Germany’s rolling rivers: The serpentine Saar

The Saar
The Saar

Germany’s rolling rivers: The serpentine Saar

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

In this installment of the articles highlighting the attractions found near Germany’s rivers, we accompany you on a drive along the Saar, an area rich in pleasing vistas and fascinating industrial history.

A profile of the Saar: The Saar rises in the Vosges mountain range in northeast France and flows north for 152 miles before emptying into the Moselle River by the German town of Konz. Although it flows just slightly more through French territory than across German soil, for most of our journey we will be concentrating on the German sights. Some of the larger towns the Saar passes by include Sarreguemines in France; Saarbrücken, Völklingen, Saarlouis and Merzig in Saarland; and Saarburg in the Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The name Saar reflects Celtic origins, with “sara” being a phrase for streaming water.

Our starting point of Sarreguemines, France, is just an hour’s drive from Ramstein Air Base, and our destination of Konz, Germany is a 40-minute drive from Bitburg. 

Our journey begins: We start the day just over the French border in Sarreguemines, a city of some 21,000 residents. The Blies River defines the border between Germany and France for a 12-mile stretch before it converges with the Saar here. Those with a soft spot for dishes will fall hard for the Museum of Faience Techniques, where 200 years of ceramic-making tradition is brought to light, and fabulous creations from colorful frescoes to ornate statuary delights visitors. The museum, housed in the former residence of the ceramic factory’s director, features sumptuously appointed rooms. Adjacent to the museum is the Garden of Ceramics, a colorful oasis in summer months. Before leaving, take a stroll along the Saar, passing by the fabulously ornate Casino des Faienceries, built as a place of recreation for the ceramic factory workers, and boats docked on the river.

Spa culture: If relaxation in saunas, Jacuzzis and pools of warm water is your thing, you’ll no doubt enjoy a few blissful hours at the Saarland Therme near Kleinbittersdorf. Architectural flourishes give it a look similar to that of Moroccan styles, a fine backdrop for experiencing its special events organized on Saturdays in July and August.

Saarbrücken: Driving some 12 miles north, we enter Saarbrücken, where numerous attractions compete for our attention. This city of 180,000 inhabitants, with its winning combination of German coziness and French flair, offers a slickly renovated castle surrounded by a Baroque ensemble of buildings, along with numerous museums and galleries. The Ludwigskirche is considered an outstanding example of Protestant church architecture. Attractions alongside the Saar itself include a crane dating back to 1761, the circa-1546 Old Bridge and the Rabbiner-Rülf-Platz memorial site, which pays tribute to Saarland’s Jewish citizens murdered during the time of National Socialism. Just southwest of town, the expansive Franco-German Gardens offer family-friendly attractions including a narrow-gauge railway and a cable car. Be sure to budget extra time (and euros) for fine dining and shopping, as you’re spoiled for choice here.

Völklingen: Eight miles west of town we come to the town of Völklingen, where in decades past the iron and steel needed to build up an industrial society were produced by thousands of workers. When the Völklinger Hütte ironworks shuttered in 1986, its gigantic machinery and massive sheds were left standing, and today the compound is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a fascinating spot to explore. The complex also houses the ScienceCenter Ferrodrom, where more than 100 interactive displays amuse and educate. Numerous concerts, special events and exhibitions are staged here year-round.

Saarlouis: Perhaps you’re starting to wear down, and caffeine is in order? Read all about how the Café Plaisir delivered java bliss to a Stripes reporter.

Merzig: Merzig is famous for a product that’s not so typical to Germany: cider. Known locally as Viez, the town hosts a festival in honor of its beloved drink on the first Saturday of October each year.

Orscholz: A twisting, turning road leads up to the viewpoint known as the Cloef, a sight you don’t want to miss. Here you’ll find a viewing platform offering a stunning panorama of the Saarschlief, the point at which the river takes a 180-degree turn. The 138-foot-high observation tower is accessed by means of the Saar Loop Treetop Walk. Expect to pay an entry fee of 11 euros for adults and 9 euros for kids ages 6 – 14; those ages five and under enter free.

Mettlach: Villeroy & Boch is a respected name in the world of porcelain, and they are headquartered in this rather old-fashioned looking town. Peruse all the dish collections, Christmas tree ornaments, figurines and other intricately designed items at the Villeroy & Boch Outlet Shop. The Keravision and Tableware World of Discovery is a display of many of the beautiful objects produced over the company’s 250-year history. The highlight of a visit to this complex is the historic dairy, a beautiful room covered from floor to ceiling with 15,000 handcrafted tiles.

Saarburg: The treasure of this medieval town just 12 miles north of Mettlach is the remains of the castle guarding the town from its high perch. First mentioned in a document dating back to 964 A.D., it’s one of the oldest hilltop castles in all southwest Germany. A unique feature of lovely Saarburg is the waterfall smack-dab in its center, which plunges down a 65-foot drop into a stone gorge. A mill and a trio of still-turning waterwheels complete the idyllic scene.

Konz: The final ten miles of our journey take us through German wine country at its finest, where Riesling reigns as the king of grapes. The village of Wiltingen, home of many well-regarded wineries, might be worth a quick pit stop to stock up on the bounty of the grape, but beware – the wines here are among the most exclusive, and therefore expensive, in all Germany! If there’s time to spare at the end of the day, the Roscheider Hof Open Air Museum is certainly worth a visit. A village street, circa-1912 school classroom, houses and farm buildings paint a picture of life in the region over the past two centuries.

It’s been a long drive, but you’ve likely got something to show for your busy day. Wine, cider, dishes or a Christmas ornament are all great keepsakes; a camera full of images of scenic vistas and smiling faces even better, and precious memories best of all.

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