The Lower Rhine

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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 here.
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.

Accessing 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.

Accommodation: 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 before.

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 mother.

On 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 harbour.

A visit to the Landscape Park - North Duisburg
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.

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