Upper Middle Rhine Valley
States of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) and Hesse (Hessen)
N50 10 25 E7 41 39
Date of Inscription: 2002
Property : 27,250 ha
Buffer zone: 34,680 ha
The 65km-stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley, with its castles, historic towns and vineyards, graphically illustrates the long history of human involvement with a dramatic and varied natural landscape. It is intimately associated with history and legend and for centuries has exercised a powerful influence on writers, artists and composers.
The strategic location of the dramatic 65km stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley between Bingen, Rüdesheim and Koblenz as a transport artery and the prosperity that this engendered is reflected in its sixty small towns, the extensive terraced vineyards and the ruins of castles that once defended its trade.
The river breaks through the Rhenish Slate Mountains, connecting the broad floodplain of the Oberrheingraben with the lowland basin of the Lower Rhine. The property extends from the Bingen Gate (Binger Pforte), where the River Rhine flows into the deeply gorged, canyon section of the Rhine Valley, through the 15km long Bacharach valley, with smaller V-shaped side valleys, to Oberwesel where the transition from soft clay-slates to hard sandstone, results. In a series of narrows, the most famous of which is the Loreley, no more than 130m wide (and at 20m the deepest section of the Middle Rhine), and then up to the Lahnstein Gate (Lahnsteiner Pforte), where the river widens again into the Neuwied Valley. The property also includes the adjoining middle and upper Rhine terraces (Upper Valley) which bear witness to the course taken by the river in ancient times.
As a transport route, the Rhine has served as a link between the southern and northern halves of the continent since prehistoric times, enabling trade and cultural exchange, which in turn led to the establishment of settlements. Condensed into a very small area, these subsequently joined up to form chains of villages and small towns. For over a 1,000 years the steep valley sides have been terraced for vineyards.
The landscape is punctuated by some 40 hill top castles and fortresses erected over a period of around 1,000 years. Abandonment and later the wars of the 17th century left most as picturesque ruins. The later 18th century saw the growth of sensibility towards the beauties of nature, and the often dramatic physical scenery of the Middle Rhine Valley, coupled with the many ruined castles on prominent hilltops, made it appeal strongly to the Romantic movement, which in turn influenced the form of much 19th century restoration and reconstruction.
The Rhine is one of the world’s great rivers and has witnessed many crucial events in human history. The stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley between Bingen and Koblenz is in many ways an exceptional expression of this long history. It is a cultural landscape that has been fashioned by humankind over many centuries and its present form and structure derive from human interventions conditioned by the cultural and political evolution of Western Europe. The geomorphology of the Middle Rhine Valley, moreover, is such that the river has over the centuries fostered a cultural landscape of great beauty which has strongly influenced artists of all kinds – poets, painters, and composers – over the past two centuries.
Criterion (ii): As one of the most important transport routes in Europe, the Middle Rhine Valley has for two millennia facilitated the exchange of culture between the Mediterranean region and the north.
Criterion (iv): The Middle Rhine Valley is an outstanding organic cultural landscape, the present-day character of which is determined both by its geomorphological and geological setting and by the human interventions, such as settlements, transport infrastructure, and land use, that it has undergone over two thousand years.
Criterion (v): The Middle Rhine Valley is an outstanding example of an evolving traditional way of life and means of communication in a narrow river valley. The terracing of its steep slopes in particular has shaped the landscape in many ways for more than two millennia. However, this form of land use is under threat from the socio-economic pressures of the present day.
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