Town meets crater, and they live happy ever after. That’s the story of Nördlingen, a city nestled entirely within a crater. Seriously.
The Huffington Post recently reported on the town of Nördlingen, located off Germany’s Romantic Road. As a section of the Donau-Ries district, the town was created when a half-mile-wide meteorite – the Ries crater – crashed into Earth over an estimated 15 million years ago.
First mentioned in recorded history in the year 898, Nördlingen’s founders likely didn’t know the town sat on a crater, The Huffington Post reports. It seems that residents actually believed they lived by a volcano up until the 1960s.
Before then, Nördlingen was one of Germany’s major trading towns, until the Thirty Years’ War when its significance declined. Then, in 1215, Emperor Frederick II announced Nördlingen had become a Free Imperial City—and that was so, until 1802, when it changed to become part of present-day Bavaria.
Perfectly round and measuring 26.29 square miles, Nördlingen is one of three towns in Germany that still have a completely existing city wall, with the other two being Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Dinkelsbühl. Contrary to popular belief, however, Nördlingen’s city walls are not built right on the edge of a crater—while the city does rest entirely within a crater, the crater is about 15 miles in diameter, meaning it stretches past and beyond the town’s border.
The town is made up of cozy alleys that date back to the Medieval Ages, along with orange-capped Bavarian homes that look as make-believe as they are charming. Major attractions include Daniel, Saint Georg’s Church’s bell tower, and the Spital, a former medieval hospital. And because of the crater’s impact, stone buildings in the town contain millions of tiny diamonds, all measuring less than 0.2 millimeters wide.
Bonus fact: Nördlingen is also the town shown in the final scenes of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) when the glass elevator floats over it.
As a member of Citttaslow, an international coalition of “Slowcities” where living is more slow-paced, Nördlingen is “still curious of the old times” and “rich of theatres, squares, cafes, workshops, restaurants and spiritual places.” Currently, approximately 24,000 people reside in the city.