Rowing Touring German Style

by Jude Ellis

In mid-2020 I took up an opportunity to live and work in Bonn, Germany which is located on the Rhine River about 30 km south of Cologne.  One of the first things I did on arrival was check out the local rowing clubs, of which there are many.  I’ve joined the Bonner Ruderverein (Bonn Rowing Club) which is essentially a recreational masters rowing club.  The Rhine is a big-ass river – the strong current, the type of rowing boats and the barges all together make for a very different rowing experience to New Zealand!  One of the best things I’ve discovered rowing here are the regular tours organised by the club.  

Autumn in Europe is absolutely stunning so there was no way I was going to miss the annual rowing tour of the River Lahn in October 2020.  This was a 5-day tour that started in Weilburg on the Lahn and finished back at the club in Bonn (on the Rhine).  I chose to row days 1-3 from Weilburg to Bad Ems (as I had already rowed the day 4-5 legs along the Rhine on a previous tour).  

The Lahn is not a big river and the tour began rowing through a very narrow tunnel and included a number locks along the way – some of which were self-operated, where a couple of us had to get out of the boat to open (and close) the gates for all the boats move through.  Each boat carried all their luggage – which generally comprised of Ortlieb waterproof rucksacks.  Many also took small flasks of coffee to sip on while waiting in the locks (note to self for future tours) and some also sipped on wine!   

We rowed in different combinations each day (organised the night before) and each boat would depart from our accommodation as and when they felt like it.  Invariably we would all meet up at pre-arranged locations along the river for “kaffee und kuchen” (Germans love their coffee and cake) then wine/beer and “flammkuchen” (a yummy kind of pizza) for lunch and then of course dinner (and more wine/beer) at our overnight accommodation.  It was also a great opportunity for me to practise speaking German (“nicht so gut”)!     

The tour party averaged around 50 rowers each day, rowing in quads and “quins” (yes you can row a 5 here).   Most impressive to me was the lively Ingeborg who is 80 years old, can barely see and rowed all 5 days of the tour!   The Autumn scenery was stunning as we rowed through small villages, under ancient stone bridges and past the odd castle.  Of course the photos don’t do it justice… 

Autumn in Germany
Autumn in Germany
Rowing in Germany A castle on the Rhine
A castle on the Rhine
Rowing in Germany Locks on the Rhine
Locks on the Rhine
Rowoing in Germany touring boats in a lock
Touring rowing boats in the lock
Rowing in Germany participants
Ingeborg, second from left