Schaffhausen provides a gateway into Old World Europe
Charming Schaffhausen, a medieval city in northern Switzerland, is home to the largest waterfall in Europe, the Rhine Falls. Imposing in position and power, the waterfalls are located in the “knee” of the Rhine River, creating an impassable obstacle for trading ships. Shippers took several days to unload their shipments to avoid the rapids of the Falls. Their need for hotels and restaurants created the settlement in about 1045 A.D. The name Schaffhausen may refer to the way in which merchandise was moved around the Rhine Falls by a ford in the river on a “scapha” or skiff.
As the town grew and flourished, Schaffhausen added merchant houses, guild houses, and inns with unmistakable Gothic and Baroque architectural features. Hundreds of bay windows peek out of frescoed Renaissance exteriors. The old fortress of Munot stands as the symbolic sentry, complete with a watchman who has been guarding the city since the year 1377 A.D. The circular stronghold was built according to plans designed by Albrect Durer in 1564 A.D.
The town also includes a Benedictine Abbey with its own Romanesque church dating from the 11th century, an herb garden and a museum about the history of the town. An old textile factory provides a home for the Modern Art Gallery, providing a public venue for many internationally known artists. The car-free Old Town is arguably the prettiest town in Switzerland.
Rumbling and tumbling down 75 foot rock formations, across a 450 foot expanse of cliffs, the Rhine Falls create a powerful, awe inspiring spectacle. The waterfalls can be reached by walking or cycling down a beautiful riverside path. They can also be enjoyed from the deck of a Rhine River tour boat, especially in July, when the water level is high and the waterfalls are at their best. Some of the tour boats offer romantic dinners for two while floating through the mist of the mighty river waterfall.
Even the hotels give the traveler a taste of the Old World, with a wide range of accommodations including standard hotels, bed and breakfasts, holiday rentals and group hostels offering architectural and culinary delights. Hotels fill up fast for the annual Jazz Festival which provides a platform for the artists of Switzerland to showcase their own music and literature in an intimate, dramatic setting. Often immortalized by painters and poets, Schaffhausen, the Rhine River and the Rhine Falls provide an unforgettable gateway into the experience of Old World European culture.
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