One of the things I've learned to love about the German people is the fact that they preserve their military history very well, regardless of whether or not they won or lost the battle. That Remagen should be such an example demonstrated the long-standing bond that has developed between the German and American peoples, especially through the Cold War.
Located just a short distance from Bonn, Remagen is a beautiful little town that serves as a museum and living tribute to a significant event during the Allies' push eastward through Germany in the spring of 1945. Remagen was the point of the first successful crossing of the Rhine River by the Allies. While crossing at Remagen didn't provide any great military advantage at the time, it served a symbolic purpose, spurring the Allies to speed their advance eastward rather than continue deliberately in accordance with Eisenhower's original plans.
The main historical attraction are the sets of Remagen Railroad Bridge Towers, the remnants of the one bridge captured intact by the Allies (though it was partly damaged and collapsed into the Rhine ten days later). Both sets of Towers are visible in the first photo, and just beyond one can see the former railroad tunnel, now bricked up and converted into a mushroom farm. The railroad line the original traveled across this bridge has never been rebuilt, giving way to the modern line that follows the Rhine north to south.
The Towers are a museum, commemorating the battle at Remagen. Pictures of the town and portraits of the key figures are shown.
The hill across the river is called Erpeler Ley, the top of which has a cross and two flags that serve as a monument to the battle and the lives lost. Accessing the top is a challenge as the roads are windy and narrow, cutting through a populated section. But there's a great reward for getting to the top, as it provides a wonderfully scenic view of the River.
But even if you aren't into military history, Remagen is a great little town on the Rhine. It is loaded with beautiful, well-maintained buildings, churches, castles, and monuments. This picture shows just a sampling of the building decor you will encounter as you walk along the train tracks. Remagen has a sizeable pedestrian zone downtown with excellent shopping ... a good alternative for those wanting to get away from the crowds and high prices of nearby Bonn and Cologne.
The riverside is an excellent place to dine or take a relaxing walk along the river. Remagen has its share of small marinas, and river taxis and cruises run often during summer. The most popular way to get across the Rhine is by ferry, and ferries run even 10-15 minutes.
Overlooking the west bank of the Rhine just north of the downtown is the Apolloneriskirche, pictured here. It has a great observation deck that is only open to parishioners on Sundays. Pedestrians reach it via a dirt trail that passes a series of roadside monuments representing each of the 14 Stations of the Cross, and the church grounds contain an outdoor crypt and an abbey.
Further down the river is one of the Rhine's many castles, perched even higher than the Apolloneriskirche (but too far away from me to visit given my limited available time).
The Remagan trip was both enlightening and educational. It was a great town to visit, and I appreciated the chance to learn a little more about World War II in the process.
Trip taken 13 March 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin