Visiting Saarburg, Germany: picturesque town on the Saar River with perceived, multiple identities

Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Waterfall in Saarburg
Waterfall in Saarburg | Source
Map location of the Trier-Saarburg district, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Map location of the Trier-Saarburg district, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany | Source

History gushes past

This picturesque town in Germany's Rhineland Palatinate has a fairly complex 20th century history. If one walks through the Downtown area of Saarburg, it is as if the the stream known as the Leukbach is the main artery, with streets and sidewalks in ancillary roles. Quaint cafés overlook the stream's gushing waters, the path of which negotiates an 18-metre waterfall in the Downtown area.

As long as the traveller is content to walk up some steep slopes, Downtown Saarburg is ideal for a leisurely stroll, during which its scenic qualities can be enjoyed from many angles.

The ruined castle of of Count Siegfried of Luxembourg is at Saarburg, dating from 964. The town was given a charter in 1291.

But wait a minute: even the visitor unfamiliar with the town might ask: doesn't the name Saarburg sound vaguely familiar? The town does indeed take its name from the Saar River, which rises in France and flows through the German state of Saarland, although this state lies close to the town.The Saar River flows into the Mosel River not far from the town.

However, after World War Two, Saarburg was not actually incorporated into the Saarland. Therein also lies a tale.

In Saarburg (amazingly enough) one is in an area of Germany which, after World War Two, formed part of Luxembourg's zone of occupation. Luxembourg? Did the Allied Powers really agree to give to Luxembourg a zone of occupation as well as to the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France? Well, the answer is: no, they didn't. But the Saarburg district was within the French zone of occupation and the French government in turn gave a small area of its zone to the safe keeping of military of Luxembourg (which introduced conscription, after liberation from the Nazi German occupiers).

So just an interesting but insignificant footnote of history: the area was left to the safe keeping of the Luxembourg authorities? Well, not exactly. It depends what is meant by 'safe'. One of the Saarburg area's most important historical artifacts was the grave of John the Blind (1296-1346), Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia who died at the battle of Crécy in 1346. At a chapel in Kastel-Staadt, near Saarburg, is the ornate grave of John the Blind. But the grave is empty.

Why is the grave empty? Because during the period of occupation by troops from Luxembourg, the Grand Ducal authorities removed the bones of Count John the Blind of Luxembourg and re-interred them in Luxembourg City, thereby enhancing the historical sense of the people of Luxembourg. The Grand Duchy had indeed suffered much at the hands of the Nazi German occupiers and after World War Two its government was in no mood to hesitate in the face of the cultural sensibilities of the German authorities; indeed, western Germany had no Federal Government until 1949. (This, at least, was an historical subtlety which Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower could not have been expected to anticipate.)

Saarburg, then, may be perceived to have multiple identities: part of the Rhineland Palatinate, but near the Saarland (1) and Saar River; with longstanding historical associations with Luxembourg.

Note

(1) The Saarland did not revert formally to Germany until 1956.

Also worth seeing

Nennig , Germany (distance: 17 kilometres) has a Roman villa well-preserved mosaic.

Trier , Germany (distance: 24 kilometres) has many interesting, historic buildings, including the Roman Porta Nigra.

Luxembourg City (distance: 47 kilometres), the Grand Duchy's photogenic capital has many visitor attractions, including the Grand Ducal palace and the Pétrusse valley.

...

How to get there: Lufthansa flies to Frankfurt-am-Main, from where car hire is available. The nearest large international airport to Saarburg is Luxembourg (Aéroport de Luxembourg ), at Findel. For North American travellers arriving via London, England, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised 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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