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Last updated : Nov 2009
Rhineland
Rhineland - TravelPuppy.com
Rhineland is Germany’s oldest cultural centre. Names such as Cologne, Aachen and Mainz are synonymous with soaring Gothic architecture and with the history and lives of many of the great names of Western Europe. However, Rhineland consists of more than a series of riverside cities. Here too are the vast plains of the Lower Rhine farmlands, the strange volcanic crater lakes of the Eifel Hills, the Bergische Land with its lakes and Altenberg Cathedral and the Siebengebirge. Rhineland and the Moselle Valley attract visitors not only for their beauty and romanticism, but also for the convivial atmosphere engendered by wine and song.

Like most of its tributaries, vineyards line the Rhine wherever the slopes face the sun. Alternating with the vineyards are extensive orchards, which in spring are heavy with blossom.

The Ahr Valley in the Eifel region is particularly famous for its lush scenery and its red wine, nearby is the famous Nürburgring racing circuit. Trier, the oldest German town close to the Luxembourg border, stands on the River Moselle. The city houses the most important Roman ruins north of the Alps. Following the River Moselle eastwards towards Koblenz are several towns well known among wine connoisseurs, Bernkastel-Kues, Kröv, Beilstein and Cochem.

The Rhine Valley between Cologne and Mainz is also world famous for its wines and wine festivals during the autumn. Eltz Castle is located deep in the woods near the Elzbach River. The Rhine Gorge’s numerous castles include Stolzenfels, Marksburg Castle, Rheinfels at St Goar and the Schönburg Castle at Oberwesel.

Along the Cologne–Mainz route, the KD German Rhine Line operates boats between Good Friday and the end of October enabling the passenger to enjoy the view of both sides of the river with vineyards and picturesque villages lining the banks. Spectacular Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) fireworks and son et lumière events take place at various venues along the river throughout each summer.

Düsseldorf

One of the great cities of the industrial north, this important commercial and cultural centre is the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen). The city developed over 700 years from small fishing village at the mouth of the Düssel River to the country’s leading foreign trade centre. It is very prosperous, with a fine opera house as well as many concert halls, galleries and art exhibitions. There are over 20 theatres and 17 museums, including the State Art Gallery of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Kunsthalle (City Exhibition Hall) and the late Baroque Benrath Palace.

The major exhibition centre is to the north of Hofgarten, which has been staging trade fairs since the Napoleonic times. The heart of the city is the Königsallee or ‘Kö’, a wide boulevard bisected by a waterway and lined with trees, cafes, fashionable shops and modern shopping arcades. Nearby are the botanical gardens, the Hofgarten, the Baroque Jägerhof Castle and the state legislature. Other attractions include the ruined 13th-century castle, St Lambertus Church, the rebuilt 16th-century Town Hall, Benrath Palace in southern Düsseldorf and the Hetjens Museum, a shrine to ceramics and pottery.

Cologne

An old Roman city, Cologne (Köln) is an important cultural and commercial centre holding many trade fairs during the year. Germany’s biggest indoor arena opened in the city recently. Principal attractions include the Cathedral of St Peter and St Mary (13th-19th century), the golden reliquary of the Three Magi, the Romanesque churches of St Pantaleon, St George, St Apostein, St Gereon and St Kunibert, the Gothic churches of St Andreas and the Minoritenkirche and Antoniterkirche, the medieval city wall and the Roman-Germanic Museum. There are several examples of preserved Roman art, among them the Dionysus mosaic, the Praetorium, the sewage system and the catacombs. The Wallraf-Richartz Museum (paintings) is located in a controversial modern building next to the main railway station and the river. The Schnütgen Museum contains medieval ecclesiastical art. The Zoo, the Chocolate Museum and the Rhine Park with its ‘dancing fountains’ are further attractions. The city is a major starting point for boat trips on the Rhine. It also has a famous carnival. The lovingly reconstructed Altstadt (Old Town) is enjoyable on foot as is the extensive pedestrian shopping zone. Near the town of Brühl, just southwest of Cologne, is the popular theme park, Phantasialand.

Aachen

The beautiful spa town of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) was capital of the empire of Charlemagne. It is not actually on the Rhine, standing 50km (30 miles) west of Cologne on the borders of 3 countries, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, and nearby is a point where a person can stand in all 3 at once. Attractions in Aachen include the Cathedral (Kaiserdom); Charlemagne’s marble throne, the Octagonal Chapel, the Town Hall built between 1333 and 1370 on the ruins of the imperial palace, Suermond Museum (paintings, sculptures), and the elegant fountains of sulphurous water, bearing witness to the spa statues of the city. Each July, Aachen hosts an international horse riding, jumping and driving tournament.

Bonn

Bonn was administrative capital of Germany until the end of 2000, when the Government moved to Berlin. In the south of the city is the former spa of Bad Godesberg, which is also the embassy district and offers a good selection of international restaurants and shops. Attractions include the Cathedral (11th-13th centuries) and cloisters, Kreuzberg Chapel, approached by a flight of ‘holy steps’, Schwarzrheindorf Church (1151), Town Hall (1737) and market square, art collections in the Godesberg (1210), Redoute (1792), Poppelsdorf Palace (1715-40) and botanical garden, the Beethoven Birthplace Museum and much general theatrical and musical activity associated with his life, Pützchens Market (September), the University (1725) and Hofgarten. Excursion possibilities include the Siebengebirge, the Ahr Valley, Brühl Castle and the Nürburgring. The city also has many parkland areas, including as the Kottenforst, Venusberg and Rhine Promenade.

Koblenz

Koblenz lies at the confluence of the Rhine and the Moselle. From the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress (1816-32) visitors have a spectacular view over the Deutsches Eck Monument to German unity (of 1870) and the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers.

Attractions also include the Old Town, the Weindorf (Wine Village); Monastery Church (12th-13th centuries), former Electors’ Palace, Collegiate Church of St Florin (12th century with a 14th-century chancel); and Church of Our Lady (12th century with a 15th-century chancel). Ehrenbreitstein also houses a Beethoven Museum.

Rüdesheim

On the Rhine south of Koblenz, Rüdesheim is famous for its Drosselgasse, a narrow lane with many little wine bars and pubs, some serving the delicious Rüdesheimer Kaffee (locally produced brandy with coffee). The Asbach Distillery is open to visitors, and there is also the unusual Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments. A cable car from Rüdesheim takes visitors up to the beautiful Niederwald Castle, a starting point for walks in the Taunus hills and it is also a popular starting point for many of the Rhine cruises. Almost midway between Rüdesheim and Koblenz is the Rhine’s symbol, Lorelei Rock, which has provided the inspiration for many songs about its legendary siren.

Trier

On the banks of the Moselle, a Rhine tributary, Trier is near the Luxembourg frontier, about 100km (60 miles) southwest of Koblenz. It is the oldest city in Germany, a Roman imperial capital in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Attractions include The Porta Nigra (city gate, 2nd century), Roman Imperial Baths, Basilica, Amphitheatre, Cathedral (4th century), Gothic Church of Our Lady, Simeonsstift with 11th-century cloisters; Church of St Matthew (Apostle’s grave), Church of St Paulinus (designed by Balthasar Neumann), Regional Museu, Episcopal Museum, Municipal Museum, Municipal Library (with notable manuscripts), and the birthplace of Karl Marx.

Saarbrücken

Saarbrücken is mainly a modern industrial city, and capital of the state of Saarland, sandwiched between the Rhineland and the French and Luxembourg frontiers. The city lies on the River Saar, a Moselle tributary. Saarbrücken is a modern industrial city. Attractions include the Church of St Ludwig and Ludwigsplatz (1762-75), the Collegiate Church of St Arnual (13th and 14th centuries, a palace with grounds and a Gothic church, and a Franco-German garden with a miniature town (Gulliver’s Miniature World). Close to Saarbrücken, at Völklingen, is the Hütte Steelworks UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mainz

State capital of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), this university town and episcopal see dating back 2000 years is situated on the rivers Rhine and Main.

Attractions include the international museum of printing Gutenberg Museum, the 1000-year-old Cathedral, Electors’ Palace, Roman Jupiter Column (AD 67),‘Sparkling Hock’ Museum, Citadel with monument to General Nero Claudius Drusus, old half-timbered houses, Mainzer Fassenacht, and the Wine Market (late August and early September). The sunny slopes of the Rhinegau Hills are centre of one of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions.