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5 Facts About The Main-Danube Canal

25th February 2020

The Danube is already one of the longest rivers in the world but, when combined with the Rhine and Main, a passage is created all the way from the North Sea to the Black Sea. The Main-Danube Canal is a fantastic feat of engineering that makes all this possible and can be transited on many of our European river cruises.

Whether you’re interested in a cruise like this for the breathtaking scenery found in this part of the world or to experience this ground-breaking canal for yourself, here are five facts about the project.

Links To Ludwig

Ludwig I Statue

Before the completed canal that can be seen today, other people came up with the idea for (and attempted to build) a canal linking the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. As early as 793, revered Emperor Charlemagne wanted a quicker route for his battleships to travel through Europe and began excavating a channel between two tributaries. However, this was abandoned when it collapsed.

Much later, in 1837, King Ludwig I of Bavaria restarted the idea by building a canal between Bamberg and Kelheim, but this could never compete with the burgeoning railways and so didn’t take off. When the current Main-Danube Canal was created in 1992, it followed, and expanded on, much of the same route as the Ludwig Canal.

Elevation, Elevation, Elevation

Main-Danube Canal Lock

If you start a cruise in Amsterdam and travel all the way to the Black Sea, you will have gone from below sea level to more than 1,300 feet above it, and back down again, by the time you finish. Of course, it’s not possible for any river ship to simply traverse these changes in elevation on its own, so a series of 16 locks is used to lift and lower each vessel over what is known as the Continental Divide.

In order to help save on pumping costs, two thirds of the water used whilst taking a ship from one level to the other is stored in an adjacent tank momentarily and then used when moving the next ship in the opposite direction.

Twice As Nice As Panama

In order to truly understand the scale of this canal, consider the fact that it is more than twice as long as the fabled Panama Canal. Many cruisers consider a transit of this legendary shortcut between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean to be a bucket list experience, so surely a journey along the Main-Danube Canal should be up there too.

At a cost of 1.98 billion Euros, the construction process was certainly no mean feat. The resulting canal holds the record for taking any cruise ship to the highest point on Earth having started from sea level.

Bucolic Banks

Main-Danube Canal

The impressive nature of the technology used to move ships up and down is only outdone by the impressive nature on the banks of the river. Charming medieval towns are interspersed with forests and reserves created to bring flora and fauna to the area. A wide range of habitats will float past your cabin window and you’ll even see people cycling or walking along the canal path.

The Need For Speed

Travelling through locks on a river can be quite a time-consuming activity, reducing the time you have to explore each port of call. However, the locks along the Main-Danube Canal can carry out the process in as little as two minutes, more than ten times faster than other locks around the world. This further highlights what has been achieved and showcases the importance of such a river system.

If you would like to experience a transit of the Main-Danube Canal for yourself, we have plenty of itineraries to consider. Take a look at our ‘1,200 Miles On The Beautiful Blue Danube’ cruise with Amadeus River Cruises. You can also call the team on 0800 954 0064.

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