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Visiting Voelklingen, Saarland, Germany: wooded locality formerly known for heavy industry

Updated on October 17, 2012
Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Slag Heaps of the former Röchling’schen Iron- and Steelworks, Völklingen
Slag Heaps of the former Röchling’schen Iron- and Steelworks, Völklingen | Source
Voelklingen Steelworks, taken circa 1948-1955
Voelklingen Steelworks, taken circa 1948-1955 | Source
The former "Grube Velsen" mine, Völklingen
The former "Grube Velsen" mine, Völklingen | Source
Map location of Voelklingen, Germany
Map location of Voelklingen, Germany | Source

Trees hiding a dynamic past

As the main photo, above, bears out, there is a lot of woodland in Voelklingen, in Germany's Saarland. It was not always so. Formerly known more for its heavy industry, scenes from the past, captured on film, seem to exemplify William Blake's 'dark, Satanic mills'. But today, what were once slag heaps from the former Röchling’schen Iron- and Steelworks now look like artificial hills that have been greened over.

Actually, I am not here to knock heavy industry, which, when its activities locally were economic to pursue, played a very positive role for the Saarland and Germany. Indeed, the former Voelklingen Ironworks (German: Voelklinger Huette ) has even been declared a World Heritage Site (Weltkulturerbe ) (1), and participates in the network known as the European Route of Insdustrial Heritage (German: Europäische Route der Industriekultur ). Coal mining, also, was formerly important locally.

Voelklingen is situated on the Saar River, and thus its past status as the Saarland's leading steelmaking centre was linked to the ready availability of water, when the industry was first developed in the 19th century (2). The city is also situated near the French border; and given that the Saarland was detached for a few years from Germany after World War Two, and the Federal German Republic in the first years of its history, did not actually control the city's heavy industry.

But my memories of my visit to Voelklingen are of pleasing, quiet woodland, some of it so thoroughly mature that in places it is as if the former heavy industry had never existed (although some industry remains).

October 15, 2012


(1) Pioneered by Julius Buch and, later, Carl Roechling in the late 19th century, the ironworks was active until 1986. A blast furnace has been preserved; the site of the former Voelklingen Ironworks is now a museum.

(2) Similar comments could be made about the proximity of the Ruhr River to the industrial complexes of North Rhine/Westphalia (German: Nordrhein-Westfalen), the Rouge River to the development of the Detroit motor industry, etc.

Also worth seeing

In Voelklingen itself, towered former City Hall (German: Rathaus ) is an ornate building. The St. Eligius church is an unusual, imposing structure. A Wildlife Park (German: Wildapark ) exists, containing 11 hectares of parkland.

Saarbruecken (distance: 12 kilometres) visitor attractions include: the Baroque St Johann's Basilica and Stengel's Peace Church (German: Friedenskirche ); the 16th century Old Bridge (German: Alte Bruecke ); the neo-Gothic St Johann's City Hall (German: Rathaus St. Johann ); Saarbruecken Castle and the Castle Wall; and many others.

Saarlouis (distance 16 kilometres) has the birthplace of Marshal Ney.

Nennig , Saarland (distance: 60 kilometres) has a well preserved mosaic at the ruins of a Roman villa.


How to get there: Lufthansa flies to Frankfurt-am-Main (distance from Voelklingen : 199 kilometres), from where car hire is available. The railroad company DB maintains a service between Frankfurt-am-Main and Voelklingen . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 5 years ago

      suzettenaples: Yes, Germany's Saarland deserves to be better known than it is; from its Roman remains, to its interesting cities and landscapes. Thank-you for your comment.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Interesting article on a part of Germany I have never visited. Thanks for an explanation of this area and the photos are beautiful. Very interesting history in this part of Germany. Voted up and shared!