Taunus - Encyclopedia

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TAUNUS, a wooded mountain range of Germany in the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau and the grand-duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt. It lies between the Rhine and the Main on the S. and the Lahn on the N., and stretches some 55 m. E. and W. Its southern slopes stand 5 to 10 m. back from the Main, but leave only a very narrow strip of low ground alongside the Rhine, and from Bingen downwards they overhang it with precipitous crags, many of which are crowned with picturesque ruins. It has an average elevation of 1500 ft. The loftiest peaks occur in the east, where the imposing cluster of Grosser Feldberg (2887 ft.), Kleiner Feldberg (2714 ft.) and Altkonig (2618 ft.) dominate the Wetterau and the valley of the Main. Above the Rheingau, or the slopes which stretch down to the Rhine between Biebrich and Bingen, the altitude averages 1500 to 1700 ft. The geological core of the system consists of primitive argillaceous schists, capped by quartzite and broken through in places by basalt. On the northern side, which sinks on the whole gently towards the Lahn, the greywacke formation attains a considerable development. The hills are almost everywhere well wooded, the predominant trees being firs and beeches. The lower slopes are, wherever possible, planted with vineyards, orchards and chestnut and almond groves. The vineyards of the Rheingau are specially famous, and. yield brands of wine - e.g. Johannisberger, Steinberger, Riidesheimer, Marcobrunner, Hochheimer, Rauenthaler, Assmannsh fuser, and others - which enjoy the highest reputation amongst the vintages of Germany.. The Taunus is also famous for the number and efficacy of its mineral springs, which annually attract thousands of visitors to the celebrated spas of Wiesbaden, Homburg, Ems, Schlangenbad, Schwalbach, Soden and Nauheim, while the waters of Selters and other springs are exported in large quantity. The sheltered position and warm climate have led also to the establishment of the health resorts of Falkenstein (1875) and Schmitten, and of tourist centres at Konigstein, Cronberg and Ober Ursel.

Above Falkenstein stand the ruins of the ancestral castle of Kuno, the powerful archbishop of Trier; above Konigstein are the remains of a fortress of like name, formerly belonging to the electors of Mainz, and destroyed by the French in 1796; on Altkonig are two concentric lines of pre-Roman fortifications, 4557 and 2982 ft. in circumference. Interest also attaches to the once celebrated Cistercian abbey of Eberbach, founded in 1116; to Eltville, a favourite residence of the archbishops of Mainz in the 14th and 15th centuries; and to the family seats of Eppstein, Katzenelnbogen and Scharfenstein.

The chief historical monument of this region is the Saalburg, an ancient Roman fort serving as a centre of communications along the limes or fortified frontier-line drawn from Rhine to Main by Domitian (see Limes Germanicus). The excavations, which were begun in 1868, have revealed four different encampments, the earliest of which perhaps dates back to the time of the earliest Roman conquest. The remains now visible are an excellent type of the solidly constructed permanent camps of the middle imperial period (about A.D. 200). Elaborate restorations have been undertaken, and the minor remains have been housed since 1904 in the reconstructed praetorium or headquarters. An electric tram connects the Saalburg with Homburg (distance 4 m.).

Forty miles to the west of the Saalburg there is a modern national monument, the colossal figure of Germania, which stands on a bold spur of the Taunus 740 ft. above the Rhine. It was erected in 1883 to commemorate the War of 1870-71 and the re-creation of the German empire in the latter year. The steep crags of the western end of the Taunus, where they abut upon the Rhine, are rich in the romantic associations of the great river. Here are the rock of the siren Lurlei or Lorelei; the old castles of Stahleck and Pfalz, which belonged to the Counts Palatine of the Rhine; and the quaint medieval towns of Caub and St Goarshausen. Schloss Friedrichshof, at the foot of the Feldberg and Altkonig, immediately north of Kronberg, was built in 1889-97 by the widowed empress Frederick, and is the place where she died in 1901. The railway from Frankfort-on-Main to Oberlahnstein skirts the south and west foot of the range, that from Frankfort to Cassel the eastern side, while the line from Wiesbaden and Hochst to Limburg intersects it from south to north.

See Die Heilquellen des Taunus (published by Grossmann, Wiesbaden, 1887); Sievers, Zur Kenntnis des Taunus (Stuttgart, 1891), and the Taunus Club's Guide (4th ed. Frankfort-on-Main, 1905). For the Saalburg see L. Jacobi, Das Romerkastell Saalburg (2 vols., Homburg, 1897); also a small guide by the same author (3rd ed. Homburg, 1907).

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