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The highlights and charms of the German rivers

5 March 2018

As a nation, Germany seems to operate in its own sphere, a land which defies time and history by melding its ancient timeline with the heady skyscrapers of the future. German castles butt heads with 21st century glass towers, Roman ruins are surrounded by fenestrated Bourbon-inspired architecture, and all the while, the fantastical natural landscapes yield a storybook world of forests and mountains. Getting lost in this exceptional nation is a delight; a rail journey can take you from the economic glamour and glitz of Munich to the cinematic romance of Neuschwanstein Castle, whisking you from modern sheen to rural charm in an instant.

Wending their way through this German wonderland are a series of waterways which draw out and enhance the striking beauty of Germany and its magnificent provinces. Each region has its own individual identity and its own sincere charm from the stories and tales of Bavaria to the mountains of Saxony. Those rivers, including such names as the mighty Rhine, the blue Danube and the gentle Melk, all offer individual and unique snapshots of Germany, and in this blog, we're going to visit some of the best of the German river sights.

The Rhine Gorge
The spectacular Rhine is Europe's longest river and epitomises the fantastic beauty of a country which spawned and inspired the tales, fables and myths of the Brothers Grimm's. This winding river finds its way straight out of legend. Its majestic turreted castles guard the slopes of the valleys, the chocolate box villages are populated with half-timbered houses and the deep woods creep up the hills on each riverbank. Rising up on either side of the Rhine are stretches of vineyards and plantations, which contribute to this segment's excellent and world-renowned viticulture supplying an alluring range of white and red wines.

At the heart of the Gorge sits the Lorelei Rock, a famous rock formation which rises out from the water, forming an instantly recognisable shape. The Lorelei Rock is known for a unique phenomenon which makes it 'murmur', a peculiar sound which is caused by a waterfall in the rock. Its noteworthy presence in the river makes it a centre point for local legend. One well-worn legend speaks of a lady who lured sailors to their deaths from the top of the rock.

Bavaria on the Danube

Forming a major part of Bavaria's intrinsic fairytale charm, the blue Danube remains as one of Germany's finest rivers. It's journey through Germany is a tranquil one, running through the green fields and through the carved valleys of Bavaria. One of the main highlights on the riverbanks is the charming old German town of Passau. A classic riverside settlement, Passau has grown into a colourful city with some remarkable examples of German architectural finesse. Originally an ancient Roman colony, set up around three rivers, Passau has a wealth of history behind it and it shows in the striking buildings which line the streets.

Of particular interest is the stunning St Stephen's Cathedral. This beautiful religious installation is built in a charming Gothic style, in white stone with several green domes. The interiors are striking, with ornate designs and tall pillars lining the length of the church. The organ is very impressive, and with 17,774 organ pipes, it is thought to be the largest cathedral organ in the world, and the largest organ outside the United States.

The natural Elbe

The Elbe River is one of central Europe's most important rivers, and it just so happens that the German segment is an idyllic natural paradise. Flatter than the other German rivers mentioned on this list, the Elbe runs alongside deep green meadows, under bridges and past serene white castles as it drifts through Northern Germany through to the Czech Republic. Interestingly, this river formed part of the famous Iron Curtain which came down across Germany after the Second World War, and as a result of this, both riverbanks have been left relatively untouched by human hand, leaving them to become taken over by natural forces.

Arguably the biggest highlight on the Elbe is the striking city of Hamburg. This impressive city flawlessly mixes the sheen and style of modern Germany, with the refined imperialism of old Germany. This lends the Hamburg skyline a fascinating touch, with giant glass towers giving way to elegant church spires and green cathedral domes. Its relationship with the Elbe is well-known, with one of the city's impressive orchestras taking its name from the regal river. The orchestra is known as the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra with their concerts, practices and rehearsals taking place in the wonderfully-designed Elbphilharmonie concert hall on the banks of the Elbe.

Those are just a few of our highlights on the German rivers, but this fairy tale nation continues to be a dreamy smorgasbord of riparian delights, from its noble fortifications and its mysterious forests, to its magnificent cities and its paradisiacal valleys. If you think we've missed any of them out, sound off in the comments below!