On five separate Saturdays between May and September, in five separate locations in Germany, every year the River Rhine is in flames. Not literally, of course, but this spectacular festival often makes it seem that way.
The Rhine in Flames festival is a series of fireworks displays that take place in various locations along the river. As the firework displays light up the night sky, the explosions of colours are reflected in the stillness of the river below. And it really does appear as if the Rhine is in flames. Add to that a convoy of brightly illuminated ships sailing along the river, and you have a stunning festival of light that feels like a piece of theatre.
The castles on the hills are bathed in a red and orange glow as Bengal lights shine from every turret and tower. The spectacle mimics a hill town on fire and as the dramatic display unfolds, it lends viewers a sense of awe. Bengal torches also light both sides of the river, and as the ships sail along, there's a feeling of procession and parade.
The festival was first held in 1756 when the first fireworks were lit to mark a change in government. The people in this area have been celebrating that event ever since and it's now become a celebration people travel far and wide to witness. The oldest of these five locations and dates, takes place in August between Spay and Koblenz, which we assume was where the original celebration took place. The earlier dates in May and June are held between Linz am Rhein and Bonn and between Bingen and Rudesheim respectively. There are then two further dates in September, first in Oberwesel and then at St Goar/St Goarshausen. The dates alter, as the festivals are held on certain Saturdays within each month.
Thousands of people, visitors and locals, arrive for the festival every year, and while it's a spectacular event to witness from the land, from the shores of The Rhine and from the villages along the way, there's no better way to experience the Rhine in Flames than from one of the boats taking part. A river cruise along The Rhine that includes one of the dates of the festival is a relaxed and immersive experience. As the fireworks shoot high into the sky and the hills and villages are lit by cascades of light, the ships on the river are a part of the action and have the perfect vantage point to view the festivities from. Better than that, the boats, a parade along the river, are now an integral part of this festival.
It's the biggest river boat parade in Europe and includes more than 60 boats. As the boats glide along the glittering Rhine, mini firework displays light their way and announce their arrival. Some of these ships are the location for more small fireworks, creating the thrill of colourful displays directly from the water. The festival culminates in one big finale of a fireworks display that dominates the sky in explosions of light.