24 August 2023

Elbe from Dresden to Lübeck

The Elbe has its source below Elbe Peak in the Giant Mountains (Karkonosze), flows through the Czech Republic and then northwards to Hamburg. I covered the route from the Czech-German border to Dresden, the first 60 km of the German Elbe, in 2020. And now I decided to row the remaining part until Hamburg. In total, the entire route was 570 km and took me nine days. I had originally planned to get to Hamburg, but the I changed my mind because when you pass the Geesthacht lock (30 km from Hamburg) there are already tides and you enter a harbour where there is very heavy traffic of inland barges and sea vessels. This is no place for a small boat like mine, and in any case there is so much traffic that I changed my initial plan and decided in Lauenburg to turn into the Elbe-Lübeck Canal and, after 60 km and 7 locks, to finish my trip in beautiful Lübeck. Of the cities I know in Poland, Lübeck is most reminiscent of Gdansk and its old town. It is a typical Hanseatic city.

Let's start from the beginning!

Long trips always require a lot of logistical preparation. I travel alone, and I usually start in one place and finish in another. So this time, I arrived in Dresden in the morning, by car with the boat on the roof. I already knew in advance where I planned to start the trip. Generally, in my trips, it's much easier when I know where the starting or finishing point is and exactly what it looks like, i.e. if there is a jetty, if there is a place to leave the car, if there is someone around to help me take the boat off the roof. These all seem to be details, but it all matters and influences how much time I will spend getting ready to set off. Since I had already rowed to Dresden once, the starting point was now clear and obvious - Dresden Rowing Club in 1902 e.V.

The first part of the route was from Dresden to Magdeburg. I set off on Friday and after four days and 270 km I found myself in Magdeburg.

The first town I visited on my way, 30 km from Dresden, was Meissen, Dresden, famous for its porcelain factory. A beautiful, charming town situated on a high hill.  I visited the town for about 2 hours and set off to continue the journey. I often have bad luck in my travels when it comes to just the first night. According to a very detailed map, I was supposed to stay at a campsite. I even called there beforehand to ask if there was access from the shore to the campsite. I was told that they see other paddlers at the campsite, but they don't know how they get there. The sun was already setting over the horizon, there was no access to the shore, just stones everywhere reinforcing the shore, and finally, in desperation, I pitched my tent on the stones....

The next day I rowed into Torgau with a magnificent view of Hartenfels Castle and the bears (alive) in the moat. With the next overnight stays there were no more problems. Admittedly, I had promised my family that on the Elbe I would spend all nights at campsites or marinas, but the reality turned out to be totally different. Practically behind every headland was a beautiful sandy beach. I haven't been on any rowing trip before where you could stop for a rest stop or overnight stay at any point. In this respect, this is the perfect river!

The next town I passed through was Wittenberg (Lutherstadt Wittenberg), with the famous theses of Martin Luther. Here, of course, I also went on a sightseeing tour. There are two towns on the Elbe with confusingly similar names. Wittenberg and Wittenberge. I took a brief tour of the latter later.

Finally, on the fourth day, I arrived in Magdeburg. Here I took a break for a so-called "transport day". That is, I left the boat at the canoe club, took the train to Dresden, picked up the car from where I had left it four days earlier, drove to Lübeck and left the car at the place where I had planned to end my rowing trip. I then took the train back to Magdeburg to my Bloody Mary, packed up the boat again and set off. I already had 270 km behind me and 307 km to Lübeck. 

I have already learned in my travels that it works well for me when I know exactly where I will end up. It takes away a few logistical elements that need to be taken care of. My head is calmer when I know which pier I'm heading to and I know where my car is. I also know that the town is atmospheric and that I will be able to row through the old town itself! A day's rest from paddling did my hands and my back good. An overnight stay in a hotel along the route also allowed me to rest better.

15 km from Magdeburg down the Elbe, I passed under the largest aqueduct in Europe, it is the junction of the Elbe and Elbe-Havel Canal, where barges pass over the top, over the Elbe, in a canal. I left my boat at the shore, climbed up on top of the canal and waited to see a passing barge. Unfortunately, it was too late. I managed to take some nice photos, but I didn't see the ship. The whole structure is really impressive!
In the following days I passed more charming towns, until I reached Lauenburg. The old town there is really impressive!!! Here I also said goodbye to the Elbe River. It was about 40 km to Hamburg, and I turned into the Elbe - Lubeck Kanal. I had 60 km and 7 locks left to my destination. You could say that this is very close. I've already made 510 km, so what is another 60 km? It should be nothing! Seemingly yes, but on these last 60 km there is no current in the river anymore, and 7 locks is a definite slowdown. I decided that this is not a distance for one day. So, after visiting Lauenburg and making the last provisions, I skipped two first locks and slept in the canal for the last night. I left myself 43 km and 5 locks for the last day. In Lübeck my friends were waiting for me! I ended the journey at the Lübecker Ruderklub. It just so happened that they were spending the weekend there. A super surprise, and at the same time a great help in packing the boat. We spent the evening walking around the old town, sightseeing and having dinner. And the next day, already with the boat on the roof, we still visited together the fishing village of Alter Hafen Gothmund.  This village looks like an open-air museum, time has stopped there, but it is not an open-air museum. People live there every day and do not want their place to become a museum.
Magda the Sailor! As always a huge thank you for your support on the tour! You are invaluable!

Enjoy the photo report and photo captions :-)


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