Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


18.10.15
  A Boat Tour on the Wakenitz River

I had a rather unwelcome visit by a nasty cold and didn't feel up to do much research. So here's just a little river tour on the Wakenitz from its outflow of Lake Ratzeburg northwards to Lübeck. The river is only 15 km long before it confluences into the Trave, but it is very lovely.

Ominous clouds gathering over Lake Ratzeburg

I first took a ship from Ratzeburg across the length of the lake (yeah, I got pics of that, too) to a hamlet called Rothenhusen where I changed to a river boat. The clouds didn't look nice and I was afraid I'd not get many photos because of the rain.

Outflow of the Wakenitz from Lake Ratzeburg

And right when I changed ship, the downpour began. Well, the river boat has a nice enough covered deck where they serve drinks and food, but photographing through windows is always tricky. The boat, having arrived from Lübeck, took a turnaround on the lake because the river is too narrow, and behold, when we came back under the trees framing the Wakenitz, the rain stopped and the sun peered out between the clouds.

Alder trees in the sunshine

I spent the next hours between taking photos from the bow and stern platforms to catch the different light from the sun either behind or in front, and having some coffee and ice cream in between. The whole tour turned out to be more fun than the clouds had predicted and the vistas were lovely. There were but few passengers who didn't get in the way of the photos.

Willows framing the river to the right

The name Wakenitz (Wochnica) is of Slavic origin and means Perch River. Obviously, the river has always been rich in fish. Today it is also know as the Amazonas of the North though that's a bit of an exaggeration.

Lovely details of the riparian forest

The Wakenitz had been the border between West-Germany and the GDR and so the landscape remained untouched for forty years. Luckily, it was decided to keep it that way. Part of the Wakenitz lowland is a Proteced Nature Area. Traffic on the river is very restricted except for canoes, rowing boats and ships with electric motors. There's a bicycle lane along the river and a bridge for hikers crossing it, but nothing more until we get closer to the town of Lübeck.

More trees and jungle

That way, the rare riparian forest still thrives. Alder, willow, silverleaf poplar, ash and elm are typical treees that form a veritable jungle in some parts. Among the wildlife are several endangered species that have found a sanctuary here, like fire-bellied toad, spadefoot toad, crested newt, corn crake, kingfisher, black woodpecker or barred warbler, to name just a few. You get the usual collection of carp, eel, perch and northern pike, but also a population of wels catfish.

Riparian forest along the 'Long Misery'

The first part of the river is known as the 'Long Misery' due to the fact that the river is so narrow that sailing ships cannot easily beat to windward; and in former times transport barges could not be towed because of the waterlogged shores. But a modern river boat has no problems (the passenger ferries are some of the few exceptions allowed to use engines).

A different view of the 'Long Misery'

Originally, the Wakenitz confluenced into the Trave north of the Old Town of Lübeck which is situated on a oblong ridge of dryer ground in what originally was a swampy area. The swamps have been drained over time and the rivers connected by canals to surround the entire old town. They became part of the denfense system which included a town wall on the island and later, in the 17th century, a series of bastions, particularly to the Trave side in the west.

The river widens

The first change in the course of the Wakenitz was done already in the 13th century when it was dammed to feed the mills and breweries to the south of the town, creating the Mühlenteich and Krähenteich (Mill Pond and Crow Pond). The town bought the entire river Wakenitz with its fishing rights and other rights of use from Duke Albrecht I of Saxony in 1291.

The widest part of the river prior to Lübeck

To avoid the dangerous route of the Sound, Kattegatt and Skagerrak, a canal was built to connect Lübeck (and the Baltic Sea access via the Trave) and the Elbe which confluences into the North Sea; the Stecknitz Canal, finished 1398. It also allowed the transport of salt from Lüneburg to Lübeck by water via Ilmenau and Elbe.

Upper deck of the ferry

Five hundred years later, a new canal for larger ships was built: the Elbe-Lübeck-Canal (1896). That one cut off the Wakenitz from the waters around Lübeck by the Falkendamm (Falcon Embankment) at the north end of the old town. The Wakenitz now drains into the Crow and Mill ponds by a little canal called Düker; its end forms a lake.

The Wakenitz in Lübeck

The embankment was necessary to regulate the water levels of Wakenitz and Trave. While the Baltic Sea is not tidal, storms can still cause the Trave to flood the lower parts of the town and heavy rains can lead to a rise of the Wakenitz all the way down to Ratzeburg. Already the Mediaeval system of canals helped with that, but nowadays more sophisticated means are needed.

Villas with pavillions at the Wakenitz in Lübeck

The suburbs along the Wakenitz - St. Jürgen (wih the university) and St.Gertrud - have some of the more expensive real estate, esp. if you want access to the river. St. Gertrud, grown around a pestilence churchyard from 1350, was the site of the 'summer houses' of rich Lübeck merchants in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Just a pretty view

I did a tour of the Lübeck canals in spring, so there'll be more information about the harbours and Medieaval defenses of the town at some point.

The Wakenitz tour is operated by Wakenitz Schiffahrt Quandt.
 
Comments:
Die Bilder sehen toll aus, die Landschaft ist wirklich sehr ursprünglich, oder zumindest so, wie ich mir eine ursprüngliche Landschaft vorstelle. Dass diese Gegend noch slawische Namen hat, war mir neu, aber logisch, das waren noch relativ lange slawische Gebiete.

Schönen Sonntag


 
Lovely photos! I wish you a speedy recovery, Gabriele! :-) Warmest wishes from Poland.
 
Eva,
slawische Namen verstecken sich in so einigen Orts- und Flussnamen aus der Gegend, einschliesslich Lübeck - Liubice.

Kasia,
thank you very much.
 
That looks like a lovely day trip! I wish there were water around here to cruise on, but alas. :)
 
Ein interessanter Beitrag mit schönen Bildern - eine Flussfahrt, die mir sicher auch sehr gefallen hätte. Ich mag solche Landschaften unwahrscheinlich gern.
Danke fürs Teilen und liebe Grüße von der Silberdistel
 
Silberdistel, die Fahrten werden von Mai bis September angeboten. Ratzeburg und Lübeck sind ja nicht aus der Welt für jemanden, der an der Küste wohnt.
 
Mein Herr Silberdistel ist leider nicht seefest. Mal schauen, ob ich ihn trotzdem einmal dazu überreden kann. Eine Fahrt zu den Kranichen bei Zingst hat er mir zuliebe schon einmal mitgemacht. Schauen wir also mal ;-)
Danke für die Infos und herzliche Grüße von der Silberdistel
 
Die Wakenitz-Tour schaukelt wirklich nicht. Und der Ratzeburger See ist eigentlich auch ruhig, wenn man sich nicht gerade einen stürmischen Tag aussucht. Eine Fahrt auf the Poeler Kogge in Wismar würde ich Herrn Silberdistel allerdings weniger empfehlen. Ich bin zum Glück seefest und habe schon ein paar Situationen auf Kreuzfahrten und Fähren erlebt, wo das Bordrestaurant ziemlich schlecht besucht war. *grins*
 
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The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK and other places, with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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