The Vulkaneifel region Southwest of Bonn, Germany, is still a quite active vulcanic region. Thus, all around there and in the area, there are spots of activity. Vulcanic eruptions are very rare, but there are some other interesting natural spectacles. One of them is the geyser in Andernach, some half an hour South of the former German capital. It is the largest cold-water geyser in the world with a height of eruption of up to 60 meters. I visited this place in August 2019.
Andernach Geyser – General Information & History
The characteristic about a cold water geyser is that it is not driven by hot magma, as the famous brothers in Iceland or at Yellowstone, but with carbon dioxide, which is also produced due to the vulcanic activities. The ground water flowing into natural reservoirs is mixed with this gas. However, it can only hold a certain concentration of it before the pressure gets to large and it erupts. Thus, a cold water geyser works similar to when you shake a soda or water with gas bottle.
Andernach Geyser – Not all Natural
You can give a quite precise history of the Andernach Geyser for a very simple reason: it is driven by natural water and gas reserves, but the geyser itself is artificial. On the Namedy Island, where the geyser is located, there have been drillings in the early 20th century to generate mineral water with gas and carbon dioxide. Namedyer Sprudel (“Namedy Fizz”) became a quite exclusive and expansive brand. During the production of that soda, people recognized that water fountains were shot to the sky. This became a major tourist attraction in the region (you can still see it on old postcards). However, due to a lack of maintenance, the geysir became weaker and weaker and was closed in 1957.
In 2001, the city of Andernach drilled in the ground again. Already at the first hole, water shot 40 meters in the sky. In the meantime, the island had been transformed to a nature reserve, so that environmental associations went to court to prevent that the geyser will become open to public again. Finally, they could agree on limited and controlled visits four times a day in peak season. The geyser is controlled by a gate valve, so that it can be controlled quite precisely.
Andernach Geyser – Location & Admission
Andernach is some 45 kms South of Bonn, the former capital of Germany, right at the river Rhine. The closest cities are Neuwied and Koblenz. To visit the geyser, you have to do three stages: first of all, you explore the visitor center and museum (strictly speaking, you can skip that…). The second part is the Boat trip to Namedy Island. The ship is leaving at 11:15, 13:05, 15:00 and 17:00. You return some 90 minutes later, including the time on the island. The boat also serves as ferry to the village of Leutesdorf on the opposite side of the river.
The museum is open all year – however, you can only access the island from April to October. Admission is 15 Euro for adults, there are season tickets and slightly reduced prices for families. In peak times (e.g. summer holidays), I would recommend to reserve a ticket for the ship (you just reserve it online and pay it in Andernach). The museum suggests to be present 90 minutes before the boat trip. We felt that this is only necessary if you do a very intense stay at the visitor center. However, another factor may suggest to be quite early in case you come by car: the parking situation in Andernach can be very challenging.
Andernach Geyser – Visitor Center / Museum
In general, the Geyser Center is done quite nicely. The museum tries to explain volcanity and how it influences the Vulkaneifel region as well as the phyiscal forces leading to the eruptions of the geyser. Thereby, the exhibition is bilingual in German and English. It is very well illustrated and there are a lot of hands-on experiences and experiments to illustrate the exhibition.
However, some parts of the museum are just a bit too low level. The introductory movie is boring. After that, you enter an elevator, which brings you “4000 meters below the ground” – in fact you travel two floors up – and then walk down to come back to the ground. Overall, it is quite well done.
Andernach Geyser – Boat Trip
Each of the four summer season boat trips can transport up to 350 people. I feel this is still quite comfortable on the ship, but you may have a quite limited experience at the geyser thereafter. The ship was formerly used for Rhine cruises, so that it is quite nice. You may also have a drink and eat a snack (like cake) onboard. The prices are absolutely fine.
Andernach Geyser – At the Geyser
After landing at the quite long pier, you walk to the geyser, which is some 400 meters. At the visitors area, there is nothing but the geyser and a small chapel. A guide is telling you some information on the geyser – in our case, this took some five minutes before the eruption started. Due to this place being a natural reserve, there are no loudspeakers – I guess it is impossible to understand the guide when the boat is really full (he is just narrating what you learned in the Geyser Center anyway…).
The eruption of the cold water geyser is very different from what you for example may know from Iceland. There, the geysers have one short, explosive and massive eruption (caused by hot magma). The Andernach cold water geyser is slowly getting stronger and stronger and also keeping its top height for some five minutes. Though it is controlled, the world record height of 60 meters is only reached in very ideal conditions. By the way, in fact, only five per cent of eruption is water, the rest is carbon dioxide. After the whole eruption took place, you may also taste the water, which tastes very salty.
Andernach Geyser – Services
There are no services at the geyser. This especially means that there are no toilets on the islands. All the facilities are either in the museum or onboard the ship. The museum offers a tiny cafe and a souvenir shop, which is having some regional products as well (this is the reason for the wine bottles on the pictures). As mentioned above, there is some catering on the ship as well.
Andernach Geyser – My View
When you look at the reviews of Andernach Geyser, it will be very hard to determine a clear rating. There are very good and rather bad reviews. I feel exactly the way. Though the geyser itself is really impressive and memorable and the museum is really trying to do a good job, I just cannot say that I had a good or great time. Walking through the museum is sometimes challenging, as it is quite narrow. The staff stated that we had a rather low-visited Sunday. Apart from the boat, I can hardly imagine how visiting the place could be with 350 people being processed at once. Finally, I did not have a bad day at all, but just felt like having had an average experience.
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