Romancing the Rhine

The Loreley symbolises the romantic and treacherous waters of the Rhine (swissinfo)
This content was published on July 23, 2003 - 11:49

The legend of the fair maid, Loreley, symbolises at once the romantic and treacherous waters of the River Rhine.

The Loreley statue is located on a perilous bend in the river. It also stands halfway along a particularly scenic part of the waterway.

Demure she may appear, but the nakedness and beauty of the Loreley of legend have for centuries captured many a sailor’s imagination, leading them to a watery grave.

“The fairest of maiden’s reposing, So wonderously up there… The boatman in his small craft, Is seized with longings, and sighs. He sees not the rocks fore and aft… I fear that the waves shall be flinging, Both vessel and man to their end.”

The story of the Loreley was immortalised in a poem by Germany’s Heinrich Heine (1797-1856).

He wrote many verses and books about this romantic stretch of the Rhine from Bingen to Lahnstein, which each year draws hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Jostling for position on tour boats that cruise past the Loreley - who, the story goes, committed suicide when her love was spurned - renders the experience somewhat less romantic.

Nevertheless, there are many more tales of romance, rivalry and castles along the “Middle Rhine”.

Medieval lords built castles on hills overlooking the water, more than 28 of which still stand today.

“Most of them were constructed in the 13th century,” explained Christian Kuhn, director of Rhine tourism in the picturesque town of Bacharach.

“During the Middle Ages, Germany was divided into feudal kingdoms which imposed taxes on ships passing along the river. The fortifications were also used to defend their territories from invaders,” he added.

Marauders from Spain, France and Sweden once swept through the Loreley Valley. “Now we are proud to have them as guests here and not enemies,” said Kuhn.

swissinfo special correspondent, Samantha Tonkin at the Loreley

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