Day 303: Messel Fossil PitDecember 14, 2017 in Germany
Today's world heritage site was the Messel Fossil pit, about two hours out of town. Grabbed a train at around 9:30, changed twice, and eventually arrived in the tiny hamlet of Messel around 11:30. There was an hourly bus out to the fossil pit which wasn't helpfully timed with the trains, so off we walked. Only a couple of kilometres, so a 20 minute walk.
We'd pre-booked a tour of the pit for 12:30, since bookings are required, and thankfully Schnitzel was allowed to come with us. Unfortunately he wasn't allowed inside the visitor's centre, but since it was empty the nice lady allowed us to sit with him on the bench just inside the entrance while each of us looked around the visitor's centre.
I'd read somewhere that it takes an hour to go through, but I guess that's if you read every piece of information, and much of it is of course in German. What I could read was quite interesting, and there was a lot to see, much of it interactive and multimedia too.
Messel is famous for the fossils discovered in the oil shale rock of an old mine pit. The fossils date from around 45 million years ago, after the age of the dinosaurs, but there's loads of modern pre-cursor species. What's remarkable about it though, is because the original lake in the pit had very low oxygen content, the fossils are extremely well preserved. So not just bones, teeth and footprints, but much more detailed stuff like fur, skin, feathers, stomach contents, even colours on some insects.
The museum was pretty great, and the tour was good too. We were the only ones on it, so the guy (a geology PhD student) just gave the tour in English instead. Walked through the pit, looking at where various things had been found, and he showed us some examples of fossils as well - not precious ones, obviously! They've found over 40,000 fossils in the pit since 1975 when excavations began in earnest, and every year during the summer the digs find thousands of objects.
All finished up, it was now 2pm and we were both starving. We'd hoped to have a bite at the cafe on site, but apparently everything was closed because most of the staff were at a funeral (we didn't ask). So we walked back to the station, where luckily for us there was a random kebab shop in the middle of nowhere that was open. Grabbed a pair of kebabs and some chips and filled up while we waited 45 minutes for the train. Definitely a rural area - the platform was dirt & gravel, and you had to climb up steps onto the train!
Back into Heidelberg uneventfully, where we spent the rest of the day at home. Sausages and salad for dinner.Read more