Tour name: Danube
Degree of difficulty: advanced
Tour length: 2333 km
GPS: route and track as GPX
The Danube is the second longest river in Europe with a total length of 2857 km. It rises in the south of Germany and then flows east across Vienna, Budapest, and Belgrade to the Black Sea. In total, the Danube flows through ten countries – Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine – more than any other river on earth! For me a true traveler dream! I came to this conclusion in 2005. I had just completed my basic military service and now I felt like getting out and seeing the world… and so I bought a kayak, tent and camping gear. Even today I see my parents – at the speed with which I implemented my military salary in equipment – beat up her hands over their head.
My buddy Danilo luckily saw it quite differently: He was enthusiastic from the very beginning and decided to come along. Together we started the planning. Where are dams? How can we get around? How should the kayak be marked? How is it with border crossings… Questions of questions on which we finally found easy answers: Danilo found in his research the DKV-AUSLANDSFÜHRER, DONAU UND NEBENFLÜSSE. A book that I can warmly recommend – It gives information about everything that you need to know about water hiking. In addition, there are detailed information about the route, the flow and landing places as well as about restaurants and accommodation. The only worry that finally remained with us was the return journey. My kayak has a proud length of 5.20 m. A size format that is not transported by an airline. This possibility was gone. Next idea: car. Buckling the kayak on the car is not a problem. However, surprisingly, neither Danilo’s nor my parents showed much interest in picking us up from the Black Sea.
The return trip problem did not break down until we heard about the so-called Tour International Danubien (short: TID). The TID organizes a yearly trip on the Danube from Ingolstadt to Sfantu Gheorghe close to the Black Sea. Invited are all interested paddlers. The aim of the tour is to get in touch with people of other nations and their cultures, to get to know each other and to promote the exchange as well as the peaceful coexistence in Europe. We were thrilled – especially since the return trip of the participants, including luggage and boats, is also organized by the TID! We could hardly believe our luck! The only catch… the TID already started two weeks ago!
On July the 17th in 2005 we began our journey on the Danube. We were in a hurry. The participants of the TID have already made it to Hungary. It would not be easy to catch up! We started in Metten (close to Regensburg). From now on there was just paddling all day long. We developed a fixed rhythm. Tent down, loading the boat, getting on the water, breakfast on the way, paddling, looking for a place to sleep, setting up the tent, dinner, sleep. Hours became days. Days became weeks. Our bodies adapted to the strain. We became stronger and faster. From the 100 m, which we were able to paddle at the beginning of the tour, became finally 10 km.
Almost exactly one month we were on the way when we caught up with the TID on August the 18th in Bulgaria. We actually did it! At this point, a new chapter started. We called it: “From then on holidays began!” In fact, the journey became much more relaxed for us. The participants of the TID took us warmly in their midst and so we continued leisurely as a motley group. The TID goes to the same places every year… and they are well prepared for the travelers: not a day went by when we were not received with a folk festival. We were baffled! Music, dancing, liquor, and laughter until dawn – a real change after a quiet time in nature. On and on we paddled towards the Black Sea.
After a total of two months and 2333 km, we finally reached the Black Sea on September the 6th in 2005. What a feeling! Few friends had believed that we would actually make it – and yet: we were there, with toes in the sand and salt on the skin.