Visiting Oberbillig, in the Rhineland-Palatinate: steep inclines at both the heart and the extremity of Germany

Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Bank of the Moselle river in Oberbillig (Germany). Left: the ferry to Wasserbillig (Grand Duchy of Luxembourg).
Bank of the Moselle river in Oberbillig (Germany). Left: the ferry to Wasserbillig (Grand Duchy of Luxembourg). | Source
Ferry ticket Oberbillig-Wasserbillig, 2012
Ferry ticket Oberbillig-Wasserbillig, 2012 | Source
Map location of Oberbillg, in Konz municipal collectivity.
Map location of Oberbillg, in Konz municipal collectivity. | Source

A westward outlook at a fluvial border extremity

I have written previously about this German village but it seems intriguing enough to make worthwhile these further observations.The visitor seems to be at the heart of Germany at Oberbillig, in the Rhineland-Palatinate (German: Rheinland-Pfalz), which lies just a short, 70c ferry ride from the town of Wasserbillig in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The ferry station's fairly steep incline is virtually a topographical continuation of the steep slopes which, largely filled with vineyards, rise prominently above the east bank of the Mosel (Moselle) River.

In surveying the lie of the land around Oberbillig, it is clear that there is less amount of reasonably flat land conducive to settlement on the eastern — German — bank of the river than there is on the western bank belonging to Luxembourg. Clearly, the visible patterns of habitation have followed suit.

Oberbillig, then, stands at the western extreme of Germany, governed after 1949, as the rest of the country, by a Basic Law (German: Grundgesetz) defined for a few decades as merely provisional, because of pressing issues relating to definition of the Federal Republic's eastern border many kilometers away. At Oberbillig, however, one would be hard pressed to find visible reminders of any pressing issues which might call into question the permanence of the country's very composition.

Indeed, now, especially at a place such as Oberbillig, nestled precariously on the bank of the Mosel, any arguments relating to the supposed impermanence of the Basic Law must seem surely like "far-off things, and battles long ago" (to borrow from Wordsworth's 'Solitary Reaper'). Here, there is the very visible presence of the ferry station slope at the intersection of Moselstrasse and Leimbachstrasse, which constantly receives and sends passengers into and out of the country. Here, then, past definitions of destiny and constitutional provisionality must surely be subsumed into the visible practicalities of arrivals and departures and immediate destinations on one side or other of the historic river.

Thus, with its rather dramatic slopes, and situation almost as an appendage of somewhere else beyond the country's borders, Oberbillig has more than something about it of Beausoleil in southern France, a hinterland locality on steep inclines functioning in practical dependence on a larger town over an international border (with Luxembourg and Monaco respectively). Even though Oberbillig is part of the municipal collectivity of Konz, it is somewhat 'over the hill' from much of the remainder of the municipality, while its inclines face westwards directly opposite Wasserbillig in Luxembourg on the other side of the Mosel.

Even the village's church tower and spire, which seems to dominate Oberbillig's skyline, owes its prominence to its location on the sloping land on which the village is built, as much as to the actual height of the tower itself.

February 3, 2016

Also worth seeing

Trier (distance: 15 kilometres) is an ancient city; its Porta Nigra dates from Roman times.

Nennig, (distance: 27 kilometres), in the neighbouring Saarland, has a fine mosaic in a Roman villa.

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How to get there: Lufthansa flies to Frankfurt-am-Main, from where car hire is available. The nearest large international airport is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel (distance from Luxembourg City to Oberbillig : 35 kilometrers; distance from Frankfurt-am-Main to Oberbillig : 214 kilometres). For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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