There are many opinions as to what comprises “typical Germany”. In the post-war years, it might have been the heavy industry of the Ruhr. It could be the busy port facilities and vibrant nightlife of Hamburg, raucous and lively Berlin with its centuries of history, Frankfurt with its financial might, Munich with its fine buildings and its beer culture, Bavaria with its magnificent castles.
All interestingly correct in their way.
So welcome to the Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz in German). Throw away every preconception that you ever had, and simply breathe in the fresh air. And breathe it in again. If you want fresh air, with all the goodness that that entails, you have it here. If you want nature in all its glory, you are in the right place. If you want to hike or ride your bicycle up hill and down dale, you have definitely made the right choice. If you want to imitate the Germans and take a “cure”, there are loads of places here where you can do that as well.
The Rhineland-Palatinate has only existed as a separate entity since 1947 following a referendum where its citizens chose to become a separate state within the German republic. It is positioned in the far south-west of the country, and covers a substantial area from the Rhine valley and the Eifel mountains in the north and east, to the borders of Belgium, Luxembourg and France in the south and west.
Its total population of just over 4,000,000 people means that, by German standards at least, it is relatively sparsely populated, and its largest city, and the state capital, Mainz, is on its eastern border and could almost be in Hessen. Which means, though, that getting here is not difficult, as Germany’s major international airport in Frankfurt is relatively close-by, and Germany’s excellent railway service takes in all the significant population centres. It is also to be noted that the German railway company Deutsche Bahn, is quite happy to transport bicycles on most of its services – which can be a great boost for travellers intent on making a cycling tour.
There is a whole host of accommodation possibilities, be they hotels, bed and breakfast establishments, holiday homes, youth hostels or camping facilities. Advanced planning in this respect really depends upon your own personal requirements, but some advanced booking may be recommended during the peak summer months.
The local tourist authority proposes a certain number of trails, which will be of interest to those wishing to undertake hiking holidays and cover many of the areas in the Rhineland-Palatinate region, as well as neighbouring states. Full details on these trails and making all the necessary arrangements can be found on the English-language website:
Similarly for cyclists, a whole series of routes and plans has been prepared, which will offer you an excellent range of choices to see this wonderful region by bike. The details for this can be found, again in English, on:
Ask any German what comes to mind when they think of the Rhineland-Palatinate region, and very many of them will come up with the word “wine”. This is Germany’s principal wine-growing region, and there is much here that will appeal to the wine connoisseur. There are six principal wine-growing areas in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate:
1. The Rheinhessen region. This is Germany’s largest wine growing area, and can be found between Mainz, Alzey, Bingen and Worms. The principal wine produced is the white Silvaner wine, but red wines are now also being produced in the area.
2. The Mosel-Saar region. The Mosel valley (taking in the area between Trier, Koblenz and Cochem) is, internationally, probably the most famous area in Germany for wine production. It is notable for white wines like Riesling and Müller-Thurgau, and the red wine, Blauer Spätburgunder.
3. The Ahr valley. This is in the northern part of the state and essentially an area for the production of red wines, such as Spätburgunder, Frühburgunder and Portugieser.
4. The Middle Rhine Valley. A number of famous small towns like Sankt-Goarhausen, Boppard and Bacharach are all involved in the production of wine. Again Rielsing and Müller-Thurgau feature, as does the red wine Dornfelder.
5. Pfalz (the Palatinate). This region is to be found in the south of the state round the town of Neustadt. This is again significant for Rielsing, Müller-Thurgau and Dornfelder, but also is well-known for the traditional Gewütztraminer wine.
6. The Nahe Valley. This area, round the town of Kirn, is one of the smaller wine-growing areas, but is again significant for the wines produced across the region – Rielsing, Müller-Thurgau, Portugieser and Dornfelder.
All sorts of experiences are available for visitors to enjoy in the area – among them a number of hiking trails through wine country. A number of vintners offer the possibility of taking holidays on their properties. And numerous wine festivals are held in the area throughout the year (there are a total of eleven held in the Mosel-Saar region alone), with among other things colourful “wine parades” being held, and there is the annual crowning of the local wine princess at specific events in the calendar.
Although to date we have laid emphasis upon the great outdoors, and the beauties and products of nature, it would be amiss not to mention the urban areas of the state, which also have a lot to offer.
Mainz dates back to the Roman era. It is the home of one of Germany’s national television stations (ZDF), made history back in the 15th century when Gutenberg produced the first printing press here, and comes alive during the carnival season, when it rivals other Catholic cities along the Rhine (Cologne and Düsseldorf) for colour and excitement on “Rosenmontag”. Its cathedral is also well worth seeing.
Kaiserslautern is a communications and information centre, has a number of manufacturing industrial plants (although the Opel works in the city is under threat of closure), hosts a large NATO military presence on its doorstep, and is a significant university town. Culture and sport also feature high upon the city’s attractions.
Koblenz is a very scenic town built at the point where the Mosel flows into the Rhine – seen from above the confluence of the rivers (known as the Deutsches Eck – the German Corner) it is really spectacular. The Ehrenbreitstein fortress is another “must see” when visiting the area.
Trier is Germany’s oldest city. It has a number of old Roman remains such as the Porta Nigra and the Constantine Basilica. The Roman Bridge across the Mosel has been there since the 2nd century, and perhaps surprisingly still carries traffic over the river! From a later period, the Cathedral dates back to the 12th century, and is well worth the visit. One of its other claims to fame (though how positively this might be viewed is an open question) is that it was the birthplace of the founder of Communism, Karl Marx.
Cochem is an important centre of the wine industry,. The city gates are imposing and the castle, dating back to 1130 is well worth seeing.
Worms (please note that the German “W” is pronounced like the letter “V”), is a significant historical town, most famous perhaps for the appearance in 1521 of Martin Luther before a Catholic Diet after his first protest against the practices of the church. A number of the churches in the city are worth visiting. Perhaps one of its more interesting attractions though, is the museum dedicated to the Nibelung Saga.
Some other towns in the area – Speyer, Pirmasens, Neustadt among them – also offer some interesting attractions.
The climate of the area is pretty much what might be expected. In the hills of the Eifel and the Ahr, colder weather might be expected in winter than in the southern part of the state for example. Overall the climate is quite mild, spring and autumn offer the state a range of colours that enhance its scenic beauty, and rainfall is evenly spread over the year. Visitors should make allowances, though, for all possibilities.
Nowhere else in Germany will offer you quite the experience that you will get in the Rhineland-Palatinate. If you love the outdoors, you will really enjoy your stay here, and you will never miss the opportunity to make a return visit.