to Europe with Air France
||From Bonn to Hoek van Holland,
Alexander Baatz takes us on a tour
of the Lower Rhine
The Lower Rhine region in the centre of
Europe is said to be one of the most influential in Europe.
This is not only due to the natural beauty, but also because
of the interaction of culture, tradition and the excitement
of two countries Germany on the right and the Netherlands
on the left of the river Rhine. The access to the Maas and
the Rhine has made the region an economic centre throughout
history and today the biggest industrial area is located
The region is easily accessible from the UK by coach, car
or air, with Ryanair offering direct flights to Weeze airport
in Düsseldorf; two-day tours show visitors the many
facets of the region, which encompasses Ostbrabant, Arnhem,
Nimwegen and parts of North and Central Limburg in the Netherlands,
as well as bordering areas in Germany. The Lower Rhine boasts
picturesque scenery, chocolate-box towns and cities, mighty
castles and magnificent palaces. It has as much to offer
in leisure activities and shopping as it does with historical
and cultural attractions.
the Lower Rhine: The infrastructure in the
area is excellent. Despite a dense road system, you
can reach the region via several airports such as
Düsseldorf International and Düsseldorf
Weeze. Or if you really like, you can access the area
by boat. On my trip I flew straight to the heart of
the Lower Rhine region, to Weeze Airport from London
Stansted where I met up with the region’s representative
from “2-Land”. “2-Land” is
an organisation set up in 2005 by the German &
Dutch Tourist board to attract tourism to both countries.
Have you ever thought of staying in a castle ruin or even
getting married there? If so, Schloss Hertefeld
is your destiny. The owners like to call it a Bed
& Breakfast deluxe and they have their reasons for doing
so. The castle was built between C14th – C16th. At
the end of the Second World War it got destroyed by Nazi
Germany in fear of British soldiers taking it as a base.
It was only in 1992, when the Duke of Eulenburg & Hertefeld
had the idea of rebuilding parts of it. Today you have the
choice of spending a night in one of the six different rooms
and apartments – experiencing a night you never had
For the first night I checked into the Hotel
“Van der Valk” in Cujk. Opened as a
restaurant in 1939, the family business quickly expanded
after the Second World War. Nowadays there are 55 settlements
& 20 Hotels all over the world with the mission statement
to provide hospitality to anyone. At “Hotel Haus Duden”,
named after Konrad Duden, the founder of the German orthography,
one can certainly find sometime away from the office stress.
The hotel’s 63 rooms split into a romantic “Stammhaus”
and a modern “Anbau” an atmosphere which was
once felt by the most famous denizen Konrad Duden, has been
preserved in such a way that you can relax in the hotel
or on the various activities outside.
On my last night, I stayed in the “Hotel
Steigenberger Hof” which is situated in the
city centre of Duisburg, right next to the opera and the
“City Palais” the newly opened shopping mall.
The name “Steigenberger Hof” is symbolic for
quality and luxury.
Gastronomy: Dinner was
at “Lippenschlösschen” in Wesel.
The owners of the restaurant, Jutta & Ullrich Langhoff
set themselves a goal of serving quality food prepared with
local ingredients. Together with other local gastronomes
and producers, they created the “Genussregion Niederrhein”
to promote regional food. And the concept works well, because
the Lower Rhine offers a great variety of food making it
possible for the members of the “Genussregion”
to cook high quality fresh food of high quality throughout
the year. The pure enthusiasm of the owners to exhibit the
concept of the “Genussregion” impresses anyone
and the taste of their food proves them right.
Places to visit: A bicycle
tour and boat cruise should always be on your agenda when
you are travelling the Lower Rhine area. It is the best
way to get in touch with the beauty of the area. “2-Land”
has specialised in those trips. While you do your tour,
they will take your luggage to your designated hotel and
take care of everything but the cycling.
On my first evening I took a tour through
the oldest city of the Netherlands, Nijmegen. Nijmegen is
a city of diversity. No city I had seen so far combines
the past and the present in such a natural manner. When
walking through the city you get the impression that the
face of the city is changing constantly – houses of
today are naturally implemented into the facade of the middle
ages. Although lying at the river Waal, a symbol for trade,
wealth & capitalism, Nijmegen is said to be the mother
of communism - it was the hometown of Karl Marx’s
my second day I went to the German side of the boarder
to see the former Roman city in the “Archaeological
Park Xanten”. The park has emerged as the trademark
of Xanten during the last 30 years of reconstruction.
If you come at the right time of the year you might
be lucky enough to see the Roman Festival which takes
place one weekend every two years and offers a marvellous
insight into the way the Romans lived 2000 years ago.
The Festival is run by more than 300 participants
including the Ermine Street Guard, the only British
group there. But the park offers more. In the Arena
for example you can see open air concerts and theatres.
The next day I spend some time in Duisburg,
a German industrial city. Duisburg is a former mining city.
At its peak more than 50% of German steel was produced there,
the most famous company being Thyssen-Krupp, one of the
biggest global producers nowadays. There is, however, more
to Duisburg than steel. Build on top of Roman relicts the
city re-emerged at the beginning of last millennium and
it was an inhabitant of Duisburg who invented the Atlas.
Today, Duisburg is a thriving city. Over the last decades,
it did not only manage to change from mining into the service
sector, it is also changing the image of the inner city.
Under the master plan of Sir Norman Foster the city is currently
working on the connection of the city centre with the harbour.
The harbour itself is the biggest inland harbour in Europe
and is an important hub in the international storage and
logistic business. Once a year, the “Hafenfestival”
is held, a festival to promote the awareness of the important
A visit to the Landscape Park -
This was my favourite part of my trip. The former Thyssen-Krupp
site which was shut down in 1985 after more than 80 years
produced 57 million tons of steel. The company’s last
shift became its beginning rather than its end. With EU
assistance, the North Rhine-Westphalia county and the City
of Duisburg as well as the face of the site changed and
a unique park was created. Today, all the 200 hectares of
public property are used in various ways. Those who want
to get on top of things can climb in the “Climbing
Garden” the biggest climbing site in Germany. Those
who would rather stay at the bottom can dive into the “Diving
Gasometer”. And those who simply enjoy a good view
can climb up more than 400 steps to the top of “Blast
Furniture 5” where you get a guaranteed panorama look
in more than 70 meter height. But this is not all. During
the summer, the park is used as an outdoor cinema and other
events. The most fantastic moments are offered by “Park
& Light”; a splendid piece of art created by the
English light artist Jonathan Parker, whose idea is to light
the park in different colours at night.
Accommodation & Experience Suggestions:
a hot breakfast at Holiday Inn - $20 value
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