Eishöhle bei Roth

Useful Information

Location: Gerolstein, Roth
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaRock Mine SpeleologyIce cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: Eishöhle: T=0 °C.
Mühlsteinhöhle: L=40 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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In Roth, a small village belonging to Gerolstein two "caves" can be found. This common language term does not really fit, as this are not natural caves, this are tunnels or underground quarries created long time ago during millstone quarrying.

The Eishöhle (Ice Cave) is a simple tunnel, leading downwards. Because of this form it is a so-called cold trap: cold air wich is heavier flows into the cave and is trapped there. During winter the cave cools down below zero, and in summer the warm air from outside is not able to enter because it is lighter. There is no second entrance, so there is no flow of air. Also the surrounding deciduous forest with its trees provides shadow, the porous basalt is a good insulation, and the cave is located on a north-facing slope. The average temperatur of the tunnel is below 0 °C, and the ice which forms during winter stays until summer. Around June generally the last remains of the ice melt, but the cave remains exceptionally cool all year.

Folowing the main tunnel which goes steep down from the entrance we reach two subsequent chambers. The second chamber contains some unfinished millstones, which are an impressive proof of the former millstone production. The ice was also mined, as it was known near and far. During the 17th century the Kurfürsten von Köln were delivered with ice from here. And during the Aachener Kongress (Congress of Aachen) in the year 1815 the ice was from this tunnel.

The cave is open without restrictions, but because of the steep entrance and the ice on the floor it is rather difficult to visit. We recommend good sturdy boots, warm clothes, several lamps and a lot of wariness.

Right beneath the ice cave lies the Mühlsteinhöhle (Millstone Cave). Obviously of same origin and age, it was named after the millstone mining which created the tunnels. The first quarring happend during pre-Roman times, continued over centuries but with numerous long pauses. The Romans used an early kind of millstone, called rubbing stone, where the grains were grinded to flour by a round rock which was moved on a flat plate, both created from basalt. The quarrying of milstones started during the 13th century and ended with the 30 Years War. Only a very small number of quarries was active afterwards.

The quarrying started on the surface, but when following the best quality basalt it soon moved underground. The millstones were marked as circles on the wall and the a circular pre-millstone cut into the wall. The furrow around the millstone was cut deeper and deeper until the millstone fell off the wall by its own weight. Then it was moved out and cut into its final form on the surface.

The mining at this place ended when the entrance collapsed. The tunnel was inaccessible for centuries, until the collapse was discovered by the priest Pfarrer Weiler. He started to dig in 1905 and discovered the old mining tunnel in 1907. The modern entrance is not the original entrance, it is the tunnel created by the priest.

There is a third cave in the area called Drachenhöhle (Dragons Cave). It is mentioned in literature, but not signposted in contrary to the other two caves. Those are developed for the public in the sense that there are signs and explanatory texts at the entrance. For some reason they are bi-lingual, in German and Netherlands. The Mühlsteinhöhle is closed by an iron grate, but there is no explanation why. Probably to protect bats or because of the dangers of the tunnel.