Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


Final stretch in Germany - Oldenburg, Papenburg and Leer

Thursday 7 September 2023 10:13 PM

We left Bremen Marina about three hours before low tide, to then take advantage of the in-flowing tide when turning south into the Hunte Kanal. 

On the way, lying in front of the "Lürssen shipyard”, we saw our next boat, the “Luminance”. With 145m length and 18m width, this cruiser is a mere 500 Million US, a bargain compared to the most expensive Lürssen yacht, the “Dilbar”, at 800 million US dollars. Unfortunately, it belongs to a Ukrainian oligarch and it's not for sale!

We might have been a little off with our calculations arriving at the confluence of the Ems and Hunte a tad before the incoming tide, so together with Abo and Helga's "Carpe Diem" we tied up to a retaining wall at the beginning of the Hunte, until we felt the tide turn and push us nicely along. At the town pontoon of Oldenburg, Abo was cavalier and let us have the bigger of two free moorings, maybe because the Lodi is slightly longer or he didn’t trust our mooring skills. After a little nanna nap, we all got together on the Lodi for some safe arrival Apérol Spritz’, expertly mixed by Austin.

The old centre of Oldenburg has an extensive pedestrian area, an old town hall and a castle, of course, now functioning as the local art museum. The weather had suddenly turned very summerly and hot again, and so we fled into the narrow lanes of the inner city and the shady castle park for some relief. On the second night, we went to have dinner at a bistro along the canal. The outdoor dining area was very popular on such a warm evening, and we ended up sitting very close to our neighbours. The staff was totally frazzled by the large crowd and, to our amusement, got all the drink orders mixed up. That way I got to try an Oldenburg beer. So now, that we have drunk Becks and an “Ols”, we are becoming experts in North German beers!

At Oldenburg, the Hunte turns into the Küstenkanal (Coastal canal) and obtains a muddy brown colour from the former moorland. At the next harbour in Surwold, the colour was even more intense, and continuing into the Dortmund- Ems- Kanal, one could only guess the water depth. We were heading north to a Linssen dealer at Papenburg to get a new stove top and oven installed. Again we had to pass through two sea-locks, but by now we were becoming experts in managing tidal rivers. 

After a warm welcome at Hennings Yacht Vertrieb, we walked along the canal past old lift bridges, historic boats, windmills and the typical red brick houses into town.

We were at the right place here, because this is a ship-building town of old. In the early 1600th, there was a district bailiff called Dietrich von Velen who wanted to make the extensive moorland accessible for farming. Following the Dutch example, he established a “Fehn”- or "Moor-Colony".

Under the harshest conditions, people dug out 43km of canals to dry out the moor. They cut the peat and built simple wooden boats to ferry the peat to brick kilns in Bremen, Emden and Hamburg. Gradually settlers moved from peat-covered hovels to small cottages with brick roofs which reduced the constant fire hazard. In the “Von Velen Open Air Museum” we could see how those first settlers lived. They shared a 1-room hovel with their animals and had little food. We fared a bit better and got to try the traditional Buckwheat pancakes served with cranberry compote and black tea.

Starting from simple peat barges the boats became more elaborate and became bigger and better wooden sailing boats, and in 1795 Willm Rolf Meyer founded his shipyard. Later, while most other shipbuilders had given up to compete with the demand for larger boats, Willm's son started building iron boats with much greater tonnage capacity. Today the Meyer shipyard is in its 7th generation family business and has a worldwide reputation for quality steel cruise ships, one of them being the “Aida” line. We were lucky to see the new “Carnival Jubilee” in almost finished condition moored outside the big hall, where all its parts were manufactured and assembled. This new cruise ship is 344m long and accommodates over 5000 passengers. With a width of 42m, it will only just fit through the Ems sealock in Papenburg (45m wide) when it makes its journey to the North Sea in October.

The Meyer shipyard tour was so interesting and gave us new respect for what goes into building one of these giants. Being always at the forefront of innovation, the company now looks into hydrogen power to further reduce emissions. They also think of building ships which will collect ocean rubbish and recycle it. Although we are "small boat" people, we thought the nearly 3-hour tour was amazing.

In the meantime, we got our bit of luxury: a new induction cooktop and combi-oven! Now Austin gets his dinner quicker and less burned and we are looking forward to heating our pre-baked bread rolls in the morning. While the work was done by a very capable Linssen mechanic, we visited nearby Leer. It drew me into the Wolff Wine Store in “Samson Haus” which sells international wines but also their own wines and spirits. I am not sure where in a northern town like this they get their grapes from and forgot to ask! Above the shop and up a steep flight of tiny stairs are two storeys of displays of East Frisian living culture, well worth the climb up!

Back in Papenburg, as the heat finally abated, we had our first pizza! It was naughty but nice! Well, we had to test our new oven!

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