Midway between Speyer and Mainz – both 50km away – WORMS is one of Germany’s oldest cities, famous as the fifth-century home of the Burgundian kingdom, as celebrated in the Nibelungenlied, on the subject of which Worms has an excellent multimedia museum. But the city has also flourished in several eras since, first under Charlemagne, who made it his winter residence, and particularly during the Salian dynasty (1024–1125) when the city’s grand Romanesque Dom was built. Worms also occasionally served as a seat for the imperial parliament, most famously when it sat in judgement on Martin Luther in 1521.
For many centuries Worms was also home to a powerful Jewish community, which began to grow prodigiously in the eleventh century to became – along with Mainz and Speyer – one of the foremost in Germany. It survived the fifteenth century when many other cities expelled their Jews, only to be virtually eradicated by the Third Reich. Nevertheless important reminders remain, above all in its Jewish graveyard and rebuilt synagogue. All this is fairly quickly explored leaving you to wander Worms’ pedestrianised Altstadt, which was attractively rebuilt following almost total destruction in World War II. The old town always has a reasonable bustle about it, but is best during the mid-August Nibelungen Festspiele, a two-week theatre festival based on the epic, and the Backfischfest, a wine festival that follows, when fried fish is the accompaniment of choice.