Questenberg is a small village with 350 inhabitants in the southern Harz and we just learned about it from the Geopark Harz leaflet no. 12. The village was mentioned in the guide for the presence of alabaster balls outcropping at the surrounding slopes. Alabaster intrusions are small, ball-like gypsum deposits concentrated within the mother rock. We have spotted the area from the main road but the slope was so steep, so we couldn’t have a closer look. However, we found a hiking trail leading to the hill top so we decided to give it a try. Climbing up the forest path we passed by some crumbly boulders.

Weathered gips block Gypsum at Questenberg

The nearby info tabs explained us that we find ourselves on a huge anhydrite deposit. Anhydrite (CaSO4) is a white (sometimes grayish) mineral that, in contact with water, it transforms to the more common gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O). So the boulders we have seen were most probably made of old gypsum rock, assumption confirmed after arriving on the top of the hill. The soft gypsum rock was eroded by rain and wind action to a fine powder and I couldn’t pass by without taking a small sample for the Sand Atlas collection.

The image above shows the surface of a small conglomerate. The material was rather unconsolidated and turned into a beautiful white sand just by pressing with fingers. The dark tone is from lightning, the material is almost white in reality.

But, although surrounded by gypsum (photo left), Questenberg is known for another reason: the legend says that the castle lord lost his daughter in the nearby forest. The desperate father asked for help at the inhabitants of the surrounding villages and found the girl on the third day of Pentecost holiday with a crest with two tassels. The castle lord was extremely happy and payed a lot of favors to his people. Since that day, every year the inhabitants of Questenberg raise a wooden symbol on the gypsum mountain in respect to their former castle lord (figure right).