|Upper Middle Rhine Valley|
In 2002 the UNESCO included in its World Heritage List the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, one of Germany’s most dramatic landscapes.
The Valley’s unique appearance has been formed for thousands of years by complex geomorphologic processes as well as various human interventions. This is why the landscape illustrates a long and changeful history and testifies the outstanding universal value of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.
Geomorphological birth of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley
In prehistoric times the Rhine River rising from the Swiss Alps found its way through the lowlands of the Upper Rhine Rift towards the flat Slate Mountains in South Western Germany and further towards the North Sea.
While crossing the Slate Mountains the Rhine River faced a problem: The Slate Mountains were uplifting due to the pressure of the African Plate on the European Plate. River Rhine had to keep step with the uplifting of the Slate Mountains with an enormous effort in vertical erosion.
As a result of this , the typical appearance of the landscape of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley was formed: a very narrow valley with a lot of meanders, very steep and rocky slopes, small and narrow tributaries and flat plateaus.
Climatic conditions in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley result from this special topography: relief, exposition, the reflection of the waterside and the dark slate create a very mild climate in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. It is characterized by little precipitation, a lot of summer days and calm winds.
Human interventions transforming the natural landscape to cultural landscape
As permanent human settlement is proven since ca. 30.000 BC in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, one can say that the natural landscape has been influenced by human settings since those days.
Especially the Romans, invading the Upper Middle Rhine Valley around 100 BC, left striking marks in the landscape that are lasting down to the present day: settlement structures as well as agricultural land use in terraced vineyards and on cleared plateaus.
Another historic cultural heritage are the about 40 castles that were mostly built in the Late Middle Ages. This large number of castles results from the fact, that the Upper Middle Rhine Valley was divided into numerous territories.
These historic developments were mainly based on the important stratetic value of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. This also led to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley becoming one of the most important transport routes in Europe.
These described evolutions raised up as the location of Upper Middle Rhine Valley has a supremely strategic value in (trans-)regional terms as one of the most important transport routes in Europe, then and now.
Nowadays around 170.000 people live here, mostly in little towns (50 in number). Due to social-economic developments in the recent past, agricultural land use is decreasing, which is a danger to the protected cultural landscape.
Wine growing Region Upper Middle Rhine Valley
Wine cultivation in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley has a long tradition, as it was established by the Romans 2.000 years ago. Thus the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is one of the earliest wine growing regions in Germany.
The Romans began terracing the steep southern slopes, until High Middle Ages all the suitable hillsides were shaped this way.
The local specific geological and climatic settings in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley offer best conditions for Riesling, the wine we are famous for: Riesling grown in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is thoroughbred, elegant and incomparable in bouquet, reminiscent of peach.
For many years wine growing and producing was one of the most important lines of commerce in the region. In the recent past, the social-economic situation changed and many viticulturists gave up their vineyards, especially the ones in very steep and hard accessible areas.
Landscape and cultural attractions
The Upper Middle Rhine Valley offers a huge diversity of places of interest.:
various vestiges of the Roman Culture and 40 medieval castles, ruined or restored and each one of a kind, just as idyllic villages and their proud churches, which tell stories about the eventful and changeful past. All this is embedded in a dramatic scenery of craggy cliffs next to vertical terraced vineyards and forested hillsides, that offer unforgettable impressions of the World Heritage Upper Middle Rhine Valley.
Come and see for yourself!
Administration Union Upper Middle Rhine Valley
To cope with the challenges of future developments, such as climatic s and demographical changes, the Administration Union Upper Middle Rhine Valley was founded in 2005. Its main targets are to enhance the region in economic, social, cultural and environmental matters.