To many people, the idea of typical German scenery is a broad, winding river passing between steep banks covered in vineyards and pretty villages. Castles perch on the tops of hills. This is typical of parts of the 823 miles long Rhine River. It forms Germany´s border with Switzerland and the Alsace region of France, before flowing northward through Germany and the Netherlands to the North Sea. There are many stories about the Rhine. Perhaps the most famous is the legend of the Lorelei, a maiden whose beautiful voice was said to lure sailors onto rocks in the middle of the river.
The Rhine valley is an ancient trading route. The river is still busy with barges today. It takes about eight days to carry cargo from Basel in Switzerland to the Dutch port of Rotterdam. This great waterway encouraged many large industrial cities to grow up along the Rhine.