|Location:||Between Breitscheid and Erdbach. Ticket office in the town hall of Breitscheid.|
Sat, Sun 10-19, last tour 18.
Adults EUR 8, Children (0-14) EUR 5, Family (2+2) EUR 20.
Groups (-13): Adults EUR 90, School Pupils EUR 75.
|Dimension:||L=5,500 m, VR=86 m, T=8 °C.|
|Guided tours:||D=45 min, St=124.|
Ingo Dorsten, Annette Hüser, Thomas Hülsmann (2006):
Das Herbstlabyrinth-Adventhöhle-System - Die erste Riesenhöhle Hessens,
Speläologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Hessen e.V.
|Address:||Rathaus Breitscheid, Rathausstr. 14, 35767 Breitscheid, 02777-913321 oder 02777-912331.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|11-DEC-1993||Adventhöhle discovered by members of the Speläologische Arbeitsgruppe Hessen (SAH).|
|1995||Adventhöhle and Herbstlabyrinth connected.|
|1997||pause in exploration due to a lack of permit.|
|1999||cave declared a natural monument.|
|2002||Nordgang discovered and surveyed for 1,400 m.|
|2005||discovery of tufa from the Laacher-See-Vulkan eruption.|
|2007||start of development.|
|09-MAY-2009||opening of the show cave.|
The Herbstlabyrinth is the most recent show cave of Germany, opened in 2009. The show cave allows the visit of a single chamber of the Herbstlabyrinth-Adventhöhle-Systems, called Knöpfchenhalle (Bulbous Calcite Chamber), by an artificial entrance tunnel. A staircase leads down into the cave. The trail inside the cave was constructed as an elevated path made of glass-reinforced plastic, which required no damage to the cave itself. The trail could be removed and the cave would be almost unchanged. The lighting of the cave was installed by GermTec, a local company founded by cavers, and is based on latest LED technology. This reduces the amount of light and heat emitted by the lamps, and as a result the amount of lampenflora. Additionally it reduces the cost of changing lamps and for electricity. The cave is visited by small groups of up to 13 people, the number of tours per day is restricted. This is intentionally, to limit the impact of the visits on the cave as an ecosystem.
The cave is part of a sort of theme park, consisting also of the Museum Zeitsprünge (Museum Time Leaps) at Erdbach and an karst trail, which connects the museum and the cave. The museum hosts exhibitions on caving, geology, archaeology, and palaeontology. While the cave is still new, most tours are fully booked, so it is advisable to pre-book, which is possible only on the website of the museum. The tickets are sold in the Rathaus (town hall) at Breitscheid. The cave entrance is located at the road to Erdbach, but in a dangerous place in a curve without the possiblity to park cars. During the opening of the cave the police patrols the area and cars parked illegally at the road will be ticketed. Please be early enough at the ticket office for the one kilometre walk along the road to the cave entrance. There is a second possibility, to park at the museum in Erdbach and walk the karst trail to the cave. This is much more interesting, includes various geotopes and a romantic gorge, but although it is only 500 m longer it is also an ascent of some 100 m, so you should allow at least 45 minutes for the walk.
The small karst area near Breitscheid is a Devonian reef with a size of 2.5km² and is used for quarrying limestone for many years. Limestone is needed for various purposes, but still it is rather low price and preferably it is quarried as close as possible to the consumer to reduce transport costs. In the Westerwald area, which consists mainly of crystalline rocks, the demand for limestone is obviously rather high. But the special features of this small patch of limestone were early known and easy to see: the typical features of contact karst. This means water forms rivers all around the limestone and runs on the surface, but as soon as it gets in contact with the limestone it is loosing in a swallow hole running underground through caves. The water is able to dissolve a lot of limestone, as the surrounding crystalline rocks are insoluble and so the water is undersatutated when it reaches the limestone. The water reappears at the other side of the limestone patch in karst springs and runs above ground again.
Swallow holes and springs were long known, and the swallow holes were the first caves which were explored. The idea was to find the huge cave system formed the the underground river. The efforts, which included digging and pumping, were only a partial success. The cave system was never discovered, the digging was futile as the water of the snow melt filled the swallow hole again. However, several deep vertical caves of some 100 m depth were surveyed. Today the swallow holes are one stop on the new karst trail.
The discovery of the Herbstlabyrinth was made during the quarrying work, which was responsible both for the discovery and for the destruction of a part of the cave system. But after the importance of the cave became widely known, it was protected and the quarrying continued in another part of the area. Today the cave is protected by both nature conservation and heritage conservation law. One of the reasons for this is the development as a show cave, which makes the cave known to the public and allows the public to accept that it deserves preservation.
Most show caves in Germany were developed at the end of the 19th century and after second world war. Both were times or boasting economies and growing tourism. Actually we have a different situation, the leisure activities change from the consummation of historic buildings and museums to activities like high-wire forest adventures. Show caves offer guided tours and are more like a natural history museum. Most German show caves loose visitors every year now. So actually, despite its obvious beauty, it is rather weird to create a new show cave under such business conditions. The solution is rather simple: this state has very little limestone and caves, very little show caves, which result in a rather huge catchment area. The locals and the local politicians were much interested in the development of the cave, which was also supported by the cavers. The cavers were hoping for an effective protection of the cave due to economic interests and public awareness, which obviously worked very well.