Volklingen is an industrial town just west of Saarbrucken in the German state of Saarland. It's just a few kilometers from the French border and while the town is pleasant enough, it's not the sort of place that would generally be on the tourist route.
We went to Volklingen to visit the ironworks. Yes despite growing up in industrial America we paid to visit a giant metalworks while in Germany. The Volklingen ironworks closed in 1986. It sat around for a few years before someone decided to try and open it as a tourist attraction.
So why would you visit this? Well, there are three reasons we can think of.
First - you actually want to learn how an ironworks works. We did this because on the multi-hour self-guided tour there were a few informational signs, although most of them are at the end. As such, we may have learned what these pipes were for. We don't remember but we'll guess water, or maybe steam.
The second reason would be that you really like the vaguely depressing post-industrial scene and it does make for some striking views as you wander around the place.
The third reason is that you're really into finding bizarre tourist attractions. We're assuming no one goes just to wear a hard hat, but they are mandatory on the upper levels. There are lots of narrow twisting metal staircases with pipes and beams running every which way. Wearing a hard hat guarantees that you will walk into at least one on purpose, just to see if it works.
There are catwalks everywhere. While the ironworks were operational, someone had to get just about everywhere to inspect welds, check pressure and temperature gauges and so on. From the top you have a nice vista of the Saar valley. Most of what you can see of the Saar valley is equally industrial however.
Considering this place has been in disuse for 23 years it is amazing how the foliage has taken over. These trees and grasses are near the top of the structure. There are flowering bushes and vines scattered amidst the rust and anywhere a few inches of dirt can collect.
Touring the entire ironworks takes several hours. Along the way is an introductory film (in German only, no subtitles), a science museum and at least two art exhibits. There's also a restaurant and a slide-accessible picnic area. We recommend keeping the hard hat on for the slide.
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