Many Leica owners consider a trip to Wetzlar, the former and new Leica Mecca, a worthwhile undertaking. Less than 50 miles from Frankfurt, it is easy to get to. The guided tours of the new Leica plant at Leitz Park are very informative and offer a close look at how these cameras and lenses are made. Another highlight of visiting Leica is the Leica museum.
About 15 miles from Wetzlar is Weilburg. A side trip to Weilburg is definitely worth consideration. It is the location of the topic of this post. I recommend using a route that goes through Braunfels, only a bit more than 2 miles from the former Leica headquarters in Solms. There you’ll have the opportunity to visit Burg Braunfels (Braunfels Castle) which dates back to 1246.
A part of Weilburg is called Kubach, place of the Kubacher Kristallhöhle (Kubach Crystal Cave). The Kristallhöhle is a relatively new discovery. The story goes that in 1881 miners looking for phosphorite stumbled by chance on an underground cave full of stalactites and stalagmites that was so big, apparently the local church was said to have fitted in it. But since this was not the mineral they were looking for, the entrance was filled in and the cave’s location forgotten.
However, not only did the miners tell other local people and even the press about the cave, they allegedly brought some of the stalactites back to the surface that are now in a local museum.
Over the years the story was passed on about the cave, until in 1973 holes were bored in the area that it was believed to be located in. While those boreholes did not find the cave being sought, it did find one with rare crystals on the walls.
A container, small enough to fit the borehole, had been equipped with a camera and flash to take photographs of the newly discovered cave. That camera was a Leica. It is now on display, hanging from a line right below the borehole.
Container holding the Leica
In the years that followed a pathway down to the cave was excavated and since 1981 visitors have been able to take tours. At the deepest point the floor of the cave is 78m (256 feet) below ground, and this part of the cave is 30m (98.5 feet) high – the highest cave that is open to the public in Germany.
The tour takes about 45 minutes and afterwards visitors can also go in the museum above ground, which shows more about how the cave was discovered but also about the mining that used to take place in the area.
Main entrance with a number of large rocks from the mineral museum inside
Going down into the cave is an exciting experience, but it is not possible for everyone. Warning signs at the entrance list a range of medical conditions which are prohibitive to making the descent. These include anyone who has had a heart attack, suffers from angina pectoris, or is taking nitrous-based medication. Sturdy shoes are also recommended for the 347 steps down to the cave’s entrance.
From personal experience, I know that it is not so much going down into the cave, but coming up again. But I found it worthwhile, for the cave itself and because it offers the opportunity to see a little known item of Leica history.
The cave’s website is http://www.kubacherkristallhoehle.de