Following the 1,320-km course of the Rhine from its source in Switzerland to the river’s mouth in the North Sea, the most interesting section is without doubt the Middle Rhine and the Rhine Valley between Mainz and Bonn. This area where the Rhine cuts through the Slate Mountains between Bingen and Koblenz is also part of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley UNESCO world heritage site. With its many castles, it is the epitome of a romantic German landscape. Few other regions around the world are so densely packed with authentic historical attractions.
The Song of the Nibelungs, written in 1200, tells how the sinister Hagen, said to be from the Hunsrack region, sank the legendary Nibelungs’ treasure in the Rhine. The narrowness of the valley, the untamed river waters and the mysterious echo all play their part in the myth of the Loreley, the blond siren on the rock who once lured sailors to their death, here where the Rhine is at its narrowest, with her beguiling song and mysterious beauty. The legend is as old as time itself. There is still a Loreley today, but she is not in the business of enticing people to their doom.
Nowadays the Loreley open-air theatre hosts rock, pop and folklore events. This region has been shaped by myths, sagas, legends and fairytales, not to mention historical and political events, medieval battles, religious Electoral feuds and spiritual and military conflicts. The knights brandishing their swords and clanking round the castles in their armour are long gone. Horses’ hooves are no longer heard in the courtyards; the minnesingers’ lutes are silent. However, the castles continue to dream and you secretly wish that their walls could tell a story.
The Rhine has more castles along its length than any other river in the world. Built to protect power and possessions, they were not only well-fortified residences and refuges, but also lucrative customs posts and hideouts for infamous robber barons.
Thanks to its favourable geological location, the Rhine Valley is covered in vineyards, originally planted by the Romans. During the day the sun warms the grapes on the vines and in the evening the golden wines sparkle in the glass. No wonder there is always something to celebrate. This is a region where every wine tavern, every inn is a “pharmacy for the soul”. There is no royal house in Europe at whose table these wonderful wines have not been served.
Further downstream the densely wooded Siebengebirge hills – Germany’s smallest nature reserve and a fabled landscape of cone-shaped hills and rounded peaks – mark the end of the Middle Rhine. Besides walking and cycling, a boat ride is one of the most delightful ways to discover the picturesque Rhine Valley.
The annual Rhine in Flames event is a wonderful illuminated spectacle that attracts visitors from all over the world. The dazzling firework displays can be enjoyed from the banks of the river or from the deck of a boat.
Visitors can look forward to romantic little wine towns, quaint half-timbered buildings, enchanted castles, the Loreley myth, warm, welcoming hosts and, of course, the Rhine, Germany’s most beautiful river. Prepare to be inspired by the river and the legendary landscape, just as great poets and thinkers were many years ago.