There is a certain romanticism that surrounds the Rhineland. Maybe it’s visions of the Rhine being used as a transport route or maybe it’s the region’s natural and idyllic beauty. Either way, it’s of little surprise the Upper Middle Rhine Valley was awarded UNESCO status in 2002. Here we take a closer look at the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and wider Rhineland area to identify valuable learning experiences and landmarks that can support students across their subject areas.
More and more schools are seeking a destination that enables them to open the school trip abroad to multiple subjects and levels. This cross-curricular approach may be interpreted as an umbrella approach to learning but pick your school trip destination carefully and everyone from your history students to your linguists can benefit from an extended learning experience abroad.
Unpicking the universal value of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley
You may be used to UNESCO World Heritage Sites being just that, a site. For the Upper Middle Rhine Valley to gain UNESCO status goes to highlight the region deserves more than a rosette. Stretching 65km, the Middle Rhine Valley is a riverside gallery of historic castles, landmark towns and a dramatic scenery you’d expect from a Hollywood fantasy feature film.
For centuries, the area has had an impact on the work of writers and artists. The cultural exchange extended out further due to the Rhine acting as a crucial transport route established in prehistoric times. With such value, the steep embankments naturally extended to create a dotted line of towns. It’s significance to the region meant the Rhine Valley had already cemented its place on the map centuries ahead of its addition to the UNESCO books.
Students can learn a lot from a visit to the ‘Rhine Gorge’ beyond lessons on history and culture. Stretching from the ancient Roman city of Koblenz to Bingen, the area is also known for geological and industrial factors. The attributes of the region’s rocks are a fossil-bearing sedimentary rock mainly consisting of slate. Students can visit the high, steep slate rock of Loreley which is known not just for lurking on the side of the Rhine but for its place in folklore. Many schools choose to take a boat trip from Boppard to St Goarshausen to learn more about the legend of Loreley. This can coincide with a stop in Rudesheim located south of Koblenz.
The castles of the Rhine create their own fairy tales
Peppered with around 40 castles and fortresses, the Rhine sees school groups enter a fantasy-like land. Constructed over a period of around 1,000 years, some of the castles have faced falling into ruin. Nevertheless, sit atop the hilltops, the castles stand as watchmen to all whom travel the Rhine.
A must-see in the Rhine Gorge, Marksburg Castle was actually built for the protection of the town of Braubach as opposed to being used a residence for royalty. Marksburg has a storied past with the French emperor Napoleon giving the castle to his ally the Duke of Nassau following the abolishment of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. In the 19th century, Prussia seized ownership of the castle following the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Today, students can recount the history of the medieval stronghold. A firm favourite with students remains a visit to the torture chamber in Marksburg where the grizzly tales of the castle certainly spark the imagination!
TOP TIP: Schools can also benefit from taking to the panoramic terrace which overlooks the Rhine Valley or use the picnic terrace to pause for a packed lunch during their stop at Marksburg Castle.
The castles and palaces of the Rhineland are not limited to those students may see on a scenic boat trip along the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. A visit north to the UNESCO castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust at
Brühl will present school groups with a historic cluster of buildings that date back to the 18th century. Considered some of the earliest examples of Rococo architecture, students can learn about the creativity placed in the construction of the castles along with background to the owners and how the estates were used.
More to cathedrals than meets the eye
A visit to Cologne would not be complete without taking in Cologne Cathedral (Dom). That being said, it’s unlikely your students would fail to notice the cathedral dominating the skyline. The scale of the building is quite astounding with twin towers welcoming over 6 million visitors per year.
Construction of Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 but was not completed until 1880. Since the 1950s the cathedral has seen a restoration project take place after suffering serious damage during World War II. Students can enter the cathedral and scale the 533 stone steps to the viewing platform located at 330ft.
The Dom remains a place of pilgrimage for Christians and opens up conversations for religious studies. Students taking history or with an interest in architecture can also benefit from visiting the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and learning more about its place and significance to Cologne and wider region.
Some may have seen images of Aachen
Cathedral against a backdrop of Christmas markets but standing as the oldest cathedral in northern Europe, a visit here will see students dive into the story that linked the area of Aachen to the emperor Charlemagne. The first site in Germany to become UNESCO listed, its entry in 1978 takes note of the cathedral’s historical and religious significance.
The language of learning
Whether your students are studying German, history, art and design or religious studies, the Rhineland and UNESCO sites provide schools with numerous learning opportunities. History is not fixed to one castle or one palace, it’s attached to a region that for centuries has seen the coronations of kings of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, pilgrims, trade, composers and artists all create roots and leave legacies. Whether you want to target a particular subject for students on your school trip to Germany or expand the cultural experiences they may not otherwise take on outside of school, the Rhineland has something other regions only wish to offer – heritage.