About 3 million visitors cram into Rüdesheim's cuckoo-clock alleys each year to wallow in wine culture and Rheinromantik. A viscous slurry of peoples, languages, and wine oozes through the narrow Drosselgasse as bits and pieces of polka emanate from open doors and windows. Cable cars lift off with a hum from a village square to convey passengers across hillsides combed in Riesling. A Romanesque-style church – memorial to medieval polymath Hildegard of Bingen – rises in the distance. At the top, a wooded path leads to the towering figure of Germania, erected in 1883 to celebrate German nationhood. Engraved on its base, one reads:
Es braust ein Ruf wie Donnerhall
Wie Schwertgeklirr und Wogenprall:
Zum Rhein, zum Rhein, zum deutschen Rhein!
Wer will des Stromes Hüter sein?
Lieb Vaterland, magst ruhig sein;
Fest steht und treu die Wacht, die Wacht am Rhein!
A voice resounds like thunder-peal,
'Mid dashing waves and clang of steel:
The Rhine, the Rhine, the German Rhine!
Who guards to-day my stream divine?
Dear Fatherland, no danger thine;
Firm stand thy sons to watch the Rhine!
The tone of defiance, like Germania's brazen-faced vigilance, seems incongruous in its setting (see plates 6.1a and 6.1b). Vintners on the hillside below potter among their vines, patiently coaxing into existence a world commodity export. The village on the banks prepares for night-time revelry.