Destination Germany: Völklingen Ironworks UNESCO World Heritage Site

Rainer Lippert / Wikimedia

We now travel south and as far west as you can go, right on the French border to the state of Saarland. And while pretty small in actual size, it has some pretty neat stuff to see and do. Our destination this week is Saarland’s Völklingen Ironworks.

Völklingen is actually the name of the town where the ironworks is located, or maybe more accurately said… was located. It is still there alright, it just has not been in production since 1986. It did work though for over a hundred years before they decommissioned it.

Georg Sander / Flickr

The ironworks had a bit of a shaky start. After it was built in 1873, it was only in production for 6 years when high tariffs on pig iron were introduced and smelting was no longer profitable. It was shortly later that another industrialist bought it. He is the one who added the first blast furnace.

A blast furnace is a great tool and was part of the industrial revolution. A very simplified way of explaining it is: It is a tall tower that turns hard iron ore into a liquid via heat and a chemical reaction. This new iron hardens but is much softer and more brittle than the original iron. It can then be remelted and is much easier to work with when building iron goods.

Once the blast furnace was turned on it could stay on constantly for 10 years at a time. This technology made the Völklingen Ironworks the largest iron producer in Germany and really helped bring about industrialization to the country.

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It has not been in use since the 1980s but it is still there and now you can even go in it! UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site as it is a historic landmark of civil engineering in Germany. It is now a museum where you can visit and tour though the old factory. You can even see the impressive blast furnaces. It also has a full time science center with many interactive experiments to learn from.  But, it is more than just a museum. It is also the city of Völklingen’s cultural events center.

They have festivals and open air rock concerts there quite often. Also, there is almost always a long term exhibition going on that usually lasts about a year. Right now there is a really cool art show that will be there until the end of October of this year. It is called Urbanart Bienale and displays how art has evolved in the form of graffiti. It is being sponsored by the UNESCO.