotten , © Tourismus NRW e.V.

His­tor­ic­al mills and grind­ing shops

The mill rat­tling on the gush­ing brook

Loudly creaking, the large waterwheels spring into motion for their visitors, just as they used to do in the past, when people did hard manual labour in the more than 100 forges and grinding shops of the Bergisches Städtedreieck. Many of them have been long since been replaced by industry. Some few of the former forges are still preserved and open to visitors today. Children and adult visitors can get an insight into the traditional craft in the course of a excursion. On the Lower Rhine, mills are powered by wind rather than water. Flour is still ground here on visiting days and the aroma of freshly baked bread will waft far across the flat landscape on those days.

Freshly baked bread from the mill, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Grist and grain

The scent of freshly baked bread

They certainly look beautiful in the vast, flat landscape, but most of them are even still fully functional: The historical windmills of the Lower Rhine tell stories of the past and attract visitors with their traditional products. The Alte Mühle Donsbrüggen in Kleve sells bread stone-baked according to a traditional recipe. The largest mill on the Lower Rhine, the Kalkarer Mühle at the Hanselaer Tor gate, offers home-ground and baked spelt specialties in its bakery. Both mills maintain museums that provide some insights into the history of the Lower Rhine windmills. |

Unfortunately, flour fresh from the millstone is no longer available in the 800-year-old water mill in Erftstadt-Gymnich near Bonn. Its waterwheels stopped moving at the end of World War II. Nevertheless, the mill continues to shine in all its glory today. Lovingly renovated, it is now called the “Nature Park Centre”, housing the “From Grain to Bread” exhibition that explains everything about the special features of the Erft, the history of mills, and the tasks of farmer, miller, and baker to its visitors. The tour is combined with a course in the training bakery, where participants learn how delicious bread is made step by step. They can then take their own masterpieces home with them. The Gymnicher Mühle Nature Park Centre also includes the 1.5-hectare water adventure park, where young guests in particular can enjoy the many play stations. The Gasthaus Gymnicher Mühle inn offers a beautiful view of the herb garden and Rhenish specialties from the restaurant kitchen.

Balkhauser Kotten, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

In the forge

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At the last still-functioning forge in the Gelpe Valley, the waterwheel at the Steffenshammer continues to rattle just as it did in the old times. Water powers the tools here, where small ironware and refining steel have been forged since 1746. No one has to earn a living with it anymore today. The old blacksmith's hammer is only used for demonstration purposes now, as visitors can watch craftsmen forge small tools the historical way with their tail hammer powered by the waterwheel. The hammer opens its doors every third Saturday of the month from April to October.

Solingen has been considered the centre of blade manufacturing since the 14th century. The sharp knives used to be made in grinding shops called “Kotten”, with water-powered rotating grinding stones. Several of the 109 grinding shops in the stream and river valleys are still preserved, telling visitors plenty about the traditional craft of knife grinding. The Wipperkotten or Balkhauserkotten return visitors to times long past and offer some authentic glimpses into work on the grindstone. |

The Manuelskotten is the last of its kind in the entire Wuppertal urban area and the only grinding shop that can still be powered by a waterwheel. Where independent grinders once rented the grinding shop by the hour for their craft to make tools, only a single grinder continues to work today, guiding visitors through the facility by appointment and telling them about the traditional production of small tools from the Bergisch region. With its exceptionally extensive equipment with waterwheel, former steam engine, diesel and electric motors, as well as a generator, the Manuelskotten, built around 1850, reflects the entire history of energy generation in past centuries.


  • Wipperkotten Solingen, © Johannes Höhn
    Blick durch das Fenster in das Balkhauser Kotten, © Tourismus NRW e.V.
    Nahaufnahme des Flusses Wupper, © Tourismus NRW e.V.
  • Meissen windmill in Minden, © Johannes Höhn
    Balkhauser Kotten, © Tanja Neumann
    Der Manuelskotten ist der letzte seiner Art im gesamten Wuppertaler Stadtgebiet, © Hartmut Schmahl

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