Event report: (Not Quite) Splash-proof? Rafting on the Elbe


Last Saturday, 5 July 2014, a group of internationals from the various research institutes in Dresden spent an exciting and adventurous day on the stream, as we ventured on a 20-kilometers-long rafting tour down the Elbe from Pirna to Dresden-Johannstadt.

Meeting point was the tourist information at the main station at 10 a.m. and from there we took public transport (suburban train S1 to Bad Schandau) to Pirna. Getting off at Pirna station, we decided to make use of a few spare minutes and take a quick detour through the city center of Pirna to admire the beautiful facades of the houses built at the beginning of the last century. The inside of the old church of Pirna allowed us to get an impression of the (surprisingly low!) original street level of Pirna and of how much it has actually risen over the course of the centuries. To explain this, Pirna is built directly on the riverbanks of the Elbe, a river well-known for its floodings. So every time the Elbe burst its banks, some mud was also brought into the city and in turn built upon. After that historical insight, we turned to the waterside where the nice guys from the boat rental company were already waiting. Having instructed us how to behave on the river and what to do when other boats are approaching, they handed over our ‘toys’ for the day: two rubber dinghies and 16 paddles.

Endued with life jackets, we started our adventure on the river. Even though the weather forecast had promised a sunny morning with no clouds overhead until the afternoon and a thunderstorm only for later in the evening, we embarked onto the Elbe with a grey sky over our heads. But as it was warm and not windy, we enjoyed a delightful first stage of the trip. And eventually, when we stopped at the banks of Castle Pillnitz to have a lunch break in a beer garden, the sun came out.

Back on the river paddling steadily downstream, it suddenly appeared to become pretty warm, so we started to have some fun attacking the other part of the group and their boat while splashing water on them. As it was so hot, we decided to stop for another break at a sandbank and go swimming. Or at least, some of us and the others just lay down and took a nap in the sun.

When we got back into our boats, we all felt a little drowsy from the break and just let our boats float along with the stream. Chatting along all relaxed and unwound, we had no eyes for the big clouds approaching from the city center at first. Only little later, wind arose and we started to get worried. From that moment on it did not take us long to decide to start paddling again – quickly! Just 100 meters in front of the ‘Waldschlösschenbrücke’, it started raining and thundering heavily and yet, it took us more than another ten minutes to finally make it underneath the bridge, where we found some shelter by the riverbank. During these ten minutes, desperately paddling, we felt like Noah on his Ark (albeit without the animals, thankfully!).

Yet another ten minutes later, the sun was back – all innocent, as if nothing had happened – except that, of course, our crews and boats were all drenched! :D Either way, both the moisture all-around and the reappearing sunshine cued us to better continue our trip towards our finish line for the day – only 500 meters beyond the bridge. Returning our boats to the rental company, we finished off our trip with a wonderful view of the Dresden skyline.

Lessons learned on this tour: Rivers are beautiful, cool places to be on hot summer days. Paddling is so much (more) fun in a group. Right. Most importantly, though: Water is wet, whether from above or below!! Despite all modern forecasting technology – never trust the weatherman and, if you don’t want to lose your cool, have an extra set of clean, dry and warm clothes with you at all times (which we all ought to have learnt before from Jason Statham as the ‘Transporter’ J but alas… had to relearn on this occasion)! Q.E.D. ;)

If we were to say it in the words of German children: “Noch maaaaal!” – Let’s do this again, next time with a somewhat less dripping wet tram ride back home.

All pictures taken by N. Beuchold


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