Saturday, 4 October 2014

Rhine Falls - largest waterfalls in Europe

As the more pleasant weather approaches we’re given the opportunity to take a look away from the covered cities and the mountains with their gradually receding snowlines, and one of my favourite fairer weather attractions has to be the Rhine falls at Schaffhausen. Lying in one of the Northern most parts of the country, an hours train ride from Zurich, the falls are located on the High Rheine between Germany and Lake Constance and are believed to have been formed in the last ice age, approximately 14,000 to 17,000 years ago. One of the most intriguing aspects is the formation of the falls themselves, during the Wurm Glaciation, the Rhein was pushed to a channel far south of its existing course, and the previous courses of the river, now filled with gravel, can still be seen.

As well as being accessible from Zurich by train, if you have the time for it, there is the fantastic river cruise along the Rhein you can take afterwards, either the full 5 hours to Kreuzlingen on the shores of Lake Constance, or the shorter route in which you leave the boat at Stein am Rhein. On the full 5 hour cruise you are taken past many sites of historical and natural significance, from the Munot Fortress, built in the middle ages, at one end of your journey in Schaffhausen, past the medieval town of Stein am Rhein, with more than 1000 years of history, including its involvement in the reformation and it being one of the few sites that suffered at the hands of the allied airplanes towards the end of WW2. Not to mention the breath-taking views of Lake Constance.

When at the falls, with their claim of being the largest plain waterfall in Europe, at 150m wide by 23m tall, with the average water flow being 700 m³/s, there is plenty to be seen, from the awe inspiring views of the falls themselves, accessible by foot, at viewing platforms or boat tours, upon which you can get up close below the falls. There is also the on-site tourist information points detailing the history of the surrounding former mills, and old course of the river and the town of Neuhausen am Rheinfall, where the Schloss Worth Castle, and Villa Charlottenfels, a castle like building originally intended to house a factory in the 1850’s.

One of the most striking features of the falls, is the Rheinfallfelsen, a large rock remnant of the original limestone cliff, that stands in the middle of the falls, eroded very little over the years it stands almost as a monument to how pure the water has been, that has flowed from Lake Constance through the falls over the years, meaning minimal sedimentary erosion. The geological wealth of the area is just another of its great attractions.

Between the wealth of interesting history and geology surrounding the place, the awe inspiring views of the falls, the further sites of interest along the river and the great range of local walks and cycle paths, it really is a Swiss spectacle not to be missed!
Our excursion now includes the cruise along the Rhine, entry to Rhine Falls, the Glass Elevator, Belvedere Walk & Museum. All available at - ENJOY!

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