Tuscany almost on your doorstep

The Bergstrasse and Italy's famous region have a lot in common

 

Dream holidays in sunny Italy are usually connected with the name of one region: Tuscany. Neither the Dolomite mountains nor the beaches of the Mediterranean or the Adriatic Sea are so unique in character as Tuscany.

 

Whoever is seeking such holiday bliss next door so to speak, in Germany, has struck it lucky with the Bergstrasse region. No 1000km drive, no giant traffic queues on the motorway… the Bergstrasse between the Rhine and Neckar rivers is 'Germany's Tuscany'.

This may have been realized by the Romans, who planted the first grapevines on the 'strata montana' 2000 years ago. And King Joseph II felt it too, during a trip along the Bergstrasse after his coronation in Frankfurt, as he called out enthusiastically: 'this is where Germany transforms into Italy!'

 

Heinrich von Kleist hinted in a letter to Ulrike that he was equally taken with the Bergstrasse region: 'Everything was so open there, so big, and the breezes so warm'. Matthias Claudius, who in 1776/77 was active in Darmstadt, dedicated his evening song, 'the moon has risen', to the Bergstrasse region. Possibly the most beautiful reference to the Bergstrasse was made by Adele Schopenhauer, the philosopher's sister, with an entry in her diary: 'it seemed to me that there could never be a lack of anything here. Flowers, fruit, leaves – everything is so lavish here, so big. Plants and greenery shoot out brightly from between every rock and there do not seem to be any worries!' Goethe praised the Bergstrasse wine as the most charming feature of its countryside.

 

Of course, that wonder over the Bergstrasse has changed somewhat since then, as new roads, new housing and residential areas have been built. Yet the astonishing similarity of this countryside, one of the warmest in Germany, to Tuscany, remains. It is here that the slopes of the west edge of the Odenwald forest meet the expanses of the Upper Rhine lowland plains to produce a mosaic of unique beauty. This is where fine wines and a wealth of fruit and vegetable plantations ripen upon fertile soil. This is where castles, palaces, cloisters and churches display evidence of over 2000 years of history.

 

Traces of the Tuscan love of life can be found in the Bergstrasse region in many town, wine and traditional celebrations. Even Mediterranean blooms and flowers of the wonderful Tuscan gardens can be recreated in the Bergstrasse region in the splendid parks lying between Darmstadt and Heidelberg. One impressive example is Weinheim, with its lush flowers along its green mile, with its over 140 tree species from all over the world, particularly with its exquisite cedars from the Mediterranean area or the 'Staatspark Fürstenlager' in Bensheim-Auerbach, which is home to the oldest sequoia in Europe.

 

The Bergstrasse region can even rightly compare with Tuscany's many artistic treasures. The splendor of Art Nouveau in Darmstadt's cityscape with its famous Mathildenhöhe artists' colony, Lorsch cloisters, extolled as a World Cultural Heritage Site, the unscathed half-timbered houses over 400 years old in the old town, castles, museums, art halls, galleries and theaters in Darmstadt and Heidelberg, concerts with international following and productions on the open-air stages, make 'Germany's Tuscany' a great artistic and cultural experience.

 

All this is within easy reach for most German holidaymakers: a few hours drive by car or in comfort by train, without having to take the laborious route over the Alps.

 

 

Info: Bergstrasse Tourism Service

Grosser Markt 9, D-64646 Heppenheim/Bergstrasse, Germany

Tel. +49 (0)6252-131170; Fax – 131173

or +49 (0)6201-874451