1199 Charlemagne Channel – Schweinfurt to Bamberg

We reluctantly leave Schweinfurt, greeting our great and generous newfound friends Domenico and Raffaele.

Today a strong tailwind pushes me, so I set off from the marina raising the sails. The weather should have been bad, however it changes its mind, bringing us a beautiful day.

I can sail for at least half of the time, passing big and small locks (getting in and out by sail too). Then, the wind fades, making room for a bright sun and a nasty heat.

The Main is now going downhill (however the current is still opposite…) and I’m heading south-east, toward Istanbul, more or less!

After 22 km of nice forests (crossing the usual vineyards, sheeps, cows and lovely villages) I eventually reach Haßfurt.

I’m overlooked by a tower, surrounded by walls and by well groomed houses that transfer a feeling of peace.

Entering Haßfurt’s harbour, under a huge mill, the little boat with Fine and Massimo aboard comes close. I turn back for a second and I hear a splash: Massimo has fallen into the water. No harm done: The river here is very clean.

In the evening we unwind in a nice Biergarten on the Main, after having undertaken minor fixing on Clodia, whose shell is showing the sign of a few little skirmishes.

The night is quite rainy and the next morning I feel sick. I’m numb, tired and aching: Maybe an intoxication? Or just sheer weariness?

I just can’t get up and a strong headache forces me to lay down aboard Clodia all day. I eat very little food.

Fine kindly tries to feed me from the entrance of the tent, but I just can’t make it!

What an awful day. It rains, thunders, gets cold then very hot, then cold once again and windy. But I get through and the next morning, still weak, I set off. Rowing is quite tough. I face a strong headwind, but at least the sun has popped out.

After 15 km I’m whacked, my body missing food and water. At Limbach’ lock I stop for a rest, drinking the Main’s water thanks to our Life Straw filter. Excellent!

In an hour or so, I feel better and I row up to Eltmann where we have arranged a meeting with a journalist from the Fränkische Tag, Bamberg’s local newspaper. He comes with a photographer who takes some shots: In the meantime Fine asks to three guys, aboard a Jet Ski, to retrieve for her a few paper sheet that have dropped in the river. Charmed, they overdo the task, losing their balance and falling in the water alltogether.

Karsten Becker, the journalist, is rather young. He seems truly interested and asks to come aboard: I’m glad to share, so he rows with me for a few kilometres.

He’s never really rowed, but he’s good at it. Despite the headwind, Clodia slides fast. After a while, I see a kayak coming from the opposite direction that turns back and comes toward us: “You must be Giacomo!”. “Ja”, I answer. Jürgen Hoh teaches geography and english in a school about 30 km far from Bamberg and he’s a new angel on the list.

He’s kayaked for 17 km to see me, he thought I was much closer to Bamberg

He looks like 25 but I get to know that he’s 43 years old. Extremely fit, he jumps aboard Clodia to row with Karsten to replace poor old Giacomo, his canoe being towed by Serena.

I was done for and take a good rest, eating a little. Let’s go: Bamberg is still 15km away and I was doubting to make it.

Thanks to this relief of over 4 km I quickly recover and I take my place aboard from the heroic Karsten (whose hand are covered with galls) with Jürgen: Our pace is really fast.

The sky’s menacing thunderstorms and, on the last lock on the Main before Vereith, it rains. The lock quickly opens for us, while Jürgen and me drink a cappuccino. He’s a quite strong and good rower.

We hang in, reaching km 384 on the Main: This river, for us, ends here. We enter the Main-Donau-Kanal (Main-Danube canal), running for 171 km from Bamberg to Kelheim where it flows into the Danube. Also known as Ludwig canal, Europa canal or simply New Canal by the locals, it bears an interesting story.

The first who wanted to connect the Main to the Danube was none else than Charlemagne who, according to recent studies, in 793 led off the excavations for the Fossa Carolina (Karlsgraben), that was later abandoned due to heavy rains and geological problems. Today, only 5oo metres of the original oeuvre are still visible.

To see things moving once again, we have to wait the first half of the 19th century, when king Ludwig I of Bavaria (who gave his name to the canal) commissioned to the architect Von Pechmann the extension of the works, completed in 1846 and resulting in a navigable connection between Bamberg and Kelheim.

However, the channel was far too narrow and the rise of railways at first and road transport later on, made it outdated, leading to a progressive decrease in traffic, up to its definitive abandonment in 1950, despite many plans of revitalisation and huge, punctually aborted, projects. In 1960 the Federal Republic of Germany and Bavaria redevelop the construction of the canal and the works tiredly begin.

After as long as 32 years of activity and many interruptions due to both political and environmental issues, on September 25th, 1992, the official opening ceremony takes place.

It’s been 1199 years since the first diggings!

We keep going in the dark, guided by my dear storm lamp, getting to Bamberg around half past nine in the evening.

We’re hosted in the Bamberg Faltboot Club of Jürgen.

We place Clodia over a trolley and, helped by everyone including Bernhard, met in Volkach, we take it under an octagonal shelter for a few fixing that I still have to undertake.

Then we have dinner with bread, ham, salami and beer, in a city that up to the 19th century used to house 65 breweries and where, not so long ago, the beer intake per-person was 440 litres yearly. Water wasn’t for drinking. A wonderful hospitality to begin four wonderful days in a wonderful city. But Bamberg deserves a chapter on its own.

See you soon.


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4 Responses to “1199 Charlemagne Channel – Schweinfurt to Bamberg”

  1. doryman says:

    Dear Giacomo,
    You must eat your vegetables!
    (I am not joking)
    Fine, please tell him I am serious. A doryman must have his nourishment, even if he is Italian.

  2. bea says:

    Dear Giac!
    Thank you for this new report – hope you’ll have the time later to make a book of it, would be great! Now I wish you to have fine weather – also important for your health! So long, friend, a big hug to you, Fine ….

    To DoryMan: I am sure that Giac is very conscious of his nourishment, don’t worry!!

  3. Giacomo is a grown up man… and a bit of a little “pig head” too… :-) difficult mission… Sorry guys.

  4. Giacomo says:

    Thank you my friends. I will take care of my body. A super hug

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