Rockhounding is great for many reasons. One is that it takes you places you wouldn’t normally go. Whenever I travel, I try and recall if I know about any cool stones that come from the area. In May I went to Southern California for a wedding and remembered there is a famous tourmaline mine in San Diego County! We had a great time driving into the remote mountains and digging for tourmaline the morning of the wedding.
Our most recent incidental rockhounding trip was a dream come true. We got to dig for one of my all-time favorite rocks, manganese dendrites in limestone in Germany. I’ve been selling these unique rocks for 27 years and always yearned to see what it was like there. The main purpose of our trip to Europe was to attend a family reunion outside Munich. The dendrites are found in a region of northern Bavaria which was a couple hours out of the way from the rest of our itinerary. The dendrite location is usually listed as Solnhofen, a small town, so we headed there from southern Bavaria on a warm sunny day. On the way we stopped for lunch at the nearest small city, Eichstaett, and discovered there is a quarry just outside the city where you can dig for Jurassic fossils, and also find dendrites. All the people digging there were only interested in fossils, so we looked through the giant pile of castoff rocks. We had a blast finding rough dendrites in various sizes, and even found some water bug fossils (Saccocoma). Follow this link if you’d like to learn more about the region, where they’ve been mining limestone since Roman times for building purposes — and where they found the first Archaeopteryx fossil!
We then headed to the nearby town of Solnhofen, where most of the limestone tile businesses are located, and found a rock shop next to the train station selling prepared cut dendrites. They look a lot better when they are cut into squares or rectangles. It makes them look more like a scene in a framed picture. The store owner, Guenter, was very friendly and made us a wholesale deal for cut dendrites, so now we have our largest selection ever of cut and rough dendrites in our store. Guenter noticed my husband’s pyritized German ammonite pendant and asked if we had more like it to trade him for dendrites. Even in Germany where they come from, people seek out these particular ammonites because they’re so awesome and rare. We still have a good stock of those at the store, so get some while you can! Click here to see some on our website.
Our journey next brought us to the picturesque small medieval city of Noerdlingen on the “Romantic Road” through Bavaria. The walled city center was the backdrop for the movie “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory” when Charlie and Willy Wonka fly out of the factory in the glass elevator. Our hotel in the city center had ammonite fossils in the floor tiles. After that, we kept seeing ammonites in the floors in other places we visited, including Verona, Italy — right in the sidewalks! Verona’s Roman amphitheater was built of pinkish marble containing ammonites, too. It’s interesting what you see when you keep your eyes open.
To learn more about dendrites, click here to read one of our older blog posts. Find out how they trick people and how they’re formed. Our dendrite search brought us not only fine dendrite specimens, but a fun adventure off the tourist track. Do a little research before your next trip and you might have some different, unexpected adventures!