Hesse was founded as a federal state after World War II in 1945. However, the area of what today makes up the state was inhabited as early as 50,000 years ago. Hessen became independent in 1264 as a landgraviate under the roof of the Roman Empire, but in subsequent centuries and throughout several wars, the unity broke and often the Northern part, ruled from Kassel would stand opposite the Southern part, governed from Darmstadt.
Today, one can still clearly distinguish between the two halves of the state. The Rhine-Main area around Frankfurt in the South is one of Europe’s most dynamic and economically healthy regions, more than 4.5 million people live here. Hesse’s largest employers are located in and about Frankfurt, which has a high concentration of banks as well as one of the world’s largest (and Germany’s most important) airports. It is estimated that more than 350,000 people commute to the city every day. Contrary to this, the Northern part of the state sees little development and the city of Kassel has an unemployment rate almost twice as high as in the most affluent districts in the South. Still, Hesse as a whole is among the wealthiest regions of both Germany and the European Union with a GDP larger than 220 billion Euros.
Hesse has a diverse scenery marked by low mountain ranges such as the Rhön Mountains, the Vogelsberg and the Taunus. In the southern parts of Hesse, near the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers and along the Hessische Bergstrasse, world-famous wines are produced, particularly of the Rheingau riesling variety.