The people of Rhineland-Palatinate would never say that out loud, but of course they know that they are at home in a very beautiful state. But yes! To be able to understand that, just a few hours here are enough. On a hiking trail high above the Ahr and Moselle rivers, for example. Or on one of the historic marketplaces, in Trier or Mainz. Behind old walls in Speyer Cathedral, in Maria Laach Monastery or on the Hambach Castle, a cradle of German democracy. Rhineland-Palatinate can also easily charm you on the water: if you take an excursion boat from Mainz down the Rhine, you will see more castles in a few hours than you would in half a lifetime, and half-timbered villages, and steep vineyards, and perhaps even the Loreleywho supposedly still sits up there on her rock high above the river and combs her blond hair.
The second part of the name of Rhineland-Palatinate is also a charming vacation region. The Palatinate is sometimes called the Tuscany of Germany. And indeed, it can happen that you sit in the courtyard of a winery in the evening after a wonderful meal, and against a violet evening sky, the rolling hills stagger toward the horizon, and it looks a bit like Italy - and it smells like it, too. But first and foremost, the Palatinate borders on France, and from there a kind of calmness and a certain laissez-faire have been creeping across the border into the Gengut for centuries. People here are not easily ruffled. One rather enjoys. The food. The wine.
Everywhere, really everywhere, the state is steeped in high culture. Under the motto "Treasury of Rhineland-Palatinate - On the trail of crowned heads", the traveler learns about old legends and sagas, about emperors and kings from long ago. He can go on a journey through time in defiant castles and enchanted palaces. And quickly learns that this land is not only one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most mystical regions of the republic.
In addition, there is always a deep-rooted and sometimes almost uncontrollable joie de vivre. There is much and almost constant celebration in Rhineland-Palatinate. Not only during the world-famous carnival in Mainzbut all year round, at hundreds of fairs and festivals and wine festivals. The Bad Dürkheim sausage market is - despite its misleading name - even the largest wine festival in the world. But the people of Rhineland-Palatinate would never say that out loud. You can always find out what we can celebrate this year here: https://www.rlp-tourismus.com/de
With an area of just under 20,000 square kilometers, Rhineland-Palatinate is somewhere in the middle when comparing the size of the states: five states are larger, the others smaller. 4.1 million inhabitants live mainly in smaller cities, towns and villages: Apart from the state capital Mainz (approx. 220,000 inhabitants), Ludwigshafen (approx. 170,000), Koblenz (approx. 115,000) and Trier (about 110,000) there are no major cities. The most famous past has Trier, which was the seat of government of the Roman Empire in the 4th century - from Augusta Treverorum several emperors ruled over large parts of the then known world. The Romans were then also the ones who brought viticulture to the country. Today, mainly white wines are grown on 64,000 hectares of cultivated land. Around 10,000 wineries in the country produce more than five million hectoliters of wine annually. More than 90 percent of all wines exported from Germany come from Rhineland-Palatinate.
There is also a great deal of nature. The wide plains of the Westerwald, the rugged landscapes of the Eifel and the gently rolling hills of the Hunsrück are popular recreational areas for Rhineland-Palatinate residents and attractive vacation regions for everyone else. No other state has as much forest (42 percent of the state's land area), which makes Rhineland-Palatinate a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers. The Palatinate Forest is even one of the largest contiguous forest areas in Germany. And probably the only one in which there are over a hundred managed hikers' cabins.
And what else? The Speyer Cathedral, the Roman monuments in Trier (with the cathedral and the Liebfrauenkirche), the Upper Middle Rhine Valley between Bingen and Koblenz, and the remains of the Roman Limes are part of the World Heritage of Humanity. Particularly popular with visitors is the 85-kilometer-long German Wine Route.
Rhineland-Palatinate has always been innovative at the stove and oven: Not only does the legendary Saumagen come from here, but also the at least equally famous Toast Hawaii. This was invented by Clemens Wilmenrod from the Westerwald, Germany's first television chef. Even dubious classics like the Arabian Riding Meat and the Stuffed Strawberry come from his kitchen, but he became famous with his quickly prepared toast-cheese-ham-pineapple combination. Incidentally, it is not uncommon in Rhineland-Palatinate to cook with tropical fruits. Lemons, kiwis and melons are grown in the southern regions of the state and found their way from there into the young, smart state cuisine early on.
Traditionally, of course, as almost everywhere in Germany, the potato dominates, which is gladly processed to dumplings, to Herzdriggerte, for example, or to Hoorige Knepp. Kleeß from the Hunsrück region are particularly popular. In the Palatinate region in particular, chestnuts are also used extensively in cooking; here they are called keschde and are served as a side dish or as a sweet chestnut pudding for dessert. In early autumn, everything is waiting for the young wine, Federweißer (which is actually called that, with an r at the end), with which onion tart is eaten. Internationally known is the said Saumagen (pronounced: Saumaache), in which pork, sausage meat and potato are cooked in a pig's stomach, seasoned with marjoram, thyme, pepper, allspice and bay leaf. When Helmut Kohl from the Palatinate was Chancellor, he always liked to drag Reagan, Thatcher, Gorbachev and all the others to Deidesheim to eat Saumagen. Supposedly, there is nowhere better.
And then there is the Döppekooche, for which potatoes, onions, eggs, diced dried meat and spices are mixed and baked in a roaster in the oven. In the past, Döppekooche was the St. Martin's meal of poor people who could not afford a goose. It is still eaten today, especially in the northern parts of the country, where it is called differently from place to place and village to village: Debbekooche (in Koblenz), Debbedotz (in Lahnstein), Kulles (in Boppard-Holzfeld), Schorreles (in Hunsrück), Dutsch, Datschert or Datschi (in Westerwald) - heck, you could write a dictionary about the Döppekooche. Erbelskoche! Puttes! Flennes! Uhles! Kesselskooche! Säfeknelles!
By the way, so that no false impression is created: Rhineland-Palatinate can of course also offer haute cuisine. A large number of top and star chefs provide for high enjoyment. For example, the gourmet guide Gault & Millau recently named Purs in Andernach the rising star of the year in German gastronomy. The Waldhotel Sonnora in Dreis (district of Bernkastel-Wittlich) is honored with three Michelin stars, four other houses in the state are honored with two.
And that Rhineland-Palatinate winegrowers produce not only quantity - after all, six of Germany's ten wine regions are in Rhineland-Palatinate - but also first-class quality can be experienced in the beautiful wineries and vinotheques. The architecture of the facilities alone makes a visit an experience. But also their embedding in the landscape - think, for example, of the steep vineyard slopes that run through the valleys along the Rhine and Moselle rivers - make the visit an experience. Here, local top wines can be tasted in the most pleasant way - and, of course, taken home as souvenirs.
You might have guessed by now that there is probably no other German state in which such completely different dialects are spoken as in Rhineland-Palatinate. If you were to sit a Westerwälder (Wäller) and a Pfälzer (Pälzer) at a table and ask them to converse in their dialect, you would have to request an interpreter.
The dialect of the north is Middle Franconian, which sounds like Kölsch to the layman. Along the Moselle, the Middle Rhine, across to the Sieg and in parts of the Westerwald, it is Moselfränkisch. In the south of Rhineland-Palatinate, more Palatine is spoken than High German, including Rheinhessisch. This is also known in the rest of Germany, from "Mainz bleibt Mainz, wie es singt und lacht".
A few basic rules: In the Palatinate, der or die is often replaced by a gender-neutral wo: "Du bisch de äänzisch wo Zeit fa misch hat" means something like: You are the only one who has time for me. There is usually no distinction between soft and hard consonants: p becomes b and b becomes p, g becomes k and k becomes g, and d and t are of course also unified. A statement like "Isch hab en Änser in Madde" also shows the rather loose handling of ch and sch, churches and cherries are linguistically one and the same in Rhineland-Palatinate. Somewhere in the middle of the state runs the mystical dat-wat line; beyond this line, every das becomes a dat and every was a wat (the fact that beyond this, every es becomes an et didn't fit into the name anymore...). And as if all this wasn't complicated enough, the French occupation has also left its linguistic mark in some regions. There, the sidewalks are called Trottwar (Trottoir), the bedspreads Plümmoh (Plumeau) and wide streets Schosseeh (Chaussée).
Well then: Adschee! (Adieu!) - and see you soon in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Cover photo: Far view over the Mosel loop near Cochem © Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus GmbH/Dominik Ketz
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