A few days ago I wrote: “I’m in Nürnberg. Nice city.”
Same usual mayhem of every city, for those who come from the healthy and simple life on the river. Poverty and richness, comfort and uneasiness walk together. Happily, sometimes.
I expected worse: I heard many people speaking ill about Nürnberg. It’s got a strong soul and a tiny bit of madness.
It was burned to the ground during WW2: You can feel that there was lots of suffering. Many industries, sweat, Dürer, beautiful bridges, St Lawrence’s Church with its statue crowded gate, glass, hi-tech, led and a breast fountain (I know another one in Treviso, close to Venice!).
The best (driverless!!) metro and transport network that I’ve ever seen and used. I unintentionally found myself in the red light district, surrounded by women who’re quite smart yet outrageous, not for their fault but because of a society that’s sick of indecency. A Seduction (“se-ducere” from latin, “attracting to us”) that we all use somehow, although with different styles and tones.
Est modus in rebus, there’s a way to do everything. And manners are important.
A river of rivers
I’m now writing from Regensburg: The bridges passed so far are more than 900 (I’ve lost track) and the locks 342 (I’m losing it…). However I’ve clear on my mind the goals of a journey that’s showing me a river of rivers, although some of them not being real anymore. Anyway, with a little effort they could get back to a more natural condition, such as the RMDK for instance.
We’ve reached the top, the highest point of our journey (409 m of altitude) celebrated by a monument placed after a sequence of amazing locks, 27 metres high, trapping and moving million litres of water.
We’ve climbed for 200 m from Bamberg and we’re now beginning our descent to Istanbul. A topical moment.
After km 102 on the Main Donau Kanal, we clearly see signs of a much more environmentally conscious construction technique. Little side lakes, as you may see in Google Earth, allow fishes to lay their eggs and survive both to the strong current generated by the locks and to the big ships.
Along the MDK
But let’s recap our days. After Nürnberg and an impressive thunderstorm that catches me unaware riding Paolo’s bike, we set sails heading to the “Donau” (Danube).
The weather is uncertain, headwindy. After the last very crowded days, our crew has suddenly reduced to two members: Nicola and myself are the sole Men on the River left, but we’re waited by surprises…
As I said, the locks are huge. We look like chicks in a bathtub. The water rises mightily and we’re moored on the left side, the one without bollards, so every couple of metres we have to move.
Sometimes it’s hard, because the water pushes us toward the edges and we get splattered with mud. But we’re fast learners and the next time we’ll opt for the right side!
In the evening, tired but happy, we moor in a dock placed before the umpteenth lock, in a little village called Haimpfarrich.
We have a scarce dinner in a lovely Gasthaus, under a big plane tree and with a sweet Great Dane keeping us company. Beer, bike riders, true country scent and sheer quietness.
The next morning is perfect to set off, since the wind has faded a bit. We move fast, arriving in Berching after a wonderful, rainless day despite a menacing sky. Here we find the first marina after 58 km. There’s nobody around and it’s hot. Luckily we meet Bernhard (a recurrent name in our trip!), a nice nomad like us who’s headed to the Black Sea aboard a motor barge. He suggest to pay a visit to the town and lend us a bike.
Berching is a beautiful place, surrounded by its 1475 untouched walls. In a nearby suburb, Erasbach, the great musician Christoph Willibald Gluck was born.
He composed many operas, among them the Orfeo and Euridice (whose theme we’ve used in one of our old trailers), was friend of Metastasio and student of Sammartini, in Milan. “What will I do without Euridice…”
Later on, in the marina, we’re visited by Dominik, who offers us a beer and arrange a meeting with the mayor for the next morning.
Very kind and smart, the Bürgermeister Ludwig Eisenreich welcomes me in his office, to explain the current tourist policies, oriented to a quality that’s tightly connected to the local beauties.
There’s a great attention to the territory, that you can see from the many road signs aimed to help bike riders and walkers in finding the right direction, the rest stops, the Gluck museum and other gems. The only disturbing element is the passage of the big, noisy ships.
Then, the mayor comes aboard Clodia for an interview and gives us a special beer mug!
In Berching is still quite visible the old Ludwig canal, with a nice lock. Unfortunately, and sadly, I notice that a very low bridge have been built over the water, to allow car transit but precluding any form of navigation in doing so. On the old track there are just two locks still working, one in Bamberg and the other on the merging point with the Danube.
The mayor listens with interest to my suggestion of a restoration to make the canal suitable for rowboats, that will then be kept safe from large ships traffic. Sadness and hope at the same time.
A growing crew
Let’s go once again. It’s a nice, sunny day and I let Clodia to Nicola, who’s really good and powerfully rows for two hours. Approaching Dietfurt lock, we see in the distance a person waving arms. I can’t believe it! Beate Werner is coming from Copenhagen and she’s found us: Smart girl indeed!! It’s an honour and a celebration for us, a star brightening our project.
Beate is a “pro” of rivers, Head of Group – Water – at the European Environment Agency. If you want to know more about her, just Google her name.
We have dinner together in Meihern, in the joy of the Altmuhle river, that’s now river and canal, much more lively and rich in fishes.
Wonderful, under huge forests and many little mountains called “Dolomites”. The water is so clean here. We quietly moor in a pontoon, sleeping very well.
A real surprise awaits me in the next morning!! I wake up, bleary-eyed, with low clouds and a little sun. Guess who pops up?
The great Jürgen (Hoh) with three steaming cups of coffee in his hands. What a joy!! He’s reached us overnight aboard his van, sleeping close to Clodia.
Another breakfast with Bea, then we get moving. However, we have to face a problem when a police cars stops by.
“It was about time!” I say. In short, we’ve moored slightly over the allowed boundary and, despite the anchor light, we’ve generated an alarm. There was enough room for two big ships to pass side-by-side, but such are the rules and we’re imposed a fine of 30 euro. The policeman, very kind, is nearly embarrassed. We notice that his car is full of water samples. He’s in charge of collecting them to check the river water quality. Not bad.
The Danube is just 30 km away. Today I row with Beate, and she tells me many things about environment, water and life. What a nice person, a star.
The river is now full of meanders, the landscape very open with many oxbow lakes. In Riedensburg, Jürgen, who’s followed us by bike (that gets loaded on Serena), comes aboard. Here we meet an English gentleman who was attracted by the beauty of Clodia. Harald is a local journalist, so we get a quick interview: Nice welcome.
I’ll come back in Riedensburg, a village nestled on the river-canal: So nice, it embraces the water. Angelo kindly receives us in his Italian café.
We get going toward Kelheim, a little moved, in a boiling hot afternoon. Jürgen works as a banana express courier, swimming between Serena and Clodia to feed us. Fantastic! The landscape is magnificent: Peaks and castles, wooden bridge and mighty nature, solar panels everywhere. We’re in the Jura, and I’ll be back here, I hope!
The last kilometers in Kelheim are between concrete walls. A km 171 the RMDK ends and our own Danube begins: 2.411 to the mouth, on the Black Sea. What do I feel? An intense emotion. I hug Jürgen and Beate. From now on we’re on a real river, although the rocks still channel it. We’re downstream and the current is very strong!
2.000 km of learning
These nearly 2.000 km have changed me, for the better I believe. The strength and the energy of rivers and canals, water and people. The potential, the mistakes, mine at first. A full life, a life in a day, to work better. Spiritually, all of that tells me many things and I evolve, constantly. Physically, though, is really demanding.
In a few kilometers we get to Saal: In the local marina we have to meet Bruno and Fine. True, Bruno’s back to carry on with the project and he’ll be here up to October 20th, wherever we’ll be!
Regarding that, never say never, but looking at the time schedule we’re not sure we’ll be able to reach the Black Sea in time. Those waters in November will be impossible to sail for a small boat like Clodia, very cold and risky. So, there’s a real chance that we have to plan our arrival to Istanbul for the next spring. Nature rules, ubi maior minor cessat.
A pearl comes out from Bruno’s bag: A fresh coconut from Brazil! The juice coming out from it is pure life, the best drink I’ve ever had. Thanks Bruno.
We celebrate all together on the green Danube, guest of Salvatore, another Italian from Sardegna. The next morning we have to set sails to Regensburg, 32 km of downhill locks and great speed.
The tailwind makes us touch 16,3 km/h, that’s a lot! The current is about 6/7 km per hour.
An old ferry, pushed only by the current, is steered by an old man. Reminds me of a scene seen in China, on the Mekong river, Yunnan, a few years ago.
A thunderstorm is coming, so I stop between rocks and forests in a little marina, where we meet Anna, a young journalist. The wind gets stronger, it rains a little, then the sun pops out once again.
We pass the last little lock with Anna aboard, who’s frightened and has fun at the same time. We eventually get to Regensburg, wonderful. The Porta Praetoria, Marcus Aurelius, the Dome. 18.000 students: beauty. And it’s not our first time.
See you soon, in the meantime enjoy this interview with Beate. A big hug.