The Rhine Valley
The Rhine Valley, where the Rhine carves its way through steep hills topped with countless castles and ruins, is one of the most famous and most heavily toured parts of Germany. Among the highlights in the area are the Eberbach Abbey (where parts of the movie adaptation of Eco’s The Name of the Rose were shot) and the Niederwalddenkmal, a majestic memorial built in the 1870’s to commemorate the unification of Germany. A popular way of visiting the Rhine Valley is through one of the numerous cruising companies that offer moderated boat trips down the river.
Mainz, having been founded as a military fortress by the Romans as early as the first century B.C.E., can look back on a tremendously rich history. For almost 2 millennia, the city played an essential role in German and European politics, making it a fascinating mosaic of the different historic periods since. Today, the centre of town is accessible on foot from Mainz Hauptbahnhof. There are signposts and maps throughout the city centre, but you can also pick up a map from the DB information desk at the station. Highlights include the Dom St. Martin (a Romanesque cathedral – one of Germany's oldest), the Stephanskirche (visited in part for its world-famous Chagall windows), the old town and the numerous relics of the roman period that are scattered throughout the city. Furthermore, the Gutenberg Museum contains several artefacts of the city’s arguably most famous historic citizen, such as the first two Gutenberg Bibles.
Frankfurt is a city of contrasts. Wealth and poverty coexist in a city that has some of the highest, most avant-garde skyscrapers of Europe right next to well-maintained 19th century and even older buildings. Some of the (many) highlights are the IG-Farben Haus (giant building with a controversial history that nowadays houses the Fritz-Bauer Institute of the Goethe University), the Alte Oper (Renaissance Opera Building in the city centre), the Römerberg (the historic centre of Frankfurt) and the Paulskirche (church that housed the first democratically elected parliament in Germany in 1848). Most of the city’s museums are located along the Museumsufer (“Museum Riverbank”) on the Southern riverside of the Main. Exceptions, among others, are the Goethe Haus (where J.W. Goethe was born and raised) and the Jewish Museum. Frankfurt’s Jewish community can look back on over 850 years of history and is among Germany’s oldest – the Museum Judengasse, which is surrounded by a medieval Jewish cemetery (13th century) and traces the history of the city’s Jewish Ghetto since the 15th century, is also well worth a visit in this context.
Darmstadt is most famous for being a rich representative of Jugendstil architecture (art nouveau). Many of the buildings survived the massive destruction of Darmstadt in September 1944. The Künstlerkolonie Mathildenhöhe is one of the obvious highlights: Funded by the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig in 1899, seven artists got the chance to conceptualize their ideas of a new living- and working world here. They designed a colony, the focal point of which is the Studio House, the Ernst Ludwig House, which nowadays houses the Artists’ Colony Museum.