The picturesque valley of the river Altmühl, crossing Bavaria from west to east where it joins the Danube, features a number of limestone quarries which continue to reveal large amounts of Jurassic fossils. The Dinosaur Park Altmühltal, located halfway between Munich and Nuremberg near the town of Denkendorf, has a number of them on display and even offers tons of lesser fossils for sale. Right now the museum hosts no less than three special exhibits:
- A reconstruction of the recently discovered giant pterosaur nicknamed “Dracula” for its Transsylvanian location.
- An adolescent Tyrannosaurus Rex on loan from America, nicknamed “Rocky.” I was unable to find any information on this individual so I assume it’s one of the many T. Rex replicas in circulation.
- The twelfth and oldest Archaeopteryx fossil discovered so far, found in 2010 near Eichstätt in the Altmühltal itself.
Aside from those the museum currently has a lot of pterosaur fossils on display. So yesterday I ventured there and took some pictures of the exhibits, as well as of the well-stocked shop and the open-air park with its life-sized plastic animals. Note that the entrance is not cheap (€20 per adult), the museum is not large, and the park mostly fascinates small children. So while I consider the price adequate for the current special exhibits, you should first check what the museum has on offer before going there without kids to amuse.
I brought my tiny Sony DSC-HX90 which turned out to be a big mistake. The most interesting pictures were indoors in the museum which loves its “dramatic lighting” – lots of darkness and high-contrast spotlight, all of which were poison to the small 1/2.3″ sensor with its limited contrast capacity. I really should have brought the Alpha 7R II which is much better suited to indoors shooting.
So my apologies for the limited image quality, and for fossils without description as my pictures of the plates turnd out unreadable. Anyway, click on any image to enter a full-screen gallery view with Exif information and descriptions of each subject, if available. Stated focal lengths are physical ones for the DSC-HX90, and must be multiplied by 5.85 to obtain the full-frame equivalents.
The first gallery comprises the three exhibits mentioned above, plus another full pterosaur skeleton of a species whose description I unfortunately couldn’t find anywhere.
The second gallery shows a selection of the numerous stone-imprinted pterosaur fossils currently on display. (Archaeopteryx and its birdlike relatives are not pterosaurs, by the way.)
Shop & Park
The final gallery shows some impressions from the museum shop and the open-air park, plus a row of wind turbines just outside. I overheard a guide boasting about the sustainability goals of the site, though I don’t know if the turbines feed it directly.
3 thoughts on “Altmühl Dinosaurs”
Great pics! Your shot of “Dracula” is better than the one on the “Scientific American” website. I hope aliens were around to shoot some videos of it flying in its heyday. Maybe they’ll share them with us once we develop FTL travel.
Your mention of Denkendorf reminds me of Deggendorf, also in the same general area. Back in the day I was a U.S. Army liaison officer for southeast Germany. I had a German coworker who always told me he was never a 100% Nazi, but a 200% Nazi! He was only fourteen when the end came in 1945, but was already training as a Hitlerjugend glider pilot. He still had scars on his wrists from a suicide attempt when the end came. We were stationed in Regensburg, and one day while we were on the way to Passau, my coworker suggested we stop to see an old friend near Deggendorf. We drove along a shady country road to get there, and when we arrived I noticed the house was made entirely of wood. The friend in question was the wife of an artist who had passed away some time earlier. I don’t recall the name. In any case, many of his lovely Bavarian landscape paintings were hung on the walls. However, the piece de resistance was something I will never forget. Apparently his wife only showed it to special friends. She led us down to the lower level of the house, where it covered much of one wall. It was a quintessential piece of Third Reich art, depicting three nude young women playing violins and flute on the shore of a lake. I wonder what ever happened to it.
Thanks! I only noticed after the fact that the shot I picked for Dracula was almost the same as Scientific American’s, but that’s no coincidence. I tried three different angles and this was the only workable one given the weird lighting. (I did take care not to cut off any parts, too!)
Interesting story about that Deggendorf painter. Can’t say I’ve heard of him but a quick search brings up exactly one famous landscape painter near Deggendorf, one Karl Alexander Flügel who lived in Ulrichsberg. He died in 1967 and his second wife continued to reside in the house, so that could be a match. Google has samples of his landscapes although the three nudes are nowhere to be found.
I’m sure it was Flügel. His landscapes look very familiar.