Few people can resist the allure of diamonds. Since the dawn of civilisation, people have been enamoured of these precious stones, for both their beauty and their hardness. From simple necklaces to the crowns of kings, crystals formed by volcanic pressure have become symbols of power and wealth. But there is one town which has outdone all others, as it is quite literally built out of diamonds.

Nestled in Bavaria’s province of Swabia, in the south of Germany, lies the town of Nördlingen. This small city is renowned for being one of only three towns in Germany to have an intact medieval city wall, as well as for the 90-metre-high steeple on St George’s Church, known as Daniel, which is fashioned out of shocked quartz crystals. Yet the most interesting feature of Nördlingen is that every building contains tiny diamonds embedded in its walls, with most averaging only 0.2 millimetres across. 15 million years ago, a 1-kilometre wide asteroid slammed into the south of Germany, creating a crater known as the Nördlinger Ries: since the meteor crashed into a graphite deposit, the impact fused the graphite into micro-diamonds, which were later excavated and used to build the houses of Nördlingen. It is estimated that around 72,000 tons of micro-diamonds are scattered across the entire town, but given their size, it would be not be worth the effort to remove them.

Nördlingen could also be a haven for chocolate lovers worldwide, as the final scenes of the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, featuring the Great Glass Elevator, are set here. The Japanese manga and anime series Attack on Titan also seems to be based on Nördlingen, as the circular city walls and Germanic-style houses echo the town of diamonds, minus the giant man-eating monsters.


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