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Hesse, or Hessen in German, is one of Germany's 16 "Bundesländer," or federal states, located in the central-west part of the country. The region is bordered by the states of Lower Saxony to the north, Thuringia to the east, Bavaria to the southeast, Baden-Württemberg to the south, Rhineland-Palatinate to the west, and North Rhine–Westphalia to the northwest. Hesse is Germany's greenest state, as over 42% of its area is comprised of woodlands. Some of the most prominent rivers are Fulda, Eder, Main, and Rhine. The largest city within the state's border is Frankfurt, located in the southern part of the region. However, the capital city is Wiesbaden, situated to the west of Frankfurt. Besides being Hessen's capital, Wiesbaden also serves as a notable cultural and historical attraction, as the city has been a spa and bath town since the Roman Era. Other attractions within the state's boundaries are the Wilhelmshöhe Park, and the Messel Pit Fossil Site, both protected by UNESCO. In terms of natural areas, the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, located in the northern part of the territory, is reportedly a popular destination among tourists seeking outdoor recreation such as cycling, hiking, and walking, to name a few.
Hesse's capital city, Wiesbaden, can be found on the Rhine River at the southern foothills of the Taunus Mountains. Apart from being the seat of the Hesse state's government, Wiesbaden has been known for being a bath and spa town ever since Roman times and throughout its history. The city was popular among the German aristocracy and royal family, but other famous people, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Brahms, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, frequented the city's baths as well. Reportedly, over 24 mineral and saline springs can be found in the town today, serving as a significant attraction to tourists seeking baths, spas, and medical recreation. Additionally, Wiesbaden is located in a mild climate area, surrounded by vineyards. The city and its adjacent territory are known for producing Sekt, German Champagne.
Frankfurt, one of Germany's largest agglomerations, is among the most prominent cities within the Hesse region. Frankfurt is located in the southern extremity of Hesse, in close proximity to the state's capital, Wiesbaden. Fully named Frankfurt am Main, the city functions as the region's banking and financial metropolis. However, Frankfurt also has a considerable number of historical and cultural sights to offer, some of them being the Old Town with the Römer (Town Hall), the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, Paul's Church, and the Städel Museum. Beyond this, Johann Wolfgang Goethe's birth house can be seen in the city, as the famous poet, playwright, novelist, and scientist was born in Frankfurt. Situated adjacent to his house is a Goethe Museum with a picture gallery.
In terms of famous people who were born and lived in Hesse besides J. W. Goethe, several others come from the region as well. One of them being the Grimm brothers, who wrote tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, the Little Red Cap, and more. From Hesse also comes Henri Nestlé, the founder of Nestlé, reportedly the world's largest food and beverage company. From the field of journalism, Paul Reuter, founder of Reuters news agency, comes from Hesse, as well as the automobile entrepreneur Adam Opel, the founder of the Opel car brand.
Several UNESCO-protected sites and landmarks can be found scattered throughout the region. One of them is Wilhelmshöhe Park, located in the northern part of the territory, near the city of Kassel. Wilhelmshöhe is the world's first Mountain park to be protected by UNESCO. According to UNESCO, Wilhelmshöhe Park is recognized as an "outstanding and unique testimony to European architecture." The Wilhelmshöhe Castle can be found within the park, with a picture gallery and antique collection. However, the most recognized Kassel landmark is the Hercules Monument. Located atop a 530 m high hill, the complex consists of the open Belvedere and the pyramid with the 8.30-meter high copper figure of Hercules. The platform also offers a panoramic view of the city.
To the south of Frankfurt, the town of Messel is located near which a Messel Pit Fossil Site can be found. The fossil site is the richest archeological excavation in the world from the Eocene. The artifacts, such as the mammal fossils and skeletons, are dated back to 57 million and 36 million years ago. UNESCO currently protects Messel Pit Fossil Site as a World Heritage Site.
Hesse is located in central-west Germany, with most of its population concentrated in its southern part, where the state's largest agglomerations, such as Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, and others, can be found. Fulda and Eder in the north and Main and Rhine in the south are a few significant rivers flowing through Hessen. Concerning nature, Hessen is known for its abundance of forests and green areas, as it is the most forested state in Germany, with over 42% of its area being covered by forested sections. Among the predominant green areas within Hesse's borders are Spessart Forest and the Odenwald. Concerning the variety of species, beeches and coniferous bushes cover the highlands. In contrast, lowland regions are used for agriculture, mainly consisting of a mosaic of vineyards, orchards, fields of grain, potatoes, and tobacco. Geographically, the state is located between the Upper Rhine Plateau in the west and the Thuringian Forest in the east. The landscape mainly consists of hills and uplands, with Vogels Mountains of Hessen Central Uplands being the most extensive continuous basalt area in Europe. Hessen's highest mountain, the Wasser Peak, with an altitude of 950 m, can be found in the eastern part of the state, in the Rhön mountain range.
Regarding nature protection, within Hesse's borders, one may find Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, which protects "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians"—the last deciduous forest which survived the influence of the Ice Age. Kellerwald-Edersee is the largest beech forest in central Europe, uninterrupted by roads or settlements, covering an area of approximately 5,735 ha. Besides the beech forests, the landscape is formed by hardwoods, rocky slope forests, dry oak forests, streamside forests, fire witch-vegetated bedrocks, pure-water springs, creeks, and wooded meadow valleys presenting one of the popular tourist attractions in Hesse, particularly for visitors seeking outdoor recreation options.
Concerning Hesse's climate conditions, the warmest month in the region's capital, Wiesbaden, is July, with an average daily temperature of 26°C, while January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 4°C. February tends to be the driest month in Wiesbaden, with an average of 40 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during May, which typically receives 65 mm on average.
The first people to permanently inhabit Hesse territory were the Frankish tribe Chatti, who settled north of the Main River. During the eighth century, the Chatti tribe was Christianized by St. Boniface, and various families of counts governed their territory in the following centuries. The region bore considerable significance during the 16th century, under the rule of Elector Philipp I, the Generous. During that time, Frankfurt am Main became a free imperial city and a place of coronation of German emperors. Elector Philipp I was also among the political leaders of the Reformation. Despite his death and the following disintegration of Hesse into smaller governing territories, the whole area switched to the Protestant faith. However, a change of religion led to several conflicts. Hessen-Kassel was of mainly Calvinist faith, whereas Hessen-Darmstadt was mostly Lutheran. The two regions stood on opposite sides during the Thirty Years' War, resulting in numerous casualties.
During the Napoleonic times of the 19th century, the regional division of Hesse changed, and by 1814, Hesse consisted of three regions, Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Darmstadt, and Nassau. As the Holy Roman Empire fell apart, Prussia started to form in the northern part of Germany. A considerable number of Hesse inhabitants emigrated to America or Britain as they did not support the new order in Germany. Inevitably, Hesse became part of Prussia. However, the Hessen-Darmstadt Duchy was able to retain some of its independence.
After the First World War, Hessen-Darmstadt was transformed from a monarchy to a republic. Additionally, several territorial changes were made among Hesse's divided regions. By the end of World War II, Hesse's territories were occupied by the Allies and divided between the French and US occupation zone. Due to its close proximity to Germany's inner borders, Hesse became one of the NATO headquarters of military bases during the 1950s. Nowadays, Hesse is one of Germany's 16 federal states, with the capital in Wiesbaden and some of the largest agglomerations being Frankfurt, Darmstadt, and Kassel.
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