An area which surrounds the Rhine River, one of Germany's most vital waterways, the Rhineland is renowned for its agricultural and industrial wealth. The Rhur Valley in the North is one of the world's most heavily industrialized areas and the vineyards of Mosel in the South have produced wines that are internationally acclaimed. The "Romantic Rhineland" has been immortalized in numerous ancient folk songs and fables. The region was occupied by the Romans, who founded many of the region's beautiful and historic cities as Roman settlements. After the fall of the Roman Empire, barbarian tribes conquered the German provinces and the Franks dominated the Rhineland. Nevertheless, the Rhineland was again brought under Germanic rule when Charlemagne, the greatest of the medieval kings, brought the barbarian tribes under the central order of the Holy Roman Empire.
Charlemagne, who has become a legendary figure because of his physical strength and courageous spirit, chose the city of Aachen as his capital and his chapel still remains there. The course of Rhineland history was changed dramatically when the Rhineland became an integral part of the German nation in the 19th century. The different principalities of the Rhineland were eventually united under the name "Reinprovinz" after the Congress Of Vienna in 1815. At the same time, the various German states began to move toward the creation of a modern, powerful and united German nation. After the Revolutions of 1848, and the rise of Otto von Bismarck, the "iron chancellor", Germany expanded territorially, developed its economy, and emerged as a great world power. German Unification was proclaimed in 1871, by which time Germany had attained roughly the size and boundaries it would have in the 20th century.