A knight's banquet full of surprises, the secrets of Germany's most famous rock and how much Charlemagne appreciated Ingelheim's red wines - Rhineland-Palatinate is full of legends and stories, mystical, incredible and historically proven. We present five of them here.
Eltz castle, a striking 12th century hilltop castle in a side valley of the Moselle between Koblenz and Cochem, was very well known in this country. As a symbol of German chivalry, its image adorned the 500 DM bill from 1961 to '95, at that time the most valuable of its kind after the "Tausender. Eltz Castle was seen much more often on a 40 pfennig stamp, a common postcard postage between 1977 and '82. But there are other reasons why the complex is one of the most remarkable castles in Germany.
This fortress is a very special case. Since its construction some 850 years ago, it has stood Eltz castle undamaged under the care of one and the same family, along with the original furnishings with magnificent armory and treasury. Unique are details such as the jester's heads on the walls of the knights' hall - they stand for freedom of speech (a jester was allowed to say anything he wanted) and also for the constant concurrence of wisdom and folly. In the Hall of Knights there is also the Rose of Silence as a symbol of trust. Nevertheless, one thing has become known: In the Eltzer Burgschänke, the venison goulash from the castle's own hunt is said to be delicious.
Charlemagne (748-814), king of the Frankish Empire, was a great lover of red wine. When he decided to have a representative palatinate, i.e. a seat of government, built in Ingelheim, he also ordered the cultivation of Burgundy vines. The vines flourished magnificently and the red wine tasted so good to the crowned king that there was often nothing left for guests - even Johann Wolfgang von Goethe went empty-handed during a visit, as legend has it. Today, the poet prince would have better chances, as the area under red vines in Ingelheim now covers far more than 300 hectares, for first-class products.
Apart from red wine, Charlemagne left many other traces in the town. In the Middle Ages, world history was written in Ingelheim, with coronations, abdications and imperial synods. A circular route with information boards leads to the historical sites, for example to the Aula regia throne hall, to the Heidesheim Gate (including a wedding room for civil weddings), to the museum at the imperial palace and to the hall church. The highlight is the walk up into the vineyards, perhaps with a small red wine in your picnic basket. You can enjoy it at the top of the Mainz hill with a great view down into the Rhine valley.
Bürresheim Castle near Mayen is special simply because it has never been destroyed - and because, strictly speaking, it is actually two fortified castles. Built in the 12th century, a distinction was made between the Cologne castle and the Trier castle until the 17th century. Only later did both grow together through additions and conversions to form a winding residential castle, whereby the Cologne castle is now only an old ruin. Dark, pointed turrets and slate roofs crown the walls with their ornate half-timbering. Until 1938, generations of Rhenish noble families lived here, and their living culture can be relived inside the castle. When you finally stand in the baroque garden, which has remained unchanged for 400 years, the castle looks like a film set. Steven Spielberg probably saw it that way, too - he had scenes from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" filmed here. Several hiking trails pass the castle in the immediate vicinity, which rises on a rocky spur above the Nette Valley. From here it is also not far to the valley of the Nitz and to gentle hills like the Schälkopf.
What to see in the castle: A tour of the historic premises, where you can marvel at old uniforms and chandeliers, magnificent paintings and precious porcelain. Wedding ceremonies take place both in the Hall of Ancestors and in the castle chapel.
All sorts of myths are also woven around this fortress. For example, Trifels Castle was not just a simple knight's castle, but was considered Barbarossa's favorite stronghold. A courageous legend claims that the emperor lay down here to sleep with his entourage in order to seize power again one day. On the other hand, the story of King Richard of England, or Lionheart for short, is documented. He was arrested in 1192 on his way back from the Orient and imprisoned by Emperor Henry VI on Trifels. Two years later, Lionheart was released in exchange for a high ransom and the oath of fealty, a common deal at the time.
Built of sandstone, Trifels Imperial Castle sits enthroned on a rocky reef high above the forest near Annweiler. In the 12th and 13th centuries, it was considered one of the most important sites of Salisch-Staufer rule over the Holy Roman Empire. The well tower, guardhouse and castle tower still date from the Middle Ages. The view is magnificent, at the foot of the castle lies the Queichtal, to the east the Rhine plain spreads out, to the west the valleys and heights of the Palatinate Forest extend. A permanent exhibition tells of the "power and myth" of the former rulers - Emperor Barbarossa would have been pleased.
"I don't know what it should mean that I am so sad; a fairy tale from ancient times, I can't get it out of my mind..." The Loreleylied by Heinrich Heine with the melancholic melody is known in many places of the world. It stands for Rhine romanticism par excellence - and for one striking rock in particular. The Lurleifels was once known for its striking echo as well as for dangerous river currents that claimed many shipwrecked people. Dwarves, mountain spirits and other mystical creatures were also thought to be evildoers here. However, the ballad of the famous female figure Loreley was written much later.
Around 1800, the German writer Clemens Wenzeslaus Brentano de La Roche created the work about the virgin and sorceress Loreley Lay, whom all men fell for - riverboatmen were distracted by her siren song and thus sailed to their doom. After the legendary figure herself jumped to her death from the Lurleifels, the well-known rock echo became her voice. Many other Loreley stories were created later, which can be read today. And from the vantage points of the recently opened on-site culture and landscape park, a spectacular view opens up over the beautiful Middle Rhine Valley.
Cover photo: Many legends and myths are woven around Trifels Castle © Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus GmbH/Dominik Ketz
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