Germany is known for its scenic and picturesque towns and cities, with its beautiful houses and colorful tiled roofs. One specific destination, aptly named The Romantic Road, stretches from Würzburg and Füssen in southern Germany.
It is along this scenic region that the famous town of Nördlingen is found. But aside from its beautiful sceneries and romantic ambience, Nördlingen also has a unique history – the land the town is standing on is an 15 million year-old meteorite crater.
Nördlingen is one of the few remaining medieval towns with an intact city wall.
It is located in the center of Germany’s Romantic Road and lies within Nördlinger Ries, an impact crater created by a meteorite believed to have hit earth around 14.5 million years ago in the Miocene period.
Nördlinger Ries measures 25 kilometers in diameter, with the depth of its depression currently around 100 to 150 meters below the rim.
According to scientists, the meteorite which impacted Ries was estimated to be around 1.5 kilometers in diameter, with an impact velocity of 45,000 miles per hour (mph). The explosion due to the impact would have been equal to roughly 1.8 million Hiroshima atomic bombs.
A satellite image of Germany’s Ries Crater or Nördlinger Ries.
The location of Nördlingen.
Unbeknownst to medieval European settlers, they built the town on the actual site where the meteorite crashed, matching their one-kilometer wide walled city to the supposed diameter of the meteorite. Proof of this is one of the iconic landmarks in the area, St. George’s Church, which is situated in the center of the town.
St. George’s Church with its tower
Its tower, called Daniel, was discovered in 1960 by geologist Eugene Shoemaker to be made of suevite, a type of breccia made from the impact of an asteroid or other cosmic bodies. This discovery further debunked the theory that the town was built on a crater that is of volcanic origin, which was the prevailing theory before the 1960s.
Aside from this amazing find, what makes the town more unique is the discovery of microscopic diamonds, formed from the impact of the meteorite with the graphite-rich soil of the town. The diamonds, however, are too small to have any value as gemstones and are thus only used to build houses in the area. Where else can you find a place with houses containing diamonds?
The Ries Crater museum also houses a piece of moon rock, a gift from the crew of Apollo 11.
Being a walled city, tourists can also walk around the walls, and it is from there that the unique views of the town and its medieval houses can be best appreciated.
Nördlingen, with its rich and out-of-this-world history and beautiful structures, is definitely worth a visit!
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