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Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe

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The German Saar: Saarburg, Saarlouis, Saarbr├╝cken

Monday, 4 July 2022 11:24 am

We are now on the so-called “Sauerkraut Route” although we haven’t eaten any sauerkraut yet as the weather is too hot for this traditional dish of the region. We did however make the transition from French baguettes to the delicious German bread rolls. Otherwise the fare on the Lodi is salads and chicken, salads and hard boiled eggs or salad and fish.



The Sauerkraut Route includes the Saar, the Rhine/Marne Kanal, the Rhine to Koblenz and the Mosel. 

The Saar is a beautiful, winding river without significant current. One hardly feels going upstream. Our first stop was medieval Saarburg where we just fitted nicely in front of a pretty peniche called “Calliope". It was a great pleasure having a chat and an early evening drink with the delightful owners, Lesley and Stewart. Although we had all been in Toul at the same time, due to to our trip to the UK and ensuing quarantine, we hadn’t actually met. But we had met their spirited friends David and Evey in Toul, whose ears would have been ringing while we talked about their great hospitality.

Oh yes, and I did make another friend in Saarburg!

A waterfall dropping steeply through the centre of town and spinning the old mill wheels on it’s way down, is a spectacular site in Saarburg. The fall is a result of a 13th century project to re-direct the river Leuk. The old Hackenberger Mill, also dating back to 13th century, is now a little museum. It carries a nice collection of crushers, millstones, sifting machines and other paraphernalia.

Very worth while seeing is also the bell foundry museum in the lower town. So interesting to learn and see how the diverse bells, from large church bells to small boat bells, are made. Last time we were here we actually bought a bell for the Freshwater. I am hoping it's still in one of the boxes, we need to pick up from the yacht harbour in Friesland, where the Freshwater was sold. 

The climb up to the ruins of the Saarburg we saved for our second day when temperatures had dropped from thirty to the mid-twenties. The castle, originally built by Siegfried of Luxembourg in 964, is strategically placed between two rivers, the Saar and the Leuk. We climbed the old tower and from it’s heights we waved “auf Wiedersehen” to Lesley and Stewart who were sailing on. 

We left the next day and met the Austrian/ German crew again on the water and together we entered the lock at Mettlach. But something odd was going on! We were supposed to be raised 11 metres up, yet after rising only a couple of metres, we went back down and then- nothing. No communication from the tower either. While we wondered whether we had to spend the night in the depth of the lock, the heavy doors opened, closed again and eventually we were slowly rising towards daylight. Phew! We had planned to tie up to a pontoon just behind the lock but didn’t like the look of it. Luckily we found the ideal green mooring soon after, an embankment of approximately 250m with bollards. Five other pleasure boats were already tied up there. We stayed for two nights enjoying the scenery and tranquility. But there was also a bit of excitement when around 9pm first a 110m long, and the next evening a 135m long commercial barge asked to squeeze in. We watched with fascination how the captains and crew moored the big beasts. (See Austin’s video below)

Because I wanted to visit Werner Freund’s Wolfspark, we cycled from there to the next town called Merzig. Our excursion was a little disappointing as we learned that Werner Freund had died in 2014, aged 80, and the new care taker wasn’t available to ask questions. Werner Freund started off as a gardener and animal keeper, had a career with the parachute division of the german army and the border force. Then later he dedicated his life to the preservation and research of wolves. For about 20 years he more or less lived among the packs. We also had chosen the wrong time of the day. Arriving at lunchtime the wolves were all asleep. One of the visitors was actually wearing a “red cap” which I thought was a good idea, but even this couldn’t raise the wolves from their cosy forest floor. I like that wolves do not willy-nilly attack and only prey when they need to feed. If they come across a freshly expired animal, they will feed on it’s carcass and not seek out life prey.

On our way to the last stop of the German Saar, Saarbrücken, we passed the Völklingen Ironworks, now a relic of a past industry turned into a museums piece. We toured the old factory buildings in 2016 and can fully recommend it!

Entering Saarbrücken two Aussie boats travelling in opposite direction gave us a friendly hello and alerted us to some vacant mooring spots near the “Alte Brücke” (Old Bridge). It turned out a perfect place being near the old center and having free electricity. 

The lawns of the Bürger

Park which stretches along the river right bank was scattered with young people picnicking and enjoying the balmy weather. The café scene at the old St. Johanner Market was just as lively and remained so until late at night. We have missed the long European summer nights with daylight only fading after 10 pm! 

Saarbrücken has a lot to offer with a diverse cultural scene, great shoe and fashion shops, and beautiful, historical buildings, like the new-gothic townhall and, my favourite, the Ludwigskirche. 

The Ludwigskirche is a baroque building, one of many in town, designed by former Prince Wilhelm Heinrich’s architect Stengel. Again our timing was wrong, as it took three attempts to get entry and admire the beautiful white stucco work. Stengel also designed the new palace, a combination of the baroque and modern architecture built on top of the former palace's foundations. 

In it’s forecourt cobble stones etched by art students with the names of 2146 jewish cemeteries have been re-inserted face-down. The work is called “The invisible Memorial”.

Austin discovered this face below on the old castle wall. Apparently it is the head of an unkind and mean baker, who during a famine refused to give bread to the poor only offereing bread to young women in exchange for love. When the reigning countess heard about this she disguised herself as a beggar. The baker treated her as such and was subsequently tied to the dungeon wall, where he

died a few days later. Now his eternalised sculpted head serves as a water spout.

On another sunny day we took the train back to Mettlach to visit the fairly new Treetop Walk Saarschleife. The Saarschleife is a 180 degree turn of the river, and it has always been popular tourist activity to walk up a winding forest path to the look-out.

But now this has been taken to new “heights", with the treetop view tower exceeding the look-out by more than 65 metres. Along the 1,2 km treetop walk to the tower are great activities and picture quizzes for kids, which even the adults had fun to solve! Austin did well with them so I let him have an ice coffee back in town.

It would be easy to stay in Saarbrücken for longer, but time moves on and you’ll never know what is ahead travelling the rivers and canals. So on we sail to the French part of the Saar. Luckily most people along this river are bilingual (French and German) and the locks are automatic so hopefully we won’t confuse things too much with our Frenglish!  



Late night encounter with a giant:



 

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Cheers,

Austin Robinson

austin@robos.com.au