The chain of the Jurassic highlands stretches through a big part of Central Europe from France and Switzerland to Germany. The Swabian Jura - also called Swabian Alb - is the central part of this chain between the Swiss and the Franconian Jura. Bordered by the Black Forest and the Baar region in the south-west, the upper Neckar valley to the north, the Ries crater to the east and the river Danube to the south, the Swabian Alb extends across South-West Germany over a length of approximately 220 km and a width of up to 80 km. The evidence of the Jurassic time dominates the area, but older and younger periods are also represented. Altogether they provide an outstanding variety of geological, paleontological and ecological features.
Geological andArcheological Heritage:
The Swabian Alb offers not only globally significant geological and paleontologicalfeatures like the type localities for the stages Aalenium and the Pliensbachium, the fossil sites of Holzmaden, Dotternhausen and Nusplingen, two meteorite craters or the "Swabian volcano" with more than 350 chimneys, but it is also archaeologically highly relevant the oldest sculptures of art and one of the oldest music instruments of mankind originating from here.
The karst landscape offers a large variety of different geotopes for example dolines, fossile reef rocks, karst springs (for instance the impressive chalk well "Blautopf" with an output from 290 l/sec. up to 25,750 l/sec.), karst caves (highest density of caves in Germany) and rare geological phenomena like the "Böttinger Marble", a thermic limestone travertine including plant and animal fossils. "Water´s struggle on the Swabian Alb" is a fascinating one: here you find the European wathershed, the line between the water that flows into the North Sea via river Rhine and the water that flows into the Black Sea via river Danube.
Geology plays an outstanding role for landscape and land use in history and today. People of the Stone Age came to search for flint stones and to use the caves as shelters. Rich iron deposits have been built up during the time of Brown Jurassic in the Swabian Jurassic ocean and are also present as bean iron ore in Tertiary fissure fillings. Celtic people used the carstic iron brass (one of the oldest smelting places known in Europe). The various bizarre cliffs of the Swabian Alb have their origin in the sponge and coral reefs of the Jurrasic Sea. They are situated at the rims of the valleys as steep outstanding groups of cliffs. Noblemen of the middle age used the fossil reef rocks for building their castles on top of them. The areas of the rims of these "Schwammstotzen" are highly fossiliferous. Still today the pattern of human settlements in an area ill supplied by water shows the characteristics of the petrography as some rocks like the basaltic fillings of the volcanic chimneys retain water. Villages emerged around so called "Hühlen" were rainwater accumulated on top of these chimneys.
The vivid volcanic activity in the area during Miocene time not only formed prominent remnants in form ofvolcanic plugs prepared later by erosion, but as well crater lakes and other morphological forms deepened into the surface of the Alb. The most outstanding one, the Randecker Maar at the northern rim of the Alb, is explained in a nature protection centre. The approximately 16 million year old sediments of this former Crater Lake (Maar) are a real "treasure trunk" of information concerning the flora and fauna of this epoch. At the Höwenegg, which is another volcano with Crater lake sediments, actual excavations reveal the life in this area during the Upper Miocene, 10 million years ago.
Geotourism has a long history on the Swabian Alb as have most of the institutions and offers mentioned above. New projects for the propagation of geological and paleontological information are currently prepared.
Main topic of the Geopark in 2005 is the expansion of the net of Geopark-Information Centres in existing Geo-museums or nature protection centres all over the Geopark. The Geopark realises with this concept a representation of the whole range of the geo-heritage of the Swabian Alb. Each information centre has a main topic and informs the visitor about themes and offers in the other centres.
To give some examples: In the prehistoric museum at Blaubeuren visitors can not only see exhibitions but also can experience the live of people of the ice age e.g. during an overnight stay in a cave or by building weapons or adornment with the help of experienced pedagogues. The first coral reef museum of Germany in Gerstetten shows a Jurassic coral reef and offers workshops in preparation of corals directed by geologists. A newly built "HöhlenHaus" (CaveHouse) in Giengen/Brenz informs about the formation of caves and in the Meteor Crater museum in Steinheim a. A. visitors can comprehend the catastrophy of a meteoritic impact and the following return of life into this area.
But Geopark offers not only exist in communities with information centres. Landscape adventure tours guided by trained rangers are offered in different parts of the Alb. Thematic self-guided geotours and interpretative trails enhance the range of touristic products. An outstanding example is the new interpretative trail on the "Plattenkalk" of Nusplingen. At this fossil site actual research is done and the public has the possibility to have a look inside this work. Also the protection of sensitive areas can be achieved by the design of such a trail.
The geotouristic efforts are supported by museums, information centres and other comparable institutions. Guided tours, interpretative trails and exhibitions are part of the geo-educational concept. They address not only to the general public, but also especially to schools. In order to guarantee a high standard the guides and the personal of the information centres are trained in special courses. Publications like a geotouristic map of the Swabian Alb, flyers, leaflets and books dealing with single localities like Nusplingen and Steinheim or with geology and paleontology of the whole area contribute to the educational process. A focus is put on residents of the Alb. The establishment of a consciousness of the geological past of their home area is an important aim of the Geopark.
Geopark Swabian Alb
c/o Tourismus Board Swabian Alb
72574 Bad Urach, Gemany
Phone: +49 7125 4073 262
The Swabian Alb with its bizarre formations and gentle curves emerged from the Jurassic ocean millions of years ago; this low mountain range extends for a length of roughly 200 kilometres and a width of 50 kilometres right across Baden-Wuerttemberg in the south-west of Germany, ranging from the western part of Lake Constance right up to the Bavarian border. Where sheep peacefully graze today in a landscape full of juniper trees, incandescent rocks were ejected upwards millions of years ago, for there are few places in the world where more volcanoes ware active than here. Those who explore the Swabian Alb, this unique natural and geological park, will discover a multitude of geological facts and phenomena demonstrating its evolution.
Ranges of hills rising up to 1000 meters, gentle mountain ridges and rounded hilltops characterize the landscape of the Swabian Alb. Hikers and nature enthusiasts will discover juniper-covered heaths, paddocks, meadows full of flowers, beech woods, limestone rocks, former volcanic lakes, stalactite caves, waterfalls, thermal springs and quaint old towns. Many travellers long for the silence and beauty of this wide stretching, peaceful and unspoilt landscape; although transport and motoring facilities are excellent, the Swabian Alb retains its unimpaired, intact landscape; as the German poet Eduard Mörike aptly remarked, it is a "wild paradise".
Even today one can still find rare protozoa fossils here, many of which can be inspected, skilfully preserved, in several museums of which there is not the like the world over. Those wishing to improve their health will gratefully have recourse to the Swabian Alb's medicinal springs. Geologists have compared the subsoil of the Swabian Alb to an enormous subterranean barrel. The hot waters, rich in minerals, which well up from the depths of the earth provide a source of health which can be enjoyed in the pleasant resorts, spas and mineral baths of the region.
Geology & nature:
The geological varieties, the wealth of fossils and of singular geological features, are unique in Germany; this also applies to the many caves and their fantastic subterranean scenery. The appearance of the Swabian Alb's landscape with its juniper heaths, woods, wide plateaux, its hilltops and winding valleys bears the distinctive stamp of its geological formation. The rivers have dug deep beds into the white limestone. The oozing of water through the porous rock stratum has produced hundreds of fantastic stalactite caves; more than 25 of them are open to visitors and their subterranean wonders fascinate hosts of tourists every year. There are few places in Europe that can boast of having as many caves as the Swabian Alb. Because of all these geological phenomena the Swabian Alb is predicated as "National Geo-Park" in Germany and since 2004 the Geo-Park has been incorporated in the networks of European- and worldwide UNESCO-Geo-Parks. Cities & culture:
When roaming through the romantic valleys of the Swabian Alb, the traveller often comes upon an attractive, historical town, founded in Roman times or during the Middle Ages and nestling below a fortress or castle. In all these old towns tradition is still alive; one is struck by their peculiar charm and the peaceful atmosphere from which the hectic rush of modern life is totally absent. For those interested in cultural activities there is a great variety of unusual museums and a wealth of cultural events; but they will also find breath-taking sights, not to mention excellent shopping facilities and factory outlets. These interesting sights and museums, which can be visited during the entire year, provide permanent evidence not only of the rich history of the Swabian Alb as a cultural region, but also introduce one to interesting traditions and customs still alivetoday.
One often finds that fortresses, castles and ruins surmount the rocks and hill-tops of the Swabian Alb, a rare sight in Germany, indeed in the whole of Europe. Names like "Hohenstaufen" and "Hohenzollern" remind us that great dynasties, which influenced German and European history for centuries, came from this part of Germany. The fortress of Hohenzollern, the impressive castles of Sigmaringen, Haigerloch, Tübingen and Heidenheim and the fortress of Lichtenstein are amongst the most rewarding cultural sights of this region.