I wish all of my readers who celebrate it a happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the turkey.
Here the decorations in town and stores are very Christmas-y for some time now. I'm already tired of Jingle Bells. And the crowds.
Lake at Oberdorla / Thuringia
Nano didn't go as well as last year, but I got the average of what I got when I did it a few times some years ago. That's at least some more words than I usually get in a month, and I did get a grip on the prologue of Never to Return
which had refused to cooperate last time, so I'd skipped it.
Autumn in the Harz
I've also been reading up on King David of Scots. King Malcolm left behind several sons with Margaret, one with Ingibjorg (who had a son in turn), and a brother. Add to this interfering Norman kings of England - can we say: trouble? *grin* David certainly had to wait his turn.
More Hiking Tours on the Hoher Meissner
Well, the conference that kept me busy the last weeks is over; I got some time off to recompense the overtime, and because of the fine weather those last days, we did some more hiking. Here are some photos.
Pines on the High Meissner Plateau
We did some tours in and around the Hoher Meissner
last year but there's more to explore. The highest part of the Meissner proper is not a peak but a plateau that rises up to 754 metres. The mountain itself measures about 8 kilometres (north-south) to 4 km (east-west).
Fine weather in autumn often means hazy air, but this view is still pretty scenic.
View from the high plateau
The geological history of the Meissner goes all the way back to the Variscan orogenesis about 350 million years ago, which is the foundation of most of the mountains in Germany (except for the Alpes). Traces of this stage can still be seen in the Devil's Valley (Höllental
) with its 350 million year old diabase and greywacke formations.
Diabase cliffs in the Devil's Valley
Diabase is an igneous (solidified magma or lava; diabase is actually formed at a state in between) subvolcanic rock that emerged from the earth crust in underwater conditions. Greywacke is a very hard sandstone with an irregular structure and badly sorted inclusions of feldspar, quarz, and small pebbles. Both rocks are typical for the Variscan orogenesis.
View from the Bilstein to the Devil's Valley
The history of the rocks which I personally find rather interesting, aside, the views can be beautiful, like this one that was totally worth the climb.
As mentioned in a prior post, remains of the 250 million year old dolomite cliffs of the Zechstein Sea can be seen in the foothills to the north, but the rest of the geological development of the Meissner is much younger.
Basalt pillars in the Kitzkammer
The uppermost layer of the main massive consists mostly of basalt from the early Miocene (23 - 5.3 million years ago), the beginning of the series of ice ages. Additional surface changes came about in the Pleistocene (2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago) mostly by glacial shifts which left behind basalt boulders on the slopes, like the Sea Stones below.
Cave in the Kitzkammer formation
, which looks a bit like a small version of the formations at Staffa
, developed from sub-aquine volcanic activity. The pillars are an olivine basalt rich in glass. The sea levels in the early Miocene were higher than today.
Sea Stone boulders (Seesteine)
The other interesting rock formation was likely caused by a landslide that deposited a group of bizarre basalt rocks at the southern slope of the Meissner, near a little lake that has fallen dry during the last century. They are called the Sea Stones. They are also olivine basalt though with a lower percentage of glass.
Another view of the Sea Stones
Under the layer of basalt lies a 12-15 metres thick layer of brown coal from the Tertiary, as already mentioned in my first post about the Meissner (see link above); the remains of a drowned forest.
Esp. the Kitzkammer was a bit tricky to reach, but some rock hopping and crossing a brook was worth the photo motives.
Weser Skywalk and Hannover Cliffs
Yes, we got a skywalk, too. Not as grand as the one in Colorado, but then, the Weser river and the Hannover Cliffs are no Grand Canyon. But the scenery is beautiful and pretty typical for the German mittelgebirge. And it's free and photographing is allowed, heh.
View over the skywalk towards Bad Karlshafen
The skywalk has been erected in 2011. It is anchored in the rock, made of zinc-coated steel with grillage floors; it has two levels with the lower one stretching 4 metres outward off the cliff. The grillage floor was a bit tricky for me since I don't take heights well, and you can see right down beneath your feet - 75 metres to the river and road. But I braved it.
View from the upper platform to the lower one
The Hannover Cliffs are close to the town of Bad Karlshafen
, with the villages of Herstelle and Würgassen on the other side. In that area three German counties meet: Lower Saxony, Nordrhine-Westphalia, and Hessia; the place is known as the Dreiländereck
. Bad Karlshafen is a Huguenot settlement. Herstelle - old name Heristal (= camping site of the host) - goes back to Carolingian times (AD 797), though the old abbey and the 13th century castle have been replaced by Baroque / 19th century buildings.
View downriver towards Herstelle (left) and Würgassen (right) from the lower platform
The skywalk sits on the easternmost of the seven Hannover Cliffs (Hannoversche Klippen
) on the northern / right shore of the Weser and the southwestern fringe of the Solling mountains. They are named after their location in the former Kingdom of Hannover at the border to Hessia. The cliffs are a protected nature reservation today.
View towards Herstelle and Reinhardswald Forest at sunset, with the skywalk railing in the foreground
The Hannover Cliffs are red sandstone, much like the Hessian Cliffs on the other side of the river about a mile south-east, and belong to the same geological formation, the Triassic (~ 250-200 million years ago).
The Triassic is distinguished by subsequent layers of red sandstone, musselkalk and black shale mixed with dolostones (Keuper
) But that is only valid for the Germanic Bassin covering Germany and northwestern Europe; else the lithostratigraphical distinction is simply Lower/Early, Middle, and Upper/Late Triassic.
(Detail shot of the sandstone cliff)
At the time there was one continent - Pangaea - and the climate was mostly hot and dry, more humid along the Paleo-Thethys ocean coasts and in the polar regions. There were also monsoon events.
A simplified version of complicated geological processes goes like this: The zechstein
sea dried up and a system of north-running rivers left behind layers of sand which over time were pressed into sandstone by the weight of new depositions. Next the sea flooded into the bassin and added a layer of marine sediments - the musselkalk. When the sea fell dry, the rivers were left behind, still transporting material around; but there were also lakes that produced a layer of fine clay that hardened to shale. During the entire process salt was left behind in spots as result of the evaporization in the hot climate (the salt deposits along the Leine river were mined by the Germans in Augustean times).
All these developments did not occur at the same level all over a diverse landscape, of course. There is no musselkalk layer above the sandstone strata at what today is the Weser - what there may have been, erosion took away when the ground was lifted. The Weser valley was cut out of the sandstone only during the last million years. Salt deposits inclused in the sandstone were washed out and weakened the rock in some parts; that's where the river carved its bed.
Footprints of prehistoric reptiles (archaeosaurs, rhynchosauroids) that lived 245 million years ago in the valleys of the prehistoric rivers have been found in the red sandstone, while further upriver (in the grey sandstone) the fossils are mostly of flora, like equisetum species and pleuromeia
, an extinct clubmoss.
Hannover Cliffs, view downriver towards Herstelle
Today, the cliffs are populated by trees in a mixed forest of beech and oak. Since the cliffs are too step, the trees are not felled for use but grow until they fall by themselves - the forest is a bit of a jungle. The warm stones on the south-looking cliffs offer a home for butterflies and salamanders.
Closeup of a bit of visible red sandstone cliff
There are two different types of Weser sandstone: the red sandstone in the Karlshafen area (with inclusions of iron and haematite) and the grey sandstone further upriver around the Trendelburg. The sandstone has been used since the Middle Ages, and especially in building the palaces of the Weser Renaissance. It is still quarried in small scale.
View towards Bad Karlshafen
There are two ways to the skywalk, one from the river and one from above. The latter is less stressful. *wink* Though the way back to the car is still a bit uphill with a steep slope falling down one side. They put up a railing up parts, though.