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Thanks to its huge international airport at the hub of Europe’s domestic air market, not to mention airfares from the U.S. that are cheaper (usually by hundreds of dollars) than to nearby capitals like Berlin and Paris and London, Frankfurt is usually no more than a way-station for in-transit travelers. But next time you’re scheduled through there, think about spending a couple of days exploring Germany’s banking city. You just might be surprised at how much there is to see and do there.
Judging from the mini-skyscrapers and hordes of bankers crowding its streets, you might not realize that Frankfurt is located right at the edge of one of Germany’s most famous wine regions, the Rheingau. At the heart of this little region crowded on the banks of the mighty Rhine, lies the tiny hamlet of Rüdesheim, which is just a quick trip from Frankfurt by car or on the train.
To get there, simply hop on one of the commuter trains that depart every half-hour or so from Frankfurt’s main train station, though be sure to check the schedule beforehand because some trains take an hour, and some trains take over two hours! Another option is to rent a car and drive the 45 minutes or so from the city. It makes for a picturesque journey and might be the better way to go if you want to get out into the countryside a little bit, or venture farther afield along the so-called “Romantic Road” of castles and vineyards along the Rhine.
When you fly into the Frankfurt airport, you’ll discover that the full name of it is actually the Frankfurt am Main Airport because Frankfurt is on the Main River. So, in fact, is the city of Mainz, as you may guess from the name. Before we get into the details of why you should visit the colorfully restored old town of this once powerful medieval city, we’re also going to give you a German pronunciation lesson.
You pronounce the city like the word "mines" in English, not "mains" like water main. Now that you know how to say it, here’s what you should see.
We’re not talking about the creepy crawlers that make your garden grow, we’re talking about the magnificent medieval city situated on the Rhine River about an hour south of Frankfurt. Worms was a bustling river port, crucible of the Reformation, home to one of the oldest Jewish populations in Europe, and setting of the epic German poem (and Wagner opera cycle) the Niebelungenlied. It also happens to make an excellent daytrip from Frankfurt since several trains depart for Worms from Frankfurt every hour, and cost about 11 euros for the hour-long trip.
Though much of the city was destroyed in World War II due to its position as a trading city on the Rhine, the medieval center has been carefully reconstructed in many places, and there are still plenty of sights to see. However, the city outside the Altstadt, or old town, is pretty industrialized, so stick to the center.
You might not have heard of the jewel-box town of Bernkastel-Kues, nestled on the banks of Germany’s Mosel River, but as home to some of the world’s most famous Riesling producers, it is one of the most visited wine destinations in Europe.
A Ride on the Autobahn:
To get there, you can take a two-hour train ride from Frankfurt to the town of Wittlich, about 13 miles away and hop on a bus from there…or you could just be lazy and rent a car at the Frankfurt airport and make the two-hour drive on the autobahn yourself. We’d suggest the latter, but just be sure to rent a car that’s on the small side since the cobbled streets in town are unbelievably narrow.
The town derives its hyphenated name from the fact that it is actually two towns: Bernkastel and Kues. Bernkastel, which actually means “Bear Castle” thanks to a few folkloric legends, has been inhabited since before Roman times (even back then, they were making wine), and has all the picturesque trappings you could want, including a ruined castle that was once the seat of the powerful archbishops of Trier, half-timbered houses colorfully painted with pagan symbols to ward off goblins and witches, a sculpture of bears playing in a fountain, and even a building in the main square whose façade transforms into an Advent Calendar in December. Quaint!
All this week Jaunted contributor Eric Rosen will be filling us in on his recent field trip, drinking his way through France. Any questions about what he saw, did and drank? Let us know.
You might not have heard of Reims, but it is the biggest city in the French region of Champagne. Several factors make Reims the perfect out-of-town daytrip from Paris. It takes less than an hour to get there. There is plenty to explore around the small city, so you don’t need to bother with a rental car. And did we mention that there is plenty of champagne to sample here? What more do you need?
Getting from Paris to Reims is easy enough on the TGV, with over a dozen trains a day each way, with the direct ones taking only about 45 minutes and costing under $30 each way. The only note of caution is that many trains stop at the Champagne-Ardenne station, so pay attention when buying your ticket to make sure it goes all the way to Reims itself.