The Baltic region is best known for the Hanseatic League, a powerful trade league of cities and city-states that dominated the political environment of Northern Europe through to the end of the Middle Ages. Their influence can be felt across Northern Europe, but today it is most visible in the brick cityscapes of Lübeck, Wismar, and Stralsund. As the League declined, it was supplanted by new powers, the Dukes of Mecklenburg and Pomerania.
Brandenburg formed the core of the modern German state. Around the royal and later Imperial capital of Berlin, the state grew from an impoverished medieval colony to form a European great power. The region is formed from three medieval marches, which represent the progress of German colonization over the 12-14th centuries. Beyond Berlin, the region is known for its cultural landscapes of beautiful riverside towns and inspiring palace and garden complexes.
Franconia is, in essence, an alternate spelling of France, as both refer to the same Germanic tribe. The Franks settled along the Main, bordered by the Bavarians to the South and the Saxons to the North. The spectacular achievements of the Franks can be seen in the great monuments of Würzburg, Nürnberg, and Bamberg and the countless towns, castles, and monasteries to their name.
The quiet forests and fields of the Hessen and Nassau families mask the dynamic nature of the lands they ruled over. Both the deep-rooted Catholic traditions of the Fuldaer Land and the dynamic Urban landscapes of the Wetterau contrast deeply with the rest of the pastoral and protestant landscapes. This is a land of sleepy towns of half-timbered houses and ancient castles.
In a forested vale between the Maas and Rhine Rivers and among crumbling ruins of a Roman bath town, Charlemagne founded the capital of his new Empire, Aachen. Around it emerged cities built on trade and the arts. Cologne, Maastricht, Liege, and others formed a brilliant cultural light for the new Kingdom. As the Empire aged and faded into irrelevance, so did the Rhine-Maas region, a victim of shifting trade routes and wartime devastation.
In the beginning, Saxony ruled the Empire, as the Ottonian dynasty made it her capital region. Saxony today is a diverse land focused on the families that emerged from the collapse of the Saxon tribal duchy in the early Middle Ages. In the north, the remnants of the Welf fought over their Ottonian legacy. In the East, the Saxons started their colonization of Slavic lands. In the South, the Wettin dynasty squabbled over inheritance but eventually built a nation that could challenge the Emperor.
Swabia is an ancient land, home to the greatest Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and modern Germany’s most unintelligible dialect. Fractured into parts during the Middle Ages, the region is known for its many Imperial Cities, resplendent churches, and inspiring palaces. Of the regions in modern-day Germany, Swabia offers one of the richest travel experiences, from its world-class heritage sites to its strong cultural identity.
For travelers today, the Rhine valley allows us to experience the imperial majesty of a forgotten Empire. Soaring cathedrals, sweeping vineyards, and secluded mountain fortresses dot an ancient landscape. Though scarred by the tragedy of war, there is still much to see and experience in this region today.
Westphalia was the original home of the Saxon people and one of three great divisions of the Saxon kingdom, the others being Engern and Eastphalia. This is a flat land dominated broken only by a low range of hills separating the Ems basis from the Weser. Here you find large and ancient cities rising from the plains sprinkled with timeless villages and moated castles.