Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


The Weser, Nienburg and Verden

Saturday 26 August 2023 3:24 PM

After a calm night on the side of the canal in Minden, Austin did his usual “Brötchen - Run” with his scooter and delivered some to the boot owners behind us. It turned out that we had met them already at the mooring in Berlin. As a thank you Austin received what is called an “Anleger”, the German equivalent of a “Safe Arrival Drink”.

As it was 9:00 am we decided to forego the Schnapps for now and followed another sports boot into the Minden lock. We were gently lowered 14.7m onto the Weser. The river Weser winds in big loops from south to north through pleasant rural scenery.

We were warned that the locks on the Weser are often under repair but so far everything seemed to go smoothly. The locks are centrally managed and the lockkeeper in the regional office was very friendly and helpful. 

We strongly felt that the other sports boat tried to get away from us, yet we always caught up by the time the next lock was ready

. At the last lock for the day, the faster boat was already tied up at the waiting pontoon, and so were a work boat and two other sport boats. We were told this lock had a mechanical problem and we had to wait. Luckily, it didn’t take very long until the announcement came over our radio:” Lodi, the problem seems to be fixed. All sports boats can follow the work boat into the lock.” Once we were all through the lock, our faster friends sped away and we saw our hopes to get a mooring at Nienburg fading. It was a bit like the fable of the tortoise and the hare, just that the ending was different: the speedy boat beat us to the last mooring!

We eventually found another harbour some kilometres downriver with plenty of room. 

We sought out the harbour mistress which on the phone I had mistaken for a man. She emerged from a wildly decorated caravan and explained in a voice of a hundred cigarettes a day, that a bus going straight into Nienburg is only a 15-minute walk away. 

We were intrigued to see the little town, especially as it claims to have an "Asparagus Museum”! Now you find the "Big Banana" and the "Big Pineapple in Australia” but not an Asparagus Museum!

The next morning we walked along paddocks and farms to the bus stop. We saw horses, storks and would you believe it: a group of zebras!

They were not going to be the only wild animals we encountered. In Nienburg we followed the paw prints of bears which took us around all the nice places in town. Together with the lion of the Earls from Braunschweig, the bear paw is part of the town's emblem. And “Bärentatzen” (bear paws) is also a delicious biscuit, a speciality from Nienburg.

The other speciality is the white, juicy asparagus, of course, and there we were at the “Spargelbrunnen” (“Asparagus Spring”)! 

We passed through quaint streets with half-timber houses, the timber beams decorated with blessings and images. The “Weserwall", a dam and in earlier times part of the town’s fortification, brought us to St. Martin Church. Next to the church's entrance, two sculptures stand guard: Charles the Great, and the other Widukind. He was a legendary warrior and leader of the Saxons who bravely fought Frankish Charles the Great in the Saxon wars. A sign explains why these two enemies should stand next to the church. The reason is that when Widukind eventually had to surrender, Charles converted him to Christianity

and became Widukind's godfather.

One of the most historic buildings is the town hall which partly originates from the 14th century.

Finally, just before the sky darkened and the rain came down, we found the Asparagus Museum. We really didn’t know what to expect and found the idea of a museum for a vegetable quite amusing. But we know Germans take the asparagus very seriously and have experienced the queues at the market stalls at asparagus time. In May/June one hardly finds anything on the menus of German kitchens that is not accompanied by the white, nutritious stalks.

A lovely thatched cottage serves as the Asparagus Museum, containing interesting information about growth and harvest. Here are some asparagus facts, we learned:

Asparagus was already enjoyed by the old Romans. It is low in calories and a source of fibre, folate, vitamins A, C, and K. The part growing under the surface is called rhizom which sprouts into fine roots and thick storage roots. The buds in the crown of the plant grow to stalks in springtime. Every year, many seasonal workers from Romania, Poland and East Europe come to Germany to do the heavy work of asparagus cutting. If the stalks are not being cut, they grow to 1.80m sticks with leaves. Research is being done to use the asparagus peelings for bio-plastic and paper products.

The museum also includes shelves of 19th-century asparagus serving dishes and cutlery. Some are made of silver or glass others from porcelain. They were used by the upper classes for fine dining.

The following day we cruised on to Verden. On the river banks, there were more paddocks with beautiful horses. The Weser country, and especially Verden is known for breeding champion horses, some having even made it to Olympic fame. 

At the marina, we were welcomed not only by the harbour master but also by the German captain, Abo, whom we knew from Berlin and Minden. In quite cold windy conditions, he didn’t hesitate and jumped to our help.

Abo and his wife Helga invited us to a cup of tea and cake on their boat, and we had a lovely chat in D'English.

Early in the morning, we were off to town on our bikes. An afternoon storm was predicted. Being a Sunday, shops and the tourist office were closed. It became soon obvious that Verden was a horse-riding town. A pair of bronze horse statues stand in the pedestrian zone and horseshoes on the pavement lead to a Horse Museum.

We strolled past half-timber houses and the baroque town hall to the cathedral square.

The cathedral itself is quite plain but has a calming atmosphere. Not so calming for the "Steinerer Mann” though. He was the dome’s sexton and embezzled church money. When the devil came to get him, as the story goes, he tried to escape but got stuck in the dome wall.

As we sat in one of the lovely little cafés of the cathedral square, the sky got darker. We quickly drank our coffees and just made it back to the boat with our bikes before the storm hit. The next morning the weather was calm with a blue sky and we carried on down the Weser. It is gradually getting cooler and more unsettled here, and we changed to our warmer doona and wearing layers.

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