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Chasing Currents – The OLD Route

EDITOR’S NOTE:

First there was the swim… and the there was a bikerafting tour. Both are #ChasingCurrents – one the OLD plan, the other the NEW. Ah yes, tThere is nothing as inevitable as the onslaught of change an entropy. The following route description was written for the SWIM, which was what had been planned for the #ChasingCurrents before it turned into a Bikerafting Tour of the entire 1090KM long river.

For posterity, and perhaps for someone else who would like to swim the same section, I will leave this here. Enjoy!

The OLD Route

The spring of the river Elbe is nothing but a sweet little trickle in the Giant Mountains of the Czech Republic. But as it flows its course of nearly 1100KM in total, it turns into a massive, broad stream also endearingly termed “The Blue Ribbon” (das Blaue Band). Not too far off from its original name, which in Latin (“albia”) means “light/white water”. (Fun Fact: the river has the female prefix “die” in German, as in Latin, so don’t be put off if occasionally I refer to the river as “she”. )

The “Blue Ribbon” at the heart of Germany… and Europe!



The connect the German East to West, and ends in a massive delta north of Hamburg. That’s where most of the river is used by massive container ships to transport goods around the North Sea, which is the rivers final stop.

Though the river itself may begin in the Giant Mountains in the Czech Republic, that is not where “Chasing Currents” starts.

The Start and Finish of “Chasing Currents”

My swim will begin at KM = 0 in the German river guide books, so right at the border of the Czech Republic and Germany and end in the port of Hamburg (should I be allowed by the local police to do so).

Why am I not swimming the total length of the river? Two reasons:

  • I’m running out of holidays in 2022, and 630KM in two weeks sounds almost manageable.
  • Mainly because the first section is literally just a trickle, which then turns into a collection of whitewash, floodgates and dams. If you want to read more about how often you’d have to get out of the water to swim this section, I can recommend the book: “Allein auf der Elbe: 1000KM mit dem Faltboot” (“Alone on the Elbe: 1000KM in a folding canoe”).

Starting at the border makes my swim technically a record in terms of Elbe swimming, as the other two previous swimmers started a bit further down the river than me: Kirsten Seidel, who started in Dresden (550KM) and Joseph Heß, who started in Bad Schandau (620KM).

But at this point, I presonally think crowing from the rooftops about a “record” is just plain silly. My reason for choosing KM = 0 is about practical aesthetics: It makes it the easiest to keep track of how much I’ve done, and how much I’ve got left to do.

From there on my route passes not just Bad Schandau and Dresden, Wittenberg and my home town Magdeburg, and finally ends in Hamburg. It ends there, as that is where the tide and massive container ships reign supreme. This entire route is wrapped in red tape, but this is where a permit becomes non-negotiable.

And after all: you gotta end somewhere!