Since 2002 the Upper Middle Rhine Valley has been recognized as one of the world’s outstanding cultural and natural landscapes, and it now enjoys the same status as the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Grand Canyon in the USA, the Great Wall of China and the famous Taj Mahal tomb in India.
Two thousand years of cultural diversity
UNESCO was doing more than simply handing out an accolade when it conferred World Heritage status upon this section of the Rhine and its own, very special characteristics. Anyone travelling north-south along the river soon notices that the Rhine valley loses its expansive nature at this point. The rocks become craggier, the slopes steepen and the valley becomes a giant gateway,opening up at either end as if to keep an eye on all those passing through. And everyone had to pass this bottleneck: the merchants and traders, the kings, emperors and church dignitaries, the Romans and Franks, the Prussians and Frenchmen, the shrewd realists as well as the ‘Rhine Romanticists’, who were bewitched by the spirit of the landscape.The river carved out this narrow, 67 kilometre long gorge through the slate mountains, giving birth to a cultural and natural landscape which is one of its kind in Europe. It was the great diversity and beauty of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley which led UNESCO to add the World Heritage Site ‘Upper Middle Rhine Valley’ to its famous List, which came into existence with the World Heritage Convention of 1972. The central concern of the Convention is the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage. Inclusion in the List leads to far greater recognition at an international level as well as a heightened sense of awareness at the site itself.
An exciting journey through the ages
The strategic location of the Rhine offered ideal conditions for influences from many different parts of the world. The Romans brought their culture and above all their wine to the Rhine. The Rhine valley experienced its golden age during medieval times and it is its rich legacy of fortresses and castles which still makes the most lasting impression upon visitors. Important towns grew up, such as Bacharach, Kaub and Oberwesel, each of them a real jewel, their
townscapes reflecting all the artistry and craftsmanship of the ages. The valley
of the Rhine is like an exciting time machine, romantically interweaving fact and fiction with all its legends and myths. This is the land of the beautiful, magical Loreley, and you will find her rock here.
But equally, the Rhine valley is also the habitat of some exceptional plant and animal species which thrive in the mild, sunny climate with its warm, dry grasslands and in the wet meadows of the tributary valleys.
A legacy for everyone
This unique combination of rich cultural heritage and over two thousand years of history all concentrated on a small stretch of river is the basis for the status ‘Upper Middle Rhine Valley’ World Heritage Site. The Rhine’s particular significance as a transport route, provider of employment and perpetually disputed border; its landscape which has witnessed the upheavals of Germany’s chequered history,
the traditions of winemaking and shipping – all these facets have shaped and are still shaping the face of the World Heritage valley. World Heritage status has its obligations – but it also offers a host of reasons for taking a closer look at this region.