UNESCO was doing more than simply handing out an accolade when it conferred World Heritage status upon the unique landscape along this stretch of the Rhine between Rüdesheim and Koblenz. Anyone travelling north-south along the river soon notices that the Rhine valley loses its expansive nature at this point. The rocks become craggier, the slopes steepen and the valley becomes a giant gateway, opening up at either end as if to keep a watchful eye on all those passing through. And everyone had to pass this bottleneck: the merchants and traders, the kings, emperors and church dignitaries, the Romans and Franks, the Russians, Prussians and Frenchmen, the shrewd realists as well as the ‘Rhine Romanticists’ who were bewitched by the spirit of the landscape. The river carved out this narrow, 65 kilometre long gorge through the Rhenish Slate Mountains, giving birth to a cultural and natural landscape which is one of its kind in Europe. It was the great diversity and beauty of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley which led UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Site in 2002, adding it to the famous List which came into existence with the World Heritage Convention of 1972.
The central concern of the Convention is the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage. Inclusion in the List leads to far greater recognition at an international level as well as a heightened sense of awareness at the site itself.