The Rhine in Flames, "Rhein in Flammen", is a spectacular annual 'Fire, Water, Light and Culture' festival staged along stretches of the Rhine, Germany's longest river, beginning in the spring and continuing until early autumn.
Although its origins go back to the 1930's war and indifference brought the festival to an end, however its successful revival began in the mid eighties and the first of five displays takes place in May.
An interplay of music, fire, water and light, Die Nacht der Bengalfeuer, "Nights of Bengal Fire" is centered around Bonn, Germany's former capital, and 60 illuminated ships travel from Bonn to Linz under a sky filled by multicolored firework displays, past mountains and castles bathed in light.
In different locations along the river the festival continues for one night in July and August, and two individual displays in September, with each celebrating its own individual 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 Rhein Valley. Often known as the Rhine Gorge it is not far from Frankfurt, and is an area of Germany settled in, or conquered by, amongst others originally the Celts and later the Romans.
For centuries this has been one of the country's major wine districts, a place of stunning beauty, fairytale castles and terraced vineyards, steeped in history and culture and, not surprisingly, is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
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, the original festival which dates from 1766, with its 70 ships, castles, mountains and centuries of history ablaze with light its procession is perhaps the most eye-catching.
Die Nacht der Tausend Feuer, "The Night of a Thousand Fires", is the first in September and travels from St. Goar to Oberwesel with a musical accompaniment and some of the most spectacular of the season's individual firework displays.
The finale of the season is on the third Saturday of September, between St. Goar and St. Goarshausen, "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.
Regardless of the time of year the riverside panorama when traveling down the Rhine River is both spectacular and inspiring, but the massive light show of historic buildings and monuments, together with an illuminated flotilla of ships, makes viewing it from a boat even more impressive.
However tens of thousands of tourists and locals line the banks of the river, and enjoy 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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