Lahn River — 3 States, 3 Directions, 1 Great River

The Lahn River travels through three German states in three different directions (first east, then south-southwest, finally making an west-southwest turn to its mouth), and has more than two dozen tributaries. Not so easy, right?

Plus, not all 246 kilometers (153 miles) of the river are navigable; only 146 of it, most of which are in the middle to lower region of the river.

One thing that’s easy, is the Lahn River starts off at 602 meters (1,975 feet) above sea level on the Lahnkopf mountain in the Rothaargebirge. More specifically (and politically) on what’s known as the Lahnhof, which lies in the Nenkersdorf district of Netphen.

And get this… Nenkersdorf won the Unser Dorf soll Schöner werden (Our Village is Beautiful) award — and not once, but twice!

The Lahn now runs in a northeasterly direction from here to the town of Bad Laasphe, through the Rhenish Slate Mountains.

Yeah, I know, big deal — you wanna hear how it’s got lots of half-timbered houses, a castle (Schloss Wittgenstein), and how every late Summer/early Fall there’s the Kartoffelbratfest (a potato and wurst festival, yeah!).

Not too far downstream from here, leaving North Rhine-Westphalia behind, we’re in the Hessian town of Biedenkopf.

This place has a historical festival seven years in the making. The Grenzgang zu Biedenkopf happens every seventh year (2005, 2012,…) on the third weekend of August, attracting tens of thousands of visitors.

Other times of the year (or, would that be years) go see Biedenkopf’s nature park, the 14th century Schloss Biedenkopf (now a museum), and all the half-timbered houses you can count.

We’re going to be here in Hesse for a while, some 156 km of the Lahn runs through this state. And it’s OK, because it’s got towns like Marburg. Oh, what a place this is. Said to have the oldest Protestant university in the world, I guess that makes it educational as well as historical.

One famous resident was St. Elisabeth of Hungary — after leaving Wartburg Castle when her husband the Duke died. The St. Elisabeth Church in her honor is one of the most outstanding churches you’ll see anywhere.

Marburg, BTW, is where the Ohm River empties its water into the Lahn River.

Our next town along the Lahn is classy Gießen, another university town — and where a sub-camp of Buchenwald was located during World War II.

It was this conflict that destroyed 75% of the city — which has been rebuilt, now better than ever. You’ll see when you visit the Botanical Gardens, the Liebig Museum (a chemistry museum), and a Math Museum.

Uh, one plus one equals France? ;-)

Kidding. Kidding. I better get going before some university professor throws an eraser at me.

Following the Lahn town to Wetzlar, we meet up in a divided city to the Old Lahn Brigde (the city’s divided, BTW, because the Lahn slices it up), which used to be used for an old Pilgrimage Route to Lahnstein.

This is also where we meet up with the Dill River, one of the Lahn’s biggest tributaries.

Our last town in Hesse is Limburg an der Lahn, located between the Westerwald and the Taunus. The Old Bridge was once the Via Publica (not all of the Lahn’s bridges were this historical, but still wonderful). But, I’m sure you’re more familiar with its Limburger Dom, a most gorgeous Romanesque cathedral.

Limburg is also known for its Limburger Schloss, its Navy Museum, and its pieces that were once part of its original defense wall.

Crossing into Rhineland-Palatinate we find ourselves in Diez. Oh, I love Diez — with its awesome medieval castle along the river; but, also because of its Old World feel.

I’m sure its 13th century Collegiate Church and 14th century Stadtmauer have something to do with that.

When I see towns like this I forget kinda quick that I’m supposed to be talking about the Lahn River. So, to make up for that, sit by the Lahn in Diez and watch the swans swim by.

One thing: make sure you’re at the Lahn, since the Aar empties here in Diez.

You could always try fishing. You might catch a salmon or something. Uh, on second though… maybe not, since there are like 24 dams along the way. Good thing they added fishing ladders to let most of ’em though. How else was I going to catch my dinner?

Sorry, the Lahn loses again in Bad Ems, a spa town of writers, composers, queens, kings, tzars, and everything in between.

Maybe the Lahn doesn’t lose. It makes its presence known by slicing the town in half. Think about that while you’re having a spa treatment, or visiting the Spa & City Museum; the Mining Museum, and contemplating life’s issues at the mineral springs.

Its hot springs in Lahnstein, the last town on the Lahn before it becomes the Rhine, just south of Koblenz.

Lahnstein is where most of the yachting, boating, and other shipping goes on. You can watch all the boats go by at the Wirtshaus an der Lahn (Tavern on the Lahn), a drinking establishment that’s been here since the 17th century — with its tower from the 14th.

After a few beers, take a guided tour of the Burg Lahneck (that’s where they hold the Castle Festival); and then meet up with those following the Way of St. James Pilgrimage Route.

This isn’t the only scenic route. The Lahntal Bike Path and the Main-Weser Railway travel along its banks. Oh yeah, and its source lies along the Rothaarsteig, an awesome hiking trail. Plus, Lahnstein was once on the Roman Limes, a boundary of the Roman Empire.

All the better to see all the vineyards from this vantage point, I would think.

As beautiful as the Lahn River is, with all its shipping tunnels and nature areas, it is still subject to flooding. Don’t let a little water stop you from enjoying the Lahn, though, and whatever town you’ll find on its banks.

Now do you see why I said it wasn’t so easy to sum up the Lahn? It’s taken me along scenic routes and nature areas, medieval churches and castles. Nevermind, I think I did sum it all up fairly well. :-)


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