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The state of Hessen lies in the western-central part of Germany. It is bordered by the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Thuringia (Thüringen), Bavaria (Bayern), Baden-Württemberg, and Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland Pfalz).

The northern part of Hessen is characterized by hilly countryside and forests. Most inhabitants live in the southern part of Hessen, between the Main and Rhine (Rhein) rivers. Here you will find picturesque and romantic towns, elegant spas and cities with famous cultural scenes. Frankfurt am Main, the trade fair and financial services center, is the location of the biggest airport in continental Europe.

Part of the Rheingau region, one of Germany's 13 wine regions, is found in Hessen, with Wiesbaden being the eastern starting point. The Rheingau is one of Germany's smallest wine regions, yet it is also one of its most well known. It is characterized by vineyards, picturesque towns, castles, and well-known wineries.

Culinary Specialties of Hessen

The German state of Hessen was formed in 1946, at the end of World War II. Because of this, traditional Hessen cooking is greatly influenced by its neighboring regions, namely Thuringia (Thüringen), Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), and Franconia (in Bavaria).

As in many other regions in Germany, cooking in Hessen has been molded by what food and ingredients were available locally. People planned their meals based on what was available from local farmers as well as what was grown in their own gardens. This, however, was not a limitation since a large variety of foods were grown locally. This is evidenced today in the large variety of dishes and recipes that are considered typical for Hessen.

Many foods in Hessen share the same preparation techniques, but vary by only a few ingredients. For example, Blechkuchen, similar to a sheet cake, shares the same technique and ingredients for its base. However, a multitude of variations have been developed by changing its toppings. Streuselkuchen is a Blechkuchen topped with sweet crumbs. Zwetschgenkuchen is a Blechkuchen topped with plums and many times also with sweet crumbs.

Hessen is "potato land," evidenced by the large number of potato dishes. Other important vegetables include cabbage, onions, beans, and asparagus.

A list of popular foods and dishes in Hessen are listed below.

Kassler Rippchen (Smoked Pork Ribs)

Zwiebelkuchen (Onion Cake)
Grüne Soße
Reibekuchen (Potato Pancakes) with Applesauce

Cakes, Breads, Pastries
Frankfurter Kranz
Blechkuchen (Sheet cake with various toppings, such as Plums, Apples, Crumbs)
Kreppel (Donuts)

Wurst & Cheese
Frankfurter Würstchen
Handkäse mit Musik

Apple Wine
Riesling Wine

Frankfurter Grüne Soße
Photo: © BeTa-Artworks -

Largest Cities

The five largest cities (in terms of population) of the state of Hessen are listed below.

Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt am Main ("Frankfurt on the Main River") has a population of 660,000 (as of September 2006), making it Hessen's largest city, and Germany's fifth largest city.

Frankfurt is a financial, literature, and cultural center of Germany and Europe. It is the home of the European Union Central Bank.

Wiesbaden is the capital city of Hessen. It is Hessen's second largest city, with a population of 287,000 (as of September 2005).

Wiesbaden belongs to Germany's Rheingau region, well-known for its production of quality vintage wines.

With a population of 194,000 (as of January 2006), Kassel is the third largest city in Hessen and the largest city in Northern Hessen.

Darmstadt is Hessen's fourth largest city, with a population of 139,000 (as of September 2006). Darmstadt is known as an academic city (Wissenschaftsstadt) because of its technical university, three trade-schools, and several research institutes.

Offenbach am Main
Offenbach am Main ("Offenbach on the Main River") is the fifth largest city in Hessen. Its population is 117,000 (as of September 2006).

Offenbach is an industrial city, as well as a city of many conventions. It is also well known for its leather goods.

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