Visitors are advised to wrap up warmly and don protective helmets before descending into the bowels of the earth. But this is purely a precautionary measure. For the mining gallery is not only 9 degrees Celsius warm, they can really bang their heads – in astonishment. Especially when they hear the words of their guides, who talk of strange things like "Geleucht" (a miner´s lamp), "Gezähe" (miners´ tools), "Sümpfen" (draining) and "Ersaufen von alten Männern" (drowning old men). The last-mentioned term does not refer to the death of former colliers, but means – in miners´ language – that an old pit has filled up with water. Visitors attention is also drawn to the "Tutten", thick deposits of iron oxide and manganese oxide in the sandstone above their heads, not forgetting the so-called "Knotten" (lead ore deposits).
The tour takes place in the Eifel region, in the galleries of the mining museum in Mechernich. Mining started here under the Romans, and since the 13th century the main product brought to the surface has been lead ore. In the course of the 18th and 19th century mining activities at the Mechernich Lead Mine were well-known all over the country. Alone in 1882 there were almost 4,500 people engaged in pit work. And as late as 1952 the lead mine and its mills were still responsible for 20% of lead production in West Germany. But mining proved increasingly unprofitable, and by 1957 all activities had ceased.
In 1985 people began to reconsider the industrial history and traditions of the people of Mechernich. Over the following years a new museum with a permanent exhibition has been constructed on the edge of the former mining area. Furthermore an old mining gallery has been converted into a visitors´ gallery, run by the Friends of the Mechernich Mining Museum. Here visitors can learn some interesting facts about regional mining history, and also view a section of a mining gallery which housed an underground operating theatre from the local hospital during the Second World War. This fascinating visit will not easily be forgotten.