ELTVILLE AM RHEIM, GERMANY — I step off the motor coach into the perfumed air that hangs over this charming Medieval town, the biggest and oldest in the Rheingau (Rhine River Valley).
The sweet scent of roses is everywhere:
• In the oldest part of the town, where a collection of 14th-century half timbered homes are gathered.
• In the fairytale 13th-century Kurfürstliche Burg (Electoral Castle) and neighbouring Crass Castle.
Above: Eltville is the oldest and largest town on the mighty Rhine River.
• In market square, where local farmers sell their produce each week.
• In Schloss Reinhartshausen (castle) and around ancient St. Peter and Paul Church.
• In the vineyards that sweep down to the Rhine.
Everywhere, I smell roses.
“That’s because there’s over 22,000 rose bushes and trees in Eltville,” says a local guide, who draws my attention to the remains of the town’s Medieval wall that has been overtaken by a climbing rose bush.
It’s safe to say everything is coming up roses in Eltville, a town that has become one of the favourite stops for foreign tourists, most of whom come on Rhine river cruises.
Above: Roses grow everywhere in Eltville, which holds lots of festivals honouring the flower.
Time has stood still here — literally, says my guide, who happens to live in one of the historic half-timbered homes.
“Every time someone proposes a change or an upgrade in the town, it’s voted down,” she tells me. “Our town really is a living history.”
Not surprising, then, that the makers of the 1986 Hollywood film Name of the Rose, starring Sean Connery in the lead role, chose Eltville as the backdrop for the movie.
“There are 10 places designated as rose cities in Germany but ours is the most beautiful, no?” says the guide.
It’s hard to argue. The one thing that Eltville has that the rest do not is the Rhine, where vineyards rise from its banks into rolling hills crowned with ancient castles.
Besides roses, Eltville has become well known as the capital of German wine, thanks mainly to its fertile soil, which produces a high-quality Resiling grape used by some of the country’s top wine makers — Steinberg, Rauenthaler Baiken and Erbacher Marcobrunn all have vineyards just outside the town.
Above: Half-timbered homes and historic churches are other reasons why Eltville is popular with tourists.
Eltville, which sits at a strategic point of the Rhine, has been around a long time — its history dates back to the Stone Age — and some major battles were fought here in the 14th century.
One of the must visits in Eltville is the 12th-century Cistercian Monastery, were you can tour an ancient library, learn about life in the Middle Ages, or sample some local wines — tastings are held every Friday.
The rose garden in Kurfürstliche Burg is what really draws people to this town, and they keep coming back to enjoy all its other highlights.
A rose by any other name would still be Eltville.
For more information on German tourism, go to http://www.germany.travel/en