My real first name is Lorelei. I was named after my mother’s middle name which my grandma had given to my mother. As to where my grandma found the name Lorelei, I have no idea. As to why she gave it to my mom, I also sadly have no idea. However, my father loved my mom’s middle name so much, I was blessed with the unique, very uncommon first name of Lorelei.
It wasn’t until I was in the 8th grade, when I switched from learning Spanish to German, that I learned my name was German and came with a story. Ever since that moment, every other person upon learning that my real name isn’t just “Lori” but Lorelei, always ask me if I have ever been to, seen, or know of the Loreley am Rhine and the story behind it.
I thought upon moving to Germany that I would find many German women with the name Loreley. Why not? It’s a beautiful name right? Well surprisingly, I have never met a German person with the name Loreley. I have met an American couple who had recently had a baby, who they named Lorelei.
Supposedly, Germans do not like the name Loreley because it comes from the German word “lureln” meaning “murmur”, the German word “luren” meaning “lurk”, and the Celtic word “ley” meaning “rock” – so the meaning is “lurking rock” or “murmuring rock”. Yet, whenever a German discovers my name, they get all excited because it seems they have never actually met a Lorelei.
The Lorelei though, is a rock that sits on a 194 meter cliff rock on the Rhine river and this area is the narrowest part of the Rhine river that flows between Switzerland and the North Sea.
The Loreley is a water spirit, similar to mermaids but many believe she is more of Siren then a mermaid.
Not until Heinric Heine wrote “Die Loreley” portray her as a Siren, sitting on a high rock, overlooking the river and combing her beautiful golden hair while singing beautiful songs and distracting the sailors, causing them to crash along the rocks.
Heinrich Heine, 1822 (1799-1856)
I cannot determine the meaning
Of sorrow that fills my breast:
A fable of old, through it streaming,
Allows my mind no rest.
The air is cool in the gloaming
And gently flows the Rhine.
The crest of the mountain is gleaming
In fading rays of sunshine.
The loveliest maiden is sitting
Up there, so wondrously fair;
Her golden jewelry is glist’ning;
She combs her golden hair.
She combs with a gilded comb, preening,
And sings a song, passing time.
It has a most wondrous, appealing
And pow’rful melodic rhyme.
The boatman aboard his small skiff, –
Enraptured with a wild ache,
Has no eye for the jagged cliff, –
His thoughts on the heights fear forsake.
I think that the waves will devour
Both boat and man, by and by,
And that, with her dulcet-voiced power
Was done by the Loreley.
I finally got the chase to see the Loreley in 2000 and in 2007. I barely caught a glimpse of it as a kid when we were on a cruise down the Rhine when someone shouted, “Hey look, its the Loreley!” (And yes, that is me age 14 with lollipop hair accessories in my hair …good god what was I thinking!)
So when I studied abroad in 2007 in Germany, I made it my mission to go see the Loreley. I refused to leave Germany before seeing it.
The Lorelei statue sits at the very tip of a small island in the Rhine river. If you are interested in visiting the statue, you will have to park along the road if you can, (its been a long time since I went) and you can walk down the island to the tip.
Up on the cliff is a restaurant and some more information and touristy things about the Loreley. I suggest going to the top of the cliff because it provides a fantastic view of the Rhine river.
Lorelei has become a well-known name thanks in part to the role Marylin Monroe played in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the TV Show Gilmore Girls. I commonly get told that my name comes from Gilmore Girls and yes, I know my name is on the show, but no it is not FROM the show! 🙂
Although for a long time I didn’t like my name as a kid, I love it now and I love how unique and rare it is. It makes it special. It makes ME special.
Tips for Your Trip:
To visit the Loreley Statue:
You can park at St. Goar, take the ferry across the Rhine, walk from St. Goarhausen (St. Goar’s sister town on the opposite side of the city, to the peninsula. The statue is on the tip of the peninsula.
You can also park in St. Goarhausen and walk from there. Or if you are very lucky you can find a few parking spots along the road where the peninsula reaches the mainland.
From the main road to the statue is about a 30 minute walk.
To visit the top of the Loreley Rocks (Loreleyfelsen):
This address may be helpful in your GPS:
Auf der Loreley
56346 St. Goarshausen
There is a hotel and restaurant named Berghotel auf der Loreley with parking and trails behind leading to the lookout point.
This post was originally published on California Globetrotter and was used here with permission.