Legend says that when God was looking for a place to set up Paradise, the sunny slopes between the Taunus Mountains and the Rhine nearly won the prize. Today the Rheingau is the kingdom of another god: Bacchus. Nearly every town and village from Wiesbaden to Assmannshausen is a major wine producer. The names suddenly seem familiar -- Bingen, Johannesburg, Rüdesheim, Oestrich -- because they're featured on the labels of many wines.

The Rheingau is also rich in old churches and castles, as well as landmarks. The Niederwald Monument, on a hill halfway between Rüdesheim and Assmannshausen -- it can be reached by cable car from either town -- is a huge statue of Germania, erected by Bismarck in 1883 to commemorate the unification of Germany. Below it, on a small island at the bend of the Rhine, is the Mäuseturm (Mouse Tower), where, according to legend, the greedy archbishop of Mainz was devoured by a swarm of hungry mice. But the real attraction of the Rheingau is the cheerful character of the wine villages and their people. Rüdesheim and Assmannshausen are the most visited towns.