2010-08-18 langenstein 008
Originally uploaded by antje b.
Near the town that I spent second most of my childhood in, I was shown a little gem of local history the other day that I didn't even know existed. We have a lot of sandstone hills and mountains in our area, and naturally there are quite a few caves in the rock. However, humans have helped things along a bit here and there, and this is an example:
The cave apartments in Langenstein were dug into the relatively soft sandstone by labourers working for the local landowner. They paid a token amount and were equipped with the tools by their employer and then dug their own digs, if you like.
All this happened during the mid 19th century. The abodes had a front room with a window, a kitchen or kitchenette (although I doubt they called it that) with a vent (i.e. a hole in the 'roof') and one or more bedrooms or rather alcoves for beds deeper in the rock face. Apparently, the places were not really damp or cold, seeing as the kitchens were used on a daily basis which kept the caves dry.
By the turn of the century, the flats were abandoned and have since then been used for storage. Recently, a volunteer group was set up to restore the caves as an informal and private museum to keep this part of local history alive. A few of several flats have been filled with typical furniture (bought on flea markets) of the time and the class of people who'd have lived there. Others are still empty. All this is done on a voluntary basis by people who are laudably enthusiastic about the place they live in. Visiting the museum is free, only one of the flats has a jar near the entrance for donations to finance the maintenance work.
All the more astonishing is the story of a visitor from outside the region who, judging by the number plate (German number plates show the place the vehicle is registered in), came a long way to see the caves which were open but unsupervised at that time of the day, and at the end of the visit helped himself to an oil lamp he rather fancied. When he was apprehended in the street and challenged about the item he'd taken from the museum, his excuse was: "Well, the place was open."