Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


Mittellandkanal 2 - Hannover to Wolfsburg

Thursday 22 June 2023 7:11 PM

We were told cruising the Mittellandkanal is a little boring. And yes, especially compared to the French or Belgian canals with their multiple locks, where one can hold a conversation in “Frenglish”, buy fresh tomatoes fom a local farmer, see lovely old villages and get a friendly wave from passing cyclists, that’s surely true. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I really miss the locks! We have just left the first

one and there are only three all together on the 325 km long canal! Not doing any ropes, my arm muscles have noticibly slackened! At least we are taking turns in captaining the Lodi, which is only fair on these long stretches. Although not really, because somehow I am not getting the cups of coffee and biscuits while I am at the helm! I think it requires a little more training!

Approaching the town of Hannover I got us into a bit of trouble! Somehow I didn’t get, that on the German canals every thing is forbidden, what isn’t specifically allowed. With other words, we stopped at a wall of a wide stretch of the canal just to check out our options, after the main harbour had no suitable berth for us. Almost as soon as we were tied up, the “Wasserschutzpolizei” (water police) made a sharp u-turn (btw there was no "u-turn permitted" sign) and moored up behind us.

Our licences were checked and luckily we weren’t booked for flying the Aussie flag on a French-registered boat, which caused some confusion. However, the smiling policeman urged us to use additional identification like a french flag or an “F”  for France on Lodi, otherwise would we agree to a 35 euro parking fine? What could we say but "ok and can we take a photo of you?"

We had no choice but to move on past Hannover to the Misburg motor yacht club. This required a cycle and train ride to get to Hannover’s Inner City. To our surprise we saw music stages and food stalls set up outside of Central Station and on the Market place. It was for the “Fête de la Musique Hannover”. The summer solstice celebration had obviously been adopted from the French. Even the “Markt” Church in the old centre had a free music programme with a children string orchestra and a seven piece saxophone group. 

We had an amazing day walking along the “Red Line” (drawn on the pavement), a 4 km loop to all the major sites. Starting from the classical railway station to the gothic red-brick Old Town Hall stretches a modern

shopping strip. The “old” town hall on Market Place is an imposing building. A grimacing face on it’s wall bears witness to a time when open -air court was held here. and offenders were tied up to the pillory where they were exposed to common ridicule. Nowadays,  

As there is an “old”, there is of course also a “new" town all. Built in times of Kaiser Wilhelm in neo-classical style it reminds more of a baroque castle. A “Bow-Elevator” climbs 340 metres at an angle of 17° to the dome. To appreciate the tilt or scare the living daylights out off some, the lift has a slanted glass floor and glass ceiling giving a perfect view of the plunging lift shaft. This technology is a one of a kind in Europe. The oblique ride, accompanied by the shrieks of three teenage girls, was well worth it. From the viewing platform we had an amazing outlook over the city. Below, in the gardens an archer is aiming at the mayor’s office, just to keep him on his toes!  

A touching memorial for victims of war and violence is the ruin of the Aegidian Church. After bombing in 1943, the outside walls and part of the vine covered tower is all what is left. A peace bell donated by sister town Hiroshima rings 4 times a day,  and it does so 5 minutes after the hour in order not to be over-toned by other church bells.

At lunch time we reached the shores of the river Leine. A beautiful venetian bridge leads to the Leine Castle. Just beyond are cafés and restaurants, and it was time to rest our feet and take in some sustenance. A 13.50 euro lunch including entrée of salad or soup while sitting on a terrace overlooking the river was just the thing. And as you can see, we had free entertainment watching some German style surfing from our table.

(See Surfing Video here)

After lunch we strolled through the “Altstadt", listened to a few musical performances and decided that we definitely have to stop at Hannover again on our way back from the lakes. There is so much more to see here!

Cruising towards Braunschweig we were passed by our friendly police again who gave us a cheerful wave. Luckily we were not speeding. We hardly ever go above 10km/h with most of the German and Dutch boats leaving us far behind. Well, the Mittellandkanal is a little like the Autobahn - very straight and not much to look at!

In the meantime more doomsday news have come through about the Elbe and the Müritz-Elde-Waterway, and so our plan now is to get to the lakes via Potsdam, which means following this canal to the very end!

Staying safely at a harbour near Braunschweig, the heavens finally opened. We just made it back from the supermarket as the first drops came down and dashed to close all windows and hatches. A spectacular thunderstorm followed and over night the rain well and truely settled in. There was no thinking of cycling 8km to town or even sticking our heads out off the awning. When, the next evening, the downpour finallystopped and the sun came through, we decided to stretch our legs and go for a walk along the canal. Good intentions! yet, no sooner had we reached the clubhouse, a jolly group of people beckoned us to celebrate with them a golden wedding anniversary of two of their club members. Unfortunately the celebrations involved a bottle of Uzo, champagne and many beers, by the end of which Austin could understand and speak perfect German - or so he and his new mate Manfred claimed.

We were urged to stay on, but made a quick get-away the next morning, as our aging bodies and livers wouldn’t be able to cope with an encore of the night. By the time we reached Wolfsburg harbour we had recovered enough to explore the “Autostadt”. This 28 hectare terrain follows the 6km long VW manufacturing plants and is the Disneyland for car lovers. In the very nice landscaped park with water features, playgrounds and an aroma-tunnel, stand two massive towers stacked with new cars. Prior to covid on a Saturday 500 cars were sold at this place alone, today as we were told, sadly only 262.

In the other buildings one can see car history - not just of VW - cars in general but also the future in form of concept cars not yet produced or fully developed. These are of course all electrical cars and hardly require a driver.

VW looks also towards future customers among the next generation with the numerous play areas and activities, like race car simulators, street car video games for smaller ones, giant slides and and car quizzes. "Design your own car” seemed very popular with primary school aged girls and boys! 

I am a VW driver from way back but after 2 hours I personally had seen enough cars! So we made our way back to the harbour and our 6:30 reservation at the adjoining “Santorini” Greek restaurant. And good that we had followe the advise and booked, because the restaurant and it’s terraces were packed! The waiters did their best to keep up and the food was excellent, especially the calamari. But I don’t know if the good people of the Braunschweig Motorboot Club who told us about this restaurant, wanted to corrupt us? 

Because the first thing that arrived on our table were two complimentary Uzos in a full champagne glass size!

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