The severe little town of RÜBELAND strung out along the Bode River, 15km from Thale, has been on the tourist map ever since the 600,000-year-old Baumannshöhle cave was discovered by a fifteenth-century miner. Goethe toured the cave three times, as did Heine, treading in the footsteps of Stone Age inhabitants and Ice Age bears, some of whose skeletons are on display. The neighbouring Hermannshöhle is more modest, but its stalagmites and stalactites more impressive. The two sets of caves tend to open on alternate days; call in advance to find out.

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