Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


Mittellandkanal - Osnabrück to Minden

Friday 16 June 2023 3:26 AM

Just as we were ready to leave the harbour in Münster, the busy to and fro of barges seemed to stop, and we were able to go straight into the 190m long lock by ourselves. Again we were so lucky and made it in good time to the Mittelland- Kanal.

Not far from turning into the canal, we found a small side arm which provides calm moorings away from the wake of passing ships. The only thing disturbing the serenity was the painful wailing of two cranes transferring sand and gravel from barges to train carriages in the far distance. Luckily work stopped at 5:30pm and we enjoyed a very quiet night alone on our mooring, bar a few local fishermen.

In the morning we cruised towards Osnabrück. We were surprised how lovely and green the landscape along the canal was, nothing but fields and paddocks interspersed by small forrests and gentle hills in the background. 

To get to Osnabrück we had to turn off into a Sidecanal where two yacht clubs provide guest places, about 10kms from town. We stayed at the pleasant Osnabrücker Motor Yacht Club and were warmly welcomed by one of the club members, Leo. We met up again later and spent a lovely evening on the terrace of the immaculately kept club with him, his partner Lilo, Christoph and Hans August. Totally accidental, as we were assured, Leo wore a T-shirt saying “down-under”, Christoph donned a shirt saying “Proudly Australian” and Hans August a polo shirt with “made in New Zealand” under the collar. The only man on the table who wasn’t wearing an antipodean shirt was Austin. 

The next day we were on a mission. Having loved Osnabrück during a prior visit with my brother Thomas, we were keen to see more.

The old centre is surrounded by beautiful houses with stepped gables and old half timber houses dating back to the 16th-17th century, and among them some very fine cafés and restaurants.

However, right at the start of our city-walk we were stopped in our tracks. I found myself in front of a large microphone being interviewed by the german television station ARD about water conservation. I stuttered something about ' living on a boat one has an enhanced awareness of saving water a.s.o.’ struggling to find the appropriate german terms. 

So off we went again, only to be stopped a few metres on by a group of students. They had heard us speaking English and wanted to photograph us for their school project. They had to take a photo of a "foreign tourist”, and were so thrilled to find 2 Australians, that they also took a video of Austin saying “ I come from Australia, Down-under!”. So far our first encounters in Osnabrück!

After that, we lingered in front of the town hall for a while. Maybe the mayor would want to talk to us too?! As we pondered our next move, a "just married” couple performed a folk dance. Then, to the cheers of their guests, got on their bicycle for two and off they went, a string of metal tins bumping noisily over the cobblestones behind them.

Shortly after, another just married couple emerged from the wedding hall. This time it was a flamingo and a unicorn! A little strange if you ask me, but everyone to their own! Congratulatory embraces with friends and family proved a bit of a challenge in their costumes. 

Weddings here are very personal affairs, as you can see, and usually are not as lavish as they are in Australia. Only the so-called “Standesamt” in the Town Hall, can legally executed a marriage. Some couples follow on with a church ceremony. But a church wedding alone has no legal effect.

Osnabrück is also “The Peace Town”, because with Münster together, it brokered the 1648 peace treaty of Westphalia ending the 30-Year-War. Every year a Peace Festival is held in town. The emblem of this festival is the hobby horse. Students from year 4 parade their colourfully crafted hobby horses through the streets. As a reward they each receive a sweet Pretzel. Then music and dance follows on the market place.

The most significant anti-war author and peace ambassador of the 20th century was Osnabrück writer Erich Maria Remarque. His books deal exclusively with questions of tolerance and humanity and were translated into 60 languages. His most famous one is of course “All quiet on the Western Front” or in German: “Im Westen nichts Neues”. You might remember this years Oscar-winning film of this book. Every two years the city of Osnabrück rewards an author/journalist with the Erich-Maria-Remarque-Peace-Prize. Of course Remarque was not popular with the Nazis and after Göbbels called him “unpatriotic" he moved to Switzerland and the US to be able to continue his writing.

We finally made it to the impressive romanic St. Peters Basilica skirted by the bishops palace and chancellery and the so-called “Hexengang” (Witches Walk). I don’t know if the name had anything to do with the persecution of witches, but apparently plague affected people used to pray here during church services, using wooden clappers to warn others of their presence.

One of the well known citizens of Osnabrück was painter Felix Nussbaum and re-visiting his museum was a highlight for me. Architect Daniel Libeskind (also architect of the large Jewish Museum in Berlin) designed this special building of interlocked, geometrical shaped walls and corridors.

Felix Nussbaum studied in Berlin and in Italy but was expelled from the academy shortly after Hitler’s party came to power in 1933. He eventually made his way to Belgium where his refugee existence as a German jew became very difficult.

The early paintings remind in style, subject and colour a little of van Gogh whom he admired. But as the situation in Europe worsened, his art became increasingly darker. After the nazis invaded Belgium and he was sent to an internment camp from which he managed to escape, subjects of his art became fear, desperation and death.Knowing that his days were numbered, he continued to chronicle what he saw happening. He was eventually sent to Ausschwitz, where he was murdered.

When we left the Nussbaum Museum it was time to fullfill the last thing on our list. We had decide to purchase a couple of mattress toppers for our quite firm boat beds. Fair to say, that arriving back on the Lodi after bus-train-bus ride with two big rolls of mattress toppers under arms, we were a little pooped.

I don’t know if Austin has learned his lesson, but he is back to scootering, insisting to get the “Brötchen" for breakfast. As he emerged from the bakery the other morning and got back on the scooter, a couple of teenagers called out: "Go Opi!!” He deserved that!

A little later we were off to stock up at the local supermarket, Austin on the scooter and me trundling behind on my bike. Austin was a little put off that I didn’t trust him carrying the cake on the scooter. But the recent experience told me…..! After all, we were expecting my brother and sister-in-law for afternoon tea. Thomas and Vera were on their way home from a holiday in Norway and arrived punctually in the early afternoon with spirited retriever Pablo in tow. Pablo, I have to say, is not quite the womaniser as his name-sake Pablo Picasso, and also is a whole lot kinder. We spent a lovely afternoon/evening together, and just when they had left, I realised that we hadn’t taken a photo of them for the blog. Please remind me Thomas, when we see each other again in August!!!

We have now moved on to a green mooring north of Bad Essen, but not before taking a walk through the charming old town centre. Bad Essen is known for it’s  half-timber houses, old pharmacy,  old mill and lots of great walking and cycling tracks.Therefor the small town is not short of tourists. This is reflected in the inflated mooring fees in the new harbour which we, for one, were not willing to pay.

In the evening, we followed some fellow “boaties” down a forest path from the mooring to a small pub “Zum frohen Anker” (To the Happy Anchor). Sitting on the terrace with a cool drink, we enjoyed the whiff of country air from the nearby cattle farm. The village, we were told, has 230 inhabitants, so probably has a little less traffic congestion than Sydney.

Our next port of call was Minden. As a matter of fact we stayed again at a “Liegestelle” (a free mooring on the side of the canal), right at the intersection of the Mittelland Kanal with the river Weser. A pump station and old lock upstream of the Weser caters for smaller vessels, while the downstream lock lowers the very big commercial barges in direction of Bremerhafen and the Northsea. Here, like in Henrichenburg, the 19th century old “Schachtlock” has been replaced by a modern lock of 139m length to cope with the large cargo convoys. Just ahead of our mooring the Mittelland Kanal crosses the river via an aqueduct.

On this very hot and humid Sunday we were not up to much sight-seeing. With exception of the ice cafés, the German towns are quite dead on a Sunday. All the shops and in small towns also the tourist offices are closed.

The old town has some big mansions. The largest of them was formerly owned by a cigar producer, and due to the Kaiser once having been a guest in the house, the locals call it “Kaiser Villa”. The Kaiser did like his cigars!

We stumbled across the “Weser spitter” and some almost naive art like carvings and figures at the otherwise quite bare Minden Dom. In the main square are some quite attractive buildings in what is called Weserrenaissance, but as our feet were sore and it was very hot, we dragged ourselves back to the Lodi, where a tub of ice cream was waiting for us.

On our return, a very friendly boatie from the Mecklenburger Lake district delivered some bad news: the Elbe River is already so low on water that it is not navigable! “But you can go there with a canoe” he consoled us!

Looks like one of those all too common “change of plans” is afoot!!!

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