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Old ravine at the Deisterpforte in Lower Saxony

A ravine is a path that has cut into the surrounding area up to 10 meters deep through centuries of use with carts and cattle, as well as draining rainwater .


After the fall of the Roman Empire until the middle of the 18th century, paths and streets were equipped with unpaved surfaces. Hollow paths formed at the locations where the upper soil layer was compacted due to the mechanical pressure of the wagon wheels and the constant stress on the path surfaces from hoof steps of the draft and pack animals and the finely ground soil material was transported away by surface water during rain events. The deepening of the channels through erosion processes occurs through the long service life of the paths and streets. The constant erosion of the soil is the main reason for the formation of the ravines. Only in a few cases were the paths consciously laid out by humans. The formation of ravines was dependent on different prerequisites: On the one hand, the natural spatial conditions played an important role and, on the other hand, human use was the anthropogenic factor by driving on the paths.


Dilapidated ravines in the Palatinate Forest
Deeply cut old ravine at the former Büdericher Schanze
"Lösshohlweg Eichberg" in the Kaiserstuhl is cut even deeper
Hollow path with rock cellars on the Kreuzberg in Münchberg along the Altstrasse towards Sparneck
Hohlweg, painting by L. Goville, 1830
Probably the largest ravine system in Germany between Alsheim and Mettenheim: near Alsheim

There are ravines in different landscapes with different types of soil. They are widespread in loess landscapes as Lösshohlweg, they are also found in areas with heavy forest use on soft substrates , such as in red sandstone areas . B. in the Palatinate Forest .

On the flanks of the ravines there are shrubs and trees that serve as shelter and food for small animals. This is why ravines attract bats in the evening and at night , which hunt moths and other insects here . For agricultural areas and forests, ravines are often an ecological asset.

Created by human use, the ravines are now threatened with decay by humans and soil erosion : unused ravines become overgrown or slid. Today, citizens and authorities are often working together to preserve ravines as ground monuments ; in the past, they were often backfilled with building rubble or garden waste.

Hollow paths are of cultural-historical and archaeological importance for the early history of a landscape. Many of them date from Roman times .

There were also so-called covered ravines , which were very deep ravines on unwooded mountain slopes or paths to a castle. They were deeper than carts were high, so that long trees could be laid across them and covered with branches. As a result, vehicles and people were only visible to enemies from close proximity on these sections of the route . Wherever villages were protected by a bridle , the place could only be reached via ravines. Its depth was greatest near the peg. Here they were covered with long tree trunks to form a control bridge in order to observe or block the traffic underneath.

New ravines also emerged as a result of bypassing the road coercion . This prompted lords of the castle like those of Karlsfried to prevent their use with countermeasures such as moats and ramparts. The intention was to secure their income for road tolls and road maintenance.

Hollow paths close to the location were used as storage rooms to create rock cellars if suitable geological conditions existed .

There are often legends about ravines . In Uelzen in Lower Saxony which leads Liekweg to the cemetery.

The Swiss Wilhelm Tell is said to have shot Bailiff Gessler zu Altdorf from a safe hiding place on a ravine in November 1307 (quote from the play Wilhelm Tell by Friedrich Schiller : He has to come through this hollow street ... ) near Küssnacht with a crossbow. The path, now known as Hohle Gasse , was built in its current form in 1937 as an artificially built ravine by setting stones.

There are also numerous centuries-old ravines in the Sauerland , some of which have worked their way four to five meters deep into the earth through forestry and mining .

In Alsheim and Mettenheim in Rhineland-Hesse there is probably the largest system of ravines in Germany.

An Etruscan ravine can be found in Sovana , for example .


The Lösshohlwege are typical of loess landscapes . Particularly striking loess hollow paths can be found in the Kaiserstuhl near Freiburg and in the Black Forest foothills of the Breisgau and Ortenau . There they are often referred to as Kinzig .

The following description of the ravines in the Kaiserstuhl can be found in the literature: "The ravines at the Kaiserstuhl form a veritable labyrinth in which only those familiar with the area do not get lost. From the main alleys, which strive up the slopes with constant bends and twists, branch off to all Each system of ravines has the ground plan of a branched tree rooted in the village. People, animals, carts and water have deepened and widened the lanes over the years. Thunderstorms find their way there and dig deep, canyon-like erosion furrows at the edges with potholes, step-shaped landings and erosion tunnels. The wagons loaded with vines scratch the yellow walls. "

Since loess, as loose rock, is particularly stable, the loess cave paths are less a result of the compaction of the ground, but rather through the destruction of the inner structure of the loess, in which the mineral dust grains (mostly quartz) are "cement-like" connected by lime. When the road is used, for example by wagon wheels, this structure is destroyed and the "individual grains" are washed away when it rains. In this way, hollow alleys up to 20 m deep could be buried in the Kaiserstuhl over the centuries.

Lösshohlwege are ecologically valuable habitats for many plants and animals because they offer special conditions. Above all, the contrasts between shady and sunny, dry and humid as well as windy and windless places are responsible for the existence of the community hollow path . Caves in the easy-to-work and yet stable loess on the side walls of a ravine were partly used by humans as storage space - but not as a longer-term accommodation option , as was erroneously claimed earlier.

In Rheinhessen there is still one of the largest systems of Lösshohlwege in Germany, especially between the communities of Alsheim and Mettenheim . 11.5 kilometers are still preserved and ten kilometers are accessible. 30 kilometers of hiking trails have been signposted by the Alsheim hollow path group. The special flora and fauna are particularly evident in the months of April to October. Rare plants such as the steppe cherry ( Prunus fruticosa ) or the Alsatian hairline ( Peucedanum alsaticum ), an umbelliferae, are still to be found quite frequently.

Hollow roads in rocky ground

There are also ravines in rocky ground. There are three reasons for this:

  • The axles of many wagons had a standardized track width as early as the Roman Empire . The edges of the metal-studded running surfaces of the wheels removed rock (especially soft) from the road. Especially busy roads or those that were often used by wagons with heavy loads were removed and thus dug deeper and deeper.
  • The draft animals shod with horseshoes (horses) and claw plates (ox) also removed the road surface, especially on inclines.
  • On short, particularly steep sections of a path, the road surface was laid deeper in order to reduce the gradient.


  • Robert Lais et al .: The Kaiserstuhl. A natural history of the volcanic mountains on the Upper Rhine . Freiburg 1933.
  • Dieter Hassler, Reinhard Wolf (Hrsg.): Rifts - origin, history and ecology of ravines in western Kraichgau - a joint project of the district office for nature conservation and landscape management Karlsruhe and the state nature conservation association Baden-Württemberg . Regional culture, Ubstadt-Weiher 1993, ISBN 3-929366-02-9 .
  • Heinz Wiesbauer, Karl Mazzucco: Hollow roads in Lower Austria . Lower Austrian Landscape Fund. Vienna 1995, ISBN 3-901542-03-5 .
  • Arno Straßmann: Hollow roads as part of the historical landscape of Westphalia . in: Heimatpflege in Westfalen, 2004, 1 (magazine of the Westphalian Heimatbund - download possible).
  • Ulrich Stanjek: Historic ravines in the modern vineyard land consolidation (examples from two Rhine-Hessian wine-growing communities.) In: Journal for cultural technology and land development. 1993, 34, pp. 349-356.
  • Bernard Lassus: A Vogesian ravine (Le chemin creux vosgien) . In: Anthos, Zurich (39) 2000. T. 3, pp. 26-29, ISSN  0003-5424
  • Bavarian State Ministry for Regional Development and Environmental Issues (Ed.), Bayer. Academy for Nature Conservation and Landscape maintenance: Landscape maintenance concept Bavaria . Volume 1 and 2. Habitat type limestone grasslands (including creeks, tendrils, sunken paths, vineyard walls, stone bars , etc.).
  • Hartmut Leser: Geomorphology . 8th edition, Westermann, Braunschweig 2003, ISBN 3-14-160294-8 (therein p. 196 anthropogenic hollow form formation ).
  • Rainer Groschopf et al .: The Kaiserstuhl. Unique loess and volcanic landscape on the Upper Rhine. Ed .: Regional Council Freiburg. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2009, ISBN 978-37995-0839-1 , 387 pages.
  • Heinz Wiesbauer, Herbert Zettel: Hollow roads and loosing terraces in Lower Austria. A project of the Nature Conservation Department of the Lower Austrian State Government. Vienna 2014, ISBN 3-901542-42-6 .

Web links

Commons : Hollow ways  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Hohlweg  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Historic cultural landscape elements in Bavaria. In: Bavarian State Office for the Environment (Hrsg.): Heimatpflege in Bayern. Series of publications by the Bavarian State Association for Homeland Care . 1st edition. tape 4 , 2013, ISBN 978-3-931754-54-9 , pp. 92 f .
  2. ^ Thomas Kühtreiber : Street and Castle. Notes on a complex relationship , p. 286ff. In: Kornelia Holzner-Tobisch, Thomas Kühtreiber, Gertrud Blaschitz (eds.), The complexity of the street. Continuity and change in the Middle Ages and early modern times , publications by the Institute for Reality Studies of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times 22, Vienna 2012, 263-301.
  3. Hans Schrepfer : The morphology of the Kaiserstuhl. In: Robert Lais et al .: The Kaiserstuhl (1933: 16)
  4. ^ Otti Wilmanns: Introduction. In: Rainer Groschopf et al .: The Kaiserstuhl (2009: 27)
  5. On the trail of the Via Domitia