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A visitor pauses on one of the trails overlooking a lake at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. Guests can traverse down different paths to explore the area's industrial and geological history as well as its environment.
A visitor pauses on one of the trails overlooking a lake at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. Guests can traverse down different paths to explore the area's industrial and geological history as well as its environment. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
A visitor pauses on one of the trails overlooking a lake at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. Guests can traverse down different paths to explore the area's industrial and geological history as well as its environment.
A visitor pauses on one of the trails overlooking a lake at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. Guests can traverse down different paths to explore the area's industrial and geological history as well as its environment. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
This workshop, built from 1903 to 1912, is one of the industry-themed showcases of Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. It gives visitors insight into the craft of a smith and explains how steel was produced and made into various items.
This workshop, built from 1903 to 1912, is one of the industry-themed showcases of Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. It gives visitors insight into the craft of a smith and explains how steel was produced and made into various items. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
An old industry worker's jacket hangs from the rafters of a turn-of-the-century building at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany.
An old industry worker's jacket hangs from the rafters of a turn-of-the-century building at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
A wagon sits in a building used by three generations of wheel makers at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park offers guests a look into the area's industrial history as well as 25 million years of geological and natural history.
A wagon sits in a building used by three generations of wheel makers at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park offers guests a look into the area's industrial history as well as 25 million years of geological and natural history. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Unusual artwork, such as this oversized pencil poised like a missile, is scattered around Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park offers guests a leisurely stroll through the area's industrial, geological and natural history.
Unusual artwork, such as this oversized pencil poised like a missile, is scattered around Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park offers guests a leisurely stroll through the area's industrial, geological and natural history. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
A steel worker's hat hangs from a historical workshop at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The workshop, built from 1903 to 1912, contains machine parts and offers realistic sound effects, transporting visitors back to the early 1900s.
A steel worker's hat hangs from a historical workshop at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The workshop, built from 1903 to 1912, contains machine parts and offers realistic sound effects, transporting visitors back to the early 1900s. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Hiking and nature trails are in no short supply at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park allows guests to explore industry, geology and nature in an unusual wide-open area. One of the park's hiking trails runs about 11 miles through the picturesque Westerwald area.
Hiking and nature trails are in no short supply at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park allows guests to explore industry, geology and nature in an unusual wide-open area. One of the park's hiking trails runs about 11 miles through the picturesque Westerwald area. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the area's industrial, geological and natural history. Buildings up to 100 years old are one of the main industrial highlights. The ones pictured here give visitors a chance to learn about the area's basalt excavation and processing history.
Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the area's industrial, geological and natural history. Buildings up to 100 years old are one of the main industrial highlights. The ones pictured here give visitors a chance to learn about the area's basalt excavation and processing history. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Various vehicles and equipment showcased at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, allows visitors to look at authentic tools used in the area's basalt processing in years gone by. Guests can also learn about geology and nature in different areas of the park.
Various vehicles and equipment showcased at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, allows visitors to look at authentic tools used in the area's basalt processing in years gone by. Guests can also learn about geology and nature in different areas of the park. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
A sculpture honoring the area's industrial workers and history sits atop a hiking trail overlooking Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park offers visitors a chance to explore industry, geology and nature in an unusual venue.
A sculpture honoring the area's industrial workers and history sits atop a hiking trail overlooking Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park offers visitors a chance to explore industry, geology and nature in an unusual venue. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Visitors to Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, can walk inside old basalt processing buildings, such as the one pictured here, and learn about the area's industrial history and the conditions that workers faced.
Visitors to Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, can walk inside old basalt processing buildings, such as the one pictured here, and learn about the area's industrial history and the conditions that workers faced. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
After strolling through turn-of-the-century industrial buildings at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, vistors can make their way to the area's quarry and lake, where fossils and other geological wonders are highlighted. Some of the park's paths and attractions make you feel as though you're on a different planet.
After strolling through turn-of-the-century industrial buildings at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, vistors can make their way to the area's quarry and lake, where fossils and other geological wonders are highlighted. Some of the park's paths and attractions make you feel as though you're on a different planet. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Mining equipment and other vehicles used years ago adorn many of the paths at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park's themes cover the industrial, geological and natural history of the area.
Mining equipment and other vehicles used years ago adorn many of the paths at Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany. The park's themes cover the industrial, geological and natural history of the area. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
A scultpure symbolizing the area's once-important basalt industry, sits along Stöffel Park's barefoot path in Enspel, Germany.
A scultpure symbolizing the area's once-important basalt industry, sits along Stöffel Park's barefoot path in Enspel, Germany. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

An industrial nature park.

That’s how I would describe the Stöffel Park in Enspel, Germany, after my recent visit. That probably doesn’t do justice to the park, nestled amid the picturesque Westerwald region of Rhineland-Pfalz, but the site is so unusual, it’s hard to put a traditional description to it.

The park showcases an interesting combination of industry, geology and nature. While it might seem an odd mixture, it works, and the topics blend seamlessly.

It was in this area where volcanoes flourished 25 million years ago in what was then a subtropical region. Visiting now, it’s hard to imagine that crocodiles and Cypress trees once called the area’s lake home. When the volcanoes erupted and pools of lava poured into the lake, basalt developed as the lava cooled.

Millions of years later, basalt was discovered to be an ideal multipurpose material, used for everything from construction of homes to statues.

The industrial section of the park showcases turn-of-the-century buildings used in the mining and processing of basalt, which, according to park literature, gave the region a drastic economic upswing.

Although basalt is still processed in the area, the buildings in the industrial section of Stöffel Park are no longer in use. The structures and their interior components are left intact, though. It’s fascinating to walk through the insides and see the old equipment, tools and conveyer belts, imagining what it was like when industry here was booming.

The eerie quiet of the interiors and the rusted machines gave me the euphoric rush of a teenager snooping around an abandoned factory that I’d been warned was off-limits.

For the adventurous, the outside of one of the industrial buildings has been converted to a rock climbing wall. There’s also off-road mountain biking. Both can be arranged by calling the park before visiting.

Stöffel Park’s grounds are open, meaning you can take as much or as little time admiring the attractions as you wish. There are various intertwining themed trails, offering sites and hands-on exhibits stretching for miles. An 11-mile hiking trail through the Westerwald also winds through the park.

One of the more interesting treks is the geology-themed trail, featuring barefoot paths, gardens and unique art.

You’ll see the site where a 25-million-year-old gliding mouse fossil was discovered in 1992. According to the park, it was the first completely preserved copy of a gliding mouse in the world. A station is also set up where folks can dig through rocks, searching for small animal and leaf fossils.

Near the fossil sites, visitors learn about past and present indigenous biotypes. One of the stranger areas is near the lake, where basalt sculptures blend with antique machine parts and elaborately constructed birdhouses, resembling some kind of vacated civilization.

Signs around the park are all in German, but it’s not necessary to understand them to enjoy the park. Guided English tours are available by calling in advance.

Art historians, science freaks, technology geeks, natural historians and sports enthusiasts will all find something to enjoy at the park.

It’s easily the most unusual park I’ve visited and it’s the kind of place where you’re bound to discover new sights and trails each time you visit.

pattonm@estripes.osd.mil

On the QTStöffel Park in Enspel, Germany

DirectionsGPS address is: Stöffelstrasse57647 EnspelIt’s about a one-hour drive from Wiesbaden and two hours from Kaiserslautern.

TimesFrom March to October, Stöffel Park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From November to February, the park is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Opening hours can change as a result of inclement weather. The park is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Costs3 euros per adult and 2 euros per child. A family pass (two adults and 1 child) costs 7 euros. Visitors can call in advance to arrange guided tours in English. A variety of pricing options are available for tours, depending on the size of the group and how detailed a tour you want. For a guided group of 30 adults, the price is usually 50 euros. For school classes, the price is 35 euros for the group. To book rock climbing and mountain biking, you must call in advance.

FoodCafé Coal Shed at Stöffel Park is open from April to October on Sundays and public holidays. It offers coffee, cakes, soups, sandwiches, and sausage and cheese. The rest of the time, visitors can pick up small snacks at the information center. Large groups wanting to eat at the park should call in advance to make arrangements.

InformationStöffel Park’s website is stoeffelpark.de (German only). Park staff can be reached by phone at 02661-980980-0 or by emailing info@stoeffelpark.de or fuehrungen@stoeffelpark.de.

— Mark Patton

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