With a history clearly distinct from the rest of Germany and close ties to neighboring France, the Saarland has a unique position among the German federal states. Between the two countries of France and Germany, the region has long been disputed and it actually was French once, but ever since the former enemies grew together to become the driving force of European integration, Saarland has become something of a connector between both countries. Several thousand French workers commute to Saarland for work and the federal state has decided to set up future education bilingually. Apart from the common border with France, Saarland also borders the francophone country of Luxembourg.
Saarland is named after the Saar River, a tributary of the Moselle River (itself a tributary of the Rhine), which runs through the state from the south to the northwest. One third of the land area of the Saarland is covered by forest, one of the highest percentages in Germany. The state is generally hilly; the highest mountain is the Dollberg with a height of 695.4 m (2281 feet).
A good part of the state, about one third of the entire acreage, is covered by forests, and the population is mostly centered around the capital, Saarbrücken, which is located in the southern half of the state. Other important cities are Neunkirchen, Homburg, Völklingen. There is a number of good opportunities for hiking, mountain biking or other outdoor activities along the Saar river, at whose banks some scenic vineyards can also be found.
The state’s economy was for a long time dependent on coal mining, but the last mining operation closed its doors in 2012. The job loss associated with this development could partly be absorbed by setting up a number auto industry companies. Another important branch is the steel industry.
People in Saarland speak a distinct dialect with some vocabulary borrowed from the French language. The typical Saar cuisine is comparatively simple and not easy to come by in restaurants, which tend to lean towards the French cuisine.
Saarland was established in 1920 after World War I as the Territory of the Saar Basin, formed from land of Prussia and Bavaria occupied and governed by France and the United Kingdom under a League of Nations mandate. The heavily industrialized region was economically valuable due to the wealth of its coal deposits and location on the border between France and Germany. Saarland was returned to Nazi Germany in the 1935 Saar status referendum, becoming de jure part of Bavaria and de facto part of Gau Westmark. Following World War II, the French military administration in Allied-occupied Germany organized the territory as the Saar Protectorate from 1947, becoming a protectorate of France, and between 1950 and 1956 was a member of the Council of Europe. Saarland rejected the 1955 Saar Statute referendum, and joined the Federal Republic of Germany as a state on 1 January 1957. Saarland used its own currency, the Saar franc, and postage stamps issued specially for the territory until 1959.
Saarbrücken Castle is a Baroque Château in Saarbrücken, the capital of Saarland. It is located in the district of Alt-Saarbrücken on the left bank of the Saar. Earlier, a medieval castle and a Renaissance castle stood on the same site. The existence of Saarbrücken Castle was first documented in 999 under the name ‘Castellum Sarabrucca’. In the 17th century the castle was rebuilt in the style of the Renaissance, but later destroyed and now only the cellars of this construction remain. In the 18th century Prince Wilhelm Heinrich had his architect Stengel build a new Baroque residence on the same site. Since then the castle has suffered various bouts of destruction and was partially burnt down and reconstructed before being thoroughly and magnificently renovated in 1989. The architect Gottfried Böhm designed a state-of-the-art central block of steel and glass. The castle is now both an administrative center and a venue for cultural events, conferences and festivities.
Ludwigskirche in Old Saarbrücken, Germany, is a Lutheran baroque-style church. It is the symbol of the city and is considered to be one of the most important Protestant churches in Germany, along with the Dresden Frauenkirche and the St. Michael’s Church, Hamburg. Ludwigskirche and the surrounding Ludwigsplatz (Ludwig’s Square) were designed as a “complete work of art”, in the sense of a baroque place royale, by Friedrich Joachim Stengel on the commission of Prince William Henry. Construction was begun in 1762. After the death of William Henry in 1768, work on it was stopped due to lack of funds. The church was finally completed in 1775 by his son, Louis, and it was also named after him.
The Brennender Berg is a natural monument located in a deep and narrow gorge between Dudweiler and Sulzbach-Neuweiler in Saarland, Germany. It is a smouldering coal seam fire that ignited in 1688 and continues to burn today. The exact cause of the fire is unknown today but it was probably a case of spontaneous combustion caused by pressure and decomposition as a result of unplanned coal mining. According to tradition, a shepherd lit a fire at a tree stump which propagated down through the roots to the coal seam. An unsuccessful attempt was made to fight the fire with water. It does not burn with an open flame but instead glows. Originally this glow could be seen through cracks in the rock and there was a considerable build-up of smoke. The fire began to weaken by the end of the 18th century. Depending on the weather, smoke is visible and in at least one of the rock crevices an outflow of warm air can be detected.