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The Rhine River In Flames Festival

The Rhine in Flames, "Rhein in Flammen", is a spectacular annual "Fire, Water, Light and Culture" festival, staged along stretches Germany's longest river, the Rhine. Beginning in the spring it continues until early autumn.

Its origins are in the 1930's although war and indifference brought the festival days to an end, but a successful revival began in the mid eighties, and the first of five displays is held in May.

Centered around Bonn, Germany's former capital, Die Nacht der Bengalfeuer, "Nights of Bengal Fire", is an interplay of music, fire, water and light with 60 illuminated ships traveling from Bonn to Linz. Past mountains and castles bathed in light, and under a sky filled by multicolored firework displays.

The festival continues for one night in July and August, with two displays in September; in different locations along the river and each having its own theme.

July's theme is "The Night of Fire Magic", Die Nacht Des Feuerzaubers, and floodlit boats travel alongside the picturesque and ancient towns of Trechtingshausen, Bingen, Rueddesheim, and Assmannshausen, on the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. Often known as the Rhine Gorge it is not far from Frankfurt, and is an area of Germany settled in, or conquered by, among others the Celts and later the Romans.

For centuries this has been one of the country's major wine regions. With its stunning beauty, fairytale castles, terraced vineyards and steeped in history and culture, it is one of Germany's UNESCO Heritage Sites.

As the night draws in at around 10 o'clock, and accompanied by the echoing of firecrackers, a first firework display begins below Trechtingshausen's "Reichenstein Castle". An ancient and extraordinary background to a dazzling cascade of color, light and stars.

August is "The Procession to Coblenz", Strecke Spay-Koblenz, where an original festival first took place in 1766.

With its 70 ships, castles, mountains, and centuries of history ablaze with light, its procession is perhaps the most eye-catching.

The first in September is Die Nacht der Tausend Feuer, "The Night of a Thousand Fires", and accompanied by music it travels from St. Goar to Oberwesel featuring some of the most spectacular of the firework displays.

Then comes the season finale.

On the third Saturday of September, between St. Goar and St. Goarshausen. It is "The Night of Lorelei", Die Nacht der Loreley, named after the legend of the beautiful water spirit "Lorelei", who bewitched the hearts of seamen and lured them to their deaths.

Although these were probably caused by the very strong current, and rocks just below the waterline, sinking their ships.

A gigantic firework display takes place on both sides of the river and the procession passes the "Loreleyfelsen", a rock towering over 120 meters, almost 400 feet, above the waterline.

The riverside panorama when traveling down the Rhine River is spectacular and inspiring at any time of year, but the massive light show of historic buildings and monuments, together with an illuminated flotilla of ships, makes viewing from a boat even more impressive.

Tens of thousands of tourists and locals line the banks of the river, enjoying not only the party atmosphere and live music but also a free view. Despite being summer evenings the lights from the illuminated, garlanded and crowded ships are mirrored in the water as they sail by the floodlit towns; their churches, castles, palaces, and centuries of living history, ablaze with lights. A fascinating scene intensified as darkness falls.

The heavens seem ablaze with the sight and sound of fireworks, a multicolored glow highlighting surroundings, from castles and historic ruins to steeply sloping vineyards. Together with the glimmering water of the Rhine River, its fleet of illuminated ships silhouetted against a night sky, and the historic riverside and hillside buildings bathed in lights, the evenings are an unforgettable and magical experience.

A summer and autumn in the beautiful and historic Rhine Valley, with "Rhein in Flammen".

Rhein in Flammen Festival photographs by courtesy Wikipedia.de photographers Holger Weinandt, King (Felix Koenig) and Manfred Heyde

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