The Rhine Valley, Germany
Golden vineyards, castles and legends
A series of very ancient traditions called it the "father Rhine" while its steep valleys, covered with woods and vineyards, are the most representative expression of German Romanticism. The beauty of nature has been placed under the protection of UNESCO, in particular the territory located between Mainz and Koblenz which has fascinated the traveller for thousands of reasons, but mainly because of its history.
We are in the heart of Europe, with the “father Rhine” to mark the boundary between the Roman Empire in the west and the barbarian tribes on the opposite bank. Cities such as Bonn, Cologne, Mainz, with their monumental cathedrals, were born as military camps of the Romans.
Besides these which were the main, there were also less famous, which are now many small picturesque villages with medieval squares, narrow streets lined with beautiful wooden houses and churches with pointed Gothic bell towers. On the other hand, it is impossible not to notice the old frontier because the eyes are enchanted by the incredible beauty produced by the fusion between those two worlds. Romantic castles dominate the course of the river, some in ruins and restored by the feudal lords who exercised their dominion over the territory.
The speaker here is still the deepest Middle Ages. The first to notice that the snow melts here in the hills, sheltered from the icy breath of the north wind, was Charlemagne. It was the ideal climate for the cultivation of the vine which had been introduced by the Romans. Later came the Cistercian monks who founded abbeys, such as Santa Maria Laach and that of Eberbach, masterpieces of Romanesque architecture. In particular, in Eberbach, where the interiors were shot in the film “The Name of the Rose”, in addition to the sense of peace and harmony that you breathe, the monks owned hundreds of acres of vineyards. Its cellars were very famous and the abbey was the most important center of wine production in Europe.
As the boat sails on the river, you can admire the steep terraces on which the vines take on the color of gold. The main variety of the area is the Riesling which yields a wine with a precious taste with delicate shades of yellow - green and an aroma of apple, peach and honey. The culinary specialty offered in the restaurants in the area are welcoming white asparagus: soft, fragrant, grown exclusively for local consumption. The vineyards are surrounded by very dense woods which envelop the visitor in the green of their foliage. Oak, willow, beech and chestnut trees with their trunks high are the invisible realm of living things, such as foxes, deer and roe deer. The squirrels dare to go to the smaller towns, built with German austerity but embellished by rose bushes, vines and almond trees that join house to house.
At a bend of the river stands the mysterious Lorelei rock. According to legend, Lorelei was a kind of siren who lured sailors with her hand causing them to crash onto the rock and die, and this mythological figure has been a source of inspiration for poets. In fact, the ships were floating and crashed upon the rock, drifting in the strong currents of the river. Koblenz, an ancient Roman military camp, is located at the end of this journey. With its impressive palace of the prince-electors and the giant equestrian statue of Kaizer William I of Prussia located at the Deutsches Eck, the confluence of the “father Rhine” and the Mosel river, which in turn tells us about its vineyards, castles and legends. The confluence of the two rivers offers a spectacular view.
From this point, the river changes its appearance. The romance disappears and gives way to mineral products transported on the river. The Rhine passes through major cities, such as Cologne, Bonn, Düsseldorf and, arriving in Rotterdam, flows into the North Sea. The surrounding landscape is austere, geometric, the sky covered with clouds. So the golden valleys with the vineyards vanish, the images that are transformed into emotions vanish and consequently this southern strip of land, the valley of the Rhine, that thanks to its mild climate shows the smiling face of Germany to the traveler, vanishes as well.