Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Most Germans believe to know that the Saarland, named after the Saar river, is an industrial region of coal and steel, quite poor now because of the decline of these industries, that it has something to do with France (or is it actually part of it?), and that it provides a convenient unit of area.

There is some truth to most of these points: Every child in Saarland learns at school that about 1 million people live here on an area of 50 × 50 = 2.500 km² (about 1000 square miles, a bit smaller than Rhode Island). In the first half of last century, the Saar region changed several times between France (or French administration) and Gemany, but since 50 years now, the Saarland has been part of the Federal Republic of Germany. And no, French is not the native language of the Saarländer. Coal and steel industries, once the important pillar of the local economy, have vanished during the last years. One of the disused steel mills, the Völklinger Hütte, now features on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the last coal mines will be closed by 2018.

But even though the former industrial regions along the Saar river valley are very densely populated, the Saarland has never been at all a dusty and rusty region, but, on the contrary, very green. Most visitors are pleasantly surprised to find a landscape of gentle hills, with small villages interspersed between meadows, fields, and woods. That's especially so in the northern parts of the Saarland, where I grew up.

I am happy that also Bee has taken to the charme of this region. When we visited my mother over last weekend, she told me that she had been reminded of Auenland, home of the Hobbits in Middle Earth, since she had first seen it.

In case you want to come to Auenland, where she has taken the above photos (click to enlarge), you have to travel to here.


  1. I am particularly proud of the first photo with the lovely clouds. I wish I knew more about photo editing, I could have improved it somewhat.

    My association to Auenland actually doesn't date back to my first visit to the Saarland, which must have been more than 20 years ago. It's only been triggered by the Lord o.t. Rings movie - that is, technically seen it's not Auenland but probably somewhere in New Zealand.

  2. Your pictures don't look too industrial. ;-) This one does. It's a disco industry.

  3. Those are nice pictures! Maybe it's my sheltered Americanness that makes me always surprised to see pictures of other places in the world that look so much like home.

  4. Oh, and if you'd like I could adjust that first photo some for you.

  5. Hi Lubos,

    that's a great photo you have found - it shows, in fact, the Völklinger Hütte - the former Völklingen steel mill, which was shut down in the late 1980s, and ended up in the meantime on the UNSECO list as a World Heritage Monument. There is one big former machine hall, which is now used for exhibitions and concerts. And the old, rusty blast furnaces shown on the photo make of course a great, surreal background for all kinds of events...

    Best, stefan

  6. Such a beautiful place. Gave me a feeling of "I miss Germany", although this is not my homeland. Thank you for the pictures (and the good memories that such a text usually brings).

  7. lovely photo of Stefan! I am glad to see he looks happy and relaxed and hope that it is a reflection of how things are with you Bee :)

  8. Nice pics! The sky is good, but the portrait is great.

    In my opinion, that is.

  9. Stefan: these are cutes stories of the former pillars of industry. It reminds me of the medieval castle in Spain, constructed out of an ice-hockey stadium. ;-)

  10. ouch, it seems our server is down - sorry that all the pictures are gone, they should reappear soon.

    Hi Arun,

    I guess this is observer dependent, Stefan was complaining his nose looks too big ;-)

    Hi RaeAnn,

    Maybe you could recommend a good software? I think about upgrading myself to the 21st century (yes, my software is THAT old).

    Hi Chanda,

    Thanks, hope you are having fun as well!



  11. Just to be sure that Czechia has similar technological heritage ;-), see Vitkovicke zelezarny.

  12. Nature at its best.
    People don't quite realise that though England is known for being Green, Germany is even Greener.

    The rain, the grass, the forests, the modernisation of old industry.
    Those who are jealous say, it is easier to build from scratch (after if it was all destroyed).

    But Germany is (or was) leading the way in environmental design, green politics & green economics.

    And Germans have still managed to invade the rest of Europe from the Southern tip of Spain and the Canary Isles off the coast of Africa, to Italy, Turkey & Greece.
    From Morroco to Tunisia, to Egypt and beyond (without firing a single shot).

    German tourists can certainly call the Mediterranean "Mare Nostrum" too

  13. Dear Quasar9, I think that connecting Saarland with the word "Nature" or even "Nature at its best" is somewhat ludicrous.

    The industry there one of the most heaviest industrial region in the world, Saarbruecken was the center of a powerful coal basin with all kinds of production, and even the green landscape that is shown on the pictures is a heavily cultural landscape mostly created by human activity, a sophisticated land optimized for agriculture which is not surprising given the high density of population.

    Also, it's strange to quote England and Germany as the greenest countries. The highest percentage of forests in Europe is in Finnland (72%) and the countries you mentioned are extremely far from it.

  14. Hi Folks,

    thanks that you like the photos! It's a very beautiful spot there, and I say that not only because it's where I come from ;-)

    As for Nature vs. Industry - as I've mentioned, coal and steel industries have more or less vanished by now, but even before, large parts of Saarland, especially the northern parts, have been very rural, and very green.

    There are no large forests - these come further north, in the Hunsrück, and to the east with the Pfälzer Wald, where the Ramstein Airbase is located - and the land is used for agriculture, to grow cereals and as pasture for cows.

    With all the green and the gentle hills, it is very pleasant tot he eye. But for example form the very spot where the photos have been taken, you see at the horizon the chimney and cooling tower of a large hard-coal power plant

    Dear Lubos,

    thanks for the link to the photos from Vitkovice/Witkowitz. That's interesting - looks exactly the same as in the old days in the Saar valley!

    Best, stefan

  15. Bee, I'm not too familiar with the most recent photo software. I use Paintshop Pro which I've had for several years. I'm familiar with it and it still suits my needs, and it's much cheaper than Photoshop.

  16. Hi Lubos,
    England & Germany are 'green' (thanks to the infamous rain)
    Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle

    I did NOT say they had the most trees or forests in Europe.

    But yes it is amazing that the coal industry which employed hundreds of thousands in Britain was decimated by Thatcher.
    It was much cheaper to import coal from Poland in the seventies.

    And yes, the benefit is that much land polluted by the old heavy industries has been reclaimed.
    We'll get round to cleaning pollution in Czechoslovaquia soon.


COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG ARE PERMANENTLY CLOSED. You can join the discussion on Patreon.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.