Our sixth route takes us across the south of Germany, with its array of unique World Heritage Sites. We will visit the world's longest Roman construction, travel to a fossil site and we'll stop by Regensburg.
The starting point of our route is Bad Homburg in Hesse. The Romans settled here some 1,900 years ago and built the longest construction in their history between Koblenz and Regensburg: the Upper Germanic Limes. The 550-kilometer ancient frontier and its fortifications are an engineering masterpiece, and has been a World Heritage Site since 2005. The Limes were constructed to separate the highly civilized Roman Empire from the "barbaric" Germanic tribes. Many remnants of the old Roman frontier were discovered during 19th century archeological digs. Today you can visit one of the fortified Roman military camps along the Limes - the Saalburg, near Bad Homburg. What makes the Saalburg unique is that it is the only restored Roman frontier fort in the world, complete with village and baths!
In Messel you can find out how the prehistoric world looked. The Messel Pit is what remains of a 47-million-year-old volcanic lake. Once surrounded by tropical primeval forest, today it is a unique site for ancient animal and plant fossil finds from the Eocene epoch.
Scientists have dug up some 30,000 fossils here, including bones from 40 different species of mammal. There is hardly a single site richer in fossils anywhere in the world, and some of its sensational finds include fossils of bats, prehistoric horses and crocodiles dating back long before man. The Messel Pit became the first ever UNESCO German World Natural Heritage Site in 1995.
Würzburg Residence and Gardens
One and a half hours to the east is the Würzburg Residence and Court Gardens, built from 1720 to 1744 as a seat for prince-bishops. The young mastermind behind this project was court architect Balthasar Neumann, who kept a tight grip on this construction for many years. Together with the best international architects, sculptors, stucco plasterers and painters of his time, he created what became an extraordinary Baroque palace. The huge ceiling paintings over the staircase and the wall paintings in the Kaisersaal - "Emperor's Hall" - are indisputable masterpieces by Venetian fresco painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The building, along with the Court Gardens and Residence Square, has been a World Heritage Site since 1981.
Our next stop is 100 kilometers further east in Bamberg. Holy Roman Emperor Henry II made this town his seat of power in the year 1007, and Bamberg was to become as great and powerful as Rome. But it developed into a unique early medieval model city that did not ape Rome, but followed its own urban design - at the end points of an imaginary Christian cross you'll find the old town's four collegiate churches, with the cathedral at the point of intersection. Inside the cathedral is the most famous symbol of the town: the Bamberg Horseman. The stone rider and his horse were created in the 13th century. The statue was sculpted in homage to the imperial couple Henry II and his wife Cunigunde, who are buried in the cathedral. Bamberg's Old Town was declared a World Heritage Site in 1993 and it includes the town hall, with the River Regnitz flowing around it, and the Alte Hofhaltung ("Old Palace"), the former bishop's residence.
The most recent addition to the list of World Heritage Sites in Germany lies 70 kilometers from Bamberg: the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth, which became a World Heritage Site on June 30, 2012. It was built in just four years and opened in 1750. Today the Margravial Opera House counts as one of the few surviving theater buildings from the 18th century in Europe. The interior decoration of the opera house is absolutely unique: Her you can find opulent stucco decorations, artfully painted stage sets and carved theater boxes in the Baroque style!
The last stop on our route is two hours further to the Southeast and has been a World Heritage Site since 2006 - the Old Town of Regensburg and the district of Stadtamhof. The Old Town and Stadtamhof are connected by the Stone Bridge. There are nearly 1,000 individual memorials in this medieval ensemble altogether. St. Peter's Cathedral, which was built in the High Gothic style of French cathedrals, is also worth a visit. Regensburg, which is over 1,800 years old, is the best-preserved medieval metropolis in Germany.