Rowing in Germany
Just when we thought Germany couldn’t get any better, it surprised us yet
again. It started two weeks ago with the Rhine River, a long-distance
paddler’s dream with its fast current, abundance of ideal campsites and
riverside beer gardens. Even traversing the huge hydroelectric dam was easy
using the scenic bypass canal built just for paddlers. Then we turned onto
the Main River and things became even better.
We departed from the historic city of Mainz and began paddling upstream
against a current made negligible by frequent weirs made navigable by giant
locks. We approached these behemoth gates with apprehension, nervous that
we’d be yelled at and turned away as had happened all too frequently in
France and on occasion in England and Scotland as well. But when Julie
called the lockkeepers on the VHF radio and asked in German if we could pass
the answer was invariably yes. One gregarious lockkeeper even emerged from
his lofty tower to meet us and give us information on the upcoming locks.
After a day and a half of peaceful paddling on the Main River we reached
Frankfurt, a city that looks every bit the financial hub it’s reputed to be.
Modern glass buildings tower beside beautiful stone architecture from
centuries prior. Fit people sip cappuccinos at waterside cafes, while
others leisurely dangle fishing rods into the river. Human-powered boats
are no longer a rare sight and we passed a dozen ‘rudder’ (rowing) and
‘kanu’ clubs in the next few hours. Rowers would wave from their boats or
docks, ask an array of questions in excellent English, and then invite us in
for a coffee, snack, or even shower.
Although we’ve been thrilled at how well-suited Germany is for long distance
paddling, the bigger surprise is that more foreign tourists aren’t doing
this. I cannot imagine a more perfect way to see this country of rolling
vineyards, forests, picturesque timber frame buildings and riverside