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April 2002 - Nr. 4


The Editor
Messestadt Leipzig
Vorsicht Satire!
Antje berichtet
Hier O.K. Berlin!
Purpose of Community
Russian Gala
Musical History
World of Olive Oil
Wine & Cheese Show
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Beethoven's 175th
"The Sphere"
Schönste Bücher
Greek Art & Ideas
Boris Becker in NY
Pinakothek der Moderne
Cleaner Environment
Berlin Funding...
Eiszeit Boot
German-American Exchange
West-Oestlicher Diwan
Christian von Krockow
Romance on the Rhine
Third Gold Medal
Students choose Germany
Soccer World Cup Test

200 Years of "Romance on the Rhine"

  TWIG - As the pleasure cruiser Vater Rhein navigates a lock at Bingen, gateway to the legendary Middle Rhine Valley, passengers gaze up at the same vineyard-clad embankments and ruined castles that enchanted the great 19th-century romantics. Two hundred years ago, brothers August and Friedrich von Schlegel, professors in the city of Jena, were among the first to see in this sublime, half-wild terrain a distinctly German landscape and culture. To bourgeois intellectuals of the day, the region was synonymous with a lost world of heroic deeds and harmony with nature.

Ardour for the briared, mythical past of this valley infuses the writings of Friedrich Hoelderlin, Clemens Brentano and, most famously, Heinrich Heine, in his poem "Die Loreley," a byword for German romanticism. Writer, critic, lyricist and philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel was entranced by the Rhine on his first visit, in 1802. He is generally held to be the person who first established the term romantisch in its modern literary context. That which is romantic, Schlegel said, depicts emotional matter in an imaginative, natural form. His Rhine romanticism proved greatly profitable and highly saleable - initially to groups of cultivated tourists from England, and the steamships then coming into widespread use for pleasure travel. Later, travelers from all parts of the world were drawn by the ease of pleasure boating down the wide, winding river, with its ever-changing scenery. Inevitably, the fad for tawdry package tours wore the "romance" of the region thin. By the 1960s, it had become a cheap cliché.

But this year, the German Tourist Board celebrates the region’s refurbished image with a "Two Centuries of German Rhine Romance" campaign. The Middle Rhine Valley, which stretches from Bingen to Bonn, is under consideration to be named a UNESCO world heritage site this summer. The small towns and cities that dot the river are building on their historical pedigrees to attract up-market travelers interested in mining the rich vein of music, architecture, viticulture and cuisine for which it has long been prized. A full schedule of cultural events, walking tours and concerts begins this month and will last through the summer.

One of the best ways to explore the region and take advantage of these offerings, the Tourist Board recommends, is to hike or mountain bike from vineyard to vineyard, stopping along the way to sample the world-class Rieslings (light wines) and Eiswein (dessert wine) produced by the region’s ancient vines, rocky soil and ample sun. A stop at the visitors’ center on the "Loreley rock" above St. Goarshausen may help unravel the myth of the mysterious female figure who sent so many river boaters to their deaths when they dashed into cliffs below her apparition. In the evenings, the Rheingau Music Festival (June 28-September 1), one of the largest classical music festivals in Europe will transform the Middle Rhine Valley into a concert stage for baroque and romantic chamber and symphonic performances, and the medieval town of Bingen will become a gigantic open-air theatre on May 4-5, marking the opening of the "Rhineland Palatinate Summer of Culture." When night falls, many magnificent castles along the Rhine open their gates to visitors as exclusive hotels. Guests at these inns can absorb at leisure the haunting enchantment Schlegel and millions who have followed in his footsteps have cherished. For more travel tips and information, visit www.romantic-rhine.com .

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