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In a cellar under the Heidelberg Castle, in the German town of Heidelberg, sits a gigantic wooden keg. It’s the world’s largest wine barrel with an astounding capacity of 219,000 liters—although back in the 18th century, when it was built, the Heidelberg Tun was slightly larger. Sitting empty all these centuries, the oak had dried and shrank reducing the barrel’s capacity by some 2,700 liters.

In fact, the Heidelberg Tun has sat empty for most of its life. When Mark Twain went to visit the famous wine barrel, the Tun’s enormous size failed to excite him. He wrote about it in some disdain in his travelogue A Tramp Abroad: 

Everybody has heard of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it, no doubt. It is a wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some traditions say it holds eighteen hundred thousand bottles, and other traditions say it holds eighteen hundred million barrels. I think it likely that one of these statements is a mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere matter of capacity is a thing of no sort of consequence, since the cask is empty, and indeed has always been empty, history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could excite but little emotion in me. I do not see any wisdom in building a monster cask to hoard up emptiness in, when you can get a better quality, outside, any day, free of expense.

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Photo credit: Shujaa_777 / Shutterstock.com

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