Friday, 18 July 2014

Lauchhammer and the Lusatian 'Castel del Monte'

From a distance it looks like some Knights Templar Citadel defending the borders of the Holy Roman Empire.

photo of  Lauchhammer Biotürme by Andie Gilmour

As you get closer, the sheer enormity of the structure begins to impress upon you.

photo of  Lauchhammer Biotürme by Andie Gilmour

Twenty-four towers, each twenty-two metres high. Surely some relic of the Napoleonic wars?

photo of  Lauchhammer Biotürme by Andie Gilmour

In fact, the Biotürme Lauchhammer were only built in 1957, as part of a massive bown-coal (lignite) coking plant. They can be found in Lauchhammer, about 150km south of Berlin in the Oberspreewald-Lausitz region, a town which itself only came into existence at the same time to service the plant.

photo of  Lauchhammer Biotürme by Andie Gilmour

The Lauchhammer coking plant was the first of its kind in the world to be able to produce coke suitable for iron smelting from the brown-coal that was strip-mined from this region. Without it, the heavy industry of the GDR (DDR) would not have been possible, and at the time it was shut down in 1995, 15,000 workers were employed here.

photo of  Lauchhammer Biotürme by Andie Gilmour

The coke-extraction process produced a great volume of water poisoned with phenol. These towers were filled with the waste-water, where the water was dripped down over beds of bacteria which lived off of the phenol, destroyed it, and purified the water. Hence, these towers are called Biotürme (biological towers), though in the literature of the body set up to preserve the towers (since 1996 a protected monument) they are called the Lusatian area's 'Castel del Monte'.

photo of  Lauchhammer Biotürme by Andie Gilmour

It would have been nice to go in between the towers, and climbed up to the observation platform. But the man from del Monte, he say no! Or at least he would if he had been there; the site is only open for visitors on Sundays.

This was a bright, sunny, hot. hot, hot (over 30 degrees) Friday though, and we started at Lauchhammer on an enjoyable though heat-wearying cycle beside the Schwarzer Elster river to Bad Liebenwerde.

Along the way we saw a quaint little water mill at Plessa ...

photo of  Lauchhammer Biotürme by Andie Gilmour

... and a Fachwerk (timber-framed) church at Saathain.

photo of  Lauchhammer Biotürme by Andie Gilmour

A 42km cycle that was enjoyable enough, but showed us that cobble-stoned high-streets might look nice, but are hell to ride on a bike!



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