From a distance, Nördlingen appears to be a fairly standard German town, populated by snug rows of buildings with red orange sloping roofs. If you stroll around on a sunny day, you may notice that certain stone structures in the town sparkle in the sunlight. Much of the stone used to construct the town of Nördlingen is derived from an impact crater left by a sizable asteroid that collided with what we now know as Germany approximately 15 million years ago. The collision was so intense, the asteroid left countless microscopic diamonds in its wake.
In the early Middle Ages, Nördlingen’s earliest settlers began gathering materials to construct a towering church and a large protective wall. None of the town’s earliest inhabitants had any idea that the stone that they were using to build their town featured millions of tiny diamonds. Well into the 20th century, residents of Nördlingen believed that their town rested on a volcanic crater. It wasn’t until the 1970s that a team of scientists studied the composition of Nördlingen’s buildings and walls, and realized just how prevalent diamonds were in the town.
If you’re looking to get rich by absconding with a piece of one of Nördlingen’s diamond-stuffed walls, think again. The diamonds that line Nordlingen are so miniscule, they have virtually no commercial value. The Ries Crater Museum features several displays that show magnified pieces of Nördlingen’s diamond walls, for visitors who would like a close up view of Germany’s ritziest rocks. The Ries Crater Museum also features tours of Nordlingen conducted by geologists who delight in explaining how Nördlingen’s petite diamonds formed.
Climbing the steps of St.-Georgs-Kirche church offers a stunning view of Nordlingen. Once your eyes are trained to detect dots of glitter, the sedate German town dances with light as you scan rows of Medieval buildings for traces of diamonds. The Ries Crater Museum features a moon rock from the Apollo 16 mission, if you want to end your time in Nördlingen with an otherworldly grand finale. Not many towns can claim to be constructed out of millions of microscopic diamonds. Forget palaces, grand estates, or mansions. Nothing is quite as posh as a town constructed almost entirely out of diamonds, There is a sound scientific explanation for why Nördlingen shimmers in the sunlight, but it is still easy to imagine that Nördlingen is a shining, enchanted city sprinkled with pixie dust.