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Fairytale Castles, Exceptional Landscapes: The Rheingau & Rhineland Palatinate

Updated: Mar 10

Overview

The Rheingau

The Rheingau lies west of Frankfurt, and is one of the most unspoilt regions of Germany. It is a wine connoisseur’s perfect stop, although most people who visit Germany never even think about this region. It’s allure for people who aren’t wine enthusiasts lies in the region's small towns along the Rhine River. In these small towns and villages you'll find an abundance of classic German architecture, food, and genuine German culture.

Rhineland Palatinate

The Mosel wine-growing area in Rhineland Palatinate stretches from the city of Koblenz to the south of Trier, up to, and, close to the Luxembourg border. It encompasses the valleys of the Moselle tributaries of the Ruwer and Saar rivers. The region is defined by the Moselle river and boasts some of the steepest vineyards in the world.


In this issue we'll look at both these regions, as they form part of our 18-day Germany vacations; and also because the oldest wine routes are located in these regions.


Apart from the wine, there's also a multitude of monasteries, castles and palaces in both regions, which blend beautifully into the picturesque landscape. Vineyards in the region were established by monks and they had a reputation for producing premium vintages.


You will discover countless wine villages and stately estates where you can sample some of Germany's most renowned wines, as well as enjoy visits to a wealth of historical landmarks that will introduce you to the regions' culture.


There are numerous hiking and cycling trails for those who want to experience the stunning and verdant countryside, and great opportunities to visit some of the region's charming villages on the way. So let's get started ...


Rheingau


The Rheingau is also known as the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. The area stretches along the Rhine river between the city of Koblenz and the towns of Bingen and Rüdesheim am Rhein.


The Rheingau region is just 20 minutes away from Wiesbaden, the capital of the German state of Hesse. Wiesbaden was a prominent global spa town in the 19th century, and is still famous for its restorative waters, wide range of cultural activities, and prime location.


Whether you explore by train or by car, it’s the perfect base for discovering the Rheingau. There are refreshing geothermal spas where you can relax after a tough day of immersing yourself in the region's wonderful culture.


There are 26 hot springs throughout the city, as well as a casino that’s said to be the inspiration for Dostoevsky’s The Gambler. Pretend that you're the Russian author at the casino, but at least make sure you have some bucks left to sample the region's prime wines and delectable chocolates!.


You can sample some traditional German chocolates at Chocolateria Kunder., which manufactures its own chocolates, or Cafe Maldaner, the only Austrian-style chocolate café in Germany.


A 10-minute drive north will bring you to the heart of the countryside. Ride the Neroberg funicular railway to the top of an 800-foot hill, where you can walk a nature trail that skirts alongside a gilded Russian church.


Known as part of a UNESCO World Heritage site region, it consists of picturesque hillsides, castle ruins and vast vineyard villages and towns.


Myths and stories abound in the region, making it the perfect destination for those who want to uncover mysteries and secrets of the places they visit.


One of the popular traditions is a “Coronation” ceremony which is held during the summer. During the event, the “Wine Queen” and her “Princesses” are chosen to celebrate the town of Rüdesheim and its vintage heritage.


Rüdesheim

Germania Monument

You can start your visit by taking the cable car up to the Germania monument and admire the stunning view of the town while riding uphill. The monument overlooks the old town, rows and rows of vineyards, and the shimmering river. This is the perfect spot for you to let your photographic genius take over.


Built in 1871, the monument commemorates the founding of the German Empire and the unification of Germany.


Drosselgasse

Take the chairlift back to town so you can get down to some serious exploration.


You can start by inspecting the Drosselgasse, which is a lane that, if you stand a distance away from the entrance, seems to be forming a “V-shape”. The lane was used as a passage by sailors to carry their gear back home.


It is filled with restaurants, cafés, bars, wine stands, galeterias, souvenir shops and hotels.


Make a note of a hangout where you can come back to later to have dinner, after checking out the rest of the town and its sights. It will be a great way to end the day and relax with a glass of premium wine and sample local cuisine.


Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet

The place sets you off on a journey of musical adventure, with historical automated instruments. There is a huge collection of fantastic musical instruments that function like a computer. You will find an array of tools and machines for the production of organ pipes, music boxes, rolls of sheet music, cardboard sheet music, as well as perforated music disks. You can visit the nearby shop to purchase an authentic musical souvenir.


After having explored the ins and outs of the town, you will be as hungry and thirsty as a wolf. You can now head back to the Drosselgasse to have a hearty lunch at one of the drinking holes that you checked out earlier.


Vineyard Stroll

To walk off the lovely lunch you had, head back to the chairlift and go back up to the monument. When you get off at the Germania monument, take a leisurely stroll through the vineyards and back to the town. By the time you get back to the town, you should be nice and thirsty again. This means its time to test out how your taste-buds take to the local drinking fare.


Wine-tasting: Weingut Georg Breuer


The estate was founded in 1880 as part of a wine merchant company, and is owned by the Breuer family since the 20th century. You can take a wine-master class in the cellar or, if not, you can go for a wine-tasting session at the wine shop. Just make sure that you are there before closing time at 18:00.


Brandy-tasting: Asbach Visitor Centre

To round off your liquor-tasting experiences, head to the Asbach Visitor Centre. Here you can experiment with a wonderful concoction according to the Asbach recipe and enjoy it while watching a video about the history of the brandy, as well as have a look at the historical distillery equipment.


The company also manufacture the Asbach chocolate specialty which is part of the concoction. The recipe: warm up your Asbach brandy, add three sugar cubes, light it with a match, stir until the sugar cubes are dissolved, top up with hot coffee and a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, sprinkle with bittersweet Asbach chocolate flakes and … cheers!


Din-Dins!


My suggestion is that you end the day at the first and oldest guest houses in the area, the Drosselhof Restaurant.


The venue is located in the upper part of of the Drosselgasse, about a 15-minute leisurely walk from the Asbach Visitor Centre.


The establishment seats 250 guests, and is the perfect opportunity for you to get up close and personal with the locals. You have a choice between dining indoors or taking your dinner on the spacious patio. To get more into the local vibe, the entertainment by local artists will set the mood for a tasty and relaxing dinner after a busy day of sightseeing and getting to know the unique culture.


This is the ultimate setting to end an exhilarating day of discovery!


Rhineland Palatinate


Explore Iconic Historical Heritage


The region consists of awesome cultural treasures and rich stories from its wealth of historical heritage. The earliest settlements were occupied by Celt, Roman and Frankish empires, and the landscape is set amid majestic castles, magnificent palaces, interesting religious landmarks and thought-provoking abbeys. Most of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Trier


Trier is the former Roman city of "Augusta Treverorum" (Second Rome). Imposing architecture and monuments provide evidence of the city's importance during the Roman era. Constantine the Great lived in Trier for six years and under his regency, it became the second most important city in the Roman Empire.


The Basilica of Constantine (Aula Palatina), the Imperial Baths and parts of the Cathedral is attributed to his reign. Aula Palatina was Emperor Constantine's throne room and is symboilic of his power during his rule. The hall is the largest in preserved buildings in Trier, and has become a major concert venue due to its extraordinary acoustics. One such festival is the annual Moselle Music Festival.


An der Meerkatz and Liebenfrauenstrasse

A stroll along these streets allows you to enjoy every era of European artistic and architectural history. The Trier Cathedral is one of the buildings that you'll encounter on your walk. It is the oldest church in Germany and also the diocesan seat.


Next to the cathedral stands the 13th century Liebfrauenkirche. The church is the oldest Gothic church in Germany.


The previous buildings on the site of both churches are ascribed to Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine.


Main Market Square

Located between the cathedral and main market square is Steinstrasse. The most prominent features of the street are the half-timbered Renaissance "Steppe", the town houses and the "Red House", which bears an interesting inscription dating back to the 17th century - the inscription is for you to figure out the veracity of it when you visit the area!


Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra was once the northern gate in a city wall that was more than 6 km long and which surrounded the city of Trier. The arch has been unusually preserved by the medieval monk, Simeon. He lived in Trier as a hermit, and was canonized after his death. Also known as the "Black Gate", Porta Nigra was built around AD 170.


Simeonstift

Right next to Porta Nigra is the Simeonstift Museum. The museum contain some remains of the ancient city walls and some interesting Roman relics. If history is your thing, you'll soon be engrossed by the stories each relic represent.


The Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre was used for animal hunts, gladiator games, executions and religious festivals. You can enter through the old passageways for spectators and make belief you're attending one of the Roman events. Better still, if you enter through the wide entrance directly into the arena, you can pretend that you're one of the gladiators taking part in an important gladiator event.


Barbara Baths

The baths was the second largest bath complex in the Roman Empire. The building was furnished with marble, works of art, and had several pools - some of them heated. It offered wellness and relaxation and was in operation until the 5th century.


The reconstruction illustration at the visitor walkway introduces you to what you can imagine Roman Baths complexes looked like in the past. They consisted of cultural centers, libraries, restaurants, shops and beauty salons.


Imperial Baths

The Imperial baths' viewing point gives you a good impression of the area before you undertake a detailed tour of it. The gigantic complex was planned as a gift from the Emperor Constantine to the people of Trier. During your tour, you can watch a film which will give you vivid insight into the development of the city into an imperial stronghold, as well as the eventful history of the Imperial Baths.


The Roman Bridge

After viewing a reconstruction of what the old Trier looked like, you can round off your tour by going to the Eifel side of the Moselle river. This will lead you to the Roman bridge which is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site. The streets might have changed over time, but the Roman Bridge still functions as an important crossing over the Moselle river, plus there are a few very interesting buildings that have remained.


As you stand on the bridge and look towards the city, keep in mind the reconstruction of Trier that you viewed earlier on; so you can picture what the city looked like during the Roman era. Symmetrically laid out streets with blocks of houses and some impressive architecture. With the forum in line of your sight and in front of you to the right, you would've seen the gigantic Barbara Baths complex in all its ancient glory.


Culinary Delights


Enjoy local and continental cuisine in wine taverns, gourmet restaurants and from a wine-maker's buffet. Savor top quality regional dishes with seasonal ingredients and drink it down with a spritzer of vineyard peach liqueur. The liqueur is delightfully fruity and refreshingly zesty.


Sampling all these mouth-watering offerings will surely make you realize that the Rheingau and Rhineland Palatinate is not only about wine-growing, but also about fruit-growing. Chestnuts, figs, apricots and almonds are among the top fruits grown here, thanks to the region's vast forested area.


Out & About in Rhineland Palatinate


Rhineland Palatinate is the most forested region of Germany. Nature-lovers are spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding which of the eight nature parks and two national parks should be on their bucket lists.


Experience a wide variety of flora and fauna, meet the wild cats of the Hunsrück-Hochenwald National Park and other rare and special animal and plant species. Nature conservation is considered vital in this region, and the two natural parks and eight regional parks are under special protection, including the valuable European beech tree for its wood.


Your foray into nature will also introduce you to wonderful streams and mysterious volcanoes amid narrow winding paths.


Experience beautiful mountain landscapes while sailing on the idyllic Rhine, Moselle, Nahe, Ahr, and Lahn rivers. Perfect for hiking and cycling tours if you're and 'outdoorsy' type of person. You have several hiking and cycling choices in any of the six wine-growing regions. This also opens up opportunities to taste delicious wines from expert wine-makers and get to know the works of talented craftsmen while learning more about their intricate crafts.


If walking and cycling is your thing, vast vineyards set among low-lying mountain slopes will appeal to you. There are many quality certified paths for cyclists and a wide range of walking trails for hikers.


Walking adventures could include premium long-distance walks and certified short walks and loops. You'll be rewarded with breath-taking views and verdant natural scenery.


Oh, and before I forget about the most wonderful treat of such a visit, you can take a well-deserved break at a spa. Visit one of the most renowned bathing houses, the Moseltherme in Traben-Trarbach. It is the perfect place to take a relaxing sauna and it has an outdoor pool. A dip in the warm mineral water will relieve your aching muscles and sooth your joint pains away!


Wrapping Up


Rhineland Palatinate everything for all kinds of travelers.


Connoisseurs can crack open a bottle or two of quality wines at a laid-back tasting session on a beautiful wine estate, or in a historical wine village. Nature-lovers can choose between hiking, cycling and walking tours to discover outstanding long-distance trails and numerous short walking tours.


Cultural enthusiasts can explore and immerse themselves in authentic cultural experiences in iconic cities, magical towns and charming villages. Set amid hill-tops are stunning castles, memorable historic landmarks surrounded by verdant landscapes and shimmering rivers.


The regions are also well-known for being fanatical about preserving their cultural heritage. Giving you great opportunities to learn more about the history that defines the regions' culture and customs. Magnificently preserved architecture, castle ruins, archaeological sites where awesome relics have been discovered , famous landmarks and monuments, museums, art galleries and a host of other historical treasures await you.


Happy travels and ... Carpe Diem!


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