Germany is a federal republic divided into 16 states. These states are called Bundesland (pl. Bundesländer) and each one of them has their fair share of places to visit and things to do. This series of posts titled “States of Germany” seeks to explore each state one by one and tell you a little bit about them. Feel free to post about things I have missed out on.
The state of North Rhine Westphalia called Nordrhein-Westfalen in German is the place I call home and this is why the first post in this series is about this particular state. Referred to as NRW for short by most people, this state is the largest in terms of
population of all the German states. It is also considered the most multicultural and open-minded and has the largest
concentration of big cities in the country. NRW was formed post-World War 2 by the merger of the former Prussian administrative regions of the Rhineland, Westphalia and Lippe. This can be seen in the state emblem as well. The flowing river on the field of green signifies the Rhineland, the rearing horse Westphalia and the flower at the bottom, Lippe*.
NRW lies in western Germany and is the most populous state with a population of more than 34 million.
The state capital is Düsseldorf where the state parliament (Landtag) lies. The state parliament is tasked with legislating all laws implementable solely in North Rhine-Westphalia.
NRW has a little bit of everything folded into one neat little package of a state. It has great natural and man made sites which I will explore in just a bit. But first, for those who have not been here before, let me tell you a little bit about all the regions in the state. In the middle lies the Ruhr area known as the Ruhrgebiet or Ruhrpott.
It is the former industrial and mining heartland of the country and still has many important industries. The Ruhr area gets its name from the Ruhr River and is made up of several cities close together. It is the 5th most populous metropolitan conglomeration in the EU. The area is known for being young, vibrant and very multicultural and open-minded.
To the west of the Ruhr area is the Lower Rhine region which is known for its flat nature and concentration of villages and small towns. To the east of the Ruhr area are the Sauerland and Siegerland regions which are mountainous regions. Winterberg in Sauerland is a famous ski destination. To the north of this region is the Teutoburger Forest region which is made up of a lot of nature and is sparsely populated as compared to the rest of the state. The Externsteine is a curious rock formation in the region. The biggest city in this region is Bielefeld – a city jokingly referred to as non-existent. Eastwards from the Teutoburg Forest region is the Münsterland which is a very agricultural region like the Lower Rhine region. It takes its name from the prestigious university city of Münster.
To the south of the Ruhr area is the Bergisches Land which is a woody area dotted by lakes and creeks. The village of Neandertal lies in this region where the famous Neanderthal was discovered. It has close links to the Cologne-Bonn region which lies to its south. Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city and is famous for the Cologne Cathedral and for its gay community and tolerant atmosphere. Bonn was the former West German capital and still retains some federal ministries’ offices. The University of Bonn is a well-known and respected institution. Beneath the Cologne-Bonn region begins the Eifel region which stretches into the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and France. The Eifel is known for its hilly terrain and natural beauty. The regional center is Aachen which is a pretty and very old city.
To cap it all of, here’s a list of things to do when in NRW:
- Climb the 533 steps to the top of the Cologne Cathedral and enjoy the mesmerizing view from up top.
- Discover and walk through the quaint, narrow lanes in Münster.
- Ski in Winterberg.
- Take a boat tour of the Rhine.
- Celebrate the Karneval in Cologne.
- Quench your thirst with an Altbier (a kind of ale) native to Düsseldorf’s Old City.
- Ride the famous Schwebebahn** in Wuppertal.
- Stroll through the lovely town of Monschau during Christmas time, take in the architecture and the Christmas Market.
- Witness a football match in the famous Schalke 04 Arena in Gelsenkirchen.
- Visit the Haus der Geschichte and the Museum Mile in Bonn.
- Visit the grave of Charlemagne in the Aachen Cathedral.
- Go underground in an old coalmine in Bochum.
Apart from all this, there is much much more you should do and see when in North Rhine-Westphalia. One thing is for sure: this state won’t disappoint you.
*I felt very Game of Thrones-esque will doing all this.
**Just for the hell of it Google “Schwebebahn elefant” as well and check out the images.