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Trip Report Solnhofen, Germany - Mini Trip Report

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I generally don't post trip reports, but while planning a recent trip to Germany, Austria and the Italian Dolomites, I discovered that logistical information on the Solnhofen areas is difficult to find. For example, a Fodor's Europe thread search on Solnhofen returned empty-handed.

This is a brief summary of a one-day excursion to the Solnhofen area that was part of a much longer visit to Germany and nearby countries. Hopefully, anyone searching this forum for "Solnhofen" in the future will find this post.

If the title of this post attracted your attention, you probably know that the Solnhofen Limestone is one of the most famous fossiliferous deposits in the world. All specimens of Archaeopteryx (transitional dinosaur-bird characteristics) were found in the Solnhofen, as were thousands of exquisitely preserved fossils of Jurassic invertebrates, pterosaurs, crocodylians, turtles, and fish.

If you are interested in paleontology, a daytrip to the Solnhofen area from Munich is highly recommended. If, like me, you are fascinated by geology and paleontology, a visit from anywhere in Germany would be worth the effort.

Solnhofen is in the Altmuhl Valley, which is in the Franconia region of Bavaria.

It is easy enough to find the town with a map. The paleontological center-of-interest is the Burgermeister Mueller Museum (no relation), which has an original (not a cast) specimen of Archaeopteryx.

The Burgermeister Mueller Museum is near the train station. If you notice signs to the station, follow them and you will find the museum. Otherwise, veer off the main road through the Altmuhl Valley and head downward toward the river, cross the river and the railroad tracks, and turn left on Bahnhofstrasse. Look for the large dinosaur statue next to the museum. Admission is 2.50 Euro per person.

The museum exhibits are strictly in German, as are all souvenir booklets. Bring your English-German dictionary if you want to understand the explanations of the geologic setting. Most fossil names are recognizable.

This museum is particulary notable for fish fossils. If you are into Osteichthyes, you will be in hog heaven

Across the street from the musuem is a rock shop with a very friendly, English-speaking owner. This gentleman is a great source of information.

The best of the Solnhofen area is not actually in Solnhofen. Thirty kilometers or so down the road is Eichstatt, which has two more museums and, best of all, a public collecting quarry.

The Jura Museum in Eichstatt is housed in the Willibaldsburg castle complex that towers above the town. You will notice signs to either the Jura Museum or the Willibaldsburg. The museum is not difficult to find. Admission is 3 Euro per person.

The Jura Museum is much larger than the Burgermeister Mueller Museum in Solnhofen and even includes limited English translations for a few key exhibits. This museum also has an Archeopteryx specimen, which the staff claims is not a cast.

The most fascinating fossils in the Jura Museum are the "death track" specimens. A number of organisms were fossilized next to their final footprints preserved as casts in the fine lime mud. There are also some great pterosaur specimens at this museum, including an amazingly-preserved sparrow-sized Pterodactylus.

The Berger Museum is also located in Eichstatt. This museum is not as nice as those previously described (no Archaeopteryx here), but worth a visit if you have the time.

To find the Berger Museum, follow the intermittend signage to the river. At the river, head up the hill - the road is named Hohes Kreuz. After climbing out of the valley turn left at a collection of signs advertising quarries. Turn left again on Museumstrasse and follow the road to the museum. Admission is 2 Euro per person.

This museum does not have as many Solnhofen Limestone specimens, but some the exhibits are interesting, nonetheless. There is also a small area that displays fossils from around the world, and there is a natural science section as well.

I saved the best for last - the public Blumenberg Quarry at Eichstatt. For a price of 1 Euro, you are allowed to collect all day. You can rent a hammer and soft-rock chisel for 2 Euro.

The only fossils I found were hash, but I was more interested in collecting specimens of the famous limestones (some of which I will donate to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for their teaching collection). I did see a few impressive specimens (insects and fish parts) collected by "regulars."

Find the quarry as follows - from Solnhofen, look for the yellow church shortly after entering Eichstatt (hard to miss). Turn left at the church onto Weinleite, which will climb out of the river valley. Somewhere along the way, the road morphs into Kinderdorfstrasse. Follow the road until you notice an excavated hill or mound on your left. Continue a little farther past the orphanage. The quarry is next to the orphanage.

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