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
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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
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.
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
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 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.
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.