The charming destination of Worms (pronounced Vorms) is one of Germany’s Romantic Cities, a collection of seven places in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate that offer a beautiful setting for a couple’s city break. As one of the oldest towns in Germany, highlights include the ornate Romanesque cathedral and a beautiful Jewish quarter.
One of the biggest things that Worms is famous for, though, is the 13th-century epic poem entitled Nibelungenlied, or ‘The Song of the Nibelungs’. No one is sure of the author of this legendary tale but its motifs, plot points and characters are thought to be influenced by real events from European history and Norse sagas written around the same time. The tale was also used by Richard Wagner to create a series of 19th-century operas known as The Ring of the Nibelung.
The Epic Poem
The poem itself is a story of love, murder and revenge, most of which is set in Worms. It features Siegfried, a prince who defeated the Nibelungs (thought to be a race of dwarves) and took their treasure hoard, before slaying a dragon and bathing in its blood to make himself invincible. During his travels, he has also managed to obtain an invisibility cap, which helps him carry out some dubious deeds in the tale.
Other important characters include Kriemhild, a beautiful Burgundian princess who marries Siegfried but is then tricked into revealing the one spot on his back where the dragon’s blood didn’t cover, therefore allowing her uncle Hagan to murder him with his spear; Kriemhild’s brother Gunther (one of three), who befriends Siegfried in order for him to help earn the hand of a powerful Icelandic queen named Brunhild, before also becoming complicit in Siegfried’s death; and the aforementioned Hagan, who murders Siegfried in response to the dastardly way he helped Gunther consummate his marriage to Brunhild.
Along the way, there is also an appearance from Atilla the Hun (called Etzel here) and the poem ends with a bloodbath reminiscent of the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones. During this, Kriemhild exacts revenge for Siegfried’s death by executing Hagan with her former lover’s sword, before being killed herself by one of Etzel’s soldiers.
Often referred to as the Nibelung City, Worms features many sights that are linked to the epic poem and which will help you learn more about this legendary story. The image of a dragon can be seen on the city’s coat of arms, on statues and on various houses, alluding to Siegfried’s slaying prowess. There are also two fountains, one depicting Siegfried and one showing his death, as well as a statue of Hagan throwing the Nibelung treasure into the River Rhine. A tapestry embroidered with the epic also hangs on the wall of the theatre.
One of the major attractions, though, is the Nibelung Museum. Housed within two towers of the medieval city wall, the museum uses multimedia exhibits to help interpret the poem in the modern day. As you walk through, you will learn the areas of the story where fact and fiction collide and see paintings inspired by the tale.
If you visit Worms at the end of July or beginning of August, you may get the chance to experience the Nibelung Festival. Taking place between 20th July and 5th August in 2018, the event features live performances in front of the cathedral (where Kriemhild and Brunhild have a raging argument in the story), as well as special guest panels talking about the poem and its themes.
If you would like to plan your own Worms city break, or visit some of the other Romantic Cities, we can tailor-make a holiday to suit you. Call us on 0800 988 3369 to speak to our team.