The Pfälzerwald – ironworks, shoemaking and bizarre sandstone rocks

Now we are on our fifth day in Germany. The German weather forecast shows “official warnings”: Heat. Yes, we have noticed the heat, when walking in the vineyards. We decide to escape the heat by driving into the Palatine Forest (Pfälzerwald) which is the largest coherent forest in Europe. In Bad Dürkheim we buy a guidebook. Our plan: Get an idea about the former mining industry and the shoe making and then go for a walk in the area of the bizarre sandstone rocks around Dahn – in the shade.


Trippstadt- old mining town and now a favorite place of motor cyclists

Through shady forests we drive to Trippstadt. This is a relaxed small town in the middle of the Palatine Forest. Motor cyclist love this place – a group of them is just celebrating a wedding – all dressed in black. The photographer parked his motor bike in front of the museum for ironworks.

The Eisenhüttenmuseum (museum for ironworks) documents the history and the ancient production methods of the mining industry that started here in the 15th century.


First the workers had to dig out the stone containing iron from the mountains. Then they had to smash the stones using stampers.


In large ovens the smashed stones are being heated to extract the iron. The heating energy required wood charcoal – charcoal burning was the profession for that.


Additional professions needed were the resin burners (Kiefernpechbrenner) and the fir cone gatherers (climbing firs to collect the cones – pretty dangerous).


We use the end products such as ovens…


… or waffle irons…


… without thinking of the work that went into extracting the iron from the mountains and from the stones.

In the 18th century, industrialization starts. The family Gienanth becomes the main factory owners in the valley. I am scared, when I read the directions. A work day lasts from seven to twelve and from one to six. Breaks are not allowed, only one half hour break for children in the morning and one in the afternoon.  And children older than nine are admitted to work in the factories and mines.

Mining in the Pfälzerwald halted in the beginning of the 20th century. Another industry became important, shoe making.


Shoe making – the shoe museum in Hauenstein

The Schuhmuseum (shoe museum) in Hauenstein lays out production technologies on one hand and shows shoes across time and countries on the other hand.

For the first time in my life I understand, what “Schuster bleib’ bei Deinen Leisten” (“cobbler stick to your last”) means: The cobblers used the wooden models or last of the feet of their clients to design the shoes for them.  The museum  owns the wooden models of Charles de Gaule and Helmut Kohl – huge they are both. This is a last with the matching boots:


The museum shows all the machines needed for shoemaking such as to prepare the leather, cut it, sew it onto the shoes and add the heals.


Shoes from all over the world are on display. These are childrens’ shoes – and they HAVE been used.


And this is an elegant white ladies’ boot.



Die Kleine Blume” (“The Small Flower”) in Erfweiler – a welcoming hotel

We continue to Dahn in the Pfälzer Wald, where we will find bizarre sandrock formations, fortifications on top of some of these rocks, and hiking opportunities. We stop in the hotel “Die Kleine Blume” Erfweiler where we find a comfortable bed, a small swimming pool, and a great dinner with fresh trout from the Dahn region accompanied by a Grauburgunder Meerspinne from Gimmeldingen. We book two nights and plan a walk in the hills, forests and rocks around Erfweiler for tomorrow.






One thought on “The Pfälzerwald – ironworks, shoemaking and bizarre sandstone rocks

  1. Helga Schmidt says:

    Thank you Petra for the nice and detailed description.
    Best, Helga

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