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Canoeing on the Weser River

For the children, Mecki’s plan came completely out of the blue.  None of the kids had even remotely thought of what to do during the coming summer.

“Guess what, Katharina?“ said Mecki, “you and me we’ll fly to Halifax next summer, and on our way back, we’ll take Nancy with us.“

“Yeah, Halifax!  I’ll play with Erica und Madeline, and I’ll eat lots of maple syrup.“ Katharina is all excited.  Felix und Franziska, however, far less.

“What about us?“ asks Felix.

“Well,“ explains Mike,  “we can have a great time in Rheinbach.  There are loads of thrilling things we can do.“

Felix und Franziska remain silent.  Obviously, they have expected something more exciting.  But Franziska has a better idea.

“You know what I’d like to do?  I’d like to go on a real trip with Dad and Felix, something for real guys, with camping, wilderness, adventure, and campfire.“

“How about a canoeing weekend on the Lahn if the weather is fine?“, suggests Mike.

“Oh Dad, that’s not a real guys’ trip.  Felix and I, we want something big.  How about the Danube?  You and us, can’t we make the Danube?“

“I’m afraid the Danube is a little bit too long,“ objects Mike, recalling that the Danube is Europe’s second longest river.“

“Then please make a suggestion yourself.“

And so Mike starts browsing through canoeing guides and maps, making, revising, and all too often rejecting one new plan after the other, until he eventually finds something: the Weser River.  From Hannoversch Münden to Minden the Weser passes through the beautiful mountains of the Weserbergland, supporting the paddler with a solid current and not a single portage all along those 200-odd kilometres.  The children listen attentively, only Felix interrupts Mike for the all important question “So it’s a promise – we’ll camp every night, no tricks, eh?”  Then they agree.

“But we still have to figure out what makes our trip become a real guys’ trip,“ says Mike.

“Easy,” says Franziska, “wilderness camping, cooking on the campfire, and all.”

“If I had my way,“ responds Mike, “I’d leave the cooking gear at home and camp at regular campsites every night.  There, we can eat burgers at the campsite’s beer garden and play skat.”

“Play what?“

“Skat.  That’s a card game, and it’s Grandpa Max’s and my favourite card game.  But it’s not an easy one.  We’d have to practise it before the trip.”

“Is that your idea of a real guys’ trip: paddling, beer garden, and playing skat?“


“Then please teach us this game.“

That’s how Franziska, Felix, and Mike started their most entertaining trip preparation.  Learning the basic skat rules, some tricks, and of course practising, i.e. a game or two after supper.

Then came summer.  The trip – but that was a secret that Mike had kept from the children – was planned to touch a lot of beautiful old towns, and Hann. Münden, the starting point of the trip, turned out to be the prettiest of them all.  Mike drags the kids through the town, looking for still more timber-framed houses along still more cobblestone streets.  And they are lucky to find the local donair and ice cream shops on their walk through the city, so Franziska and Felix do enjoy this seemingly endless walk, too.

The next morning, they finally hit the water.  Between the mountains of the Reinhardswald on the left and those of the Solling on the right, the Weser winds through a charming landscape.  And since the current is quite strong it requires little effort to keep the canoe fast.  Felix uses the support of the current to keep a look-out for animals.  He spots herons, swallows, ducks, geese, and various bids of prey.  Once he even sees a stork in the distance and a deer with her fawn, but to him the birds of prey are by far the most exiting animals.  Particularly above Bursfelde abbey, where five kites chase off two buzzards.

Not far afterwards, they approach the campsite.  Mike is delighted.

„OK guys, our campsite will be on the left hand side of the river.  Let’s register at the reception, pitch the tent, and find the beer garden.”

But he kids don’t agree.

“No Dad,” says Felix, “we don’t want to camp here.  See, canoeing is sports, and we want to continue paddling.  Where would the next campsite be?”

„Boy, that’d be as far downstream as Bad Karlshafen.  It would take us at least an hour to get there.“

“If you are already done, you can take a rest.  Franziska and I can paddle you to Bad Karlshafen.“

„Why not check out this campsite here and …“

„No, Dad, we really don’t want to.“

And so Felix and Franziska paddle their dad, who now on his turn has all the time to leisurely watch the passing countryside, the riverine animals, and his hard paddling kids, to Bad Karlshafen.  At the campsite, they follow Mike’s elaborate plan to register, quickly pitch the tent, and then find the beer garden, where they play their well deserved game of skat having burgers, soda, and a beer.  Not a bad way to finish an exciting day on the water.

The next morning, Franziska, Felix, and Mike go for a brief stroll through the lovely rococo town of Bad Karlshafen.  Then they start paddling down the river.  Towards noon, they approach the city of Höxter.  Their campsite neighbours in Bad Karlshafen were from Höxter and recommended the city centre with the renaissance-style timber-framed houses and the city’s best ice cream shop right behind the city hall.  Felix and Franziska had listened very carefully, and as soon as the first buildings of Höxter come in sight they explain to their astonished dad that after all this paddling, they’d like to go for a little walk through the town, because with some luck they might see some beautiful timber-framed houses.  The three pull the canoe ashore below the Weser bridge, the kids take their paddles with them – making sure no one can escape with the boat – and then hurry to ask their way to the city hall where – surprise, surprise – isn’t that the famous ice cream shop that got such a strong recommendation at the last campsite?  But of course, one should never blindly follow someone else’s recommendations, so the kids have to check the place out for themselves.  They choose strawberry, vanilla, and cookies & cream for their gourmet test, and ……. they fully endorse the recommendation.

At the end of the second day in Holzminden, Franziska, Felix, and Mike play their daily game of skat in the local Italian restaurant at the market place.  Felix marvels at Mike’s calzone.  “Wow, Dad, your pizza has such a big topping, they had to fold the pizza to make sure nothing falls off.”

At the Holzminden campsite, Felix meets Nico who, with his mum and their dog, also canoes towards Minden so that they meet again at the next campsites in Bodenwerder and Hameln.  Nico has found an old eel tube on the river banks and shows Felix in Hameln how to fish eel.  At the campsite of the local canoeing club he dumps the tube into the river hoping that an eel will deliberately look for shelter in it at night.  And in fact, the next morning he draws ashore a lively wriggling eel in his tube.  But unfortunately, Felix, Franziska, and Mike already have to hit the water again, so they wish Nico good luck and bon appetit with his catch and set off for the next destination, Rinteln.

Soon after Hameln, it starts to rain.  Mike doesn’t like rain, you can get wet, and as if this is not enough, you can catch a cold, too.  Doing his best to be a responsible dad, he feels obliged to protect the kids from the hazards of wind and rain.

“Let’s wait under this bridge until the rain is over,” is his considerate suggestion.

“But Felix and I are here for paddling not for taking breaks,” replies Franziska.

“We’ll paddle on as soon as the rain stops.  Just think about it.”

“Felix and I, we think a real lot, and we do so all the time.  And if we want to reach Rinteln today, we better keep on paddling.”

“OK, OK, but then please put on your raincoats.”

“You know, Dad, we packed them way at the bottom below all our other stuff.  Nobody needs them anyway.  See, this is summer rain.  Summer rain is refreshing, it doesn’t make you sick.“

“Franziska is right,” confirms Felix, “and we definitely have to make it to Rinteln today.  You know why, Dad:  timbered houses and ice cream shops.”

Two vs. one, a clear and democratic decision, so off they go through the summer rain to Rinteln.  And by the way: In Rinteln, the local ice cream shop is right at the market square in a – what a surprise – beautifully restored timber-framed house.

On the last day on the river, Felix, Franziska, and Mike paddle from Rinteln to Minden through the brake-through of the Weser between the mountains of the Weser- and Wiehengebirge at Porta Westfalica, the last scenic highlight of the trip.  At the campsite of the Minden canoeing club, the trip ends.

Felix sums up his impressions:  “Around Bad Karlshafen, there were more kites than buzzards in the air, but here in Minden, we see more buzzards, and also more kestrels, than kites.”

“I like all kinds of birds of prey,” says Franziska, “but dad really went too far with all these timber-framed houses.”

“Absolutely,” says Felix, “and we hardly had any ice cream.  But other than that, the trip was OK.”

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