If Germany has an undiscovered corner for British visitors, it could well be the Rhineland-Palatinate: a history going back to Roman times, unspoiled forests and mountains, historic cities and medieval villages, brooding castles and Germany’s largest wine area. A glass of Riesling anyone?
No wonder they call it Romantic Germany. And this gem is just a short journey away by car, train or a flight to Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (under two hours from the UK). And, once there, expect great value for your pound.
2016 has a range of special exhibitions, celebrations and adventures so we thought we’d share some ideas for you to ponder.
Happy 200th birthday, Rheinhessen
Created in 1816, the Grand Duchy of Hesse was actually an independent country back then. With historic towns and award-winning wines, locals are still proud of that connection. There are 530 celebrations throughout the year, so whenever you visit in 2016, there’ll be a party going on.
And, these are bound to feature local wines and traditional dishes. One favourite is Woihinkelsche, a version of coq au vin, with the chicken cooked in white, rather than red, wine. Explore cities, such as Mainz, where Gutenberg perfected the world’s first printing press; hike and bike the rolling hills, carpeted with vineyards.
Geierlay: have you got a head for heights?
Germany’s longest rope suspension bridge only opened in the autumn of 2015, but already thousands have flocked to walk across the nerve-testing 1,200ft-long bridge, with its jaw-dropping views of the Hunsrück Mountains. All this 300 feet above the Geierlay Canyon floor.
Not far from the Luxembourg border, the village of Mörsdorf has a new visitor centre all about the bridge. Set in an unspoiled forest, the bridge itself hooks in to a series of easy hikes. More enthusiastic hikers see the bridge as they stride along the popular Saar-Hunsrück-Steig long-distance hiking trail. Best of all? Crossing the bridge is free.
Trier: the Roman connection
Trier, Germany’s oldest city, was also a major Roman settlement. From 14th May until 16th October 2016, one man is in the spotlight: the notorious Emperor Nero.
Three museums present different facets of the man. The Rheinisches Landesmuseum presents Nero – Emperor, Artist and Tyrant, emphasising his talents as an actor, musician and charioteer; the Museum am Dom offers Nero and the Christians, comparing the pogroms of the past with today’s religious persecution; the Stadtmuseum Simeonstift examines Hedonism and Crime: the Nero Myth in Art, with rare medieval illustrations and modern photos and films. A combi-ticket covers all three shows.
Rhineland-Palatinate: natural holidays
With eight nature parks, this is Europe at its greenest. Spend stress-free holidays hiking and biking paths that meander through carefully-preserved forest; choose trails that link castles and palaces, villages and farms. All are clearly-marked, so you never get lost.
In the spring of 2015, the first national park in the Hunsrück opened: Hunsrück Hochwald National Park. Now nature lovers look for rare storks and shy wildcats; history buffs explore Roman and Celtic settlements. Centred on Idar-Oberstein, long known for its gemstone industry, you can drive the 45-mile-long German Gemstone Route (Deutsche Edelsteinstrasse). It’s also just 30 minutes from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport.
Speyer: an architectural tour
Speyer boasts one of Europe’s most important Romanesque cathedrals and for something different authorities are offering a tour of the Zwerggalerie, the dwarf gallery. The architectural term “dwarf gallery” sounds strange, but this impressive decorative feature is the earliest example in Germany of this style of colonnaded gallery.
Led by specially-trained cathedral guides, the special hour-long tours climb high up on Speyer Cathedral. Limited to groups of just five architecture aficionados at a time, security is a priority one hundred feet from the ground. That’s why guests wear special harnesses. Open from April to October, English tours are available.
If you would like more information about this area of Germany visit www.romantic-germany.info.