Travelers who want to combine historic, cultural, and technological aspects in their explorations might well visit Germany’s Upper Middle Rhine Valley, also known as the Rhine Gorge, between Koblenz and Bingen. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 65 km (30 miles) stretch on the Rhine River has some of the most extraordinary scenery, including majestic castles perched on steep slopes and small villages, overlooking the river. The terracing of the steep slopes shapes the landscape and provides spectacular scenery from the river. The soft flowing waters of the Rhine parallel the extensive patchwork of vineyards in this wine growing region, which produces aromatic grapes for fine Riesling wine. Since prehistoric times, the Upper Middle Rhine has been a major trade route into central Europe. The blend of Franco-German cultures has influenced the region, which at one time formed a border with France, but in the 19th century, the valley became part of Prussia and its landscape became characteristically German.
Trier – Ancient Roman City in Germany
Within this Prussian Rhine area, the oldest German city, Trier, can be found near the border with Luxembourg and France. The cultural interrelationships are interesting, but what makes Trier fascinating is its origin as a Roman garrison with some of the oldest ruins in Germany. Led by Constantine the Great, six famous emperors who reigned from Trier bestowed it with architectural splendor, comprising of Roman Baths, Amphitheatre for gladiator combat and a famous black gate known as the Porta Nigra. The development of Trier occurred with the building of The Basilica of Constantine where Constantine the Great met and greeted his subjects. In the 4th century, Trier was captured by the Franks and became a French city before it fell under to the imperial reign of Prussia once again.
Trier remained the largest city north of the Alps that had Roman origins, and this unusual place captivated the young Karl Marx who chose to live within its ancient walls.
Koblenz’s Rich Romantic Heritage
Cultural influences also affect cities like Koblenz on the Rhine, which is one of the oldest German cities, dating from the 5th century. Koblenz is located where the Rhine and Mosel Rivers merge. Its rich romantic history attracts visitors who seem fascinated by the many cultural monuments, narrow lanes and river promenades.
The historic city center displays some of the oldest half-timbered buildings, which date from 1340. Viewing the old German architecture reveals a great deal about medieval times. Other amazing features include the historic forts on the crown of the hills that encircle the town and the citadel on the opposite side of the Rhine. Visitors can also take a tramway to get an aerial view of the headland in Koblenz amid the Rhine and Mosel rivers and the equestrian statute of the former German Emperor William the Great. From the tram, visitors have an impressive view of the area where the rivers Rhine and Mosel meet.
UNESCO Heritage Sites on the Rhine
According to UNESCO Heritage Chairman, Horst Wadehn, these sites in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley reveals so much about the history that it virtually comes alive. He says “the amalgamation of the UNESCO World Heritage sites combines the intention to present Germany’s outstanding cultural assets…and these monuments and historic buildings encourage (visitors to) travel to and around Germany. “
The Upper Middle Rhine Valley, with its castles, historic towns, and vineyards is noted as one of the most romantic places in the world. In the nineteenth century at the height of Romanticism, artists and writers found the beauty of the Rhine enthralling. The romantic Rhine inspired Heinrich Heine to write his famous poem “Loreley” and Richard Wagner to write his opera, Götterdämmerung. The legendary Loreley on the Rhine near St. Goarshausen captures the imagination of those who hear how the Loreley maiden lured mariners to their death. Today visitors who cruise the Rhine listen to the sad melody as they pass by the famous Loreley statue near the east bank where the mariners had encountered their peril.
Commerce and Castles
Cruising theRhine brings visitors into contact with many vessels transporting their goods and ferrying passengers. Today this tradition continues as barges carry products as they silently move in a magnificent pageant along the river. Often cruise vessels pass through the scenic region where visitors can spot the sixty historic castles, overlooking the Rhine. Over the years, these castles have changed ownership while others have been converted to hotels, museums, and even private homes. One of the most popular fortresses is the Marksburg Castle, the only medieval castle of the Middle Rhine, which overlooks the town of Braubach below. Among the long standing castles is the Mouse Tower at Bingen on the Rhine, which was built in the 13th century for collecting taxes from passing ships. This Tower captures the hearts of visitors, who envision past times when feudal overlords fought to levy tolls and to regulate the river traffic.
Another interesting UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Völklingen Ironworks, which is a former industrial site that has become a cultural center. The iron mill station served as an important transportation hub for steel workers and raw materials until it closed in 1986. Today, the Völklinger Hütte is a museum where visitors can tour the production facilities, which now house exhibition halls, featuring art, live theatre and concerts. Visitors who come to the site find that they can also tour around the region since the Ironworks is near the French border and a few minutes away from the German city of Saarbrücken,
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Upper Middle Rhine Valley is one of the oldest and magnificent cultural landscapes in the world. UNESCO and other sources support the Upper Middle Rhine Valley as an important cultural asset that promotes German heritage to a world audience. The beauty of the Rhineland continues to be a source of inspiration, especially for those who seek pleasure in the famous river valley.
Romantisher Rhein: www.romantic-germany.info
Völklingen Ironworks: www.voelklinger-huette.org
UNESCO World Heritage Sites: www.unesco-welterbe.de/en/