Natural History Museum
Butterfly collection in the Natural History Museum Gerolstein
Time Travels at the Eifelsteig
The Museum was from the start dedicated to the preservation of the great geological and historical heritage of the Vulkaneifel region and particularly of the famous Devonian fossils from the limestone synclines of the Eifel North-South Zone. Because of that, the credo of the Natural History Museum is “Time Travels at the Eifelsteig (Eifel trail)”, on which you can walk (physically and mentally) and learn what happened in the Eifel in the last 400 million years.
In the so-called „Trilobitarium“, the world-famous trilobites of the “crab-fields of Gees” are introduced and the „Crinoidarium” contains valuable finds of sea-lilies (crinoids), which originate mainly directly from Gerolstein. These fossil treasures come from ancient marine deposits that have turned into stone long ago, dating back to a time between 390 and 383 million years, the Middle Devonian. The lower stage of the Middle Devonian is worldwide known as Eifelian. This underlines the importance of the Eifel as a classic region of geological and paleontological research, which already began 200 years ago.
Well-known is the tale of the famous naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who visited “Prussian Siberia” (the Eifel was in his time ill-reputed as inhospitable and rough) and he found in the area of Gees that many fossils that he had to buy the socks of some countrywoman just for carrying the collected fossils. Also, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe recognized the fossils of the Eifel, because in his collection exist three petrifacts from Gerolstein, namely the “slipper-coral” Calceola sandalina (Linnè), Favosites gotlandica (Goldfuss) and Dohmophyllum helianthoides (Goldfuss).
After the Devonian, there was no deposition of sediments over a long time in the area of Gerolstein, we call this a hiatus that lasted until the Triassic Period. Because of that, our time travel continues with the time of the Bunter sandstone (the colourful sandstones of the Lower Triassic) about 235 million years ago. The Eifel region was a desert in which characteristic red sandstones have been deposited. In this time lived the Eifelosaurus, a cast of the only found skeleton and a reconstruction of this reptile are exhibited in the Museum. The ancient lizard turned out the be a female “Eifelosaura” and is called now “Betti”. Children can learn from us to cross-walk like “Betti” and can make a reptile (driving) license! Naturally, if their parents like, they can do though as well.
Again, it follows a phase without deposition and the time travel goes directly into the Pleistocene, ca. 700.000 to 30.000 years before present, into the “hot” Ice Ages, because it was a time of volcanic eruptions. Beside volcanic ashes, Lapilli and bombs, the Museum presents also the Eifel-gem, the blue Hauyne, embedded in the stone, as loose mineral and as cut jewel. Additionally, there is a unique collection of xenoliths that were brought up by the volcanoes from the depth. Worldwide unrivalled are glazed stones, actually partly molten sandstones that got a volcanic enamel. In the volcanism department awaits our mascot “Willi Basalt” the visiting children and the “Thick Bertha” lays there to be taken away. Every child who is able to carry the bomb can take it home!
In our prehistoric department is a small cave with real furs, bones and antlers, inviting visitors for a time travel into the Stone Age. Teeth of the cave bear were found in the Buchenloch (Beech-hole) Cave, and the busts of “Bron” the Neanderthal and “Mimi” the Turkana-woman are greeting our guests. Stone Age weapons and tools from the Neanderthals to the modern humans that have been found in the area of Gerolstein complete the picture of this time.
In the forest department starts the forest to live again. Kids can press buttons and let the animals speak at the tree of life, like the wren, the squirrel and the tawny owl. The largest collection of insects in the Eifel completes our wonderful universal museum of natural sciences. The as “Krämer´s butterfly collection” well-known assemblage excites with its wealth of colours and shapes among the butterflies, moths and beetles, that can occasionally reach giant sizes. The Museum always offers in its shop the relevant geo-literature of the Eifel, as well as postcards and replicas of the fabulous trilobites. Posters, dinosaurs and children´s books are available as well.
Impressions from the exhibitions
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is situated in the old centre of Gerolstein, directly below the ruins of the Löwenburg castle. This part of the town is traditionally known as the “Flecken” (spot). As building for the Museum serves the old town hall of Gerolstein, built in Baroque style in 1710. The building reopened as a Museum in 1987 after rigorous renovation and modification. More than 100 years ago, there was already a geological museum in Gerolstein, the “First geognostic Museum of the Eifel and the Rhineland”. Fantastic fossils from the region around Gerolstein have been exhibited there and helped to establish the early reputation of Gerolstein as the central place to go for generations of geologists as well as mineral and fossil collectors. The exhibitions in the first regional Geologic Museum of the Eifel were installed by the school principal Stephan Dohm and the hotelier Matthias Heck in the Hotel Heck in Gerolstein. Unfortunately, the Museum was destroyed by bombs in 1944 and the collections got lost.
With the early history of the Museum and now already over 30 years of existence is the Natural History Museum in Gerolstein the oldest and largest Museum of Natural Sciences in the Eifel region. With its central position in the old town of Gerolstein, with a view towards the Kyll valley and the high dolomite cliffs of the Munterley and the Hustley, belongs the Museum to the most beautiful Museums of Natural History of the country.
The Museum is directly situated at the junction of the geo-route “Dolomite-Eight” of Gerolstein (the name refers to the 8-like shape of the route) and from here it is easy to access further hiking trails, like the Celt trail, the forest nature trail or the rock trail of Gerolstein. During a visit of Gerolstein it is a good idea to refresh oneself by drinking the 11°C cold mineral water of the Helenen-spring that contains natural carbon dioxide. The spring is situated in the Kyll park next to the new town hall.
It´s an easy step from the spring water to the geology of the Eifel. The water of the Helenen-spring contains a lot of magnesium and calcium, because of the drained rain water that absorbed those minerals by passing through the karstified dolomite and limestone of the area. The natural carbon dioxide content of the spring water is a result of rising carbon dioxide gas, which is of volcanic origin. Because of that it is possible to enjoy a natural “Gerolsteiner Sprudel” (fizz) in the town of Gerolstein.