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Since 1969, the town has officially been known as Kreisstadt Simmern-Hunsrück, as a result of the merger of Simmern and St. Goar districts to create the single Rhein-Hunsrück district. The town is located exactly on the 50th parallel.
Simmern has grown tremendously in the last twenty years as more people and new industries have relocated to the area.
Simmern is centrally located in the Hunsrück and serves as the commercial, industrial, educational, cultural, and administrative center for the district and surrounding enclave (the enclave comprised of 32 villages or Gemeinden).
The town's proximity to the Frankfurt region (including the cities Mainz and Wiesbaden) as well as its well-travelled road links to Koblenz, Luxembourg, and Trier have allowed it to experience dramatic economic growth in the last twenty years whereas many areas and regions in Germany have lagged behind. Slate mining and agriculture have been the traditional industries of the district, but recent growth in the optical, pharmacutical and bio-chemical industries has transformed the local economy.
The reopening of nearby Hahn Airport (20 km away) for commercial aviation and the widening of Bundesstrasse B-50 to four lanes have given the district and the town even greater economic potential for the future. Future plans include a possible extension of the A-60 autobahn to facilitate traffic from the Frankfurt metropolitan area to Simmern and the Benelux countries. The town is serviced by National road B 50 and is approximately 10 minutes from the A 61 motorway (autobahn'). Passenger rail service ended in the 1980s but will be reinstated in 2005 due to increasing traffic to and from Hahn.
Points of interest
In spite of its small size, Simmern offers some attractions that rival any town or small city in Germany. the Hunsrückmuseum includes local artifacts and unique historical images of the city. The Neues Schloss or New Official Residence holds a collection of artwork from Friedrich-Karl Stroeher, arguably Simmern's most famous son. The Protestant Stephanskirche is a charming late Gothic church constructed in ] by Duke Johann I. The 18th century Catholic Pfarrkirche St. Josef is famous for its bright ceiling frescoes. Schinderhannesturm is a former prison, gaining fame for once holding the infamous robber Johannes Bückler. The local Freizeitbad is among the most popular and visited in Rhineland-Palatinate.
The town was founded in the 13th century on the banks of the Simmerbach, of which the town name is derived from. A well fortified town, Simmern did not suffer tremendous hardship in the Thirty Years War, in spite of its switch from Catholic to Lutheran leadership during the Reformation.
In the late 17th century, the town was reportedly flooded by Huguenots from Alsace, Lorraine, and Flanders; escaping persecution by Louis XIV in France. Arguably due to overcrowding conditions from these refugees, the town suffered a terrible fire in 1689. Simmern received nationwide notority in the early 1800s when the famous German robber baron Johannes Bückler escaped from the inescapable Schinderhannesturm jail cell and proceeded to continue to rob wealthy land-owners in the duchy. Bückler and his bandits would eventually be caught and hung by Napoleon's armies in Mainz in 1803.
Simmern fell under Prussian administration after the annexation of the Rheinland in 1867, but retained its status of district seat. Simmern became a major transit point for soldiers on the western front during the First World War. After the war, Simmern maintained its district seat but suffered from a loss of population due to the dramatic economic and agricultural conditions after the war.
Simmern did suffer a sizable amount damage from allied advance in World War II due to its railroad connections and proximity to the Nazi airfield Hahn. First occupied by American military forces in 1945, the town fell under French administration with military support from Moroccan colonial soldiers. The United States did maintain a presence in the area, occupying Hahn airfield and creating a military base for the newly formed U.S. Air Force. French occupation ended in 1949 with the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), but American presence at Hahn continued until the 1980s.
Simmern did manage to rebuild quickly after the war and by 1960, its population exceeded its pre-war total. In 1992, Hahn was reopened for cargo traffic and was renovated and opened for civilian travel in 1994 under the authority of Fraport, the operating company of Frankfurt International Airport. Today known as Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, the airport is the tenth busiest in Germany for passenger traffic and the third busiest for cargo transport. As a result of increasing traffic at Hahn, new companies have located distribution and research centers in Simmern. In 2002, the town completed a high-capacity bypass around the southern part of the town and began construction on an industrial park to further entice clean industry to Simmern.
Simmern and other parts of the Hunsrück are vividly portrayed in Heimat, a German movie and mini-series portraying a family and a fictional village in the Hunsrück over the course of 20th Century German history.
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