Autumn has arrived, the days are getting shorter – the best way to celebrate this golden season is with an adventure on the water. But if you want to go on tour with a canoe, kayak or SUP in autumn, one thing should be clear: some bad weather is very likely! The only thing that helps: a positive attitude and the right clothing. Lars Thierling from Paddeln macht Spass has three tips for beautiful tours in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
A tour through history
The beautiful city of Leiden in the Netherlands is full of history, which paddlers experience up close during the tour on the outer ring, the Nieuwe Rijn. This tour is also suitable for beginners thanks to the uncomplicated transfer.
Paddlers start on the Oude Rijn - an inland waterway that was once part of the Lower Rhine. Approx. 1 km to the city centre, the route takes you past two bridges, the Churchillbrug and the Rijnzichtbrug. Along the way, the picturesque "de Put" windmill can be seen in the distance. This windmill is symbolic of the city's heyday in the 16th century, as it stands on the north bank, where the city area was expanded after a significant population increase. Just before the Rembrandt Park you turn right into the Witte Singel. Singel are the canals at the edge of the 28 km long canal system that runs around the outside of the city centre like a moat. The tour continues past the 440-year-old university library, two other university buildings and the oldest botanical garden in Western Europe. This is where the tulip, the national plant of the Netherlands, was first planted on Dutch soil.
At the level of the library, there’s an exit that takes you to the garden with café and park – an ideal point to take a short break. A little further along the Witte Singel, at the end of the park, is the Old Observatory Leiden – the oldest university observatory in the world. On the other side of the canal, at this level, is the first of the "Muurgedichten". These are poems printed on house walls, and there are over 120 in Leiden. Shortly after the Vreewijkbrug, you come to the Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken (ELO), one of Leiden's 13 museums. The tour continues past the southern end of the city centre, gradually becoming more spacious and green. Now the tour takes a northerly direction, passing under two bridges and crossing the Nieuwe Rijn, where there are many houseboats. A gigantic building complex on the left of the Zijlsingel cannot be overlooked: the old flour factory, a symbol of Leiden's industrial history, which is currently being converted into a multifunctional event venue.
At the next intersection with the Oude Rijn, the tour continues straight ahead through the Heren- and Maresingel. Shortly before the next picnic area in Huigpark, you have the option of turning left and returning through the city centre. More information on the city centre tour can be found here. Brave paddlers now have to face the biggest obstacle of the tour, as there is no way to cross under the Papegaaibrug bridge at the Uniper plant. The tour continues through the Rijnsburgersingel canal, where the terrain opens up again. A quiet ride past the De Valk windmill brings you to the Museum Volkenkunde – one of the oldest ethnological museums in the world. After another left turn, you reach the last bridge: Morspoorbrug and the gate of the same name to its left, one of two remaining of Leiden's original ten city gates. After mastering this final hurdle, the route takes you back past the De Put windmill to the starting point.
A tour with a special charme
The Nationale Watersportbaan Georges Nachez, Watersportbaan for short, is a man-made lake in the Belgian city of Ghent that has been used as a regatta course for canoeing and rowing since 1954. It is here that Lars Thierling and his paddling team start their adventure.
At the entrance to the Ghent sports arena paddlers can use a ramp or steps, giving everyone a way onto the water that is most comfortable for them. First, the tour leads across the small lake, past beaches and various leisure facilities. At the end of the lake comes the first transfer. This entry and exit are easy to handle even for beginners. The almost 100-metre stretch is a bit of a challenge, especially for those who have a lot of luggage, but each transfer becomes more routine.
Afterwards, the paddlers head into the extensive canal system of the beautiful Belgian city of Ghent. Exciting sights start right here: varied architecture with a colourful mix of old and new buildings that keep getting better the closer you paddle towards the city centre. The views into the back gardens of beautiful properties always provide plenty of inspiration for dreaming. There are numerous spots for taking a nice break along here. Particularly ideal is a café in the city centre that has a good place to get out of the water right next to it. After the coffee break, the route continues on and on until it reaches a dam – and the next transfer. This step is much higher than the others, so physical fitness is a prerequisite for this climb. But with teamwork, anything can be done.
The pearl shows itself from the nordic side
The motivated paddlers start their tour in Hamburg at the part of the Alsterpark that is located on the eastern bank of the Alster, in the district of Mundsburg. This small park is located between the mouth of Osterbek Canal and the Hansa Rowing Society, which is over 150 years old.
Typical weather for Hamburg in autumn is windy and rainy – which is why the tour may have to be shortened spontaneously. First, the team paddles in a southerly direction past the beautiful Alsterpark, which has many sunbathing areas and places to sit, making it a popular spot for many Hamburg residents. The tour continues along the banks of the Rotherbaum district, where there are many big houses and impressive villas. Passing several yacht clubs, the team paddles to the Kennedybrücke bridge on the south bank of the Außenalster (outer Alster), where they can catch the best view of the city centre. Here the paddlers turn around and travel the route back to the starting point.
Arriving at Alsterpark however, they continue paddling, crossing the Außenalster once more and turning into Osterbek Canal past the Langer Zug school boathouse. Here the waterway becomes much narrower than at the beginning of the tour. Up to the first two bridges, Langenzugbrücke and the Langer Willi, they pass more villas, which gradually give way to businesses, office buildings and restaurants. The SUP infrastructure is already very well developed in Hamburg – this is evident from the many landing stages along the route. Past the Bachstrasse bridge, they come to another large green area on the right-hand side: Johannes Prassek Park. On the left is the old Kampnagel factory, now converted into a cultural centre. As the route continues through the Jarrestadt district, the paddlers can catch glimpses of the Alster City Centre. They then pass under the Schleidenbrücke bridge and turn left into the Barmbek Stichkanal. Here private lawns on the banks protrude into the canal, making it quite narrow. The Junge Schauspielhaus theatre is located here, in a complex between two other bridges. The paddlers follow a left-hand bend at the grounds of the 1st Hamburg Dragon Boat Club, past more lush growth on the banks, and after two more bridges they find themselves in Goldbek Canal. On the right bank they now paddle past the Stadtpark – the third-largest park in Hamburg. In the northern part there are sports fields and a planetarium, among other things, and in the southeastern part is the Stadtpark lake - where the paddlers do a short lap by turning right and crossing under another bridge. After leaving the lake, the paddlers continue west through the Winterhude district back towards the Alster. Passing long allotment gardens, terraced houses and several bridges, the tour continues along the straight-as-an-arrow Barmbek Canal. Shortly after the Moorfuhrtweg bridge, it turns left into the Mühlenkampkanal, the narrowest canal in the tour. After two more bridges, our motivated paddlers are back on the Außenalster and can easily get out at Alsterpark on the left.
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