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Bad Sobernheim

The «Kurz House» with oriel, one of the landmarks of Bad Sobernheim (Nahe Valley)

This old, charming health resort with its wonderfully restored downtown area, is the only Felke-bath in Germany. Bad Sobernheim lies in a widening of the Nahe valley, between Martinstein in the west, and the Disibodenberg to the east. It borders on the north by the mountain cliffs of the Soonwald region and in the south by the range of hills between Meisenheim and Kirn, a branch of the Westrich. The character of the area's vegetation comes from the mild, rather dry climate. It is no wonder that Bad Sobernheim is surrounded by vineyards, which are considered to have one of the best locations along the Nahe.

Among the many things to discover is the Matthias Church (St. Matthew) with its famous Stumm organ and the new stained glass windows, designed by Georg Meistermann. There are also two late medieval chapels, the city hall, built in the year 1535 (remodelled in 1860 and again in 1970), numerous old courtyards, as well as patrician and middle class houses, including the "House with the little oriel". All these make the town especially attractive.

Would you like to take a little stroll through the town?

Bad Sobernheim first received its city charter in the year 1292 (again in 1324, and for the last time in 1330, and renewed in 1857). Only in the middle of the last century did it begin to grow beyond the medieval city walls. Besides the beautifully worked half-timbered houses, there is also an open-air museum to visit, where all the types of buildings important to the area Rheinland-Pfalz can be seen. The museum is conceived to consolidate, in a natural way, farmhouses, stable and barn areas, various kinds of workshops, residential housing, public buildings, as well as smaller objects such as village fountains, path markings, or stone benches. There are several complete villages ("museum villages"). If you feel adventurous, try out the 3.5 km long barefoot path without shoes and socks, naturally.

Thirty-five million years ago, in the Oligozän era, the winemaker's village Steinhardt, belonging to Bad Sobernheim was adjacent to a shallow, tropical sea, with its coast line running alongside the Kreuznacher Basin and the Staudenheimer Bay. The sand from this era is now being quarried in the Steinhardt Sand pits. In this sand are the famous "Steinhardt peas": round, pea-shaped, sometimes also slightly elongated sand stone balls. There are often plant and animal fossils trapped inside these. The shape and size of the sand stone balls are usually indicative of the fossil within (long spruce cones of up to 17cm have been found!). In the middle Oligocene, the rise of the land in Oberrheingraben caused the sea to retreat, whereas where it lowered, it flowed westwards until it reached Bad Sobernheim. Therefore, two sand layers can be distinguished here: the lower and the upper sea sand. In the lower layer, there are Steinhardt Peas with maritime fossils, whereas the upper layer peas incorporate mainly plant fossils, especially conifer cones of larches, pines and spruces. Furthermore, two slug species are found in the upper layer. The Steinhardt peas are likely to have developed close to the shore in warm Bariumchlorid-containing thermae, which were unique for the region around Steinhardt. The decomposing plants and animals in proximity to the thermae formed hydrogen sulphide, which developed into barites reacting with barium chloride. In the process, the sand around the fossils was trapped in as well and petrified.

Additional reading: Dr. Werner Vogt, Bad Sobernheim — eine kleine Kurstadt an der Nahe; Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg, 1999

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