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Lorelei Joins the Pyramids

Two historic cities and the Rhine valley in Germany have been added to UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list. Business owners near the chosen sites are hoping for a new influx of tourists.


Pretty as a postcard and now a World Heritage Site as well - the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.

Legend has it that Lorelei, a beautiful young damsel with blonde hair, once lured sailors on the River Rhine into the deadly cliffs that run along it as she sang from a plateau high above the water.

The region around the rock where Lorelei allegedly sat has taken its place alongside the Pyramids of Gizeh and the Grand Canyon as a member of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list.

Last year the 21 members of UNESCO’s committee added the entire Upper Middle Rhine valley, including the Lorelei, countless wineyards and many picturesque castles, to the cannon of protected sites at its annual convention in Budapest. This week two German town centers join the elite listing: the well-preserved medieval centers of Stralsund and Wismar, both on the Baltic Sea.


UNESCO has maintained its list of cultural and natural world treasures since 1972. So far there are 730 sites in 125 countries, 27 in Germany alone.

Medieval Architecture and Luscious Valleys

The two coastal towns in the region of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, convinced the committee with their authentic medieval centers, still replete with historic buildings, streets and plazas.

Both traditional sea-trading towns have harbors built after conventions of the Hanse trading union, which during its 15th-century heyday linked 160 towns in Germany, England and Norway.

Alter Markt in Wismar

Old Market Square in Wismar

“Both towns are ideally developed Hanse cities from the 14th century,” according to a UNESCO statement.

The luscious Rhine valley added as a “cultural landscape of great diversity and beauty.”

What’s in it for us?

For the German sites, making the list mainly means an increase in prestige.

“Many people think that we’ll now be getting millions of euros, but the nomination has only symbolic value,” Peter Koslik, press spokesman of the town of Stralsund, told DW-WORLD.

Only poor countries are eligible to receive money from the annual $ 4 million (4,028,000 euro) World Heritage Fond.

Membership Has Its Privileges

Nevertheless, officials are enthusiastic. “This will put us in the global spotlight and give the town an enourmous boost,” Koslik said. The nomination may also attract new flocks of global travelers, at least that's what the city's businesses are hoping.

“Tourism may finally become a real economic factor for our town,” said the Stralsund official. If all goes well, the coastal resort town may be able to compete with the Bavarian tourist-magnet Rothenburg on the Tauber in attracting visitors from Japan and the United States.

Managers of castle hotels on the Rhine River are also expecting increased numbers of guests. “Being made part of the World Heritage List is a great success and will positively affect business,” Gerd Ripp, manager of Schloss Villa Rheinfels in the town of St. Goar, told DW-WORLD.

“It is also a great responsibility, since we'll have to work harder to please our guests,” Ripp said. Currently the hotel manager is planning a 12 million euro renovation to his the medieval castle overlooking the Lorelei Valley.

For others, the nomination has been long overdue. “It’s about time the area receives acknowledgment as one of the most beautiful landscapes around,” said Christoph Arenz, proprietor of the Burg Reihenstein castle.

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