Already in the 19th century, the Rhine had cult character: Especially the Middle Rhine inspired many artists. Even today, the river with its almost poetic landscape of deep valleys, mountains and castles is a place of longing for people from all over the world. Not least because of the beautiful Loreley, which has turned the heads of many a ...

William Turner arrived in the city of Koblenz on a warm, sunny day. At that time, in August 1817, he was already 42 years old and one of the leading English landscape painters. And although he traveled often and had already seen a lot, the artist was immediately fascinated by "father rhine". He explored the riverbank largely on foot and recorded his impressions in numerous sketches. Today, 26 sites mark the important stations along the "William Turner Route" through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002. Back in London, the painter processed his snapshots taken along the Rhine into masterful watercolors, which are now exhibited in museums and private collections around the world. 

Turning to nature

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle stands on an island in the middle of the Rhine - and was once a customs castle ©AdobeStock/mojolo
Pfalzgrafenstein Castle stands on an island in the middle of the Rhine - and was once a customs castle ©AdobeStock/mojolo

William Turner is not the only one whom the wildly romantic Rhine Valley inspires to groundbreaking works: At the beginning of the 19th century, numerous artists, poets and musicians from Germany and abroad, including Richard Wagner and the French writer Victor Hugo, discovered the region whose unspoiled nature perfectly suited the Romantic era. At that time, people turned more to nature, retreated into dream worlds, were fascinated by the uncanny.

The birth of Rhine Romanticism is considered to be 1802, the year in which the German writers Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim explored the then still unruly river. The spectacular natural scenery, plus the many castles with towers and battlements, some dilapidated and all the more dramatic - all this fired their imaginations. They immersed themselves in the legends and fairy tales of the Middle Ages and created their own stories. 

Sorceress from Bacharach

To Bacharach on the Rhine
Lives a sorceress,
she was so beautiful and fine
And tore a lot of hearts.
And made much to shame
Of the men all around,
From their love ties
Was no longer a rescue.


Clemens Bretano - The Lore-Lay

Thus begins Clemens Brentano's ballad, in which the Loreley rock was associated with a female figure for the first time. Later, many other writers took up this motif, with Heinrich Heine's poem "Die Lore-Ley" from 1824 (set to music by Friedrich Silcher) probably being the most famous work on the subject. In it, he describes a mermaid-like figure who distracts passing shipmen with her song and beauty, and thus plunges them to their doom. Legendary are the first lines: "I don't know, what should it mean that I am so sad ...". But those who trace the myth today in the new Loreley Culture and Landscape Park feel above all feelings of happiness - the panorama is too unique: with the canyon-like breakthrough valley of the Rhenish slate mountains full of vine-covered slopes, with the towns of St. Goarshausen and St. Goar lying on narrow banks, and with the castles of Katz and Rheinfels lined up on rocky outcrops - all of exhilarating beauty! Another equally spectacular viewpoint is Maria Ruh, located directly opposite the Loreley Rock.

By the way, Bacharach from Brentano's ballad, located about twelve kilometers to the south, is considered the "secret capital of Rhine Romanticism" because of its many secluded corners, half-timbered beauties, church buildings and first-class wineries.  

A visual declaration of love

Admiring the beauties on the banks of the Rhine is particularly well done by water. You can travel leisurely downstream or upstream through the unique cultural landscape. How about enjoying the passing scenery from a nostalgic paddle steamer like in the old days? There are castle and Bacchus tours, and of course a Loreley tour. In addition to such themed tours, you can also be chauffeured from Rüdesheim to St. Goar, for example, and take shore excursions in between; the area is teeming with picturesque towns, historic alleys, castles and beer gardens.

But back to Koblenz, where William Turner's first journey along the Rhine began. And where he was particularly fascinated by Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which he captured from different perspectives because of its idyllic location between the Rhine and the Moselle. Even more than 200 years later, the old city on the German Corner awakens the creative potential of artists. "I'm constantly roaming the streets and surroundings here with my camera," says young photographer Henry Tornow, who is always on the lookout for special and unusual motifs.

In collaboration with Rhineland-Palatinate Tourism GmbH

For a Vacation in Rhineland-Palatinate there are many good reasons. Some of them are the several castles and chateaus, great Vineyards on the Moselle and Rhine and historic cities like Trier and Mainz.

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