The Romans were here
The Burgundians were here
The Oranges were here
The Spanish were here
The Swedes were here
The Lorrainers were here
The Austrians were here
The French were here
The Prussians were here
And I was here
from Hanns Dieter Hüsch, Am Niederrhein, 1987
The Niederrhein is the region along the Rhine in the western part of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populated federal state.
However, the Lower Rhine is not defined geologically, historically, politically or culturally, and so it is boundless to a certain extent. Its inhabitants nevertheless feel they are Lower Rhine people, independent and free in spirit, connected to the great world through the broad river, its lively ship traffic and the migratory birds passing through.
You can recognise the typical Niederrheiner by his Low-German dialect, his sometimes (for foreigners) incoherent language, and his interest in everything and everyone.
We could only visit a few places on the Niederrhein during our short trip by car, but of course there is much more to explore, and the best way is by bike. We started our tour in the industrial city of Duisburg on the right side of the river Rhine.
If you have ever wondered why the new Chinese Silk-Road leads to Duisburg, you might find the answer here: the inland harbour of Duisburg with all its facilities is considered the largest inland port in the world.
Here at the confluence of the rivers Ruhr and Rhine, stately ships lie at anchor and wait for the next tour across the world's seas via the seaports of Amsterdam, Emden, Rotterdam, Antwerpen or Hamburg.
The Ruhr Area offers a good combination of waterways, roads and railways so that various goods can be optimally shipped and transported.
The 21 public harbour basins have a water surface of more than 180 ha, the shore length is 40 km, 15 km of which are transhipment shores with railway siding - and because of that Duisburg has more than 700 bridges.
In Duisburg-Homberg we crossed the Rhine to go northwest making more and more distance between us and the industrial region Ruhrgebiet.
First we touched Moers, where in his youth my companion had to go on Sunday afternoon walks with his parents. The former district town of Moers is particularly well known as a shopping town and is home of a world-renowned music festival for music beyond the mainstream.
Following the Rhine, we arrived at Rheinberg, where my companion was born and used to live - like Claudia Schiffer, the famous model.
The old town of Rheinberg (approx. 28 m above sea level) is considered by its inhabitants as the centre of the Lower Rhine.
In any case, in Rheinberg you can be sure there that the inhabitants of the neighbouring towns are also Lower Rhine citizens with their cultured language (Rheinische Mundarten Band 9 - Rheinberger Wörterbuch, Theodor Horster, Köln 1996).
Since the relocation of the Rhine bed due to flooding in the Middle Ages, the city centre of Rheinberg is no longer located directly on the shores of the river Rhine.
However, its district of Orsoy has a beautiful Rhine promenade on the top of a dike, where you can count the passing ships, and there is a car ferry to the right side of the Rhine to Walsum.
We visited another interesting place on the left side of the Rhine.
The Kamp monastery in the district Kamp, is known beyond the region. Founded in 1123, it was the first Cistercian abbey in the German-speaking region. Its baroque terraced garden was part of the North Rhine-Westphalia Garden Show 2020.
Kamp-Lintfort is a former mining town, which today houses the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences together with the city of Kleve.
From Kamp-Lintfort we continued our trip to the more agricultural part of the Niederrhein.
Walbeck is a small village in the former county of Geldern, which is considered the asparagus metropolis of the Lower Rhine. The village celebrates a special day dedicated to asparagus with a parade.
Furthermore, an asparagus princess and her grenadier are chosen. Here in Walbeck you are very close to the Dutch border and the river Meuse (Maas) and the Rhine is 35 km away.
Instead of going shopping in the Netherlands, as my companion used to do in his childhood, we drove further north to Kevelaer.
The heart of the pilgrimage city of Kevelaer is the Square with the Chapel of Mercy, the destination of many pilgrims.
The hexagonal dome was built around the original wayside shrine allowing the believer to pass very close to the image of the Virgin Mary.
From Kevelaer we went back close to the river Rhine to visit Xanten.
Xanten (lat. Castra Vetera or Xantum) is a regional metropolis in the district of Wesel.
About 2000 years ago, a Roman legionary camp, Vetera and Colonia Ulpia Traiana, the most northern Roman base on the European mainland, was located in the immediate vicinity of the city centre.
In the early middle ages, a new settlement was built over the old Roman cemetery, the later Xanten with the monastery and then the cathedral of St. Victor. The legendary origin of the settlement is a martyr's grave.
In the Nibelung’s saga, Xanten is mentioned as the alleged birthplace of the hero Siegfried. Therefore, Xanten markets itself as a Roman, cathedral and Siegfried city.
In 1977, the Archaeological Park Xanten (APX) was opened on a part of the former Roman Colonia. In the meantime, it has been greatly expanded and now houses the LVR Roman Museum.
Between the park and the Rhine, two quarry ponds became the leisure centre of Xanten (Xanten North Sea and Xanten South Sea). In 1988, Xanten became the first state-recognised resort in the district of Düsseldorf, and since 2014 it is a climatic health resort.
On our way to the north, we passed Kalkar. Here you see a picture of the historic market square in Kalkar with its stepped gable houses, the Gothic town hall, and the old court lime tree.
It is also worth visiting the St. Nicolai church with its nine late Gothic oak carved altars, sculptures, paintings, treasury and modern stained glass art; the Stadtwindmühle, a windmill; and the small Rhenish town of Grieth with its promenade, the leisure parks in Wissel and Hönnepel, and the Burg Boetzelaer castle in Appeldorn.
Further north we visited the castle Schloß Moyland, where we could enter the museum on behalf of the German Semester with the friendly permission of the museum authority to take a "selfie" (without paying the entry fee).
The castle Schloss Moyland in the city of Bedburg-Hau is a museum for modern and contemporary art, as well as an international research centre dedicated to the artist Joseph Beuys.
The museum’s collection is based on the former private collection of the brothers van der Grinten and is preserved and displayed in the historic castle and park complex. It is also the site of the Joseph Beuys Archive and the museum library.
Driving north we reached Kleve with its castle Schwanenburg and its hilly city center.
Kleve is a city close to the Dutch border which still has much to show from its rich history as the former spa town of Bad Cleve: the Schwanenburg castle as the symbol of this local administrative centre with the Schwanenturm tower, which can be seen from miles around; the baroque gardens with their amphitheatre; and the museums the Kurhaus (spa house) Kleve and the B.C. Koekkoek-Haus, both with an impressive art collection.
Another special highlight is the handcar route from Kleve to Groesbeek in the Netherlands via Kranenburg.
Our final destination was the city of Emmerich on the right side of the Rhine. Taking a walk on the river promenade in Emmerich, we enjoyed the view of Germany’s longest suspension bridge.
Just north of the bridge, the border between Germany and the Netherlands follows the Rhine for some kilometres until the river flows into its estuaries Waal and Nederrijn.
There are be numerous other places in Niederrhein that could be mentioned here as destinations for excursions, but I only wanted to mention here those that my companion could show me during our short trip.
In any case, Duisburg is worth a harbour tour and the Niederrhein a bicycle trip.