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Rhine In Flames, Fire, Water, Light Festival

The Rhein in Flammen, "Fire, Water, Light and Culture" festival, is spectacular, and is staged every year along the Rhine, Germany's longest river; beginning in the spring and continuing until early autumn.

The festival first began in the 1930's, although war and indifference brought it to an end, but a successful revival began in the mid eighties with the first of five displays held in May.

It is centered around Bonn, Germany's former capital in North Rhine-Westphalia, and Die Nacht der Bengalfeuer, "Nights of Bengal Fire", is an interplay of music, fire, water and light. Traveling from Bonn to Linz, 60 illuminated ships sail under a sky filled by multicolored fireworks, past castles, palaces and mountains bathed in light.

"The Rhine in Flames" continues in different locations along the river, for one night in July and August and two displays in September; each having their 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, Rüdesheim, and Assmannshausen, on the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. Often known as the Rhine Gorge it is not far from Frankfurt, and 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, and with its stunning beauty, fairytale castles, terraced vineyards, and steeped in history and culture, is one of Germany's UNESCO Heritage Sites.

As the night draws in at around 10 o'clock, and accompanied by the echoes of firecrackers, a first firework display begins below Trechtingshausen "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, the area where a festival first took place in 1766.

With 70 ships, castles, mountains, and centuries of history illuminated and 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", which accompanied by music travels from St. Goar to Oberwesel featuring some of the most spectacular of the firework displays.

Then comes the season finale.

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

Although the deaths were probably caused by ships sinking because of the strong current at that spot, and the rocks just below river's waterline.

A gigantic firework display takes place on both sides of the river and the procession passes the "Loreleyfelsen", a rock that towers 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.

Lights from the illuminated, garlanded and crowded ships are mirrored in the water as they sail by the floodlit towns, churches, castles, palaces, and centuries of living history.A fascinating scene intensified as darkness falls.

The heavens seem ablaze with the sight and sound of fireworks, a multicolored glow highlights 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".

Photos: May Rhein in Flammen with Schloss Drachenburg bathed by red Bengal lights, photographer and copyright Der Rheinländer via fotocommunity.de, Burg Katz on the Rhine by King (Felix Koenig) courtesy Wikipedia.de, and for Koblenz the night sky over the statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I at Deutschen Eck with the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, via Rhein-Zeitung.de.

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