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Bad Münster am Stein

No photograph album or calendar of the Nahe is complete without a picture of the Rheingrafenstein. What other landscape can offer a symbol comparable to the Rheingrafenstein at Bad Muenster am Stein? At this rocky narrow the Nahe has dug a deep opening in the massif to reach the wide plane of the Kreuznach Basin. In Celtic times the ring wall structure "auf der Gans" was directly behind the Rheingrafenstein and in medieval times the fortress Rheingrafenstein directly overlooked the much lower Ebernburg (the famous "Hostel of Justice"), less than 1km away. Rheingrafenstein's bubbling salt-water springs were already used as a "Badebronnen" (bathing springs) before the year 1500, long before the little city developed into a world famous spa. Before that, the saltwater was a source of cooking salt, the extraction of which was carried out in several steps. Although the water tastes very salty when it emerges from the spring, it actually contains only 1.3 percent of salt and this was too little for direct extraction. The water was therefore pumped several times through a "graduation house" where it trickled down the layered spiny walls. Each time it passed through this process, a little of it evaporated and the amount of salt increased. When a salt content of between 15 and 20 percent was attained, it was put into extraction pans and boiled until the salt crystals were deposited on the bottom.

The area around Bad Muenster am Stein is also interesting from a geological perspective: 35 million years ago in the Oligocene period, the Rheingrafenstein and the Rotenfels were the highest hills of an archipelago not far from the shore. Its subtropical coastline ran along the bay of Kreuznach. A few kilometres up the Nahe near Oberhausen, the Lemberg mountain formed a peninsula belonging to the mainland. Between Rheingrafenstein and Lemberg, was the shallow saltwater bay of Feilbingert. Today, this area is a large nature reserve, with 100,000 hectares of land. Similar to the Hellberg near Kirn, the Lemberg was formed 285 million years ago in the Permian period as an immense intrusion block. This intrusion block was exposed to the weather over the ensuing millions of years and exists today as a so-called monadnock. Its hard stone is composed of dacite, which is somewhat darker than the rhyolite of the Rheingrafenstein and is very slowly deteriorating into a huge mass of scree.

The special microclimate of the Lemberg —warm with low precipitation— allows southern European vegetation to thrive. Among the rare plants are Bergsteinkraut, Goldlack, Felsenfingerkraut, Mauerpfefferarten, Felsenahorn, Blutroter Storchenschnabel, Alpenhellerkraut, Diptam, Florentiner, Habichtskraut and Grasnelke. On the steep north side, the flora shows its most beautiful side with unique mosses, lichen and orchids. When the weather is clear, there is an incomparable view down into the Nahe valley with Böckelheim castle (first recorded in the year 824) and the Disibodenberg. Large areas of the Hunsrück can also be seen, as far as the Erbeskopf.

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