Germany's most famous rock on the Rhine River, the Lorelei, is also home to a concert hall, hostel and other facilities. Now the area is set to get a facelift, but protestors are mourning the change with white crosses.
The plan is to construct a new leisure center on the Lorelei, set to include a central promenade, a path to the top of the cliff, an outdoor music venue and even a new hotel. Thursday marks the groundbreaking of the major renovation project, which is to be completed in 2018.
"It's a huge chance for the region," said Mainz's Interior Minister Roger Lewentz. "The internationally famous myth of the 'Lorelei' can be experienced once again." Walter Schumacher, the former secretary of culture for the state of Rhineland-Palatinate had once called the existing facilities on the famous bluff "pretty filthy." The project aims to change that.
The Lorelei - a rock formation on the Rhine River near the town of Sankt Goarshausen - is a popular tourist attraction of mythical proportions. It was German writer Clemens Brentano who first associated the rock with a female character in an 1801 poem. The woman is accused of bewitching men and causing them to die. She ends up climbing the Lorelei, where she falls to her own death.
Poet Heinrich Heine picked up on the theme himself in his famous 1824 poem "The Lorelei." In it, a female figure sits atop the Rhine rock, singing and combing her long hair. She is so beautiful that she distracts the passing ship captains, which crash against the rocks in the windy river.
While the Lorelei is certainly not a bringer of good luck, according to the myth, it has been a popular destination for travelers, since it offers an exquisite view of the Middle Rhine region.
Protesters set up 200 white crosses
The existing music venue, constructed during the Nazi period, is set to get a 6-million-euro ($6.7-million) update, funded by the organizers, the city of Sankt Goarshausen and the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Internationally renowned bands like Genesis, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2 have all performed at the venue.
The existing camping site, hotel and hostel, which sees 16,000 overnights per year, are set to be closed to make way for a new hotel.
"We need a renovation," Rainer Knecht, who heads the toboggan run on the Lorelei, told German news agency dpa. "Time doesn't stop, but here it has stopped." However, for Knecht, the changes are too radical, particularly the partial demolition of the hostel and closure of the hotel.
Knecht is not alone with his concerns. Earlier this month, protesters set up nearly 200 white crosses reading "RIP Lorelei 2016" to mourn the loss of the bluff's existing flair - and a third of the trees in the vicinity.
Of the 390 surrounding trees, 130 are to be felled in order to open up visitors' view of the Rhine below. The plan has been approved by the nature protection authorities.
kbm/eg (with dpa)