Oswaldhöhle - Wundershöhle - Witzenhöhle

Oswald Cave - Wunder's Cave - Svantewits Cave

Useful Information

Location: Northeast of Muggendorf, in the Hohler Berg (Hollow mountain).
Open: no restrictions [2005]
Fee: free [2005]
Light: none
Dimension: Oswaldhöhle: L=63 m, Portal: W=12 m, H=6 m.
Guided tours:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1772 Wundershöhle discovered by Johann Georg Wunder.
1774 Witzenhöhle explored and described by Esper.
1791 the novel Heinrich von Neideck by the law student Rebmann is published.


This complex of three connected caves is a typical sight of the Frankian Switzerland. Located in a dolomite reef, which formes excetric rocks and ciffs are numerous caves, the reason why this mountain was called Hohler Berg (Hollow Mountain. This is only one of several hollwo mountaiins in the area. The three caves were discovered separately, but later they were connected by speleologists, which makes them a single cave.

The most impressive cave for tourists is the Oswaldhöhle. A single winded passage, most of the time rather big, is a through cave and is used for the trail. So this is one of the rare caves which are used to cross a mountain. But this was never an important path, today it is a touristic walking trail, historically it was made to guide early tourists to he cave. A nice detail is the sign at the entrance, which tells that the trail crosses the cave, but the ceiling goes down to 1.60 m.

When entered from downhill, coming up from Muggendorf, the cave is really impressive. A huge wide portal, 12 m wide and aboout 6 m high, followed by a chamber of about 30 m length, gives shelter to the hikers. It is ideal for a picknick or barbecue, but unfortunately the German nature protection law prohibits this. However, one could argue that it is probaly the oldest cultural habit to make fire in cave entrances, which deserves to be protected. When entering the cave it soon narrows and the ceiling goes down. It is still a very easy and harmless cave with absolutely level floor. Although there is only a very small part without daylight, a torch is much recommended. The cave is left through a much smaller portal at the foot of a cliff, the trail follows the cliff to the left.

The cave was named after a hermit with the name Oswald, who lived here. He became famous from a novel written by the law student Rebmann in 1791. The novel called Heinrich von Neideck about a local knight, mentioned the Hermit At this time the cave had a lot of speleothems which were stolen over the following centuries by locals and tourists.

The next cave is Wundershöhle (Wunder's Cave), which is only 50m after the Oswaldhöhle at the foot of a dolomite clliff. A rather huge entrance portal lowers and the opens to a small cavern, still lighted completely by daylight. Here the cave seems to end, but at the floor a narrow passage starts and leads to further chambers. Its necessary to crawl in and definitely only for (slender) speleologists. The cave is named after its discoverer, Johann Georg Wunder, who was installed as cave caretaker and cave guide by the local sovereign. He rested in the nice overhang, when he was disturbed by a flow of cold air. After some digging he discovered the cave, which was later connected to the other caves.

The last cave is connected with the system, but its really hard to go there underground. The surface path is also a little tricky, as it ascends on a longs stair built of local rocks, towards the plateau. There is a turnoff to the right back downhill at the far end of the cliff, and the path goes back at the foot to the next huge cave portal, the entrance to the third part of this cave system.

Witzenhöhle has a strange name, where the first interpretation would be something with Witz, the German term for joke. But it has nothing to do with it. Witzen is a dialect transformation of the name of the Slavic goddess of called Svantewit. Of course this cave has nothing to do with Svantewit, as this is not an area which was inhabited by the Slaws. It is more or less a cave guide joke, which was enlarged over decades.

Witzenhöhle was first explored by Esper, who was annoyed by the narrow and low passages with a lot of dirt inside, including stinking bat guano. So he said in the last sentence of his discription, that he finds this ugly cave would be a good place to worship the (bad) goddess Swantevit. The sentence was easy to uderstand, but the cave guide of those caves at this time, Johann Georg Wunder either misunderstood it, or thought it was a good joke. He told the visitors that this cave contained a temple of the goddess Swantevit, and a big statue of the goddess has been found here. Now he was not able to shoe this statue, so he told it was removed by scientists to a museum and told changing locations, which he mentioned the visitors did not know. The locals abbreviated the exotic name Svantewit to Witzen and called the cave Witzenhöhle.