Mining of black coal in Germany and the neighbouring countries involved underground mines with shafts as deep as kilometer. The enormous industrial plants for treatment of the coal and the big shunting yards for the coal trains were topped by the winding towers to bring up and down coal and materials. One of the biggest black coal mining areas was close to Aachen. Today all the mines are closed . The area still struggles with restructuring and finding new jobs formerly provided by the mines. In the town of Alsdorf, parts of the area of the big Zeche Anna has been transformed into a shopping area. It looks like an ironic attempt to show the now unemployed what they would be able to buy if they still had a job.

Eve of destruction

In 2012 the thermal baths in the little town of Fichtelberg burnt down. When the fire started, 200 guests still were in the facilities. The guests and staff fled and fortunately nobody was hurt. The little town entirely depends on tourism and the loss of the baths was a hard blow for the local economy. However, instead of immediately rebuilding the place, town, operator and insurance started a legal fight. When it finally was solved after 4 years the operator died. What is left after fire, vandalism and time took their toll is another of these spots which seem to attract me magically……

A biotope is born

Fifty years ago the railway shed in Weiden still housed numerous steam engines. Two turntables were used to take the engines from and into one of the 18 ports of the shed. A separate building housed repair facilities. After the age of steam engines ended everything was left to decay. Without maintenance the roof collapsed. Metal parts and even the rails were stolen. Birch trees are the first and fastest to grow between the remainders. The first animals settle and a hare flees from the intruder in a zigzag between the trees

Still life

Like years ago in the US, many small towns in Germany struggle with their abandoned city centers. The consequence of their previous policy of building shopping centers outside town with huge parking lots leads to emptiness and a desolate atmosphere in the old commercial center of town. Empty buildings which cannot be sold, line the streets. Demolition causes gaps and all attractivity is lost.

Still life

The previous German government has decided to stop all coal related activities. This also includes mining of brown coal in enormous open pits. In particular the mine in the Hambacher forest was controversial. To increase popularity, or decrease protests, the owner, RWE, is busy building viewing platforms and a hiking and cycling path along the rim of the mine. From the terra nove platform the visitor can meditate about the microscopic movements of the world’s biggest excavators of a weight of 13.500 tons, length 220 m and 96 m of height. Despite their sluggishness each can remove another 240.000 tons from the giant pit daily.


The little town of Schiedam is far less known than the tourist attractions of Amsterdam or Delft. However, it is full of monuments, windmills and old boats. The windmills were used to grind the grain used for Schiedam’s most important product, Genever, the local brandy. The bare trees of winter allow a much better view.